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There are few automotive manufacturers as prestigious and accomplished as Porsche. The company's founder spent decades engineering successful road and racing cars before building the first road car to bear his name in 1948. Beyond their cars, Porsche was and still is an engineering firm, tackling projects for anyone with enough money. They’ve made it all, from family vehicles to V8 luxury sedans, and of course, their own world-dominating sports cars. Though it was in 1964 when the first 901, later designated the 911, rolled off the production line, that Porsche found their identity for years to come. 

 

Despite their steadfast and systematic approach to the evolution of the air-cooled 911 model, Porsche eventually had to accept the writing on the wall that their technology of choice was no longer viable in the modern world. Increasingly strict emissions regulations and increased pressure from other manufacturers delivering more performance via their more advanced engine designs meant that the 911 had to change. And that change manifested in 1999 with the introduction of the very first water-cooled 911, the 996. 

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The 996 911 is one of the most talked-about models ever produced by Porsche for quite a few reasons, some good, some bad, some valid, some not. Perhaps its most significant claim to fame is that it represents the cheapest way for regular car enthusiasts to buy their dream car. It’s the dream, the attainable reality, the *gasp*, “poor man’s Porsche 911.” That tired phrase has been repeated often, but is there such a thing? 


 

The History Of The Porsche 996 911

The 996 911 was tasked with an impossible job, bordering on being set up to fail. It was to take over as the leading Porsche sports car from the 993, the last of the air-cooled 911s. Debuting to much fanfare with its love-it or hate-it looks and its water-cooled power plant, some cried that it was the death of the 911, while others praised it for its modernity. The 911 was a beloved sports car icon, and its complete refresh into an all-new chassis with an all-new engine had some people worried. 

The 996 represented a changing of the guard in many ways; it had to perform and sell, but most importantly, it had to be profitable. Porsche was once again in a tight financial position and needed to be smart to save itself. Their entry-level models were either dying or too expensive by the mid-nineties, and a replacement was desperately needed. They came up with the Boxster, which proved to be just what the market wanted, along with the Cayenne years later.

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With help from Toyota’s consultants, Porsche revamped their production line and developed the Boxster in conjunction with the 996. Consequently, the two chassis shared many drivetrain parts, their entire front suspension, and various other bits, effectively lowering engineering and maintenance costs. What came of it was a 911 lighter and faster than its predecessor. It used a completely new bodyshell, only the second one in the 911’s 34 years, with new high-strength steel that made it 45% stiffer and 110 pounds lighter than the outgoing 911, even with the added weight from the water-cooled necessities. The new engine brought the 911’s powerplant into the 21st century with double-overhead-camshafts and four valves per cylinder. All that remained from the 993 was the front and rear suspension design and the Getrag-built six-speed manual, though both were heavily revised. 

It wasn’t all rainbows and roses, though. Not everything could be perfect, and with their limited budget, emphasis was put on the chassis and engine, leaving the interior to be less than expected. Looking back at it, it’s a classic example of the design language cars shared in that era. Everything was “futuristic,” with oddly round shapes and an emphasis on the technology of the time. The fit and finish lacked a bit compared to the 993; the solid feeling interior components made way for plastic buttons, switches, and components built with profitability in mind.

However, the 996 was a massive hit along with the Boxster, selling more than any 911 before it. These days, despite their flaws, they still represent an enriching and enjoyable Porsche ownership experience. Provided that you know a few things going into the relationship in the first place.  

 

Porsche 996 Racing Pedigree

Regardless of where the purists or snobs place the 996 in their hierarchy, it ultimately marked the change from the small company into the one we know today. Right from the start, the 996 of 1999 provided a noticeable bump in power and performance over the outgoing air-cooled 993, with the base 3.4L M96 996 making 296 horsepower, up from 270 on the base 3.6 L 993 911. It had a similar low bark on start-up, revved freely, and to many, it still felt like a 911 from the driver’s seat. 

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As with anything Porsche, racing and motorsport are crucial components of any new variant’s life cycle. The 996 was no different, and it ushered in a new era of dominance by Porsche in the GT racing world. The GT3 Cup Car, GT3R, GT3 RS, and GT3 RSR all lived up to the 911s motorsport-dominating legacy. These were different cars than the average street Carrera, though. Besides the apparent chassis differences, their engines were older, even though they shared the same name as the new ones. 

