Driven: Ares Design Porsche 911 GT3 Targa Is A Masterstroke

Messing with a winning recipe like the 911 is always a risky thing to do. Just like trying to alter the perfect Michelin star recipe, one different ingredient can ruin the dish.

Consequently, the decision by Ares Design to create a 911 variant even Porsche itself doesn’t sell could have gone horribly wrong. It hasn’t.

The Italian coachbuilding company flew Carscoops to Italy to drive what they dub a Porsche 911 GT3 Targa. The name alone provides a hint of just how special this car is. It doesn’t tell the whole story, however.

Italian Coachbuilding Reloaded

Founded in 2014 by former Ferrari and Lotus exec Dany Bahar and based in Modena, the company wants to bring back the coachbuilding business of yesteryear. Bahar created Ares Design shortly after his somewhat controversial departure as Lotus chief executive. Before that, he played a pivotal role in getting Red Bull and Toro Rosso into Formula One. An impressive rap sheet, then. There’s perhaps no one better to lead a company like Ares that wants to do things a little different.

In between work on one-offs commissioned by wealthy clients, Ares is developing on a host of limited-run models using modern underpinnings outfitted with bespoke bodywork inspired by classics. Most notably, the marque is developing a Lamborghini Huracan-based recreation of the DeTomaso Pantera dubbed the Panther.

A Special Kind Of Rocketship

The car we’re driving may not be on that level, but it’s a 911, so it has to be good, right?

Despite what the name may suggest, the 911 GT3 Targa built by Ares isn’t really a GT3. It is based on a 911 Targa 4 GTS and has had OEM 991.2 GT3 and GT3 RS bodywork fitted. Ares intends on building 12 examples and the car I drove was Bahar’s personal car. Fortunately, I didn’t find that out until after the drive.

Sliding into the car, you’re immediately welcomed by a low seat and a small steering wheel, two absolutely necessary ingredients for any sports car. For the most part, the interior has been left untouched, but one look through the wing mirrors and the wide arches remind you this isn’t a typical GTS Targa.

In its bid to replicate the performance of the GT3, Ares has modified the 3.0-liter six-cylinder on a number of fronts. For example, it receives a hybrid turbocharger, the throttle body and intake parts of a Turbo S, a high-pressure fuel pump, tuned ECU, and a bespoke exhaust. Combined, these result in a total of 575 hp and 675 Nm of torque, roughly the same power you’ll find in a Turbo S. Pinning the throttle, the GT3 Targa accelerates through the streets of Modena with impressive pace.

Not Everything Is Peachy

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows on the engine front, however. Down low in the rev range in any gear other than first, the car offers very little punch. Doing a pull in second gear, there’s not much power to speak of until the pistons are firing at over 3000 rpm. From there, the boost kicks in hard and fast. Revved out, this thing is a rocketship and the minimal power down low simply encourages you to keep the car in the first 3 or 4 gears to properly enjoy Porsche’s wondrous PDK transmission. The car is not quite Turbo S rip-your-face-off kind of quick, but few vehicles are.

As powerful as the engine is, it lacks any real character. This isn’t the fault of Ares but rather speaks to Porsche’s dull-sounding turbo’d 911s. Beyond the satisfying bark it emits on startup, the engine is surprisingly quiet from behind the wheel, even with the roof off.

Porsche’s latest 4.0-liter six-cylinder in the back of the GT3 is perhaps one of the finest production engines launched in the last two decades and is sorely missed in the Ares car. To my ears, it also sounds better than pretty much anything on planet earth. Having this operatic soundtrack with the Targa roof could very well make for the perfect 911.

Verging On The Edge Of Greatness

While driving, all I could think about was how I would sell all my assets, sell every possible internal organ I could, beg for a massive loan and buy one of these if there was a 991.2 GT3 engine behind the cabin. Granted, sourcing these engines could prove a challenge and actually building a GT3-based Targa would be extremely costly for Ares.

Engine aside, the Ares GT3 Targa offers all you’d expect from a high-end 911. Fantastic steering, seemingly endless traction, confidence-inspiring brakes and a driving view, unlike any other car. Ares elected to replace the standard suspension with a set of KW adjustable coilovers. On decent roads, the ride is firm but comfortable. On rough roads, it could be a different story.

Looks may be subjective but you’d have to have a few loose screws in the head if you don’t think this car looks fantastic. As the 911 GT3 Touring revealed to the world, Germany’s best sports car looks fantastic without a towering rear wing. A Targa roof improves those looks only further, as do the 21-inch wheels from the GT3 RS.

Although our drive of the Ares Design 911 GT3 Targa was brief, we had enough seat time to realize that it verges on the edge of greatness. Ares’ decision to create such a vehicle was an absolute masterstroke. If there was a GT3 engine behind the seats, it could be the finest modern-day 911 of them all.

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  • robotlogic

    Why all the complication to remove a simple targa top? Why not just make the targa top in 2 carbon fiber pieces that manually detach and store in the trunk? That would save 100lbs of moving parts, body seals and wires.

    • ace_9

      Because porsche is mainly focused at selling cars to rich older men who often have problems to get in and out of the car let alone manually remove some small roof.

    • nastinupe

      Why pay $150,000 for a car top that I have to manually move? That’s why you pay $150,000. I’ll leave the manual work for the Jeep Wrangler.

      • robotlogic

        Because it remove 150lbs of parts and makes your car go faster which is by the way the only goal of this car. If you can’t lift two 5lb carbon fiber panels maybe a Porsche is too much car for you.

        • nastinupe

          What you’re saying is logical,
          However, do complain about ALL AUTOMATIC CONVERTIBLES AND T-TOPS or just this one. Because it’s basically industry standard at this point. Every other Porsche convertible has an automatic top except for the Spyder version, and most people complain about the hassle.

          Besides nobody buys this car for track days. A 911 T-Top is a Blvd and highway cruiser.

          • robotlogic

            Yeah, I guess. Just lay your golf bag across the back “seats” and go to golf course with your $150K Porsche and see if I care! I hope they choke on their cigar and spill brandy all over their plaid shorts!!

  • BruceWayne

    Good lord, this car is just perfect

  • Six_Tymes

    i love the front end, its epic

  • eye.surgeon

    So they took a great car and made it heavier and less rigid. How is this the best 911 ever?

    • ace_9

      Its like BMW. Fans don’t really know or care about the weak points. It’s really just another 911 with some overpriced and over-complicated roof. But hey, it’s a PORSCHE, so it must be amazing!

  • Wandering_Spirit

    Masterful, tasteful interpretation in all aspects. The sole rant i can proffer is the pied de poule fabric used for the seats. But that’s to be really picky. The rest is really a good interpretation of something i’d gladly spend money on.

  • I’m having mixed feelings for Ares, in one side, I’m glad that there are more coachbuilding company that gives more variety, but in the other hands, they offered nothing that are actually original nor interesting, I just felt that this company take advantage of rich people that wants something unique.

    • nastinupe

      I think that’s the point.

  • Navy Morroccan✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    I have never been fond of the Porsche 911 and this one is no exception. I think the evolutionary styling plays a big part in the 911 lineup, and this one interior looks tacky. I do not like it and rather have a Chevrolet Corvette (C7).

  • SteersUright

    This was done stupidly. Why not simply start with the brilliant GT3 and then add the targa roof mechanism rather than the vastly inferior Targa GTS? And how dare you use the GT3 nomenclature without the 4.0L flat6 engine? There is nothing GT3 about this car other than its poser appearance.

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