PORSCHE MODEL GUIDE
(Updated November 2013)
"Which Porsche is best for me?"
To begin, Congratulations on your decision to buy a Porsche. You obviously possess great intellect, intense cognitive skills and a deep understanding of automotive excellence!! Be prepared to be inundated with compliments and unlimited opportunities with the opposite sex! Well, something like that anyway. All that aside, they really are great cars - fast, fun and beautiful. Porsche is the one and only “usable” exotic sports car. You can drop off the kids at school, drive to the track and run it hard all day, pick up the kids on the way home and that night, drive to dinner in the city. No other exotic is as versatile. Porsche cars were made to be driven like a sports car.
The guidance that follows is far from comprehensive but is intended to give you, as a potential buyer, some useful direction on selecting a Porsche that best suits your needs and desires. Note that all model years and horsepower ratings refer to US models. For more information on these cars and other Porsche models you can seek out the numerous books on Porsche by authors like Peter Morgan, Dennis Adler, Dean Batchelor, Randy Leffingwell and Bruce Anderson. You can also find great info in magazines like Excellence and 911 and Porsche World.
1. When did the 911 first receive power steering?
2. Does the 996 C4S have more horsepower than the base C4?
3. When did the Boxster get a glass rear window?
4. Which is darker, Ocean Blue or Lapis Blue?
(Answers: 1. The 1989 and 1990 964; 2. Nope, same hp; 3. 2003; 4. Ocean)
PORSCHE COLOR PALETTE- To see some of the common Porsche exterior/interior colors select the links below (use browser Back button to return)
Exterior Colors (Note: Car shown has been sold)
Interior Colors (Note: Car shown has been sold)
MODEL SELECTOR Select the model you’re interested in to read more about it
The 911 is the icon, the most widely recognized Porsche and maybe the most widely recognized car anywhere, period. Any car that has been in continuous production for over 50 years and has always evolved and improved is a pretty special car. Almost every 911 fan remembers seeing a 911 for the first time, vowing to own one someday. Owning and driving a 911 is that kind of experience.
In general, as the 911 evolved and improved over its 50-year life, it became more and more powerful and more and more capable. It also became a much easier car to drive every day with all of the modern conveniences that we expect. The downside to all this is weight. The newer the 911 the heavier the car, but of course with its larger engine, 0 to 60 mph times continue to go down.
So why would anyone buy an older 911? Well, it probably isn't a question anyone would ask if they’ve driven the earlier versions. There is just something very special about driving an older 911 - the charisma, the challenge, the romance, and the thrill of knowing that you alone are in complete control of the car - no stability management systems here. All in all, a very satisfying experience and one that ought to be tested by everyone. Ok, so why would anyone buy a newer 911 then? The older 911s are great fun but you have to be prepared to live without things like A/C, power steering, usable defrosters etc etc. It's easy to say "sure, I'm a man's man, I don't care about no stinkin' A/C!!". And it may be true but the first time you want to go for a nice ride in August you may need to rethink your decision. One of the best sources of older 911s for us is the owner that is selling their car because "my wife won't ride in it anymore- it's too hot, it's too cold, it's too noisy, it's just too old".
So give the old Vs new decision its fair share of thought before you buy. How might you really use this car? Is it for a Sunday drive every few weeks or will it be used multiple days in a week? What does the spouse think about an older car Vs a newer, modern car? And after all that, go drive an older 911 and a newer 911. The older car will bring back wonderful motoring memories, the newer car will blow you away. At the end of the day, my advice is to let your heart make 75% of the decision and your brain 25%. You're buying a Porsche, not a vacuum cleaner and if it's not making your heart pump faster you may be in the wrong car.
Needless to say, each 911 generation and year of production has its fans who will insist it was the best year ever. We think they’re all right.
Click on the 911 you are interested in to read more:
The Really Early 911 Years, 1963-1968
This is truly the original 911 shape and simplicity of design. These are lightweight cars, mostly with small, moderate power engines (2.0 liter) and with loads of driving character. Horsepower ranged from around 110hp for the early 911T to around 160hp for the 911S of the period. They came in coupe or Targa and in 911, 911S, 911L, 911E, 911R and 911T configurations (see below for more information on body styles and configurations). 911s from '63 to '73 are easily identified by their metallic, non-impact absorbing front and rear bumpers although in race or track configuration, these bumpers have sometimes been replaced by fiberglass units to reduce weight. 1963 to 1968 cars are not too commonly seen or heard from compared to the later years because of low early production numbers, cars being pulled out of circulation due to rarity and of course, rust! This period car had a short wheelbase and an engine pretty far back over the rear axle making handling an interesting experience.