The more sporting 996 models within the Porsche line-up, the Turbo, GT2, and GT3, shared the engine design with the race cars rather than the Carrera’s. Porsche used a hybrid engine of sorts in their 1998 LeMans winning GT1 that can be traced back through the 956/962 of the eighties. It used the air-cooled engine’s engine case and rotating assembly but paired it with water-cooled cylinders and heads that used a double-overhead-camshaft and four valves per cylinder design. Proven to be durable and reliable with significant power, Porsche fitted that Mezger-based M96 to their streetcars to make it eligible for homologation in GT-class racing. 

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Those cars all drew a direct line from the street to the motorsport models. If you’re looking at one of the more exclusive GT or Turbo models, some of the things we discuss here apply, but not when it comes to the drivelines and some suspension and brake components. We’ll dive into some of these specifics but not in the same detail as the 996 Carrera models. 

 

Porsche 996 Years & Models

Model

Year

Engine

Driveline

Power

996.1 Carrera 

1999-2001

3.4 L N.A. M96 

RWD

296hp/258lb-ft tq

996.1 Carrera 4

1999-2001

3.4 L N.A. M96 

AWD

296hp/258lb-ft tq

996.2 911 Turbo

2001-2005

3.6 L BiTurbo Mezger

AWD

415hp/413lb-ft tq

996.2 911 Turbo S

2005

3.6 L BiTurbo Mezger

AWD

444hp/457lb-ft tq

996.2 Carrera 

2002-2005

3.6 L N.A. M96 

RWD

315hp/278lb-ft tq

996.2 Carrera/Targa 4

2002-2005

3.6 L N.A. M96 

AWD

315hp/278lb-ft tq

996.2 Carrera 4S

2002-2005

3.6 L N.A. M96 

AWD

315hp/278lb-ft tq

996.2 Carrera “40th Anniversary Edition”

2004

3.6 L N.A. M96 

RWD

340hp/288lb-ft tq

996.2 GT2

2002-2005

3.6 L BiTurbo Mezger

RWD

456hp/457lb-ft tq

996.2 GT3

2004-2005

3.6 L N.A. Mezger

RWD

380hp/284lb-ft tq

 

996.1

The 996 was introduced in America in 1999 with Carrera 2, Carrera 4, and Cabriolet models. Mechanically all were pretty much the same, with a 3.4L water-cooled six-cylinder M96 boxer engine, making 296 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The new unibody chassis was longer and wider than the outgoing 993 and featured 45% more lateral stiffness. The suspension uses McPherson struts up front and a multi-link rear; the overall result is a well-balanced sports car that retains a lot of the pure practicality of previous 911 models. This first variant was referred to as the 996.1 (nine-nine-six or nine-nine-six dot one) as Porsche started the now-familiar mid-lifespan facelifts with the 996 model.

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Many of the electrics were borrowed from other Volkswagen Audi Group models to save money. Things like door lock control modules and other components are the same as in the Mk4 VW Golf. These earliest 996 911s have arguably the lowest-quality interior, too, with cheaper feeling plastics and color options that haven’t aged as well as Porsche might’ve expected. Like all soft-touch plastics used on German cars in the 2000s, those in the 996 suffer from a certain amount of wear and tear and will need to be removed, repaired, or replaced for the nicest driving experience. The initial color options were pretty slim, too, with a vast majority painted in a shade of silver. Fun colors did exist, but buyers seldom picked them.

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Porsche received less than favorable feedback on the “fried egg” headlights used on the 996.1 early on. These were a direct carry-over from the Boxster, along with most of the other front-end parts, and while they may have gotten the public used to the new 911, buyers didn’t appreciate the car looking like a lower-end Boxster from the front. Although the fried-egg headlights aren’t the most loved, some rate them as the better-looking 996 headlight option. 

 

996.2

The 996 Turbo debuted the 996.2’s new look in 2001. It featured a significantly wider body, distinct headlights, taillights, and notably higher-quality interior materials. The Turbo felt and looked a lot more like a traditional 911. The all-wheel-drive Turbo could sprint to 60mph in around 4 seconds flat, thanks to its Mezger-based twin-turbocharged 3.6L flat-six pumping out 415 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque. In 2002, the rest of the 911 lineup received the same new updated Turbo front-end treatment, which the vast majority of buyers and fans considered a big step up in the looks department. The naturally aspirated M96 engine also received a bump to 3.6 L of displacement, and power increased to 315 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque. 

