Porsche 996 buyer’s guide
An expert’s guide to buying a type 996-generation Porsche 911
Woman enters Porsche 996, green sunlit meadows behind her
The type 996 tore up the 911 script. Bigger, quicker and more accessible than any Porsche sportscar that had gone before, some 25 years after launch, we discover why it’s now a brilliant first step into 911 ownership
Porsche 911 (type 996): the beginning of a new era There can’t be a car lover who hasn’t dreamt about owning a Porsche 911 one day. Fortunately, with almost 60 years of 911 models to admire – plenty of which are still on the road – it’s an increasingly achievable dream to own a slice of automotive history. And in the shape of the 996, you would be buying a bona fide classic Porsche 911. Here was an all-new, modern 911 whose suspension improvements made it more agile, precise and faster than any 911 that had gone before. It had a longer steering angle, for example – which meant a smaller turning circle, despite it being the widest and longest 911 yet, with a wheelbase of 2350mm. With its new components, an already legendary sportscar became smoother and sportier.Launched in 1997 at the IAA in Frankfurt am Main, the 996 broke new ground for the 911 – after 35 years of using the legendary air-cooled engines, they were being replaced by water-cooled variants. By then, air-cooled engines were considered old technology. Water-cooled engines – which use a radiator at the front of the car and wraps a water jacket around the cylinders and cylinder heads to cool it – were far more efficient. Its multi-valve technology for clean exhaust gas quality was decisive, helping meet ever stricter emission regulations in Europe and the US, while also addressing new rules on noise emissions too. The water-cooled engines sound different than the air-cooled ones. With their unique, raspy sound the 996 also has a characteristic sound of its own due to the six-cylinder boxer – especially in combination with the sports exhaust system or at higher revs. Proportion-wise there was a big change too. The 996 was a considerably beefier presence on the road – much longer (by 185mm) and wider (by 30mm) than the 993 it replaced. And the 996 was also a technical leap forward compared to the 993 in areas that are rarely mentioned – such as its soft top design. The soft top with the Z-folding roof of the 996 Cabriolet had the smallest installation space requirement at the time and can be opened via the radio transmitter remote control.
Blue Porsche 911 (996) Carrera on the road, rounding bend
The 996 is seen as an attractive first step into classic Porsche 911 ownership
Designed by Hong Kong-born designer Pinky Lai, under the watchful eye of acclaimed Porsche chief designer Harm Lagaaij, the 996 spanned two generations. First-generation models were built from 1998 to 2001, while the facelift – recognisable by the more subtly rendered headlamps – arrived in 2002, ahead of the production of the 911 (type 997) from 2005. The first models of the new generation don’t have some of the creature comforts of the later version. They deployed a cable throttle rather than electronic drive by wire, and didn’t feature glove boxes, for example, but to some 911 fans, this ‘analogue’ feel gives them a purity that many owners admire. And you were spoiled for choice when it came to deciding on the right variant for you – from the 911 Carrera Coupe to the 911 Targa, the 911 Carrera 4 variants with the special 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet to the range of Turbo and Turbo S models and then the powerful GT2 and GT3 versions, including the motorsport-focused Clubsport Coupe models. When it came to engines, the basic version of the 996 used a 3.4-litre engine that developed 300 PS, while later performance enhancements used a 3.6-litre version that in the 996 Carrera, Carrera 4 and Carrera 4S saw power upgraded to 320 PS. In the shape of the GT3 and GT2, that power was boosted even more considerably, at 462 PS for model year 2001-2002 and an eye-popping 483 PS for model year 2003-2005.Why should I buy a Porsche 996?With an iconic Porsche sportscar like the 911, and one with so much history, there’s no shortage of people wanting to own one – and you can spend as much as you want on some of the finest, rarest examples. The primary appeal of the 996 is that it’s one of the most affordable ways into 911 ownership. Prices are beginning to pick up, but they remain great value – and not far away from its 25th birthday, the 996 is now considered a classic. “It’s the 911 that was on the cusp as it switched from analogue to digital,” says Paul Kitchen who, as well owning a 996 Carrera 4S is also the Porsche Classic business manager for Porsche Cars Great Britain. “When you get behind the wheel, you’ll find it has a very tactile nature. It feels like an older car to drive but will happily cruise to wherever you are heading on your summer holidays. It’s a proper 911 – and there’s no hiding that. And to have a 911 on your driveway is a dream for many.”