The Early 911 Years, 1969-1973
911s of this period looked quite similar to their predecessors but started the long path of the 911's evolution. Like the period above, these cars are long on character and somewhat short on refinement. Typically moderate in power, these cars are enjoyable to drive at any speed but had HVAC systems that were rather primitive. (Make that just “HV” because “AC” didn't come till later.) Trying to keep the windshield clear in a driving rain can be a major challenge. Rust is also a big concern in this period since there was no rust protection from the factory. This period may not be the perfect daily driver for everyone but they are highly respected cars and for good reason.
IMPROVEMENTS: Starting in 1969, the 911 received a longer wheelbase, increased by about two inches, as an improvement to the handling characteristics. They also received slightly flared fenders and larger, better performing engines, specifically, 2.2 liters in 1970 and 2.4 liters in 1972 (and 2.7 liters for the RS Carrera in 1973).
Horsepower by engine and model was as follows:
2.0 liter - 911T: 110 hp, 911E: 140 hp, 911S: 170 hp
2.2 liter - 911T: 125 hp, 911E: 155 hp, 911S: 180 hp
2.4 liter - 911T: 140 hp, 911E: 165 hp, 911S: 190 hp
2.7 liter - RS Carrera: 210 hp
BODY STYLES: Various models were available throughout this period in two body styles, coupe and Targa. Targas have a roof section that can be taken out to give an open air driving experience - the first 911 cabriolet (convertible) didn't arrive until 1983. It's said that the Targa was created because it was cheaper to design than a true cabriolet and there was some fear that the US might outlaw convertibles all together at that time. Early Targas had a plastic rear window that zipped out but this changed to a fixed glass window in 1969. The Targas have a reasonably well deserved reputation for "leaks and squeaks" so a drive at highway speeds and the garden hose water test are probably good ideas.
MODELS: Depending on the specific year, the 911 of this era was available in 911T, 911L, 911E and 911S configurations. In simplest of terms, the 911T (Touring) was the base model with the lowest horsepower and fewest features, the 911S (Sport) was the top model with the most power and most features, and the 911L (for Lux) was kind of in the middle with the same mechanicals as the 911T but with the trim features of the more expensive 911S. The 911L was replaced by the 911E (Einspritz ie fuel injection) in 1969. At the time, you could get a coupe or a Targa in most any configuration so there are quite a few model/configuration possibilities. The early cars were the first 911s to sport the famous Fuch wheels (the classic 911 wheel with five paddles).
Cars of this generation are great fun to drive and sound great and are more plentiful, at least compared to the '63 to '68 cars. But you can forget about creature comforts as they were pretty austere by today's standards. Still, because they are older and widely respected, the prices are going up at a rather incredible rate. Indeed, the value of all pre-'74 cars continues to rise with the most expensive and desirable car being the 911S coupe (with the exception of the Holy Grail RS Carrera).
The most famous (and expensive) 911 of this era is the 1973 RS Carrera . The RS (for RennSport) was a limited edition model with reduced weight, a larger engine (2.7) and improved suspension and was available in Sport and Touring versions. It has achieved legendary status and even more legendary prices - so much so that clones are commonly created to give the flavor of the RS at an earthly price. But beware of clones created solely to deceive the unsuspecting into thinking they are getting a genuine RS.
The 911 from 1974 to 1989
Cars of this era can be easily identified by the change from the metallic bumpers used through 1973 to impact-absorbing, color-matched bumpers. These new bumpers can be identified by the black bellows on each side. The window trim and door handles also changed from chrome to black beginning in 1974. 911s of this era are very popular because they are great looking cars that are affordable, plentiful, and can generally be used as daily drivers. I say “generally” because the HVAC systems were still nothing to write home about. At the same time, because they are older cars and have seen much asphalt pass below their floorpans, they need to be thoroughly inspected before purchase. The cost of a new engine could easily surpass the price paid for the car. Still, this period of 911s is a great car for touring or for conversion to a track car.
The 911s of this period can be segmented into 3 groups: (1) ‘74-’77; (2) ‘78-’83 SC; and (3) ‘84-’89 3.2.
1974-1977 911. Cars in this period have a bit of a reputation for questionable reliability, primarily because of the 2.7 liter engine. The good news is that these are the cheapest of the 1974-1989 cars and that makes them the cheapest 911s around.
