Mention Porsche and Targa together and my mind flashes back decades to a convertible 911 that featured a stainless-steel-wrapped roll bar.
Only true Porschefiles will recall that in the 1960s, some of the earliest models actually had a plastic, zippered rear window behind a hard center top that lifted off and folded for storage.
Today's test car, the 2007 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Targa, has neither.
Instead, its distinctive trademark is a full glass roof whose main portion slides back for the in-the-wind experience that many crave. It's a great option for New Englanders who want to have their sports car open in summer sun, but want also to drive them in winter -- without the inevitable flapping and leaking that comes with most convertibles.
Also making this a good car for Yankees with a need for performance that stands up even in bad weather is the 4S's all-wheel drive. It makes for fabulous handling in wet conditions, and in hard cornering on dry pavement.
I have long praised Porsche as the only super-high-performance car that can also be a stable, utilitarian daily driver. For example, Porsches repeatedly run well in the annual One Lap of America race -- several days, thousands of miles, many race tracks across the land -- while Italian exotics and other high-performance cars don't even bother to show up.
That's because they would break. When I did One Lap a couple of years ago with the great racer David Murry, other teams carried tools and parts and all sorts of gear. We carried two things: a bottle of Windex and a tire pressure gauge.
"We don't need no stinkin' tools," was our motto.
And we didn't.
So now we come to this new version of the "everyday driver."
That's everyday, as in bustling about with 355 horsepower and a deep-reaching 295 lb.-ft. of torque at your command. And everyday as in you can actually pinch two people into small rear seats if you need to, or fill the rear with groceries. You can also commute to work without worrying that a high-stress engine is revving and heating itself rapidly toward the next tune up.
But you can also use this car to slip into racer mode. Hunker down in firm leather seats slung so low you feel like you are sitting nearly at floor level, feet straight out ahead, comfortable and ready to rock.
Power from the 3.8-liter boxer-six engine is spun through a six-speed manual transmission whose click points are so tight you almost feel like you are paddle-shifting. It's that quick. The tug of the torque is so deep you can easily do a 1-3-6 shift pattern going from a stop light, up an entrance ramp, and onto the highway. Even folks who can fork over more than $100,000 for a car like to save on gas.
The Targa, when not in stiffened Sport mode, feels softer than other 911s. Knowing how German engineers think, I'm sure that's intentional. Maybe there's a different crowd attracted to this car. Click into Sport, however, and it stiffens up nicely, with lateral stickiness in corners that is seemingly endless. The Porsche Active Suspension Management system, which can turn bad drivers into good ones, adds to the fun factor.
Standard safety equipment includes front air bags, thorax air bags that spring from the seats, and head air bags in each door.
You drive safely. You get to play. You can commute like any other driver.
And you can do it every day.
Royal Ford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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