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Porsche added a new model to the lineup for the facelift; the Carrera 4S.  Its recipe was simple: take the 911 Turbo’s wide-body, all-wheel drive, wheels, suspension, and brakes, and use the naturally aspirated 3.6L Carrera engine. Unique to the C4S is a reflector strip between the taillights, mimicking the look of the air-cooled models. For many, this is the sweet spot for the 996. It has the “best” looks, big brakes, sport suspension, and the bigger M96. 

In 2002, Porsche brought the turbocharged widowmaker that is the 996 GT2 to the United States. Porsche fitted a bigger rear wing and unique bumpers to set it apart from anything else, using the Turbo as a starting point. To save weight, they made it rear-wheel-drive only and fitted the Porsche Carbon Ceramic Brakes as standard. The upgraded twin-turbocharged 3.6L engine pumped out 456 horsepower thanks to a revised exhaust system, remapped Motronic ECU, and increased boost pressure. Leather, A/C, and radio remained inside the cabin, though stability control didn’t make the cut. Porsche brought only 303 GT2s into the US, and their raw and aggressive nature has caused that number to shrink significantly. 

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Finally, in 2004, Porsche gave America the 911 GT3. Featuring a narrow body, a high-revving, high-output naturally aspirated Mezger-based engine, and model-specific suspension tuning and geometry, the GT3 was an edgy race-car for the street, with clear lineage to the GT race cars circulating on race tracks around the world. With 380 horsepower and 284 lb-ft of torque from 3.6L, the GT3 screamed to 60mph in around 4.2 seconds. Porsche ditched all of the electric nannies like their Porsche Stability Management (PSM), too, to reduce weight and make it as engaging to drive as their race cars. They ended up with the pinnacle of the 996 chassis; sharp and raw, it delivers a feel akin to the early 911s while being so much better than them.

However, the absolute last hurrah for the 996 came as the Turbo S. Porsche began offering the X50 Power Enhancement Kit for the standard Turbo model. It included “modifications to the turbocharger, air intake cooler, electronic control unit, exhaust system, and a strengthened transmission,” according to the official Porsche Cars North America press kit, and boosted the horsepower up to 444. As Porsche has done when needing to expend parts for the end of a model run, they fitted them to as many cars as they could sell. For the 996, that resulted in the Turbo S for 2005 only. The new model was essentially a Turbo fitted with the X50 kit, PCCB brakes, and various other interior and technology goodies as standard. Only around 1500 were made, with more cabriolets built than coupes. 

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Other than the standard and GT models, the 996 had two special editions. For the turn of the millennium, Porsche produced the “Millennium Edition” 996. Find yourself looking at a Millennium Edition, and you might not know what color it is, thanks to its special Violet Chromaflair paint. Exclusive to the Millennium Edition, the paint changes from black to dark green to purple depending on the light. Inside, you’re greeted with a brown natural leather-wrapped interior with wood and aluminum accents when you open the door. Additionally, a set of chrome 18” Turbo-look wheels finished the exterior treatment. Porsche produced 911 examples of the Millennium Edition for the world, so significantly less exist today in the US market.

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2003 was the 40th anniversary of the 911, and a 996 was commissioned to celebrate it. It used a standard 996.2 Carrera 2 chassis but was fitted with Porsche’s X51 “Power Kit.” The GT3’s intake manifold, revised cylinder heads, larger camshafts, remapped ECU, better oiling, and different exhaust manifolds helped the 3.6L pump out another 25 horsepower and 10 lb-ft of torque. Again, chrome wheels made an appearance, though this time they were the lightweight five-spoke design and were paired with an exterior painted in GT Silver Metallic. Completing the exterior were a Turbo-inspired bumper, the GT3’s skirts, and “LiTronic” HID headlights. Inside, the center console was painted in the exterior color, while everything else was wrapped in black leather. Included with the purchase was also a four-piece suitcase set in matching black leather. Porsche made 1963 examples of the 40th Anniversary Edition for the world, though most came stateside.

Porsche 996.2 991 CTA

 

Drivetrain and Chassis Breakdown 

Porsche used four different engines, two different drivelines, and two different transmission options in the 996. 