Rear view of dark grey Porsche 996 Carrera 4S
With its imposing Turbo-like styling and everyday driver qualities, the Carrera 4S is considered the 996 sweet spot for many buyers
On its launch, there’s no denying that the 996 was met with raised eyebrows in some quarters, yet it remains very much a 911 in terms of that flowing silhouette. Those unique headlights, particularly in the first version of 996 cars – which earned them the affectionate nickname ‘fried eggs’ – have grown into their looks and are very much standout features. Look at the design of the main headlights on the 986 and first version of the 996 and you can see how they are beautifully integrated into the front of the car. The lines and joints of the wings and the front cover merge seamlessly into the headlamps. There is, says Paul, a friendliness about them. The understated 911 with a big role in recent Porsche historyBuy any 911 and you are owning a slice of Porsche sportscar history – but with the 996 you’d be the curator of a vehicle that proved to be a watershed in Porsche history, as the 911 crossed from air-cooled to modern water-cooled technology. “It was the 911 that helped solidify the brand at a challenging time,” Paul explains. “Along with Cayenne and Boxster, if it wasn’t for the 996, Porsche would be a very different company today. It contributed to keeping it going at a difficult time and is a reason why we can still enjoy them today.”And another great reason for opting for a 996 is that there’s a model for seemingly every budget and occasion. It was the first version of the 911 with so much depth to its range – from the standard rear-wheel drive Carrera right up to the mind-blowing GT2, there’s a car for you. The type 996 catered for everyone who wanted to own a sportscar – and it still does, many years since the final one rolled off the assembly line in Zuffenhausen.
Red Porsche 996 GT2 three-quarter view
Cream of the crop: the Porsche 996 GT2, with its 483 PS twin-turbo engine
What do you need to look out for when buying a classic 911 (type 996)?“The great news is that, for the most part, there’s little to worry about when it comes to the bodywork,” says Paul, “when you are looking at how to buy a Porsche 996. The oldest versions may be nearing the quarter of a century mark, but they are modern in construction terms. If you do find any rust, it can often be down to insufficient care or improper repair.”As with any second-hand car you buy, the one thing you should prioritise is a good service and maintenance history. With 996 models at or around 20 plus years old, there are always going to be some parts of the car that would have been changed over the years – and will also need updating again in the future. Keep your eyes open to see whether original Porsche Classic parts were used during repairs or maintenance – you are always well off if you know that original spare parts have been used. But one of the most important tips when buying a classic car is to look for one with a proactive owner. One who has kept an eye on wear and tear and taken preventative rather than reactive measures. Even if they don’t have the same value as when they were new, the amount you need to spend on it to keep them in good condition won’t change. As a sportscar, the 996 will have overwhelmingly been driven for pleasure. It means that the suspension is something you will need to pay attention to as you would with any other vehicle equipped with such suspension technology. “Check for any irregular noises or spongy driving or steering coming from the suspension,” says Paul, “because the resilience of the material used for rubber bushes used in lower control arms decreases over time due to constant ingress of heat, cold and water. This results in reduced control and is typical of any car this age, but in a sportscar it’s something you’ll want in tip-top condition.”