MODELS: Concerning nomenclature, Porsche dropped the T and E configurations and instead went to three models in 1974:
(1) the base model called the 911,
(2) the more powerful and better equipped 911S, and
(3) the 911 Carrera (not to be confused with the 1973 Carrera RS).
ENGINE: In Europe, the Carerra had a more powerful engine than the 911S but in the US it had the same 175 hp engine. The Carrera model did provide a 911 body with flared wheel arches while the base model 911 and the 911S had the standard body with normally flared wheel arches. The fact that the Carrera had the same horsepower as the 911S is considered to be the start of the watering down of the Carrera name, once used to represent the RennSport high performance model but soon to be placed on the back of every 911 model (MY 1984). In 1976, Porsche further reduced the US offering by selling only the 911S in America. Horsepower was also reduced from the previous year to 165hp. Clearly, this was a difficult period for Porsche. 1975 was the first year the “whaletail” spoiler was offered on the 911. Between the low horsepower and the questionable engine, the base models and the '76 to '77 cars have not done well in today's market. The "S" and Carrera models of '74 to '75 have a better following.
Horsepower by year and model was as follows:
1974-1975 - base model: 150 hp, 911S and Carrera: 175hp
1976-1977 - 911S: 165hp
1978-1983 911SC. 911s of this period were called the 911SC, probably an abbreviation for super carrera although never confirmed by Porsche.
IMPROVEMENTS: 1978 was the first year for a 911 with a fully galvanized body to help avoid rust. SCs had an improved 3.0 liter engine and are considered to be more reliable and desirable compared to the '74 to '77 cars. Accordingly, they are a little more expensive but probably worth the extra money.
MODELS: The choice of model configuration was furthered reduced in 1978 with the introduction of the 911SC. In short, the 911SC was the only normally aspirated 911 car offered and there was no choice of engines for the first time in 911 history anywhere in the world. The SC retained the flared wheel arches of the earlier Carrera model making it a more aggressive looking 911.
BODY STYLES: The SC was available in either coupe or Targa and starting in 1983, the long-awaited cabriolet (albeit a manual top but quite easy to pull up) was available.
ENGINE: The SC engine was bumped up to a 3.0 liter putting out 180hp during the entire period of the SC. As solid as these cars were, they are not without issues (as is every generation of 911 ever made). Broken head studs are probably the number one issue discussed on SCs. In the 911 engine, 4 long bolts are used to bolt the cylinder to the engine case. In earlier years, the head studs would separate from the case leading to obvious problems. With the SC, Porsche went to a new head stud material, Dilivar, curing the separation problem but bringing on a new problem, head stud breakage. Unfortunately, repair of broken heads studs is a very expensive exercise ($4000-$6000) and requires partial engine disassembly. Determination of the health of the head studs requires removing the valve covers and an inspection by an experienced eye. Beginning in mid year 1983, Porsche began to coat the Dilivar head studs making the breakage less likely to occur, meaning the Carrera model that followed the SC model is less susceptible to head stud breakage but not immune either. The camshaft chain tensioners were also a source of issues on the SC, dating back to the first 911s. Some SCs have had the chain tensioners updated to the hydraulic "Carrera" type as used from 1984 onward, a very worthwhile improvement in reliability since a failure of the chain tensioner will likely mean a rebuilt engine is about to become part of your life..
1984-1989 911. The cars of this period are often referred to as Carreras or “3.2”s in deference to the use of a 3.2 liter engine, the only normally aspirated engine offered.
Beginning in 1984 the word “Carrera” was attached to the engine lid of every normally aspirated 911. The body and styling of the 3.2 was essentially the same as the SC which was essentially the same as the 2.7 (flared wheel arches aside). Indeed, from a distance and the right angle it's easy to mistake a 1974 for a 1989. The engine lid is the easiest place to look for help. It was labeled “911”, “911S” or “Carrera” from 1974 to 1977, “SC” from 1978 to 1983 and “Carrera” again from 1984 to 1989 but this time in slightly larger font than in the '74 to '75 model. The 1984 to 1989 cars also had fog lights fully integrated into the front spoiler, Vs earlier models that were bolted to the spoiler but not built into it.
