Driving a convertible is a unique experience. It at once brings you closer to the feeling of speed and the exhilaration of the sights and sounds around you, while at the same time doing a poorer job of managing that experience than its stiffer closed-cabin siblings. Floppier, heavier, and sometimes woefully more awkward in the visuals department when the top is up, convertibles are still pretty popular.
One way that manufacturers have tried to let us have our cake and eat it too has been with the Targa roof, a design that affords much of the benefit of a full convertible, but still with a good bit of the structural integrity of a coupe, and at a similar weight. Porsche once embraced this design for both their 911 and 914 lines, and it’s been used by Fiat (X1/9), Ferrari (308, 348, etc), Pontiac (Solstice), the Corvette from the C4 onward, as well as others. A manually removable soft or hard section above the driver and passenger seat can instantly transform a car from a quiet coupe into a fresh air fiend’s best friend. And the structure isn’t much heavier than the coupe base. It’s a win-win right?
Well, these days, I don’t know how much win there is with the current crop of Targa-roofed cars. Porsche has reintroduced the model to their 911 lineup while Mazda has expanded the new MX-5 line to include a retractible hardtop model. These seem at first glance to embody the benefits of the targa roof lifestyle, but on closer examination are in fact as complicated, if not more so, than their fully convertible counterparts. For the Porsche, that Targa roof adds a hefty 10% weight penalty over the coupe. I’m all for making things easier to do, but even I have my limits. What about you, do you think these new automated Targas miss the point of their purpose?