2002 Porsche Carrera 4S. Click image to enlarge

Story and photos by Greg Wilson

The 2002 Porsche 911 Targa and 911 Carrera 4S are the second and third new models from Porsche for the 2002 model year – they follow the awesome GT2 which was introduced last Fall: a radical-looking, rear-drive version of the equally-awesome 911 Turbo.

The new Targa returns after a five year absence, and offers a large, sliding sunroof which is about twice as big as the standard sunroof offered on the Carrera Coupe. But while the 1996 and 1997 Targa models were based on the (previous generation) 911 Cabriolet, the 2002 model is based on the current 911 Coupe, and so offers substantially better body rigidity. In addition, the new Targa’s rear window now opens like a hatchback, greatly improving accessibility to the cargo area.

Over and above those improvements, the 2002 Targa gets the 911’s upgraded 320 horsepower 3.6 litre boxer six cylinder engine (up from 300 horsepower and 3.4 litres) with VarioCam Plus continuously variable valve timing, a revised interior design, and Turbo-look front-end styling. Its 2002 manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $109,000.

The new wide-body 911 Carrera 4S replaces the narrow-body Carrera 4 for 2002. The Carrera 4S combines the above-mentioned 320 horsepower normally-aspirated engine with the Turbo’s chassis, brakes, body design and all-wheel-drive system. The 4S has a suggested retail price of $117,500 — that may sound expensive, but it’s a relative bargain compared to the Turbo for $168,400 and the GT2 for $253,000!

New Targa has very big sunroof

2002 Porsche 911 Targa

2002 Porsche 911 Targa

2002 Porsche 911 Targa

2002 Porsche 911 Targa

2002 Porsche 911 cupholder
Click image to enlarge

You can think of the new Targa as a Carrera Coupe with a very big sunroof. The power-operated sliding glass roof, which slides under the rear window, covers about 0.45 square metres, twice that of the Coupe’s standard sunroof. With such a large opening in the roof, Porsche decided to reinforce the A-pillars and roof rails to ensure the same level of rigidity and safety as the Coupe. A second, fixed glass roof behind the sliding roof combines to provide more than 1.5 square metres of roof glass – great for viewing mountain scenery, downtown skyscrapers, star-lit skies, wildlife – you name it.

The power sunroof is opened by pressing a button on the console, and it can also be opened remotely with a special button on the key fob, as can the side windows.

With the roof open, a vertical wind deflector deploys to prevent wind buffeting in the cabin. It has the effect of blocking airflow, and at high speeds, the wind noise is substantial. When closed, a perforated cloth sunshade slides across the roof to block out the sunlight and keep the cabin warm in the winter – but I found that even with the tinted glass sunroof and sunshade in place, a lot of light gets through into the cabin – there is nothing to block it out entirely.

The Targa’s new hinged rear window has two gas struts which raise it automatically after it is opened. With the two rear seatbacks folded down, there is 230 litres (8.1 cu. ft.) of cargo space, more than the 201 litres (7.1 cu.ft.) in the Carrera Coupe – and that’s not counting the trunk space under the hood. Pretty good for a sports car.

The new Targa’s body design looks and feels more solid than the previous model’s – I was never comfortable with the idea of a complete sunroof and roof assembly bolted on to a convertible body – it just didn’t seem like a great engineering solution.

The decision to base the Targa on the Coupe body was a good one. On the road, the Targa’s roof panels don’t squeak and move around as they did before, and the sliding top seals out wind noise very well. It was raining during a portion of my test-drive, and there were no leaks.

The 911 Targa weighs about 150 lbs more than a Carrera Coupe and features unique spring and shock tuning to compensate for the weight. Performance hasn’t changed much though: the Targa accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.2 seconds, just 0.2 seconds slower than the Coupe.

The Targa’s revised interior is similar to the Coupe with a new three-spoke steering wheel, redesigned centre air vents, and improved cupholders. Big news for stereo enthusiasts is a new optional Bose digital sound system that includes eleven speakers including a large subwoofer which unfortunately, is located awkwardly in the passenger footwell. The optional Bose system goes for around $4,000.

Carrera 4S has terrific handling

2002 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S
Click image to enlarge

The new 911 Carrera 4S has the same basic styling as the Turbo, but is missing the side air intakes which are needed on the Turbo for the intercoolers. Also, the 4S has the automatically-deploying rear spoiler shared by the Coupe and Targa models rather than the Turbo’s fixed spoiler. You probably won’t notice it, but the automatic spoiler deploys a little higher than before. From the rear, the 4S can be identified by a reflector strip spanning the width of the body between the taillights.