MODELS: Models available in the 911 Carrera were the coupe, Targa and cabriolet. As always, Targas have a reasonably well deserved reputation for "leaks and squeaks" so a drive at highway speeds and the garden hose test are probably good ideas. This period is also noted for the many special models introduced at various times including the Turbo Look (a standard 911 with the body from a 911 Turbo), Club Sport (weight reduced for sport use), Speedster (a special 1989 cabriolet with a raked and shortened windshield and a “temporary” convertible top) and an Anniversary edition (1988 Blue paint model celebrating 25 years of 911 production).
IMPROVEMENTS: Various improvements took place during the '84 to '89 Carrera production period making some years more desirable than others. For example,1987 was the first year that the power operated top for the cabriolet was made standard equipment. 1987 also saw an increase in 911 horsepower from 207 to 217 as well as being the year that the much more friendly G50 transmission replaced the 915 transmission, in use since 1972.
ENGINE: The '84 to '89 911s all used the 3.2L six, a larger displacement version of the 3.0L but with improved chain tensioners and head studs resolving many of the SC engine issues.
Horsepower by year was as follows:
1984- 1986- all models: 207 hp
1987- 1989- all models: 217 hp
The 1989-1994 911: The 964
Porsche introduced their 2nd major redesign of the 911 in 1989 (the first being in 1974). Beginning with the 1989 911 Carrera 4, the 911 also began to be known by Porschephiles by its internal Porsche designation, in this case the 964. Note that 1989 was an “overlap” year since the 1984 to 1989 style 911 was still available for purchase in two wheel drive as was this new, first time ever four wheel drive 911 Carrera 4 (the 964). In 1990 the 964 was offered in both two wheel drive (aka Carrera 2 or C2) and four wheel drive (aka Carrera 4 or C4). The previous generation 3.2 911 was no longer available after 1989.
ENGINE: The 964 introduced a new engine with a 3.6 liter displacement, twin plugs per cylinder and 247 hp in the US. To drive this car is to appreciate its substantially greater power and torque over the outgoing 3.2 L of the eighties. This engine feels powerful even by today's standards. When introduced in 1989, the 964 had certain early problems with its dual mass flywheel and with its head gasket-less cylinder head leaks. Many of these problems have probably been addressed on 964s in use today but not all so yet another good reason for getting a PPI done on any car under consideration.
IMPROVEMENTS: The 964 was the first 911 to use coil spring suspension instead of the torsion bar suspension that all 911s had used up until this point. This 911 also received new front and back bumpers that dispensed with the bellowed impact bumpers used from '74 to '89 but otherwise looked quite similar to the previous era of 911. The 964 was the first model to use a retractable spoiler mounted on the engine lid for added high-speed stability.
The 964 also was the first 911 to offer ABS brakes and a fully automatic (Tiptronic) transmission (not necessarily Porsche's finest moment).
MODELS: Models available from 1990 and on were the coupe, Targa and cabriolet, each in either C2 or C4 drive. The 1989 964 was only offered in the C4 AWD version. The C4 four wheel drive setup, an electronically controlled system, is sometimes said to feel a bit like a front wheel drive car and every bit like a first generation product. It was greatly improved with the viscous coupling approach introduced in the 993 version 911 in 1995. As in the late ‘80s, Porsche offered various special models of the 964 including the1993 only RS America, offered only in North America. Although the RS America was developed to offer a lower priced 911 (about $10,000 less) to a struggling US market, a used RS America today is substantially more pricey than the standard Carrera. The RS America (not to be confused with the track oriented 964 RS available only in Europe), was a weight-reduced RWD car without A/C, sunroof, and rear seats. It also used minimal sound insulation, a fixed rear wing and RS type fabric door pulls to further reduce weight and costs. Although it used the same engine and powertrain as the standard issue Carrera 2, it is today favored for its track readiness and for its limited production numbers. Another special model was introduced in 1994, the Speedster, a special cabriolet with a raked and shortened windshield and a “temporary” convertible top. Here again, the 1994 Speedster is far more pricey today than a regular 964 cab even though it sold for less money it 1994. As with all car markets, production numbers dictate desirability. Lastly, 1994 was a year of special 911 notation because the Carrera 4s sold this year used the widebody of the turbo, a very nice enhancement. The Carrera 2 cars sold in 1994 were the same as that sold in 1993.
For many, the 964 fits the need for a reasonably priced 911 that retains most of the original 911 styling and has a high element of performance.
