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Porsche 996: Buying guide and review (1997-2004)

Porsche 996: Buying guide and review (1997-2004) Classic and Performance Car
Porsche 996 Porsche 996 Porsche 996 Porsche 996 Porsche 996 Porsche 996 Porsche 996
The Porsche 911 is one of the most recognised and popular sports cars in the automotive world, and when a new version is launched it gets analysed and picked apart by enthusiasts. Changes made to the basic formula can be met with a fair amount of criticism, with fans yearning for the good old days of great steering feel and air-cooled goodness. 
 
With the launch of the 996-generation car in 1998, Porsche had to make some of the most radical changes to its tried and tested 911 recipe since its inception, to ensure compliance with upcoming emissions and safety regulations. 
 
The previous 993 had roots traceable to the original 911 of 1963, and with 30 years of continuous development behind it, was not an easy car to replace. Porsche wasn’t in a good way financially at the time either, meaning something was needed to turn the company’s fortunes around.
 
When the 996 Carrera arrived on the scene in 1998, that’s exactly what it did. Despite being measurably better in every way, and selling very well, many Porsche purists bemoaned the liquid cooled engine, ‘fried egg’ headlights and more cocooned driving experience. During the intervening years however, most of these strong opinions have softened as they have come to terms with the car for what it offer, a fantastic driving experience at an affordable price. 
 
However, while the 996 remains among the most affordable 911 models, it is not as cheap as it once was. Now the stigma of those engine faults and front headlights has all but vanished, people have woken up the the 996’s great qualities, and prices have been on an upward trajectory for the past few years.
 

Which 996 to buy?

 
The two most attainable and numerous models are the early 3.4 and facelifted 3.6 litre Carreras. There has been a lot of negative press about the 996 in the past, and a lot of it is down to the fact that early Carreras suffered premature engine problems. In recent years however, there has been a marked increase in the demand for these cars, as updates and specialist fixes have addressed most of the niggling and expensive issues with the earlier cars. 
 
You have a choice of Targa, Convertible and Coupe body shells in the Carrera range. Six-speed manual or five-speed Tiptronic gearboxes are available and four wheel drive could be specified with any combination of these body styles. In 2002 Porsche introduced the Carrera 4S in face lifted form, this car sported the bodykit, wheels and brakes from the Turbo models as well as four-wheel drive. It has become a desirable second hand purchase and is one of the best looking 996s. 
 
There are a few cars out there with the factory fitted X51 performance package. This gave 25 more bhp and can be identified by an all aluminium intake manifold instead of the black plastic item on the standard cars.
 
Cheap 996s can still be found, but make sure that the car you are looking at has a solid service history as any previous scrimping on oil changes and regular maintenance will probably come back to haunt you down the line. These cars also benefit from regular use so ultra low mileage examples might also cause a few headaches down the line.

The preferred wheel size is 18in. Nice-to-have options include Litronic headlights, Bose stereo and a leather dash, but not sat-nav because it’s obsolete and dates the interior. A factory limited-slip diff sounds like a good option but will likely need replacing by 50,000 miles. 

Colours have an effect on saleability, too. Greys are ever-popular, rare solid colours can look great, silver is seen as too common and maroon is shunned. For the cabin, black is a safe bet but lighter shades give an airier feel. Wild interior shades such as mint green can make a car harder to sell on.

Then there are of course the more special models, starting with the GT3 and GT3 RS, leading right up to the completely wild GT2. Standard 996 Turbo models were once a performance bargain, however prices are now considerably higher than they once were. The GT3 models have always been touted as the drivers’ choice, and this is still the case today. While every 911 is a joy, the GT3 remains the most focused and rewarding of the 996 generation. Our guide doesn’t cover these more specialist models in depth, however much of the normal 996 foibles also affect the special models. 
 