Transmissions

The Porsche 996 models use the G96 manual transmission introduced to fit the new engine and driveline layout. With six synchronized forward gears, the G96 gearbox shifts smoothly and helps to keep the rev-happy flat-six in the proper RPM range. Models that use the non-Mezger M96 use the G96/00 or G96/01 gearbox. The Turbo, GT2, and GT3 models make use of a G96 with slightly different specifications. They use the G96/50, G96/88, and G96/96, respectively; the differences include gear ratio changes to optimize each for their specific engine outputs and aspiration, but both also feature a mechanical limited-slip differential for significantly improved performance. 

Porsche used two different automatic transmissions in the 996. The early examples used a ZF-built box, while the Turbo and the 996.2 used Mercedes’ 722.6 5G-Tronic. Both transmissions are called the “Tiptronic” and are standard torque-converter automatics with an option to put the selector into a manual mode. While there are no glaring issues with how it works, the Tiptronic is ultimately a less-than-ideal transmission for the 911 as a whole, although it does help to keep the Turbo in its torque band. 

The Carrera 4, Turbo, and C4S utilize a passive viscous-coupling all-wheel-drive system similar to the 993. It is primarily rear-wheel-drive biased, but the center viscous coupling will lock and send power forward when wheel slip occurs. The minimum torque applied to the front axle is 5%, and it can send as much as 40% of available torque to the front axle depending on traction and conditions.  Although simple and perhaps inelegant compared to the modern Porsche Traction Management, it works well, requires very little maintenance, and helps to turn the 996 into a true all-weather sports car. The all-wheel-drive gearboxes use a different name, going by G96/30 or G96/31; the Turbo only uses the G96/70.

Neither G96 gearboxes are perfect, but they are easily updated and upgraded with plenty of aftermarket support. 

 

Engines

Ah, yes, the infamous M96 engine everyone loves to knock. The standard M96 in either 3.4L or 3.6L form has been a favorite internet punching bag since the earliest online forums dedicated to European cars. While the engine itself makes decent power, it also has many potential flaws, and any basic search of “996 engine” will turn up thousands of references to catastrophic failures. Although that can happen, the M96 deserves more credit than it gets.

08_Porsche M96 flat-six engine

The legendary air-cooled engines are a more modular design, with a crankcase, individual cylinders, and individual cylinder heads for each cylinder. They were expensive, complex, and time-consuming to work on and manufacture, so things had to change. The M96 utilizes a more traditional engine block with its cylinders cast into it. It uses one cylinder head per bank with four valves per cylinder and two overhead camshafts. Porsche decided to cast a single cylinder head and use it for both the left and right cylinder banks to cut costs, leading to the need for an intermediate shaft. That shaft uses a sealed bearing that can eventually fail and cause significant damage, unbeknownst to Porsche. Early 3.4L engines use a dual-row ball bearing, mid-cycle 3.6L engines use a smaller, single-row bearing, and the late 3.6L engines use a larger single-row ball bearing. Each bearing variant has a history of failing, though each at different rates.

Outside its failure points, the M96 is relatively easy to care for. They do prefer the very best quality oil, changed every 5,000 miles, and using a good wear-reduction oil additive such as LIQUI MOLY MoS2, or Ceratec can go a long way to keeping things happy. Water pumps and thermostats should be changed regularly at around 60,000 miles, as should the ignition coils and spark plugs. Generally speaking, an M96 is happiest when it enjoys longer trips, with reasonably frequent runs to redline once everything is warmed up. Warm oil and pulls to redline ensure every component in the engine is well lubricated and safe from excess wear.

"While also receiving the M96 designation, the engines fitted to the Turbo and GT cars are distinctly different from those fitted to the Carreras. These engines use the bottom end from the Mezger-designed air-cooled models with water-cooled cylinders and heads; the oiling system is a true dry-sump system with a separate oil tank."

The Turbo and GT models use a water-cooled flat-six like the Carreras, though it is a very different engine. The LeMans winning design is colloquially known as the “Mezger” engine, and it’s derived directly from the Porsche 911 GT1 and 956/962 Group C race cars of the 1980s and 90s. The Mezger-based M96 uses the air-cooled engine’s engine case and rotating assembly but paired it with water-cooled cylinders and heads that used a double-overhead-camshaft and four valves per cylinder design. They're able to withstand significantly more abuse than the Carrera M96 and can do so far more reliably. Thanks to its decades of development for endurance racing, it suffers from literally none of the same issues as the Carrera’s M96. In fact, it suffers from nearly no issues at all. As cliche as “Bulletproof” is when describing an engine, the Mezger-based M96 truly exemplifies it.