1995-1998 911: The 993
Sidebar Discussion: The "Should I buy a 993 or a 996/997?" Debate
I don't know of any 911 decision that causes more stress to a potential 911 buyer than this question and here's why. Under normal market conditions, an older 911 would be worth less than a newer 911. However, the 993 cars made from 1995 to 1998 are more desirable than ever and highly sought after resulting in 993 prices that are often in excess of nearly all 996 prices and most early 997 prices. At the moment, a $20k budget will get you a 996 but not a 993. A $30k budget will get you a 996, a 997 and hopefully a 993. Generally, the 993 and 996/997 cars are about as far apart in feel, drive and performance as are any two 911s ever produced so it is an important buyer decision.
Herewith is a summary of the two ranges of cars as it pertains to this decision:
The 993 is the final evolution of the 1963 air cooled 911. As such, it retains much of the original DNA of the early cars while being the most refined air cooled 911 ever made. The look of the car is classic 911, the sound of the car is classic 911, the drive of the car is classic 911 and even the sound of the door opening is classic 911. But since the origins of this car go back to the early sixties, it does not have modern day handing, modern day power, modern day performance or modern day creature comforts. The A/C is ok, the defroster is ok and the roominess is ok. In short, it's a great 911.
The 996 (and subsequent 997) was a brand new 911, designed from an absolutely clean slate retaining only the concept and original ideas of the 911. It retains the overall classic shape of a 911 but with a very different appearance. The look is not classic 911, the sound of the car is not classic 911, the drive of the car is not classic 911 and the sound of the door opening is definitely not classic 911. However.....
According to Porsche, the #1 focus of a 911 has always been top sports car performance. The 996/997 911 has this in spades. It is significantly faster than a 993 and its handling is far superior to a 993. It is a fully modern car in all respects- the A/C is great, the defroster is great and the roominess is great. (In order to retain some of the original DNA the radio still stinks). Some of the most ardent air cooled fans will say that the "996/997 is not a 911". I could almost promise that these folks have never driven a stock 996/997 on the track because it is pure performance that puts any earlier stock 911 to rest. For those that have had the pleasure of putting a 996/997 on the track would likely agree that it is the better performer right out of the box. In the end, and in my view, the 996/997 is a 911 just as much as the 993 or any other 911 is. After all, the 993 is like driving in a Lincoln compared to a 1963 911 but it's still considered a 911!
In the end, if you lean toward the classic look, feel and sound of the 911 than the 993 might be for you. If the highest level of performance and refinement available is more important then the 996/997 is probably the place to go. One indisputable benefit of the 993 is value retention. They are holding their value and even appreciating in value while the 996/997 cars are still giving in to depreciation. And it should be mentioned here that one way to get much of the looks of the 993 with modern performance and features is to focus on the 997 ('05 and on). It's clear that Porsche wanted to bring back some of the old school 911 looks in a modern car and hence the 997. As stated earlier, our advice is to let your heart make 75% of the decision and your brain 25%. You're buying a Porsche, not a vacuum cleaner and if its not making your heart pump faster you may be in the wrong car.
1995-1998 911: The 993
In model year 1995, the 911 known as the 964 was replaced by the 911 known as the 993. The 993 is a very highly regarded 911 and is often referred to as “the last of the air-cooled 911s” since it was replaced by the water-cooled 996 in 1999.
IMPROVEMENTS: The 993 made fairly significant changes to the 964 in exterior, interior and power train, retaining only the roof and deck lid from the outgoing 964. The 993 is sometimes considered one of the best looking of the modern 911s, trimming bulkiness out of the 964 bumpers and styling but still with the appearance of the classic 911. The 993 also introduced a new multilink rear suspension that improved ride quality and general handling characteristics (sometimes) as well as a new, viscous coupling four wheel drive system that greatly improved performance and steering feel over the 964. A sixth gear was added to the type G50 transmission and as was a Tiptronic transmission with shifters on the steering wheel (the first-ever car to do so). One of the nicest improvements to this 911 was an HVAC system that finally actually worked closer to that of a modern car.
ENGINE: The engine in the 993 was the same 3.6 liter used in the 964 but with the addition of hydraulic valve lifters and lighter pistons. As such, power was increased to 270 hp. Further engines enhancements in 1996 via the addition of the Varioram induction system raised power again to 282 hp starting in that year. 993 issues include the dreaded "check engine light" or "OBD II" problem that affects '96 and later 993s. Like other manufacturers, Porsche introduced its first On-board Diagnostics (OBD) system in 1996. Its job was to monitor the health of the engine and insure that emissions requirements were being met. Unfortunately, it's thought that Porsche set the boundaries for error conditions a little too closely such that a single engine miss-fire could set off the check engine diagnostic (CED) light, preventing the car from passing state level emissions testing and potentially requiring major engine work. Making matters worse, trying to uncover the source of the error may be similar to looking for a needle in a haystack. Note that nearly all post '95 993 cars will have a CED light come on at one time or another but in most cases a simple reset rids the problem.