Performance and specs

 
2002 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.6 
Engine  3596cc, 24 valve flat-six
Power 315bhp @ 6800rpm
Torque 273lb ft @ 4250rpm
Transmission Six-speed manual
0-62mph 4.9 seconds
Top speed 177mph 
Insurance group   -
Fuel consumption  25mpg
Price when new  £76,450
 

Dimensions and weight


Wheelbase              2352mm
Length 4432mm
Width 1770mm
Height 1306mm
Weight 1317kg
 

Common problems

 
Independent Porsche specialist RPM Technik has more experience of 996s than most. ‘We were into them when they weren’t popular,’ recalls MD Darren Anderson. ‘I did wonder if we should be, but then I thought, why not? It’s a great car.’ RPM has created its own ‘CSR’ version, improving the looks, the performance and the handling, which has been very successful. Now the wider market is waking up to the fact that the 996 is a good thing.  

First rule of the 996 Club? Make sure the intermediate shaft (IMS) bearing has been replaced with an upgraded item, or factor in the cost of having it done (£2000-2500 including a clutch) when you buy the car of your dreams. It’s an important bearing at the back of the engine, below the crankshaft, found in all 911 engines but troublesome only in these early water-cooled units, in which the bearing was ‘sealed for life’ rather than being lubricated by engine oil. They don’t all fail but if it does it will wreck your engine. On every car it sells, RPM changes the IMS as a matter of course. 

Second 996 Club rule? Regular servicing. ‘Don’t get hung up on main dealer versus specialist,’ says Anderson; ‘just make sure the services have been carried out at the correct time and mileage using good oil.’ The low prices of 996s mean that some people who have managed to buy the car then run it on a shoestring.  That leads us on to rule three.

Which is? If the car has all the stamps, it looks good and it drives well, commit only to buying it ‘subject to inspection’. Have a specialist look the car over, up on a ramp to check out a few important, hard-to-get-to places, especially the cylinder bores. A specialist will whip the spark plugs out, get an endoscope in and see what state the bores are in.

Porsche 996 engine problems

Most of the talk around the 996 flat-six is about that IMS bearing or the RMS (rear main seal). For peace of mind, you want to know both have been replaced, so ask. The IMS we know about; an RMS failure will leak oil into the bellhousing and contaminate the clutch plate of a manual. It’s a simple job to replace either but it requires splitting the engine and gearbox, which adds time and cost.

On a manual-gearbox car, the IMS and RMS are often replaced when the clutch needs changing (typically 50,000-60,000 miles). Including the cost of the clutch and a new dual-mass flywheel (they deteriorate, degrading the gearshift quality and rattling at idle), the bill at a specialist will be around £2500.

On a Tiptronic auto there is more cost in labour because the engine and gearbox need to be removed as a unit to allow for the two to be separated. However, the job is a few hundred pounds cheaper than for a manual because there’s no clutch and flywheel to replace. 

If possible, see and hear the car start from cold. Rattles will likely be the timing chain ‘flogging’ due to weak or worn tensioners, £300 to fix. Tapping and smoking could be the result of scored bores. This is an early warning of big trouble and big bills, as is high oil consumption, and represents a red flag. There are lots of cars on offer, so walk away and don’t take the risk.

Sometimes there’s a disparity between the colouration of the tailpipes, which can indicate that one of the engine banks is burning more oil than the other. Bore-scoring is rarely seen on the 3.4-litre engine, and there are many theories as to why it happens more with the 3.6: localised hot-spots, engine design or simply the way some cars are maintained and driven. Soot-blackened tailpipes can also be an indicator of how it’s been driven, or that services have been stretched. Let the engine get hot and you may hear tapping on idle, especially if it’s an early 3.4; it can be harmless, but it can also be an indicator of poor pressurisation of hydraulic tappets. Listen to a few examples if you can, to get an idea of what they should sound like. 

Oil leaks between the engine and gearbox (more easily spotted if the car is up on a ramp) are usually one of two things: the seal on either the IMS or the RMS. There can be weeping from spark plug tube seals too, but that’s a quick fix with a new seal. The engine air/oil separator can leak, and if it fails it allows oil to be drawn into the intake which then emerges as plumes of smoke from the tailpipes. A bit of smoke at full throttle can show it is failing. It’s not an expensive component but it’s awkward to replace. The scavenge pump at the back of the engine can leak as well.

