The Porsche 996 is the current ‘911’ series. Porsche introduced the 996 for the 1998 model series starting August 1997.
996 models include; Porsche 996 Carrera 2, Carrera 4, available with both 6 speed manual and tiptronic gearboxes. Body styles started with the Coupe (see picture of a ’98 series 996 C2 manual I owned) and Cabriolet, but recently a ‘glass roof’ Targa has been introduced, similar to the previous 993 Targa.
Pictured is a 996 C2 coupe in ocean blue with 18″ Turbo wheels.
Also included in the model line up is the 4 wheel drive 996Turbo Coupe – again manual or tiptronic, plus the limited edition stripped out 996 GT2 and the 996 GT3 race car.
The 996 was a totally new car, with a new shape, a new interior and a new water cooled engine. All previous 911 had been air cooled, a system that has advantages in simplicity and weight, but critically was no longer viable to engineer to current legislation. Along with the air-cooling went part of the glorious flat six sound. And that’s what upset some critics.
The motor, as it’s always been, is in the rear, the chassis a development of things learned from the 993 and from Porsche racing activities. Therefore this new model handles even better, has superb brakes, and great performance. The motor was downsized from 3600cc to 3400 cc, although horse power went up (on normally aspirated versions) from 285 to 300hp.
No doubt as time passes the so called ‘purists’ that consider all 911 should be air cooled will warm to the 996 and appreciate the developments that the Porsche engineers have provided.
The body shape still resembles any earlier 911, but everything has changed. You can feel that the individual panels are less heavy than before, but this is progress and the engineers at Porsche always move forward.
Pictured is a 2002 996 Convertible in Orient red metallic.
Open the drivers door and you will see beautiful cabin architecture. Gone completely is the practical but idiosyncratic design that had evolved little from the ’60’s. Instead a more roomy cabin, still two plus two, very good seats and a more relaxed driving environment.
Typically Porsche, these cars are efficient and strong, characteristics that have always been evident in all 911 – making the description ‘an everyday supercar’ just as relevant today as it has always been.
Driving a 996 Carrera
I have driven many of these water cooled Porsche 911s. They are often criticized by pure Porsche people because of the water cooling. For sure this takes away the traditional metallic sound you get with an air cooled 911 – but was that so important?
The best things about a Porsche 996 are in my view found on the inside, very comfortable and more roomy that any previous models. If you are a bit on the ample size, or cant cope with unfolding yourself from tiny sports cars than try one of these.
The 996 Carrera I am driving (see pic) is a ’98 996 C2 coupe, LHD. In Ocean blue metallic with nephrite full leather (a green/grey colour which sounds a bit mad but looks so classy in the flesh).
It is everything a Porsche should be – capable, strong, well built and communicative.
Start it up and in fact it sounds pretty good, its very comfortable, you can find all the controls easily, the controls are nicely weighted – not hard at all. Out on the open road these cars go… although ‘only’ 3.4 verses the previous 993 size of 3.6 it has a few extra horses (300) and can really put them down well.
The effect on the handling of that big motor in the rear is now hardly noticeable, you no longer have to so cautiously explore the turns than any previous 911. It feels secure and composed.
To me it’s a pity the front looks so similar to the Boxster (not ugly, just not clearly a 911). And in my view the performance and value have been improved at a cost.
Progress means less weight and thinner materials and you can notice the difference between an old 911 and a modern 996.The build quality is still high but the feel of the car is lighter, and I have found little bits of plastic trim broken and loose on very new examples.
Overall, it’s still a great every day supercar, the likes of which you won’t find with any other manufacturer. Very easy to live with, easy servicing, great performance and handling. Other cars make more noise but often don’t work as well.
2 or 4 wheel drive? many owners wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, but if you are keen – you can tell. It’s not such a big difference but a C2 has a slightly sharper feel to the steering than a C4. But a C4 does feel more secure in poor conditions at speed.
For most people just buy the example you like best and don’t worry. The Tiptronic S on the 996 works very well and is worth considering, especially if you do a lot of town driving. The change is sharp, performance is similar, in fact there is little reason to have a ‘stick shift’ other than personal preference.
Coupe, Targa or Cabriolet? The coupe needs no explanation, the Targa looks superb doesn’t it? Although I have not driven a 996 Targa I expect that there is a small penalty to pay in chassis rigidity and a little extra wind noise. But the way the roof works is fascinating. The full convertibles work very very well and Porsche pride themselves on their convertible tops. Don’t be afraid of buying a convertible.