MODELS: From its beginning, Porsche offered the 993 in either cabriolet or coupe, each in either two or four wheel drive configurations. In 1996, they added the Carrera 4S coupe and the Carrera 4S Targa and in 1997 the Carrera S Coupe was added. Note that the "S" models did not have higher horsepower than the base models and are, in fact, equipped with the exact same engine. What makes the "S" models highly desirable (and much more expensive then and today) is its use of the 993 turbo body and its huge flaring fenders. The 4S also carried over the 993 Turbo Big Red brakes while the S carried standard brakes.
The 993 Targa introduced a new method of letting the sun in. Instead of using a manually removed roof section as was done up to this point, Porsche introduced a large sliding roof section that removed almost the entire roof section. While not an unreliable system, problems that occur in the targa system are known to be very, very expensive repairs.
The 993 also incorporated a theft security device on the key known as the immobilizer. All good 993 owners have come to despise this little device. Like all earlier and later 911s the 993 has its quirks. For instance, it's suggested that you not push a power seat all the way back as it can sever its own cabling. Even with a few quirks, the 993 has a strong following that considers it to be one of the best 911s ever from a traditionalist’s point of view. This is somewhat evidenced by the car's resale values which are normally higher than those of the 996 version and often higher than some 997s. Improvements to the reliability and usability of the 993 over earlier 911 versions made this the easiest 911 to live with on a daily basis, at least until the 996 was introduced.
1999-2004 911: The 996 (GT3 models excluded)
For model year 1999, Porsche introduced the 996, a complete redesign from the popular 993 version and the first truly modern 911. It could easily be used for a daily driver with no excuses since it was the first 911 to have a modern and completely functional heating and air conditioning system. Its handling was more predictable and precise, making it the best handling 911 ever. Coupled with the highest power ever available in a 911 you had a very nice car.
From a Porsche production perspective, the advantage of the 996 was its ease of manufacturing. It was designed from the start to be easily produced and to share many components with other models (including the Boxster which preceded the 996 in 1997). The 996 created some confusion early on as it used the same front end and therefore had the same appearance as the Boxster. An update to the 911 in 2002 gave the 911 the same headlights as the 911 Turbo, thus ending any mistaken identification with the Boxster.
ENGINE: The all-new 996 had a new engine, chassis, suspension, body style and interior. The engine was a 3.4 liter, water-cooled boxer, the first-ever 911 to use water cooling. It produced 296hp in 1999 increasing to 300hp in 2000. In 2002, displacement was increased to 3.6 liters and power rose to 320hp, due in part to the addition of VarioCam Plus. (RMS/IMS issues discussed below).
IMPROVEMENTS: The 996 had a wheelbase 3.2” longer than the 993 for improved handling, ride and interior space. The body style retained the 911 shape but was considered to be more conservative in design with less flare in the rear fenders and less hump in the front fenders. As stated earlier, the early 996 and the Boxster shared the same front end body style (as well as the same front suspension). In 2002, the 996 received new fenders, hood, bumpers and headlights to help distinguish it from the Boxster.
The 996 interior was all new and was the first 911 to depart from the classic five gauge instrument cluster, instead using a single cluster unit with a three-overlapping-gauge design. While interior quality gradually improved from its low point in 1999, the biggest improvement came in 2002 with better materials, a more useful cupholder and finally, a glovebox! The transmission choice was the 6 speed manual or the latest Tiptronic automatic. While no issues have been noted with the Tiptronic transmissions it is often chosen out of necessity Vs the manual. For many owners the tip just makes the car less fun to drive.
MODELS: From the start in 1999, Porsche offered the 996 in either coupe or cabriolet and in either C2 or C4 drive. In 2002, Porsche added a Targa model using the same sliding glass approach (and repair issues) as used in the 993 but with a smaller sliding section. Also in 2002, the Carrera 4S coupe model was added (with a 4S cabriolet coming in 2004). As done with the 993, the 4S model used the same engine as the regular 996 but offered the brakes, suspension and Turbo-look body of the 911 Turbo. There was no Carrera S ever offered in the 996. The 996 cabriolet top went from a plastic rear window to a glass window in the 2002 model year. Early cabs also came equipped the fiberglass removable hardtop- not an overly desirable option because of its bulk and limited usefulness. The PSM (Porsche Stability Management) traction control system was introduced as an option for the 2000 model year. A similar system just called Traction Control was offered in the 1999.