Water leaks are rare, but RPM Technik recommends fitting a lower-temperature thermostat and filling the system with Evans waterless coolant, which won’t boil at hot-spots like the ones mentioned above. Take a torch and look through the air intakes in the front bumper apron at the water radiators and air-conditioning condensers. There are no grilles, so leaves can get stuck in there and cause corrosion. Damp patches indicate that the condensers have been leaking. Both sets of radiators are expensive to replace – £1200 a pair for coolant rads, £1000 a pair for the air-con ones – and the front bumper needs to be removed to get at them. This maintenance cost can be avoided by ensuring they’re clear as part of the service checklist.

Look closely at the exhaust silencers. They can corrode and split, and it’s £1000-2000 for a pair. 

Gearbox problems

On your road test, listen for whining on the overrun in the manual gearbox, or jumping out of gear – second especially – when coasting down at low revs. Obvious noise suggests worn pinion bearings and the need for a gearbox rebuild, which will probably reveal other parts that need replacing. The cost will be at least £1500 but could easily be twice that. Anderson’s take is that the 996 ’box is ‘generally okay – problems are not that common and not particularly mileage-related’. 

The Tiptronic boxes are generally very reliable. They are less stressed than the manual but less desirable: you pay a weight penalty, and gearchanges are ponderous compared with the newer PDK boxes. Check the kickdown and use the thumb controls to go up and down the box manually – changes should be smooth, without banging or crashing.

Clutches typically are replaced at 50,000-60,000 miles. The sign that a clutch is nearing the end of its useful life is a heavy pedal action, not slip. That dual-mass flywheel will often need replacing too, bumping up the bill to the £2.5k mark. 

Suspension


Dampers corrode rather than leak and are good for 100,000 miles or more, but by then they’ll be a bit baggy and wheel control will suffer. Springs last well and seldom break, but noisy suspension is common. Creaks suggest worn ball joints or bushes in the lower arms, or delamination of those bushes, while rattling comes from either the anti-roll bars’ drop links or the upper transverse arms in the rear suspension. 
RPM Technik considers the front lower arms to be almost a service item to be replaced regularly; a new pair fitted, plus time on the geometry rig, adds up to approximately £1200. There’s lots of adjustment in the suspension geometry, which can be tweaked to adjust the handling balance and feel. It’s worth looking at the inner joints of the rear suspension arms, too. If the adjustment is maxed-out in opposite directions it could have been done to compensate for the effect of crash damage. 

RPM Technik’s upgraded ‘CSR’ lower arm is adjustable and serviceable, with replaceable ball joints and bushes. Polyurethane bushes can be fitted and, being stiffer, they improve steering response, but they are noisier too. The factory still offers suspension upgrades such as the comprehensive M030 kit, and there are multiple aftermarket coilover suspension kits.  

Brakes


The standard drilled discs fitted to the 996 are well up to the job provided they’re in good condition. They’ll need replacing if there’s a big lip on their outer edge. If the brakes feel unresponsive, it’s possible that only the outer face and pad are working thanks to seized calipers. Low-mileage cars that have been driven gently  are prone to this, and it’s hard to see the problem because the corroded inner face of the disc is hidden by the disc shield. Look at the MoT test advisories. New discs and pads will be needed at around £600.  

Another point to check on low-mileage cars is the age of the tyres, which might be out of date even though they have lots of tread. Look for the stamp that shows the week and year of manufacture; 48/11, for example, denotes week 48 in 2011. The useful shelf life of a tyre is around five years. Make sure they are good-quality tyres, such as Michelin, Pirelli or Bridgestone, with the correct ‘N’ marking indicating they are specifically for Porsches. A car fitted with cheap tyres is a worry. Where else has the owner cut corners? 

