Hooniverse Asks: Are Fancy Automatic Targa Roofs Missing the Point?

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?
Image: YouTube

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  1. Fred Talmadge Avatar
    Fred Talmadge

    It takes me about 20 minutes to put the top up or down on the Lotus Elan. Most folks don’t want to spend that kind of time. Hell they don’t even want to spend 5 seconds to use the key to open doors

    1. nanoop Avatar

      Slightly off topic: I could park my car next to a 2002 Elise, which has about the same power/weight ratio as my 944, but weighs just 2/3… Man are these tiny, the turn-in must be spectacular!

      View post on imgur.com

      1. Fuhrman16 Avatar

        Crazy how massive a sub compact Mazda 2 looks next to those two.

    2. NapoleonSolo Avatar

      My MG Midget also had the roof in a bag ready to assemble. One of the key selling points of the original Fiat 124 Spyder was the ease with which the top went up and down. Now, that was appropriate technology: reach back and pull.

  2. Gee Nick Avatar
    Gee Nick

    I suppose it’s ok as a compromise in colder climes, maybe even as theft protection, but other than that, leave the top peeled on your convertible if that’s what you wanted in the first place.

    1. Vairship Avatar

      Might want to leave the top up on the freeway too, if you want to avoid hearing loss in your old age (according to recent research): https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110106092034.htm

  3. JayP Avatar

    In an age where people want self driving cars??

    1. nanoop Avatar

      Let Google/Tesla/Amazon/the cloud decide when to drop the top!

      1. Tiller188 Avatar

        Given the accuracy of weather forecasts, I can see that leading to some interesting results…

        1. nanoop Avatar

          Ah, THAT cloud!

  4. Justin Hughes Avatar
    Justin Hughes

    The MX-5 RF only adds 100lbs over the soft top and takes no additional trunk space. I think it’ll allow people who don’t like convertibles to begin to enjoy the MX-5 experience. It’ll also be popular in the snow belt, and looks so much better than the NC’s power retractable hardtop.
    The 911 Targa, well, that’s a different story. I never see those around.

    1. discontinuuity Avatar

      I’d prefer a one-piece fixed hardtop on the Miata, but then again I can’t afford a new one.

      1. crank_case Avatar

        Liftback coupe would be brilliant, but then again, the 86/BRZ exists

  5. Jeff McCallister Avatar
    Jeff McCallister

    If there were no weight penalty, I’d consider the targa a positive thing for some people. However, think targas tend to be unattractive compared to coupes. Personally I have no use for convertibles at all– compromised structure, added weight, less security, not as pretty. But I’m one that thinks a sport wagon is the best design of all. 5>4>3>2.

  6. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    A targa was never the choice for a serious track day weapon, nor was it the serious choice for the motorist wanting to sunburn his bald spot. The targa was/is a compromise, and if you’ve already made that concession, the complexity and weight of a power targa isn’t much of an additional hurdle.
    That being said, I kind of dig targas. I even dig the mechanical complexity of the power ones. It’s a way cooler use of complexity for its own sake than sensor-laden, multi-hinged ,gullwing falcon doors.

  7. Andrew_theS2kBore Avatar

    On the 991, sure; these days any sub-GT3 911 is a balance between comfort, sportiness, and practicality, as the Cayman and Boxster have moved into the pure sports car role.
    On the Miata, absolutely not. Developing the lightest sports car on the market and then slapping a heavy, gimmicky roof in the worst possible place for CG height is like preparing a gourmet meal and then serving Miller Lite with it.

  8. Alff Avatar

    The blue wart above doesn’t do much for me, but I like the looks of the RF. I’m convinced that 25 years of top-down driving haven’t done my skin or hearing any favors. I’d consider the Mazda a decent compromise.

  9. Tanshanomi Avatar

    There’s two completely different ways to look at targas. Either they are all about a quick-and-dirty way to make a quasi-roadster, or they’re a horse of a totally different color.
    If the first assertion is true, then targas are 100% about simplicity — rather than engineering a whole different body shell, let’s just remove the center part of the roof. Thus, if you’re going to go through all the mumbo-jumbo to make motorized parts, then you’ve utterly lost the plot.
    But perhaps, targas exist for a different reason: to get more of an open-air experience than a sunroof, but without the wind-hitting-you-backward buffeting of a true drop-top. If that’s the case, then the Porsche robo-targa is cool. The MX5-RF still doesn’t work, though, because the back window goes away with the top, and with it your semi-still pocket of air in the cockpit.
    I want to like the RF, I really do. But it’s kinda dumb.

  10. Borkwagen Avatar

    Still waiting for motorized t-tops. No idea how that’d be done though.

    1. Texlenin Avatar

      Citroen did an SM concept car that had something like. The sections were nested,
      solid metal.

      1. Borkwagen Avatar

        Of course it would be Citroen that tries something like that.

    2. smokyburnout Avatar

      American Sunroof Company experimented with it in the 70s but it was too complicated/expensive/leaky for mass production http://www.toronado.org/FAQ/GenII/xsr.htm

    3. gord l Avatar
      gord l

      they DID make a power t-top
      the toronado xsr check out
      ask and you shall receive!

  11. NapoleonSolo Avatar

    At least we know from that photo that Jim Hall is still alive and active on the automotive scene.

  12. Deepak Eapen Avatar
    Deepak Eapen

    It’s needless to mention that this Porsche drop-top is a snazzy and pristine looking ride. Premium roadsters generally have the tech to ward off the turbulence and back draft, but regular roadsters aren’t that fortunate. The problem of wind noise was so overwhelming that I had to mount an additional wind deflector to tackle the bogey. Thanks to the Windblox windblocker now the cabin is hush and peaceful during my roof down cruises.

    1. Jane Williams Avatar
      Jane Williams

      Yeah, the problem of wind noise can be so annoying that it can make us want to get rid of our ride once and for all. But the Backblade windblocker stopped me from doing that. Now al fresco rides are fun if not the ultimate enjoyment.