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The only problem the Mezger engine has is with coolant pipes loosening, though it's hardly anything to worry about. Repair or preventive maintenance does require engine removal, but upgraded weld-in replacement pipe kits are available and solve the problem for good. Some prefer to tack weld the factory parts or pin them, but the thin aluminum (versus billet parts designed to be welded into place) does make for a potential weak spot. All forms of the Mezger engine possess the capability of high output and potential. It is not unheard of for a highly modified 996 Turbo to make over 800 horsepower and do so reliably. If budget allows, these two 996 models are definitely worth the extra money if it’s a realistic option. 

Ultimately the engine of any standard model Carrera, including the C4S, will be the weak link of the ownership experience. However, several upgrades and aftermarket parts will strengthen the M96’s weak points and remove any worries about its durability.

 

Suspension 

All Porsche 996 models use the same suspension design, parts, and pieces, with a few specific changes depending on the model. The front suspension is a basic MacPherson-strut type, utilizing a load-bearing front strut and two lower arms to create a lower wishbone. The control arm is fixed, so like many other late-model German cars, there is no camber adjustment to be made on the standard 996 911 front suspension; you can only adjust the toe. However, the GT3 features an adjustable lower control arm with shims to extend the arm and add camber. If you drive aggressively, autocross, track, or race your 996 911, making the switch to GT3 spec parts is an easy win for added adjustment and increased negative camber. 

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At the rear, the 996 features a common but proven multi-link suspension design. Below the knuckle, the two arms from the front suspension are present. Above the knuckle, two upper control arms and a toe arm take the place of the MacPherson strut. Thanks to those upper arms, there is adjustable camber and toe. All of the arms, front and rear, use rubber bushings where applicable.

Porsche offered a few different suspension options throughout the 996’s run. Other than the C4S, the Carreras had an optional sport suspension named M030 and a Clubsport-type option, the X74 package. The Turbo and C4S came standard with sport suspension and had their Clubsport-type package denoted X73. Because they are the same design, OE GT3 parts will fit the standard Carreras, providing upgrades that are guaranteed to fit. Adding to the factory options, the aftermarket has created a massive market for suspension upgrades for the 996 chassis. 

 

Brakes

Brakes have always been a strong suit of Porsches, and the 996 911 is no different. The front and rear of the 996 use four-piston Brembo calipers with 318mm front and 299mm rear brake discs. Turbo models feature larger but similar Brembo brakes, with 330mm brake discs at all four corners. Lastly, with its track-inspired pedigree, the GT3 featured 6-piston front and 4-piston rear Brembo calipers, with 350mm front and 330mm rear brake discs. 

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The only standout in the 996 line-up is the GT2. Rather than use the heavy steel rotors fitted to the GT3, it uses Porsche’s carbon-ceramic brakes, known as PCCBs. The yellow front calipers use six pistons while the rears still use four, though the real magic is in the rotors. Instead of steel, a compressed carbon-ceramic compound makes up the rotor ring; an aluminum hat bolted to the rotor mounts the assembly to the wheel hub. The carbon-ceramic brakes benefit in two ways; the material is 50% lighter at the same size, and they have much higher heat resistance. That heat resistance allows you to lean on the brakes harder for longer. The PCCBs were also optional on the GT3, Turbo, and C4S, though few received them.

Porsche likes to differentiate their models in various ways, one of those being the color of the brake caliper. All rear-wheel-drive, non-S models use black painted calipers, and the all-wheel-drive, non-S models use silver. All S and sportier models, like the Turbo and GT3, use red calipers. The standard PCCB carbon-ceramic brakes on the GT2 use yellow calipers. 

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The brakes have much less crossover between the higher and lower performance 996 variants. Differences in the mounting points make it impossible to put Turbo brakes on a base Carrera.

 

How To Buy A Porsche 996

The 996’s existence as the loathed and belittled 911 combined with the large volume available on the open market caused it to become the cheapest 911 available. As such, they were easily accessible for an extended period with a low price of admission. Many 996s ended up in shady used car lots without OE parts and scheduled maintenance. While you can find and acquire those types of examples on the cheap, the service and parts cost will never be cheap. Rough examples with little to no history are a gamble just waiting to get costly. 

