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911 Carrera 3.4 – 300 ch [1998 à 2001]

Tuned 996 C2 Dices with GT3s in France

It’s hard to fathom that what for a long-time was considered the « redheaded stepchild » of the 911 family can, if driven well, casually dice with the latest and greatest thoroughbreds in the Porsche stable. A 991 GT3 ought to casually show the aging, 3.4-liter 996 its heels, but Guillaume Artufel’s 996, aided by his wonderful driving skills, remains in contention with cars costing ten times as much at the high-speed Circuit Du Var Luc in Southern France.

There are a few choice modifications that help this 3.4-liter 996 keep up. GT3-style seats help keep Artufel stable while hurtling down the former AGS-Formula 1 test track, KW coilovers offer some stability, Federal semi-slicks provide the stick, and as it’s a fairly focused track toy, it sports a cage. Other than that, it’s a plain-jane 996.

So, how does such a simple car run down a pair of well-driven GT3s? Artufel’s a masterful driver, and never looks flustered behind the wheel. Though he’s driving the Porsche to the edge of adhesion in hairpins and fifth-gear kinks alike, he never looks like he’s trying; he exudes calmness in the cabin.

It could be his tires, but he simply looks to trace tidier lines and show greater confidence in the high-speed sections, where he’s able to wrangle the red 997.2 GT3. Considering how this red car has some 150 horsepower on the camera car, straightline speeds are incomparable, but the 996 shows similar poise and, perhaps spurred on by a bit of underdog’s bravado, Artfuel likes nipping at the GT3’s bumper when he can. That said, the GT3 looks far more stable in the fast direction changes, though Artufel’s second-nature countersteering helps there.

Though the 996 slides at speed (5:05 and 6:08), it still behaves nicely and doesn’t surprise Artufel.

Even more impressive that a 991 GT3 joins the fray and fails to walk away for a long time. The 991’s combination of a broader powerband and a PDK gearbox gives it the ability to waltz away from the red car in a straight line, but due to Circuit Du Var’s narrow confines and a likely discrepancy in driving talent, it takes a long time to find a way around. Meanwhile, Artufel’s comfort behind the wheel helps him observe the fracas from a friendly distance, and, incidentally, demonstrates how wonderful these often-overlooked Porsches are with the right modifications and the proper touch.

Nipping down the inside, Artufel gives a friendly and audacious honk.

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993 Carrera v 996.1 Carrera: which is the better driver’s 911?

Manchester Free Trade Hall, May 1966: Bob Dylan casts aside his acoustic guitar and plugs in an electric Fender Stratocaster. The folk faithful look nonplussed. There are boos, and one heckler famously shouts “Judas!” as the feedback fades. 

Porsche had its own ‘Judas’ moment in 1998, when it replaced the 993 with the 996. In doing so, it called time on 35 years of the air-cooled flat six. This was progress but it felt like a revolution and, like those diehard Dylan fans, many 911 aficionados saw it as a retrograde step.

Fast-forward two decades and the 996 is viewed as an emerging classic: the start of something new, rather than the death of everything we held dear. Prices are edging upwards, yet the first water-cooled 911 remains a poor relation to its forebear in terms of values. Typically, you’ll pay twice as much for a 993 Carrera as an equivalent 996.1.

Myth-busting time, then. Is the 993 really a better car? Objectively, no: the 996 is faster, stiffer, safer and more efficient. Surprisingly, it’s actually lighter too. However, sports cars are subjective; a Porsche should feed the senses and stir the soul. So forget worn valve guides or failed IMS bearings, this latest Total 911 comparison is purely about driving.

The cars lined up are a 1996 993 Carrera and a 1998 996.1 Carrera, owned by Hugh Harvey and James Hunter respectively, and kindly supplied by RPM Technik. I’ll drive them back-to-back on some of Hertfordshire’s best A- and B-roads to distil the differences and pick a winner, straight up. Air or heir? This could get controversial…

It seems sensible to start with the 993 and it’s the car I’m more excited about driving – such is the mystique of the air-cooled 911. It’s smaller than its successor, but not to the degree you might think: overall width and height are almost identical. Even so, a narrower body (the extra width comes from those curvaceous wheel arches, which stylist Tony Hatter likened to bulging muscles) means its cabin feels ‘cosy’ if I’m being kind, ‘cramped’ if I’m not.

The 993’s dashboard is hardly an object lesson in ergonomics either. The steering wheel rim obscures the outer gauges and heater controls, and there’s precious little stowage space. My main issue, though, is with the pedals, which are skewed awkwardly towards the centre of the car. They’re floor-hinged (an original 911 design quirk expunged in the 996), and their height and spacing are perfect for heel-and-toe work. However, their alignment – or lack of – makes it all too easy to push the throttle instead of the brake in those first few miles.

To read the full feature of our comprehensive 993 v 996.1 Carrera test, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 160 here or at any good booksellers. You can also download the digital edition to any device via Apple or Google newsstands. 

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Lee’s 996 Carrera diary: the six month assessment

Six short months ago I sold my BMW E46 M3 and, with a bit of extra cash, stepped into Porsche 911 ownership with the purchase of a late Gen2 996 Carrera 4. As those familiar with my story from Total 911 magazine’s ‘Living the Legend’ owner reports section will know, I purchased the car from trusted independent Porsche specialists, RPM Technik, in a cut-price deal as it needed work before RPM considered it to be ‘ready for retail’. I was happy to take on the project and purchased the car without any warranty (the ‘brave vs naive’ debate is still open for comment!).

