This is a tale of two Carreras. The first one is Muhammad Ali. This Porsche floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee; it can motor at extra-legal velocities with no apparent effort, then carve-up a twisting road and leave it for dead. Muhammad is flash, a smug symbol that its driver is a Heavyweight. But it's no bum. Oh no. Press the loud pedal and the 3.6 litre engine proclaims, 'I am the greatest!' As the roar increases and the scenery begins to blur, the car gains control rather than loses it. The footwork is dazzling. Class. Pure class.
The second Carrera is Clint Eastwood. This Porsche upholds The Law of The Jungle, with scant regard for legal niceties like speed limits and other road users. In fact, there's nothing nice about it. Clint sticks your nose into the tarmac and makes you feel every bump, ridge and rut. As far as speed is concerned, the bullet chamber is always loaded, the hammer cocked. Pull the trigger and Clint explodes into forward motion. Cornering is equally brutal, and effective. Calling this Carrera 'soft' or 'not as good as the old one' only reveals your ignorance.
So, is the 2002 Porsche Targa Muhammad Ali or Clint Eastwood? Like all the other Carrera variants, the car's personality depends entirely on how you spec it up. Muhammad Ali comes as standard, riding on 17' wheels and 'Comfort' tyres. Clint Eastwood sits on your choice of 18' alloys (£736 – £1300) and a sports suspension (lowered 10mm for £352.50); and wears Michelin Pilot Sport or Pirelli P0s tyres. It's as simple as that. Which one is better? You choose.
The majority of UK buyers spec their Carreras Dirty Harry style. No wonder. The 18' alloys fill the wheels arches with more rubber than you'll find at www.latexware.com. The 30 profile rear tyres accentuate the car's huge brake discs and black, trademarked callipers. While this race-ready combination of massive wheels, wafer-thin tyres and tarmac sniffing bodywork makes the Carrera look lean and mean, it's a double-edged sword.
On the positive side, the tyres bulge right over the rims, protecting the alloys from curbing. More importantly (at least for people who don't have to pay for such things), the wide tyres grip like a free climber on a cliff face. 'Prodigious' barely covers it. The car provides so much adhesion around bends that cornering quickly becomes the default option. Overcook it and progressive understeer is the catch of the day. Switch off the Porsche Stability Management, give it some, and you'll love the smell of tail slides in the morning. It smells like… a new set of tyres please.
On the negative side, the tyre roar is deafening on anything other than a mirror smooth road. I suppose only old people worry about such things, and they'll be too busy trying to avoid potholes to notice. Bump, thump! Drive over a series of cat's eyes and you'll think you're being attacked by a paintball machine gun. With Eastwood-style wheels, tyres and chassis, this Carrera sacrifices ride comfort on the altar of body control. If relaxed cruising is for sissies, Clint sure ain't no sissy.
Neither is Muhammad, but there's a lot to be said for a bit of 'rope-a-dope'. That's the technique Ali used to defeat Foreman in Manila: kick back, let the big dope punch himself out, then attack without mercy. The Carrera equivalent is to blast to a track day on the quieter 17' wheels and smaller tyres, then run rings around exhausted Caterham drivers. If you're looking for the legendary 'everyday supercar', Muhammad is it. Opting for the less aggressive set-up may dent your resale value, but don't forget: there are an awful lot of tough guys out there. There's only one Champ.
Hang on! Is that my word count? Right, I better say something about the roof.
I've always defined a 'Targa' as a car with a removable roof panel. Stow the panel and you're driving a convertible- except the body remains rigid, there's not as much windlash and some jerk can't knife your canvas drop top. The new Porsche Targa is nothing more than a Carrera with a bloody great sunroof. To prevent occupants from roasting, the glasshouse comes with a sliding shade. To admit what little light the English summer can muster, the plastic shade must be retracted backwards, over what convention would call the 'rear window'. Visibility? Gone.
Clint wouldn't care: 'Why should I worry about what's behind me?' Ali would: 'I wanna see who's comin' before I whoop their ass'. Given the speeds involved, it's not really a big deal. Just make sure you choose wheels, tyres and suspension to suit your style. After that, whether you go for a Targa, Coupe, Cabriolet or Turbo, it's a choice between the best of Porsches, and the best of Porsches.