With its big fender flares and wider tires, the 4S is about 60 mm wider than the Carrera Coupe. The Carrera 4S features super-wide Pirelli P-Zero assymetrical 295/30ZR-18 inch tires at the rear, and 225/40ZR-18 at the front. The tires are mounted on Turbo-style alloys, but the Carrera 4S wheels are solid rather than hollow as on the Turbo.

While it has the same suspension as the Turbo (front MacPherson strut/rear multi-link), the 4S has slightly different shock tuning for a better ride. The 4S inherits the Turbo’s 330 mm large-diameter brake rotors and distinctive red-painted brake callipers. Porsche’s anti-skid system, Porsche Stability Management, is also standard on the 4S.

The new 3.6 litre engine features Porsche’s revised VarioCam Plus valve timing and lift system adapted from the Turbo’s engine. The new system increases torque in all rev ranges resulting in more immediate and even throttle response at any speed. At least 236 lb. ft of the engine’s maximum 273 lb ft is available between 2500 and 7000 rpm. Also, the 3.6 litre engine features a dual stage air intake system which helps boost torque at mid-range engine speeds.

The standard all-wheel-drive system (taken from the Turbo) uses a viscous multi-plate clutch behind the front differential which sends from 5% to 40% of the engine’s torque to the front wheels, depending on the situation. This gives the 4S the handling of a rear-drive 911 with the added pull of front traction when the going gets slippery.

Though the AWD Carrera 4S weighs more than the rear-drive Coupe, it’s acceleration times are only slightly less: 0 to 100 km/h in 5.1 seconds compared to 5.0 seconds for the coupe with the standard 6 speed manual transmission. The 4S is also offered with the new 5-speed Tiptronic S automatic that can be shifted manually.

I found the new 3.6 litre engine much torquier than the 3.4 litre engine, with plenty of power available in almost any gear — even 6th gear. The car pulls strongly with that familiar raspy boxer engine sound that distinguishes all Porsches, including the Boxster. The Carrera 4S’ engine is smooth and rev happy, and is reasonably quiet at highway speeds. It gets a bit noisy above 5000 rpm, though.

Greg Wilson
Greg Wilson driving the Carrera 4S
Photo: Steve Mertl

Porsches waiting to be driven at Sheraton Guildford hotel in Surrey, BC

911 Targas and Carrera 4S’s before Canadian media test. Click images to enlarge

The 6-speed manual transmission has a slightly clunky but purposeful gear changing motion that becomes better the more you use it. I found the clutch has a fairly high engaging point, but it engages smoothly. The 4S’ force-sensitive power-assisted rack and pinion steering is quick but not overly-sensitive at speed, and the ride is comfortable although a bit sensitive to small bumps in the road. Cornering is amazingly flat, with the huge Z-rated tires well-planted at just about any speed — it’s very difficult to disturb this car’s stability, and almost impossible to reach its limits. Even if you do, the PSM will kick in and automatically readjust the car’s direction by braking one or more wheels automatically. It’s not intrusive though: you really have to be out of control before it gently pushes you back into line.

Fuel consumption, according to published figures is 14.0 l/100 km (20 mpg) in the city and 9.4 l/100 km (30 mpg) on the highway — but that’s if you’re pussyfooting it, and I can just see those numbers increase (plummet) during spirited driving.

One thing I’ve always liked about 911s is their great outward visibility – the rear side window extends to the rear and the rear window is large and low making lane changes a sure bet instead of a gamble.

Inside, there’s more room than you might guess by a quick look from the outside. The front seats have enough headroom for six-footers, and I’ve even sat in the back seat, although it’s not comfortable. The 4S heated front seats have more lateral support than those in the Targa, but don’t have a power lumbar feature — it’s probably available. Numerous options available on the 911 are expensive, and can really boost the final price.

Both the Carrera 4S and Targa are appealing in their own unique ways — the Targa offers the performance of the Coupe with the advantage of a glass roof (for an extra $10,000) while the Carrera 4S has the handling, braking, and looks of the Turbo without the turbocharger for $50,900 less.

Both cars are improvements over previous versions, and remain unique in the marketplace. Though competitors may include the Corvette Z06, Acura NSX, Viper GTS, Jaguar XKR, and Benz SL500, the 911 is unlike any of those cars. It’s own special character has not been duplicated for these many years — after all, who else would put the engine behind the rear axle?

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