Bodywork problems 


The 996 body was two-side hot dip galvanised, so corrosion could indicate previous accident damage. Surface rust occasionally appears around the door shuts and along the inner sill. 
It’s important to check the underside – if it all looks corroded, there will be lots of issues that are difficult to fix. Cars that have lived by the coast or in harsh northern climates are notorious for this. 
Opaque lights show that a car has been un-garaged but they can be polished back to look nearly new. Corroded brake lines and damaged or squashed air-con lines are quite common; replacement of these can be labour-intensive and therefore expensive.
 

Model history

 
1997: 296bhp water cooled Carrera 3.4 introduced, initially in rear-wheel drive Coupe and Convertible styles.
2000: Tiptronic gearbox could now be used in manual mode with steering wheel buttons.
2002: All standard Carreras received minor face lift including revisions to the controversial headlamps. Engine capacity increased to 3.6-litres, producing 315bhp and Variocam Plus to further improve mid range torque. Targa body shape introduced, alongside the Carrera 4S with Turbo body kit introduced. 
2004: Last 996 Carrera rolls of the production line. Turbo S, GT3 and GT2 variants continue up to 2005, with approximately 175,000 of all types built.
 

Owners clubs, forums and websites

 
www.rpmtechnik.co.uk – Independent Porsche specialist RPM Technik
www.hartech.org Porsche specialist, with expertise in rebuilding engines
www.revolution-porsche.co.uk – Porsche specialist, offering upgraded parts for the common IMS bearing problem
www.porscheownersclub.org.uk – Free Porsche owners club and forum, catering for all Porsche models
www.porscheclubgb.com – Huge Porsche owners club and forum, with many events held annually
 

Summary and prices

 
Starting at £12,000 for a very early high mileage Carrera 3.4, prices generally go up to £25,000 for a last of the line Carrera 4S. Well-presented Carreras generally fall somewhere in the middle, with £17,000 getting you a 2002 model with full service history. 

We’d all like an RS, and a few of us recall when they were £50,000, but those days are gone and you’ll need about £130,000 now. The next most sought-after 996s are the GT3 and Turbo: the GT3 for its superb dynamics, the Turbo for its massive, everyday-friendly performance, both for their rarity. The rear-drive-only, turbocharged GT2 is rare, too, but it never gained a cult following. 

The Carrera 4S did though, its combination of C4 running gear and Turbo-wide body working beautifully with its bespoke suspension set-up, and it’s only £2000 above a C2. There’s also the 40th Anniversary – a C2 with a 340bhp power kit, a limited-slip diff and a Turbo nose. 

Keen drivers avoid the five-speed Tiptronic auto. Also less favoured, in order, are the Carrera 4, the Cabriolet and the Targa, which suffers maddening rattles and creaks. We reckon the bargain here is the Carrera 4; it’s typically cheaper to buy than the Carrera 2 even though it drives just like it, except in very low-grip situations when it’s actually more impressive.

Regular GT3 models start from £55,000, heading to £75,000 for a top example, with the later RS often commanding in excess of £100k. Turbo models currently start at around £30,000, with really good examples coming in closer to £50,000. How about the GT2? Prices start at £100k, with some dealers asking north of £150k for the best.
 
Values are definitely on the rise across the board, as the true worth of these early water-cooled 911s is starting to be appreciated. Choose the right specification with a comprehensive service history and you will have many years of enjoyable motoring ahead of you.
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Last updated: 11th Jan 2018
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Porsche 996
12995 69995 GBP
  • Porsche 996

