Confessions Of A Porsche 996 Driver (1999-2004 Carrera 911)
It is well acknowledged, if not documented, that the 1999-2004 Porsche Carrera 911 (or 996) is the ugly step-child of the 911 family. Having been born right after the pampered darling, the 993, the much belittled 996 was intended as a leap forward in luxury and performance – a Porsche for the new age.
In my opinion, Porsche accomplished that leap with great clarity – but we’ll get to that later…
The reason the 993 become everyone’s favorite baby is because you need to pamper it (see my earlier post for 993 babysitting instructions). The 993 is fussy and prone to tantrums – take your eye off its’ three oil gauges for more than a month for example and you risk serious engine damage. It always has issues that consume you (but rarely detract from the pure driving excitement), like the heater and AC controls, sunroof operation, overall electronic operation, and I had constant flat tires – although this had more to do with the tire manufacturer than anything (aside: Michelins over Bridgestones always). It takes a considerable effort to drive. The 993 needs you, and your constant attention, and that dependence creates a bond unlike any other vehicle. In fact, some nights you actually go to sleep worried about its’ well-being.
Granted, the 996 is a transitional figure in the Porsche genealogy. It’s a given, that money being no object, every sportscar enthusiast would choose the styling and performance of the current Porsche progeny, (the 997 – 2005-present), over the 996. But the 996 paved the way for the 997 by leaving behind the antiquated air-cooled system for a conventional “water”/radiator engine cooling system, as well as computerized driver aids. No question, the 993 is precise in its turn-in and road-feel. The driver aids of the 996 do take away from this precision with intentional understeer, but the 996 delivers so much more in terms of luxury, information, and comfort, without abandoning that guttural Porsche “thrill factor.”
Compare the figures (“S” versions): 1997 993 – 282HP weighing 3064lbs = a Power-To-Weight Ratio of 1:11 vs. 2003 996 – 320HP weighing 2920lbs = PTW 1:9 (the lower the ratio, the faster the vehicle). If you desire an unadulterated driving experience I would suggest you purchase a 125cc Shifter Kart, which provides a Power-To-Weight Ratio of 1:4.
The Porsche Snobs, sorry Purists, say, “It isn’t a ‘real Porsche’ unless it is air-cooled and rear-engined.” This way of thinking leaves the 944 and the classic 928 orphaned as well. But the general public sees, and respects, any Porsche progeny saying, “Ah, there goes a Porsche – isn’t she beautiful?”
Then there’s the headlights. The Porsche Purists say, “Round headlights are a 911 trademark,” following with, “Porsche turned their back on us with the introduction of the 996.” I willfully concede on this argument. This applies to the re-invented 996 front grill as well. Notice how the well-received 997 made a return to a rounded, albeit oval, headlight and a more traditional front end – also notice how 993 and 997 resale values are holding steady, while 996 resale values plummeted within a couple years of their unveiling – honestly, that fact greatly added to my personal affection for the 996. (Click here to see current 911 resale prices on Cars.com.)
But compare the interiors of the 996 with the 993. No comparison! The 993 looks as if it was stillborn in the 70’s – no cup holder or right arm rest, to which the Purists like to respond, “How many racing cars have cup holders?” Can you believe the original MSRP on the 993 was over $60,000 in 1997? (Most final sticker prices were well over $70,000.) The 996 is indeed a modern luxury sportscar – ergonomics, computers and all – and its original MSRP was only $5,000 more in 2003. (Aside: the original MSRP of my 1997 C4S was $81,700 compared to my 2003 C4S of $83,560)
In truth, I too was waiting for resale prices of the 997 to drop into my affordable range before moving out of my 993. In fact, I’ve driven all three recent 911 generations numerous times and the 997 is without a doubt the best (especially with PDK), but 997 resale prices just haven’t dropped enough yet. So I bit the bullet and settled for a 996. Settled for the goofy headlights and the front-end slippage on tight turn-ins, even the second gear which is admittedly not well ratioed. I resigned to receiving dirty looks from the Purists, rather than the friendly waves of my former 993 brotherhood. But alas, after just one month of driving my 996, following five years fathering a 993, I have a confession…
I am confessing to the “Porsche Purists” (you know who you are), the ones who celebrate the brutish 993 with a verbose and self-righteous rhetoric, that I have grown to love my fledgling 996. I love it as if it were my first-born. And better yet, I trust it. I trust it in the hand’s of my wife and other lesser-experienced 911 drivers. Trust that it will hold its line if my attention should ever momentarily wane. I trust that I won’t ever have to experience snap-oversteer while putting it through its paces (thanks to PSM). Trust that I will receive an equal, if not greater, number of speeding tickets.
Lastly, I trust that I made the best decision, for the money, of which pre-owned Porsche Carrera 911 to buy.
P.S. I just stumbled on these two other “Confessions of a 996 Owner” blogs – https://carrera4neunelf.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/confessions-of-a-996-owner-2/ & http://oppositelock.jalopnik.com/oppo-i-have-a-terrible-confession-to-make-1534705782 – seems I’m not the only person who’s happy with their purchase.
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Tags: 911, 993, 996, 997, Birel, Carrera, Jon Larrance, Kart, Luxury, Porsche