Porsche 911 (996)
The 996, produced from 1999-2004 (except for the Turbo, which continued through MY05), was the first ever water-cooled Porsche 911, and introduced a host of other upgrades from the previous generation to make the car safer and easier to drive. They are the ultimate performance bargain, since they’re significantly cheaper than the “997” generation cars thanks to their maligned exterior design, not-as-premium interior, and IMS bearing problems. Enthusiasts are quickly starting to realize this, and it is likely that values have bottomed out. Despite their reputation, they are still a purebred Porsche, and produce a driving experience unparalleled by most other vehicles even of the performance variety. They are very reliable cars as well, especially compared to other German vehicles. Turbo and GT3 models have almost no engine flaws, and even regular naturally-aspirated vehicles are quite reliable (aside from IMS bearing issues, which are not even guaranteed in the first place and are preventable).
The 996.2 (MY02+) introduced a raft of interior upgrades, including cupholders, a glove compartment, and a US-sized cigarette lighter (instead of the Euro-sized one on the MY99-01 996.1 which made it impossible to plug any electronics in). The 996.2 also made the onboard computer standard, and ditched the “fried egg” headlight design for the headlights from the Turbo.
All Cabriolets feature power folding soft-tops, though many also have removable hardtops. 996.1 models had plastic rear windows, while 996.2 models had glass rear windows. The tops are thick fabric that does a good job of reducing wind and road noise, and they’re also fairly sturdy. The retracting mechanism is also solid. Unfortunately, structural rigidity on Cabriolet models is poor, and the lack of it is very noticeable in spirited driving. As a result, they are generally cheaper than comparable coupes.
The 996 Targa was not a “true” targa. Instead of a removable roof panel, it had a panoramic sunroof. Because of the rarity of these cars – less than 10% of 996’s produced were Targas – they tend to carry a premium.
Contrary to popular belief, the Carrera 4S has the same engine as the 996.2 Carrera and Carrera 4 with no power difference. In essence, it is a Turbo (with Turbo body, brakes, suspension, and wheels), but with the regular Carrera M96.03 engine in it instead of the M96.70.
Those looking for the purest driving experience should go for RWD vehicles, especially those from MY99. The Carrera 4 and 4S are 400 pounds heavier than the base Carrera – a difference that is quite noticeable in spirited driving. MY99 cars are the only 996 to have a mechanical throttle (MY00+ had electronic throttle) and could be had without Porsche Stability Management (PSM).
Make sure to evaluate the tires, clutch, and brakes, as they are expensive to replace (tires can easily be over $1000 for a set on cars with 18″ wheels, and a clutch is $2000-3000 to replace) and are often the reason why these cars are for sale.
All cars have a sticker underneath the “frunk” lid with a list of option codes that were installed from the factory.
- Bose stereo
- “Litronic” bi-xenon headlights
- Rear window wiper
- Heated seats
- Carbon ceramic brakes (also known as PCCB)
- Full leather interior – this made all plastics soft-touch and covered the dashboard and A-pillars in leather; it also added an alcantara headliner. It’s a dramatic upgrade to the interior, and was standard on the Carrera 4S and above trims while optional on lower ones.
- Limited slip differential
- Sport seats
- Sport exhaust
- “X50” package (for Turbos) or “X51” package (for C2/4/4S/Targa) – engine upgrades from the factory that added significantly more power
- Sport suspension
- Limited edition models:
- Millennium Edition – Based on the Carrera 4, Porsche only produced 911 of these. All ME vehicles had the same standard options as the Turbo and came with GT3 side skirts. They were painted in the unique “Violet Chromaflair” purple paint color.
- 40th Anniversary Edition – This is a rare form of the naturally-aspirated 996. All 40AE vehicles came with the X51 package, Turbo front bumper and radiators, limited slip differential, sport suspension, heated sport seats, unique wheels, GT3 side skirts, polished exhaust tips, and bi-xenon headlights. All were painted GT Silver with grey interiors. 1,963 total vehicles were produced.
- Turbo S models – Made exclusively in MY2005, Porsche only produced 1500 of these globally, and they command huge premiums over the regular Turbo despite being nearly identical to the Turbo with the X50 package. In fact, the only difference was that the Turbo S came standard with PCCB, a 6-disc CD changer, and aluminum-faced instruments.
- Glass rear window (standard on 996.2)
- Removable hardtop
- Wind deflector
- M96.01/02/04 (Carrera 996.1, Carrera 4 996.1)
- M96.03 (Carrera 996.2, Carrera 4 996.2, Carrera 4S, Targa, 40th Anniversary Edition)
- M96.70 (GT2, Turbo, Turbo S)
- M96.76/79 (GT3)
- Leather seats are more susceptible to wear than previous generations of 911s
- Many plastic trim pieces, such as the center console, gearshift lever, and trunk/hood release levers, are prone to cosmetic wear
- Rear wheels are susceptible to curb rash
- Regular cleaning of the front radiators is necessary to prevent corrosion in the cooling and air conditioning systems
- The front underbody trim breaks very easily
- Window regulators fail
- Clutches only last about 50,000 miles, and rear tires only last about 10,000 miles
- Targa models: The sunroof commonly goes out of alignment and is expensive to fix
- Vehicles with manual transmissions: Some cars have a tendency to jump out of 2nd gear. If this is allowed to persist, it can cause damage to the transmission. There is a quick and easy fix for this.
- Vehicles with headlamp washers: The washer nozzles can break very easily. Replacement requires an entire washer assembly, at a price of >$200.