The 996 was initially a difficult car for Porsche purists to accept when it was introduced, primarily because of its quieter water cooled engine, its more conservative body style (reduced fender flares from the 993 but actually more true to the original 911s) and the fact that is was a quiet and easy car to live with. Over time it has earned a reputation as a great everyday car that’s reliable, fast, and easy to drive. Like every 911 model that has preceded it, the 996 has had its strong and weak design points but its performance and usability will continue to keep the 996 in high regard
996/997 Engine Rear Main Seal (RMS) and Intermediate Shaft (IMS) Issues-"Is it Safe?"
Much has been written in various forums about the 996/997 (and 986/987) engine with reference to RMS and IMS issues. Here are a few more opinion points to add the list.
RMS- The bad news is that the issue is real and a number of 996 and even 997 engines have had the problem, an oil leak that develops at the lower half of the engine. The good news is that any leaking oil drips straight down onto the ground and not onto the exhaust or electronics where it might create further issues. The other good news is that it is just an oil leak and plenty of Porsches through time have had oil leaks. An RMS oil leak is not indicative of a current or pending IMS issue. The RMS issue occurs because of a failure in the RMS seal. Evidence of the problem is obvious as the engine will leak small amounts of oil along its bottom. While no one is ever thrilled to see an RMS leak, it should not be a major concern since it is not unusual repair. A typical repair cost might be around $1200 and once completed with the newest seal it will not (or at least should not) return.
IMS- Although far less common and actually even rare given the half million Porsche cars on the road using this engine, an IMS (Intermediate Shaft) failure can occur on these cars and is considerably more serious than an RMS oil leak. An actual failure of the IMS normally means a complete engine failure requiring replacement at a cost of $20k or more. Yes, that is a nasty repair bill but keep in mind it is super rare to happen and not to be confused with the common RMS leak above. A solution to the issue comes from a company called LN Engineering out of Florida and others now offer a kit to eliminate the risk of IMS failure by making the IMS support structure more robust. At a cost of about $2500 it is likely a sound investment if it hasn't already been done. Note that while the IMS upgrade can be done to any 996 era car only the 2005 997 has the potential of getting the upgrade due to a redesign of the IMS itself. The good news is that the redesign that came in 2006 made the stock IMS much more robust and far less likely to fail. Again, an IMS failure is a rarity and with fixes available should not be a reason to avoid a 986/987/996/997 vehicle.
The reality is that every Carrera made from 1999 through 2008 (and every Boxster and Cayman made during their production runs through 2008) is at risk for a rare IMS failure since they all use the same engine design (the 2009 has a redesigned engine that cures the source of the problem). Contrary to sometimes popular belief, the '99 to '01 911 is actually at lower risk of IMS failure than the 2002 to 2005 engine because it used a stronger, double row IMS bearing design.Visit the LN Engineering website or talk to your Porsche Specialist for more information on the this topic. Other than the addressed RMS/IMS problems, the 996/997 engine has proved to be a high quality motor that will be capable of racking up as many miles as previous generations of motors.
2005-2011: The 997 (and 997.2)
In 2005, the 997 replaced the 996 for most 911 models (the 2005 Targa and 2005 Carrera 4S remained a 996).
IMPROVEMENTS: In broad terms, the 997 is a 996 in 993-like clothing. And that's not a bad thing because it takes the best of each and results in a really nice car, one with great looks and great performance. The 997 brings back rear fender flares in the standard body, round head lights, 993 like door handles and window switches on the door. It has more aggressive body styling, a redesigned and much improved appearance interior and a deeper engine sound than the outgoing 996. It was also the first to offer PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) which lowers and stiffens the suspension for improved handling and performance. Basically it allows the driver to invoke what used to be the optional sport suspension on demand. PASM is a great option and is often paired with the Sports Chrono option, its far less useful brother. Sports Chrono gets you the stop watch on the top of the dash, more useful at holding down the dash board than anything else. Invoking the Sports mode here also increases the responsiveness of the accelerator pedal and opens up the operating parameters of PSM response.