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On the other hand, you may find a nice condition car that came off of auction from a dealer trade-in that has been well cared for and is worth every penny. As with any purchase at a used dealer lot, you have to use all the tools in the toolbox to make sure you’re not being taken advantage of, whether knowingly or unknowingly. Most dealerships aren’t going to know these cars as well as a well-read buyer, which can play to your advantage, at least when it comes to avoiding bad cars. 

A private seller is arguably the best choice for finding a good used example. Although plenty of private sellers offer clapped-out examples, there is an equal number who’ve cared for and know a lot about the car. These tend to be garage kept with service records and detailed history, all the right conditions for a good used sports car. However, there are a few downsides to a knowledgeable private seller. Emotional attachment is tough to work around, especially when it puts the asking price on the high side. Use whatever blemishes you find in your negotiations to swing the price to a more favorable place. If the seller doesn’t move, don’t be afraid to walk away, there are plenty of other 996s in seemingly every budget. 

 

What To Look For When Buying A Porsche 996

First and foremost, overall condition is essential. Poor interior and exterior quality are usually indicative of neglectful ownership and a lack of mechanical sympathy. Finding one in the best shape you can makes the buying process significantly smoother, but you’ll still need to go over the car even then.

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Starting with the body, give the entire exterior a thorough check. 996s suffer from dings and dents easily, especially at the edges of the doors. Check the bottom of the frunk, under the car, if it is lowered. They sit just below the bumper’s lower edge and will take a beating when not driven around. The front bumper likely has some damage if the trunk pan has seen some abuse, too. A cracked or damaged bumper may not seem like much, but it is a Porsche, and parts prices will reflect that regarding Genuine-only options. 

Next up, check out all of the exterior lights. Hazy headlights are very common with sun-baked examples, and, occasionally, the projectors themselves will be burnt or browned. The miscellaneous trims and rubber weather seals are reliably leakproof on the coupes. Cabriolets need to watch out for leaking tops. Water naturally collects under the seats where Porsche placed several of the car’s computers when it gets in. Additionally, watch for miss-matched paint on bumpers, fenders, and other body panels. Dodgy paintwork is typical on inexpensive used cars that carry an expensive name. 

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Checking the interior is a bit simpler. When you open the door, the window should “comfort dip” to clear the body frame. If it doesn’t, it may need a door handle, window regulator, or a comfort control module; ensure you’re careful when opening and closing the door, too, because the window may crack without the dip. Inside, check the soft-touch plastics for apparent damage and wear. The center console and shifter trim are the most used pieces besides the steering wheel, and they get nasty when they wear. All of the 996’s seat options feature leather upholstery that isn’t unfamiliar with cracks. Typically they’ll present themselves in higher mileage examples in very sunny environments. Lastly, check out the electronics, especially the instrument cluster. The LCD screens were high-tech for the era but are known to lose their functionality with age.   

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On startup, the engine should fire quickly and settle in a steady lope. The GTs and Turbo have a noticeable bark, while the M96 has a quieter but bassy growl. Loud ticking, especially noticeable in the cabin, is a red flag. Check Engine Lights aren’t the end of the world, but you won’t even begin to know the issue without a code scanner. The faults causing the light can be a simple fix or an engine out ordeal; any error codes related to engine misfires and cam timing or cam correlations should be taken very seriously and give a serious cause for pause before purchasing. If you find yourself facing a flashing CEL, don’t drive the car; just shut the engine off. Once the car is up to temp, revving past 4000rpm and up to redline should provide a steady increase in acceleration and power. Even the much-maligned M96 is actually a ton of fun to drive, and they make all the right sounds and power where they need to. Even with “only” around 300hp, they’re relatively lightweight, helping them hold up 20 years on. 

As you take it for a drive, pay attention to how the car handles and how it feels. Stock 996 suspension isn’t the stiffest in the world, but it is relatively firm and composed. Sharp bumps shouldn’t upset the suspension, and all bumps should be handled quickly; no wallowing or rolling. Suspension modifications are common on used 996s, as many have seen more than spirited driving. Research the aftermarket parts before making the decision that they’re right for you. Clunking from the suspension is indicative of worn bushings, tie rods, or dampers. Those parts are relatively inexpensive and are easily replaceable by any DIYer.  