    £20,995 £20,995

    Cherished 53,000-mile, immaculate 996 with all consumables and weak spots replaced and/or uprated where necessary. No expense spared! Here's the list of replacements, all within the last 2000 miles: High-quality clutch kit Lightweight flywheel Uprated IMS bearing (eliminating the one weakness of the 3.6 engine) Oil separator Rear main oil seal (RMS) Camshaft seal Top-quality Bilstein dampers and Eibach springs (improved ride, handling and longevity) Suspension arms and bushes Drop links Top mounts Brake discs and pads all-round Brake lines and braided hoses Brake fluid Air-con radiators and hoses Air-con recharged Full service and inspection. All work carried out by the excellent RPM Technik Original factory-option GT3 alloys refurbished This is the perfect specification 996 – metallic black with black leather interior, electric seats, electric tilt-and-slide sunroof, parking sensors, optional Bose stereo system, pre-fibre optic stereo and satnav system (easier to upgrade than later 996 system). Immaculate except for a few tiny blemishes – light scratch on lower edge of front spoiler, light scratch on edge of one headlight, tiny paint defect on one door. Interior came with original optional phone (great period accessory) though can be replaced with standard panel (included with car). A few tiny scratches on interior door handle and gearknob. This is a superb car, one of the last great analogue Porsches, hugely undervalued at the moment (just look at the price of the preceeding 993s) and actually faster, lighter and better handling than any previous 911. This is one of the best 996s in the UK. I know because I've seen many of them! Don't be tempted by a cheap 996 because it WILL need clutch, suspension etc – and the IMS bearing could fail at any time, destroying the engine. MOT until 15 April 2019. Full Porsche/Porsche specialist service history Valuable private number plate included in the sale

    • Year: 2001
    • Mileage: 53000 mi
    • Engine size: 3.6
    For sale
    £20,995 £20,995
    David Lillywhite
    David Lillywhite
  • PORSCHE 996 RACE CAR 3.4 POA

    POA POA

    PORSCHE 996 RACE CAR - VERY COMPETATIVE CAR, Built to Porsche Club Championship Specification, Eligible for 750 Motor Club and CSCC Championship winning Car 2014 and 2015, Too many Class 1 and Overall Victories to Mention SPEC: FULL ENGINE REBUILD - RUNNING TIME 90 MINS, GEARBOX REBUILD, NEW COMP CLUTCH, LSD DIFF, PROFLEX 3 WAY AJDUSTABLE SUSPENSION, FULLY PLUMED FIRE EXCTINGUISHER (IN DATE), 4X 18" WHEELS WITH PIRELLI SLICKS, 4X 18" WHEELS WITH PIRELLI WETS, FULLY WELDED CUSTOM ROLL CAGE THIS CAR IS FULLY PREPARED TO RACE IN THE NEW RACE SEASON 2018, THE CAR HAS WANTED FOR NOTHING

    • Year: 2014
    For sale
    POA POA
  • 2002 Porsche 996 Turbo

    POA POA

    Philip Raby Porsche Porsche Sales and Service This 2002 Porsche 996 Turbo Tiptronic S is a car that we have sold before and are delighted to have back in stock, as it’s rare to find such a well-sorted example. The Porsche has recently had £8,000 spent on a full mechanical mechanical overhaul. Work done includes fitting two new turbochargers, new brake discs, pads and sensors all round, new front antiroll-bar drop-links, new air-conditioning condensors, six new ignition coil packs, rear bumper/exhaust heat shields, new front tyres, auxiliary drive belt, transmission oil, a major service, plus a myriad of other work. All of which combines to give you full peace of mind when buying – you’re unlikely to find another 996 Turbo that’s had this sort of attention lavished upon it. The Porsche is finished in Basalt Black Metallic with a complementing black leather interior and benefits from a high specification, including Litronic headlamps, sunroof, hard-backed sports seats with the Porsche crest embossed into the headrests, heated seats, silver-coloured centre console, silver-coloured rear centre console, silver-coloured instrument surrounds, red seatbelts and Bose Sound Package. The 996

    • Year: 2002
    For sale
    POA POA
  • Porsche 996 Turbo

    £44,950 £44,950

    The Porsche 911, 996 model began production in 1998, and finished in 2005. The 996 were the first model range that Porsche used an all-new water-cooled engine. The Porsche 996 Turbo Coupe was the first 911 to look noticeably different in Turbo form to a standard car; the different light clusters and intakes in the rear bumper make it distinctive from its Carrera and Carrera 4 siblings. Turbo’s came equipped with four wheel drive and a 3.6-litre, twin turbocharged and intercooled flat-six produced 420bhp, making the car capable of 0-60mph in 4.8 seconds and onto 189mph. The stunning GT Silver 996 Turbo offered here at Hofmanns is a very late registered 2005 car covering a mere 49,561 miles from new. With the 996 Turbo being the flagship car, Porsche put everything into this car including Satellite Navigation, Electric Sunroof, Park Assist, PCM-2 Telephone, CD Autochanger and Porsche Crest Embossed in Headrest. This example has a lovely history from Porsche main dealers and most recently in November 2016 at 48,000 miles at a Porsche Specialist. As with all our vehicles the car will go through a comprehensive presales inspection and service by one of our Porsche experienced technician

