There are weeks when I lose interest in driving, and there are cars that restore my interest. This was one of those weeks, and the new Porsche 911 Targa 4S is one of those cars.
The German sports car company has upgraded this model for 2017 by turbocharging it and adding features normally found only on sportier models.
New to this year's model, in addition to the six-cylinder boxer engine that replaces the previous flat-six, are a sport exhaust, Sport Chrono package, GT-style steering wheel and rear axle steering — borrowed from the 911 GT3, GT3 RS and Turbo cars.
The resulting vehicle may look the same as previous iterations, but it sounds better, feels better and handles better, with a tighter turning radius at slow speeds and more stability at high speeds.
Experts will tell you the Chrono package allows for more yaw and wheel spin and what Porsche calls "a higher intervention threshold."
I'm certain they're right, though I'm not entirely certain what they're talking about.
But the combination of the amendments in sound and steering is sublime, and the delicious driving experience is not limited to hot laps at the track. I had a splendid time in this 911 doing slow laps to work and back — with a little time out, at higher speeds and more demanding conditions, on the Angeles Forest Highway.
The Targa variant of the 911, first introduced by Porsche in 1966, is half-convertible. The push of a button lifts the center of the roof away and stores it in the trunk. That keeps a roll bar deployed, but leaves the sky open, delivering the driver a little more of the sights and smells of the road while exposing the full richness of the engine's roar.
It's a breezy, buffeting experience, bad for the hairdo but good for the heart. The car, sprinting from turn to turn, is so fleet-footed and fluid that it seems almost to drive itself.
I couldn't fully appreciate the very good Bose Surround Sound System under those conditions, but I preferred the purring engine to the music anyway.
The 2017 version of the 911 Targa 4S is powered by a 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine. Now twin-turbocharged, and absent any of the "turbo lag" that plagues some non-naturally aspirated sports cars, it puts out 420 horsepower and 368 pound feet of torque.
The engine is faster and quicker than the flat-six it replaces — 5 miles per hour faster, and a half-second quicker to 60 miles per hour — and gets better fuel economy.
The engine's power is pushed to pavement by a seven-speed, all-wheel-drive automatic transmission. As with all 911s, this Targa 4S can be driven in a manual mode, with paddle-shift gear selection, at the driver's discretion.
A battery of electronic assists keeps the power under control. As is usual on Porsche's sports cars, this 911 comes standard with Porsche Stability Management, anti-slip regulation, automatic brake differential and electronic power steering.
The model I borrowed also had the $3,200 Porsche PDK upgrade, as well as a lane-change assist feature and the very, very welcome "front axle lift system." That's a $2,590 option that, if you live in a hilly part of town, or intend to take the car up or down a driveway, will be more than worth the extra dough.
It was also outfitted with optional power sport seats, a lovely black and red leather interior and the $6,810 Sport Package, which included the rear axle steering and sport exhaust.
Those ups and extras kicked the MSRP from a high $123,650 to a very high $149,970 — not a lot, compared with its similarly outfitted European counterparts, but still a lot when the current average transaction price for a new car is $34,000, or about $116,000 less than the cost of this Targa.
I experienced an almost flawless week in the car. But there was an electronic hiccup that appeared to disable the hydraulic nose lift function about every third time I deployed it. I later realized that I could get it working again by turning the car off and then back on.
There was also a mild but persistent rattle coming from somewhere behind the passenger seat, and a squeak in the driver's side door. These are almost too minor to mention. But when a company sets the bar so high, and has perfection so nearly within reach, the little things can stand out.
The 911s are not within reach for most car buyers, and are not appropriate for most drivers anyway. That's part of why Porsche, in its most recent sales statement, reported that it sold far more Cayennes and Macans than it did 911s — all 911s, of which the Targa 4S is but one model.
A budget-minded Porsche shopper might be more inclined to the 718 Boxster, reviewed here.
A driver with track ambitions might be steered toward the 911 Turbo S, covered in this review.
Those requiring high performance and extra room may consider the Panamera Turbo, as covered here.
But for the sports-inclined driver desiring around-town comfort paired with performance and the option of the open air, the Targa 911 4S may be just the ticket.
It could be just the speeding ticket, too. The 2017 model accelerates from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.8 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 187 miles per hour.
2017 Porsche 911 Targa 4S PDK
Times' take: Porsche adds turbo to the Targa
Highs: Fast as the devil, drives like an angel
Lows: Too few and too minor to mention
Vehicle type: Two-door, four-passenger sports car
Base price: $123,650
Price as tested: $149,970
Powertrain: 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged six-cylinder gas engine
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Torque: 368 pound feet
EPA fuel economy rating: 21 city / 27 highway / 24 combined