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Auto blogTue, 15 Apr 2014 11:59:00 EST
I've watched the electro-hydraulic roof panel open and close about 73 times in the past hour, but its fascinatingly complicated operation still has me mesmerized. I've concluded that only a German automaker - Porsche, to be more specific - would go through the trouble of engineering a roof system that essentially lifts the entire greenhouse off a vehicle, rearranges its components like a sliding-tile puzzle, and then reassembles all of them seamlessly (sans roof panel) to accurately recreate one of its most famed bodystyles.
The 2014 Porsche 911 Targa is a near-perfect modern interpretation of the automaker's 1965 911 Targa, a semi-convertible bodystyle that represents nearly 13 percent of all 911 models sold since production started 50 years ago. While the early car's roof was purely manual in operation - that's the period-correct way of saying that the driver did all of the muscle work - today's Targa is a completely automated transformation that requires only that the driver hold down a cabin-mounted switch for a mere 19 seconds to let the captivating show run its course.
After studying the Targa's elaborate roof operation at its launch at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year, I was sufficiently intrigued. To that end, I traveled one-third of the way around the planet to southern Italy, hoping that the Mediterranean climate would reveal a bit more about the reintroduction of the automaker's iconic sports car.
That Porsche is returning to Le Mans next year with a top-tier LMP1 entry is no news - we've known that for some time. We've even seen pictures of the car in question undergoing testing at various racetracks across Europe, been told who'll be driving it and given some basic parameters of what will make it go. We just haven't known what to call it, but now we do.
In detailing its full endurance racing program for next year at its Night of Champions in Weissach, Porsche has revealed that its new LMP1 racecar will be called the 919 Hybrid. So, something like the 918 Spyder, only one faster. With a four-cylinder engine and a pair of electric motors, the 919 Hybrid will be taking on the top class at Le Mans next year, with a compelling roster of drivers on the docket: along with Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Neel Jani, Porsche has assigned its works driver Marc Lieb and F1 test driver Brendon Hartley to the effort. But that's not all Porsche has in store.
The factory is also supporting teams that will campaign the 911 RSR in the FIA World Endurance Championship as well as the United SportsCar Championship here in the US, taking Porsche off the pit wall and right in the race seat for next year as part of a comprehensive new racing program, details of which you can read in the press release below.
Vaunted men's magazine Playboy knows that its readers are nearly as interested in cars as they are in the female anatomy... sorry, we thought we could write that with a straight face. Anyway, the buff-book does occasionally fill some of its spreads with sexy metal, to accent all the rest of the sexiness.
To wit, the magazine has unveiled its feature on the 2013 Cars of the Year. Without giving us much in the way of criteria for the awards, nor a clear framing of the categories ("Responsible Ride" is a particularly challenging concept, especially when you consider that the Mazdaspeed3 was the winner), Playboy has nevertheless highlighted what we assume to be it's favorite 12 or 13 (depending on how you count) cars from the 2013 model year.
Headlining the class is the Porsche 911, which Playboy writers single out for having "remarkable electronic voodoo." BMW M5 is named "Slickest Sports Sedan" though the Cadillac ATS then follows on because "we couldn't resist giving the new Caddy a shout-out." The rest of the picks are pretty conventional (save, perhaps, the Honda Fit EV as "Ace Electric"), even if the categories and methodology are fairly wonky. Cruise through or gallery for a taste or check out the full list, here. The site is safe for work, and you can legitimately (this time) say that you were reading it for the articles.