Dark blue 996 Carrera in sunlight, smiling woman in foreground
The adage ‘buy the best you can afford’ is never truer than when you’re buying a pre-owned 996. Do so and you’ll come out smiling
Paul also says check front radiators as well as for stone chips or contamination. And always take a look under the car – or get someone to do it for you – before buying any used car as it is often an indicator as to how the vehicle has been cared for. For the ultimate in security for any classic Porsche, asking the current owner to supply you with a Technical Certificate that they have purchased from a Porsche Classic Partner should be a strong consideration. One of the concerns that many owners of a classic Porsche sportscar can have is a car’s true provenance and history – so it’s somewhat comforting to know that there’s a way of finding out much more about your car’s history. The Porsche Classic Technical Certificate is a service offered by Porsche Classic Partners that uses the various numbers associated with your car – like its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), for example – to help provide you with lots of original vehicle information, like date of production, and whether the engine number and VIN match up. A technical check, with accompanying photos, is also carried out, which evaluates the interior, exterior, powertrain, underbody and suspension. And, finally, you get a detailed summary of your cars technical condition with an expert opinion about the car, signed by your Porsche Classic Partner. It provides peace of mind, as well as providing useful information for any potential restoration project. You wear it wellThe interior of the 996 is a refined and luxurious place to be – and hard wearing too. Be wary of a car that shows a lot of wear and tear but not many miles – again, this is something that a Porsche Classic Technical Certificate will help pick up. It’s a sure sign that it’s done more miles than it’s letting on. “Overall, they wear really well,” says Paul. “My 996 has done 100,000 miles (around 160,000km) but you wouldn’t know it.”
Talk to the owner and find out what they’ve had done, why and where. It’s difficult to go too far wrong, but it’s best to buy one that has had all the right work done on it
Paul Kitchen | Porsche Classic business manager at Porsche Cars GB and a 996 owner
“Always prioritise finding out the maintenance that it’s had,” Paul continues. “Talk to the owner and find out what they’ve had done, why and where. It’s difficult to go too far wrong, but it’s best to buy one that has had all the right work done on it.”
Rear view of dark blue 996 Carrera, woman in background
When buying a classic Porsche sportscar like the 996, pay particular attention to good maintenance
“An important message whenever you are buying an older car is to check the oil and its deposits,” says Paul. “As the lifeblood of the engine, it tells you a lot about the condition of the car. I’d recommend using Porsche Classic Motoroils, which have been specially developed for classic Porsche vehicles. It’s a sign of quality.” As well as checking for signs of accidents – whether on public roads or when suffered while on a trackday, for example – if you are presented with a car which has a well-maintained set of servicing stamps, this is a huge benefit.
View inside to tan interior of a Porsche 996 Carrera
At almost 200mm longer and 30mm wider than the 993, the interior of the 996 is a very comfortable proposition for passengers in particular
Which 996 is the right one for you?It is something of a cliché, but the right Porsche 996 to suit you is the one you can afford – and the best version you can get – in terms of maintenance, service history and mileage. It depends, of course, what you want from your car. “Many say that the sweet spot for any of the 911 models is a standard rear-wheel drive 911 Carrera with no options (and a manual version) just because that’s the pure 911 driving experience,” says Paul. It’s a car, he adds, that offers a lot in terms of driving enjoyment – “lively” is a term you might use – but it’s also the most accessible and perhaps the most affordable you will find too.The Carrera 4S is the version of the 996 that Paul owns, and it has plenty to merit it. It sports wider rear arches as well as upgraded brakes, which give it a performance-oriented focus, as well as all-wheel drive. It’s extremely well planted on the road. With all of this in mind, it makes the Carrera 4S one of the most in-demand variants of the 996. And then there’s the GT3, which was first introduced with the 996. Today you can own a slice of history with the 996 GT3, which became hugely popular very quickly. At its heart is the legendary Mezger engine, the only one of the type 996 models to be equipped with one. It’s an engine that would become a true star of Porsche motorsport. Buy a 996 GT3 and you have a car that is the perfect balance between an out-and-out track car a daily driver. This, naturally, is what a GT3 is so great at doing – although they are of course rare and will require you to have deep pockets.
