A lot of people have been asking me the same questions over and over. It generally starts with “You have eyes, right?” Apparently, (and this is just what I’ve gathered) a considerable portion of the population thinks the Porsche 996 is the ugliest car ever to come out of Stuttgart. “Fried-egg headlights and a ticking time bomb IMS bearing” are touted as the norm when it comes to the 996 chassis. Now, I’m here to set the record straight. After owning a Speed Yellow 2003 Porsche 996 C4S for almost a year, I wanted to give it a fair review. To really explain why I went out of my way to sell my perfectly functional daily driver, and use the loot to buy a warranty-less Porsche. Disclaimer – I am not crazy. Probably. I’ll just get to the good/bad of the Porsche 996…
A quick history lesson: The 996 was built from 1999 to early 2005, at which point Porsche decided to part ways with the air-cooled engine and take on the new water-cooled design. If you’ve ever been on the Internet and typed the word Porsche into Google, you’ve more than likely seen something about the dreaded IMS bearing. It’s been claimed to only affect somewhere around 5% of all 996’s that were built. However, once that goes…the entire engine is a massive, expensive paperweight. This, along with the iconic headlights being stretched out and laid flat led to people writing off Porsche, and many claimed the brand would never be the same again. My guess is that the people who say those things haven’t driven a 996, or if they have, it was the MK1 which is a bit of an ugly duckling and not the best interior-wise. See, I can be objective.
Now that we’re through all the background information, we’ll get to the meat. What do I really think after driving a 996 4S for a full year? I love it. I’ve driven just about every car there is under the sun, and the sensation behind the wheel is, quite simply put, iconic. Would I trade it for a different car from 2003? No chance. The way the vehicle handles with the AWD system always giving you traction, 320-hp, the looks of the wide body…it all just comes together in a way that needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated.
Isn’t it expensive to daily drive? Not really. I’ve spent around $900 the first year on random things. First was the motor mounts, which were an inexpensive and relatively easy service – completed by replacing the hydraulic fluid-filled mounts with solid ones from a 993 generation model. Then the key stopped working, and needed to be replaced completely for around $320. Besides the wheels and roof rack that I added by choice, that’s about it. Sure, I needed some snow tires too..but that should go for any car you buy in Minnesota – they make all the difference in the world when it gets cold out. The car can send 4-20% of the power to the front wheels and it is a beast in the heavy white stuff. The wide tires aren’t ideal for the icy roads, but with the speed taken down a notch or two, it’s not a bad way to get through the -20 degree days.
Adding the roof rack to the car almost made it a bit more usable. The bike rack certainly works easily enough, and the winter roof rack works well for hauling all my
crap things around. There isn’t much room in the “frunk” or inside the car, but that’s where the 914 comes in handy! (It’s actually very spacious and can fit a surprising about of stuff)
So what’s the verdict? With the way the market is right now on the 996 chassis Porsche 911’s, it’s almost a no-brainer on the value. The 4S gets you the wide body without the expense of the turbo, and for a ’99 Carerra the price is insanely
cheap inexpensive right now. If you can find one where the IMS bearing has already been done, these cars are pretty bullet-proof. The market has more or less bottomed out, and maybe you don’t want a daily driver, but just a fun weekend shooter? The narrow body is perfect for simply enjoying the open road and a convertible is even less expensive. My suggestion, find a 996 (MK2 02-04) with too many miles already, throw an exhaust, GT3 seats with a cage inside, and drive it like you stole it!