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Knowing about the car you’re potentially buying can save you from buying a lemon. However, the best way to save yourself is to request a Pre-Purchase Inspection (PPI) from an independent Porsche specialist before buying it. Aside from what you can see and feel, you will need a full vehicle scan to know the whole story of your potential new-to-you 911. Most shops and all dealerships have the Porsche-specific computer and scan tool, the PIWIS, which will read the engine computer and show you the overrev logs for the car. Porsche has a full range of logged over-revs that the ECU will keep and store permanently, ranging from 1 (minor) to 6 (major), which will help to give you an idea of the life the car led. If the seller doesn’t agree to a PPI, consider walking away from the vehicle. 

 

Porsche 996 Valuation

So what’s up with 996s? Why are 996s so cheap? While we pretty much covered all this, there are a few factors at work here. One, Porsche made a lot of these cars, around 175,000 worldwide. That’s far more than any of the air-cooled models of years past, and as always, lots of vehicles sold means lots of cars on the used market. For years, supply versus demand, combined with the well-known M96 engine problems, meant more cars than buyers, and prices dipped. 

Believe it or not, we’re pretty sure the 996 is currently on its way back up in value. A few years ago, you could find C2 and C4 options in the lower-mid-teens all day long, but those are now towards the bottom end of the average price range of a C2 or C4 996. More than likely most cars you’ll find for sale will be in the lower to mid $20,000 range. Special options like the Aerokit, PCCBs, hard-back sport seats, or Paint to Sample bring those asking prices up to $30,000. Of all the Carrera models, the 4S is going to command the most. It’s regarded as the sweet spot for the 996, justifying its bump of about $10,000 over a standard C2 or C4. For any of the 996s, the coupes will bring more money than the cabriolets, as will the examples with manual transmissions.

Turbos, GT2s, and GT3s have always understandably fetched a higher price than the base C2 and C4, and while both values dipped a few years back, both are back on the rise. There was a time when you could pick up a higher mileage turbo in the mid $30,000 range; now, those examples bring around the $50,000 mark, if not more. The 996 GT3 has rarely gone below the $60,000 range unless they’re high mileage, track used, abused, or all of the above. Clean, low mileage examples now reach over $100,000. 

 

Is The 996 Reliable & Are They Easy To Work On?

The real question here is, should you buy a 996 911? The answer is that it depends. They’re fun, fast, handle well, and can be transformed into any kind of custom project you can imagine, from show cars to club-racers and track toys, but the M96 will always let it down unless appropriately addressed. 

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However, even if you do all the right things, nothing is ever truly a guarantee when building engines. That isn’t different from almost any other used car, but the difference is that a replacement M96 may set you back as much as another 996 Carrera. The used market has been stable at around $10,000 for a used engine for quite a long time, and remanufactured engines from reliable sources like Flat Six Innovations can set you back twice that or more. More than likely, it’ll be fine, but if that scenario breaks your heart, your wallet, or both, it’s not the car to buy. 

With those risks aside, a 996 911 is a reasonably economical car to run, especially with the FCP Euro Lifetime Replacement Guarantee. Working space can be cramped, but all the core service items are relatively straightforward jobs, and the typical stuff, such as ignition coils, water pumps, and similar items on the engine, are very DIY friendly. That ease of accessibility and replacement continues to the suspension and brakes, too. We carry several OE, OEM, and aftermarket parts for all of the wear items you’ll need to replace during your ownership, as well as offer our DIY guides to help you keep costs down. 

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One of the biggest roadblocks to DIYers on a 996 and most other Porsches from this era involves replacing and coding electrical components. The control modules need to be re-coded to your car after replacement, and short of having a PIWIS service computer on the shelf, you cannot do what is required. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to get friendly with a quality local Porsche specialist that can handle this for you. Most will be happy to reprogram modules for a flat fee, but typically with the caveat that since they didn’t do the work, the re-coding may or may not fix the issue. 

The unknowns surrounding the 996, specifically the M96 engine, make them a good value, though, for a potentially volatile ownership experience. The best advice we can give is to go into the ownership experience with an M96-powered 996 knowing that some high costs may be a factor, but their likelihood is marginal with the proper maintenance. It isn’t a big car, but the 996 has ample interior space and a deep trunk, making it as capable in a daily-driver role as it is in a weekend warrior role. Whatever you decide to use your 996 for, we’ll have the parts and the knowledge to help you out. 

If you want to learn more about the Porsche 996, be sure to visit our 996 hub at porsche996.fcpeuro.com

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Written by :
Christian Schaefer

Owner of a flat-six swapped 1998 Impreza 2.5RS and a 1973 Porsche 914. Horizontally opposed views, only.


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