Second generation silver Porsche 996 Targa next to choppy sea
With more variants available than any previous 911, the Porsche 996 – like this facelift version of the Targa – has a version to suit everyone
We also need to mention gearbox choice. The first introduction of the Tiptronic gearbox in the 911 (type 964) in 1990 was seen as very cool technology at the time, with its selector lever for manual shifting. For new 996 owners, the Tiptronic gearbox – which allowed drivers to shift through the gears using the buttons on the steering wheel – was very popular. The precursor to today’s PDK sequential Porsche gearboxes – although an early version of the PDK was originally used in Porsche race cars from 1981 to 1987 – turned the 911 into a brilliant GT that was great to cruise in. That being said, it’s the manual versions that today’s classic 996 owners tend to favour. “People buying a 996 today probably already have a daily driver that’s an automatic,” says Paul. “As it got older, I think the 996 is appealing more to people that want that analogue experience.”The beauty of the 996 is that the choice available is so varied that you can go in any direction.How to look after a Porsche 996If you’ve found the 996 of your dreams, go out and enjoy the car, says Paul. “Like all 911 cars they need to be driven regularly,” he advises. “You need to find a rhythm with it. Get to know the car so you can understand what it’s telling you. If you take care of them, they’ll look after you. There isn’t really a great deal to really keep an eye on.”If you’ve bought a great example of the 996, then it is because its owner has invested in its care – and poured love into it. So now it’s your turn. Paul says that running it on super unleaded is preferable to running on standard fuels. And a good cleaning and detailing regime will help keep your 996 cherished for when it’s time for you to pass it on. Detailing is important because it maintains the integrity of the paint, plastics and rubber around the window seals. If you’re not cleaning your car regularly, especially if it’s kept outside, the rubbers dry out and can perish quite quickly. If you’re using the cars regularly, cleaning and detailing them then you spot issues much earlier. In fact, Paul says that when he is looking at a car he is thinking of buying, he often imagines himself washing it. Why? Because when you wash and detail a car, you’re getting up close, making it easier to spot potential issues like corrosion.Maintaining a 996 with the help of Porsche ClassicAs well as driving it regularly and keeping on top of you cleaning and detailing duties, you will need to factor in the money that needs to be spent on maintaining your 996 if you are thinking of purchasing one. The good thing is, once you’ve taken the plunge there are plenty of Porsche specialists – the Porsche Classic Partners – to help you. As Paul points out, unlike many manufacturers, Porsche continues to look after its cars through specialist products and services decades after a car has stopped being manufactured. Together with the Porsche Classic Partners, you will find experts who combine service and advice with the levels of expertise and enthusiasm that you would want when entrusting someone with your Porsche.
Woman walks towards Porsche 996, shot through open car windows
In its seven years of production, 175,262 units of the 996 were built
There are plenty more benefits that Porsche Classic can provide too. It has developed a particular motor oil for the 996 models, for example. At last count, Porsche Classic still provides more than 60,000 parts for classic Porsche vehicles – a large number of them for the 996. And then there are products like the PCCM Plus navigation system. This is an audio and navigation unit for classic Porsche cars that replaces the original PCM with a version to fit in with today’s drivers’ needs and expectations, including Apple CarPlay and GOOGLE® Android Auto connectivity. “It’s yet another benefit to help make the 996 a really nice, usable daily car,” says Paul of the PCCM Plus. “It helps turn it from a weekend toy to something you can use every day or on long road trips. And it’s period correct. It really maintains the 996 aesthetic.” Other aspects worth noting are that insurance for classic cars can usually be obtained at favourable rates – something that will interest every buyer, but especially younger ones – while the 996 also has relatively low maintenance costs. Fuel consumption is reasonable, while the 996 is much easier to maintain than a 993, for example.When you buy your first 911, you are buying much more than a second-hand Porsche. You’re buying history. Fulfilling a dream. It’s become ever more certain that the 996, a sportscar that broke new ground when it was first launched, has the talent to continue to make waves and gain a whole new set of fans nearly 25 years after its launch.Porsche 911 (type 996) in numbersDate of manufacture 1998-2006 (996 first version 1998-2001, 996 facelift 2002-2004)
Engine Flat six, 3.4-litre or 3.6-litre, naturally aspirated or turbo charged
Max power output 300 PS-483 PS*
Max torque 350-640Nm*
0-100km/h 6.0-4.0sec*
Top speed 275-319km/h
*Referring to Coupe and Cabriolet
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