    For sale
    £44,950 £44,950
  • Porsche 996 Turbo

    £59,995 £59,995

    The 3.6-litre flat-six ignites first turn of the key and idles up to temperature without complaint. Although not much is visible beneath the rear lid the engine bay clearly remains in outstanding order. All components appear factory fresh no signs of wear to be found. The car's extremely low mileage of just 10k is comprehensively verified by an outstanding maintenance record from new, which is detailed below. It was most recently serviced just 1,500 miles ago. Power is transferred to all four wheels via a silken 6-speed manual gearbox.

    • Year: 2004
    • Mileage: 10919 mi
    For sale
    £59,995 £59,995
  • Porsche 996 GT3 RS

    POA POA

    to the vehicle overview Porsche 996 GT3 RS Year 2004 Colour Grand Prix White Leather black PS 381 Hubraum 3600 Kilometerstand 7565 - only 1 owner - first paint - only 7565 kilometer since new - one of only 682 examples built price 249.500,- Get in contact

    • Year: 2004
    • Mileage: 4690 mi
    For sale
    POA POA
    Movendi
    0049 211 7888 016 View contact number
    Movendi
    0049 211 7888 016 View contact number
  • Porsche 996 Turbo LHD

    POA POA

    Genuine and unabused Porsche 996 Turbo with manual gearbox. Everything is original without any modifications. 2 owners in total. The car has a complete Porsche service history with 7 stamps on the original service book. The last one was done in 2013 at 54.600kms. All the recalls were done by Porsche. All the manuals are present as well as the 3 keys. Original paint all around, less the left side front wing we repainted due to some scratches made by a vandal. Full leather. Sunroof. Electric seats. Porsche navigation system and Porsche telephone are with the car; they have been removed by the previous owner but are present as spares. Very clean with no rust on the body or underneath. The car drives superb with no rattle or noise from the suspensions, engine, gearbox or differential. Tyres, brake pads and discs etc, everything OK and with more than 80% left. PIWIS (overrevs) and Porsche 111 checks available. Final informations: A complete Porsche service will be done by us prior the delivery. Overseas buyers welcome. The Porsche COC is available upon request if you want to register the car in your Country. We can help you in registering the car all aver Europe, UK included. We can shi

    • Year: 2001
    • Mileage: 41000 mi
    For sale
    POA POA
  • Porsche 996 C4S Convertible

    £39,995 £39,995

    Full Metropol Hide Electric Memory Heated Seats with Embossed Porsche Crests Small Aluminium Pack Radio CD Multiplay BOSE Sound Porsche Communication Module (Navigation) Telephone Module Sports Exhaust Lightronic Headlights with Wash Red Calipers Wind Deflector Hardtop with Stand X51 Power Upgrade 345 bhp 18″ Gold Crest GT3 Alloy Wheels Full Porsche Service History 1 Owner from New

    • Year: 2005
    • Mileage: 59900 mi
    For sale
    £39,995 £39,995
  • PORSCHE 996 TURBO COUPE - BASASLT BLACK

    POA POA

    Information PORSCHE 911 (996) TURBO COUPE TIPTRONIC S 2002 69,000 Miles Tiptronics Basalt Black Coachwork Black Leather Interior Porsche Stability Management System CD Changer BOSE surround White Dials Sunroof Memory Seats Fully Electric Seats Porsche Crest on Headrest Alcantara Headlining Rear Wiper 18" Turbo Alloy wheels Full Service History Interested In Vehicle Print Vehicle Details Back To Index

    • Year: 2002
    • Mileage: 69000 mi
    For sale
    POA POA