When it comes to Porsches, I have the tendency to give them a bit of leeway, especially if the number 911 appears on the tail. However, there comes a time when everyone has to draw a line, and this is mine.

Porsche made some hearts flutter when the sheet was pulled off the 2014 911 Targa at the 2014 Detoit Auto Show, and I too was impressed by the grace of its lines and tribute to the original Targa, a clever, lightweight solution to open-air motoring. Ensuing models added complexity in a sliding full glass roof, and now we have all of the complexity and even more weight (1540 in base trim to 1,575 kg in 4S PDK trim) than an equivalent convertible (1,500–1,535 4S PDK).

But it does look pretty. The archetypal 911 silhouette is better preserved than in the original Targa or the current convertible, yet the contrasting silver roll hoop is eye-catching yet elegant and elicits just the right touch of nostalgia. It is, dare I say, achingly gorgeous. There is no question in my mind that the Targa is a style choice, a counterpoint to the performance choice in the GT3 I drove in the midst of my week with the Targa.

Therefore, it was actually a bit of a surprise and a lot of joy when I first opened up the Targa and saw three pedals and an old-fashioned stir stick in the console. If ever there was a car in the Porsche lineup that seems a natural fit for the automatic PDK, it is this heavy, style-first semi-convertible. The PDK might be quicker (dropping the 0–100 km/h time from 5.2 to 5.0 seconds), but the Porsche manual transmission (seven speeds now) is a thing of beauty to rival that silver arch that separates the glass panel. Its beauty isn’t just skin deep, either. The shifter is solid and notchy, the gates are easy to find, with just a bit of resistance slotting in and the clutch is firm without requiring heroic leg presses.

And of course, there is no better way than a manual transmission to engage the unique character of Porsche’s signature flat-six engines positioned behind the rear seats. It doesn’t sound exactly like a sewing machine, but it has a distinct metallic twang that is inextricably associate with Porsche after 50 years of that signature sound, though it is nothing like the cacophony and roller-coaster noises of air-cooled 911s. That aural character is paired with a naturally aspirated 3.4L engine with direct injection, so there’s a bit of ticking away if you listen closely, but it’s power delivery is steady and rises to a peak of 350 hp at 7,400 rpm (just short of the 7,800-rpm redline), maximum torque of 287 lb-ft available at 5,600 rpm.

2014 Porsche 911 Targa 42014 Porsche 911 Targa 4 dashboard
2014 Porsche 911 Targa 4, dashboard. Click image to enlarge
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