MODELS: For the first time since the ‘70s, Porsche introduced both the regular 911 and the S version simultaneously. In terms of configurations, 2005 saw the 997 body style introduction of the Carrera coupe, Carrera S coupe, Carrera cab and Carrera S cab. Note that although the 997 "S" models carried the larger, more powerful 3.8L engine, they did not have a wider body than the non-"S" versions (unlike the wider bodies used in the "S" versions for the 993 and 996). Note also that there were no Carrera 4 configurations in 2005 except the holdovers from the 996 (noted above). 2006 saw the introduction of most of the remaining configurations in the 997 style- the Carrera 4 coupe and cab, and the Carrera 4S coupe and cab. Strangely, it's the Carrera 4 and 4S cars that carry the wider body in the 997. Visually detecting the difference between the Carrera body (71.2" wide) and the Carrera 4 body (72.9" wide) can be a little tricky since either is wider that the preceding 996 narrow body (69.7" wide). Lastly in 2007, Porsche introduced the 997 Targa in Carrera or Carrera 4 driveline completing a rather broad portfolio of cars, 12 in all.
ENGINE: For the first time since the mid 1970s, the 2005 911 "S" version had a larger, more powerful engine (3.8 liters and 355hp) than the regular 911 base model engine (3.6 liters and 325hp). Although at 325 hp, the base 997 engine only has 5 more hp than the 996's 320 hp, the torque is different enough that it feels like more than 5 hp.
In 2009, Porsche introduced a redesigned engine called the MA1, often referred to as the DFI (Direct Fuel Injection) engine. It was a complete redesign of the flat six and added more horsepower, greater reliability and, most importantly, did away with the previous engine's risk of IMS failure. It offered 345 hp in base 911 form and 385 hp in the S models. One of the few complaints on this engine is that it tends to be quieter than the M97 engine, something that was remedied with the 991 in 2012.
TRANSMISSION: The standard 6 speed manual and optional Tiptronic automatic continued to be offered through model year 2008. Coinciding with the new DFI engine, Porsche introduced a new dual clutch 7 speed "automatic" in 2009 called the PDK (Porsche DoppelKupplunginschmidtinsteinvonfirstinburghindenburgzepplin) transmission. Actually, the name ends after the "lung" part but the German language is just plain fun to make fun of. This transmission is actually two manual transmissions in one with two clutches. The shifts take place within milliseconds since the next gear is already selected and waiting to be engaged. What would the Porsche community be without its great debates and the PDK Vs traditional manual transmission debate fits in nicely here. With more and more Porsche performance models only being offered with the PDK, the debate is whether Porsche will someday discontinue the traditional manual. Time will tell.
2009-2011: The 997.2
With the introduction of the new MA1 engine and available PDK transmission, the 2009 to 2011 911 family is often referred to as the 997.2 to distinguish it from the earlier 997. Other changes included an updated interior, LED tail lights, improved navigation and audio interface equipment.
In 2011, Porsche added the 911 Carrera GTS to the burgeoning 911 lineup. By incorporating the "S" engine Powerkit option as standard and a more sport tuned suspension, the GTS is the highest performance 911 model short of the turbo or GT2/GT3 models.
Like the 996, the 997 has proved to be a great car with fantastic performance and with even better styling inside and out. Probably the single area where the 996 is superior is pricing. Because the 997 is newer its price remains higher than most of the 996 configurations with the possible exceptions of the 996 C4S. As noted earlier, the '05 to '08 997 has the potential for IMS problems (see above section on RMS/IMS).
2012 and on: The 991
In 2012, Porsche introduced a redesign of the 911 family with the designation 991. As they did in 1968 and again in 1999, the 911 received an increase in wheelbase, this time by 100 mm along with an increase of 52 mm in the front track. The intent and result is increased stability, performance, ride quality and interior space. It's also the first Porsche sports car to offer PDCC (Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control), a variable stabilizer system comprised of active anti-roll bars that that restrain body roll. The Carrera S now came with 20" wheels and a 400hp DFI engine (350 hp in the base 911). Weight was reduced from 3208 lbs in a 997 to 3159 lbs (varies by model and configuration). A further improved PDK transmission is available as the standard manual, now with 7 forward speeds. The assumption is that this was done as a gas saving technique rather than any performance advantage. Another change was the move to electric power steering providing yet another topic for controversy and debate.
Aesthetically, the 991 has a redesigned backend with smaller tail lights and a smaller engine lid that limits access to fluid levels only. The redesigned interior took the look of the Panamera interior, a good look for most with the possible exception of an electronic parking brake instead of a pull handle.