In the 193 days since, my 996 story has evolved rapidly. The car has taken in 8,000 miles including two track days and two weekend roadtrips to Scotland and then Wales, had shiny new upgrades fitted, had its basalt black paintwork brought back to life, and most importantly, it’s not failed me once. During that time, I learned more about my 996’s history thanks to OPC Bournemouth, who revealed the car had a complete bottom end rebuild and later IMS fitted at a main dealer in 2010, meaning half the engine had covered just 35,000 miles before my purchase. I’ve also done my best to look after the M96 flat six as much as possible, avoiding short journeys of less than 15 minutes and changing the oil after 6,000 miles.

Picture courtesy of Porsche Club GB

Track days are addictive but they provide the ideal environment for both car and driver to find their limits. Picture courtesy of Porsche Club GB.

Used mainly at weekends, I’ve been nothing short of delighted with my 996.2 C4. I like how classic the driving experience is compared to the mammoth new 991s; I’m positively thrilled with the value for money the car represents compared to other 911s; and I’m impressed by how cheap, relatively, the 996 is to run. It didn’t take long to identify one or two nuances with the model in general though, most notably of which was the lack of any stimulating engine sound whatsoever beneath 6,500rpm. Redlining the car everywhere isn’t exactly practical and the flaps on factory PSEs are known to jam open over time, so I plumped for a pair of Milltek rear silencers to rectify the situation. As you can see and hear from the video, they’ve proved a great addition.

It’s true the build quality inside is light years away from the lavish confines of a 997 or 991, but then I remind myself if it wasn’t for the 996’s production frugality there would be no 997 or 991 to begin with. I also think the 3.4-litre flat six from the Gen1 996 is the more rewarding engine, its peaky nature encouraging a driver to live in the top half of the tacho to progress quickly. However, the torquier bottom end of the 3.6 is ideal for track work and Sunday jaunts, intensified in my case by the CSR lightweight flywheel for quick heel-and-toe gear changes. A short-shift kit will complete the experience – watch this space!

Ventures with my plucky 996 inspired my friend, Alex, to join me in early water-cooled 911 ownership.

Ventures with my plucky 996 inspired my friend, Alex, to join me in early water-cooled 911 ownership.

So far, the 996 has given me everything I wanted from 911 ownership, and a few things I didn’t. It being a proper sports car that’s incredibly addictive to drive falls into the former category, while annoying failures of the indicator stalk (accompanied by a £500 quote from Porsche for a new one!) and driver’s door microswitch fall brazenly into the latter. I’ve improved the 996’s response and directness of handling with the addition of Bilstein PSS10 coilovers all round, though there’s work still to be done to reduce the inherent understeer plaguing the C4 through even medium severity turns. All in in all though I’ve immensely enjoyed entry-level 911 ownership so far and am relishing the prospect of driving the car through the winter months and beyond.

What’s the point of sharing my 996 story, I hear you ask? Well, my answer is two-fold. Firstly, I promised nothing but honest journalism in my owner reports, giving you real-world feedback, warts n’ all, of life owning an entry-level Porsche 911. The second reason – and most important – is because sharing our stories with others is all part of the unique Porsche experience. And that’s exactly why I want to hear from you.

What’s your 911 story? Whether you’re 53 minutes or 53 years into 911 ownership, we want to hear your very best 911-related anecdotes. Comment below or email us: [email protected] The best comments will be published in an upcoming issue of Total 911 magazine.

 

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Lee’s 996 Carrera diary: OPC v independent specialists

It’s the age-old debate for Porsche owners the world over: do I take my 911 to my local Porsche Centre or an independent specialist for servicing? In years gone by Porsche Centres have seen a phenomenal customer base drop out of the network once their cars are out of warranty (which is two years, unless an optional third year is purchased as an extra at the point of sale). This clientele has willingly been picked up by a healthy array of independent businesses renowned for their Porsche specialism. However, Porsche Centres have fought back, lowering labour costs and introducing specially-appointed ‘Classic Centres’ to fashion a very competitive servicing and maintenance marketplace. This is great news for owners of non-new 911s.

So which is best? Well, the answer will often come down to personal preference – and as a newcomer to Porsche ownership, I’m excited to decide for myself. As you may recall, last month I purchased a second-generation Carrera 4 as my own ‘project 996’ from independent specialists RPM Technik, who had taken one in as part exchange and gave me a trade deal in light of the fact the car needed some attention in order to be considered ‘ready to retail’. Before collecting the 996, I was given a printout of RPM’s pre-purchase inspection, which resembles the 110-point check undertaken at an OPC (a common practise among reputable specialists).

The 996 gets a CSR lightweight flywheel before its PPI and collection.

The 996 gets a CSR lightweight flywheel before its PPI and collection.

In RPM’s report I found nothing of immediate mechanical concern, with just the following points of contention: the power steering pipe crimping is starting to split (a common problem, 996 owners), front and rear lower arm bushes are delaminating, and my A/C condensers are in need of replacement. The report showed I’d bought a good car, however the inevitable question soon surfaced at the forefront of my mind: would Porsche themselves view my 996 in the same way? I was eager to find out.

At the start of the month I visited my local OPC, Porsche Centre Bournemouth, where Senior Service Advisor, Richard Pearce, booked my car in for a complimentary health check. I returned to the Centre just days later, dropping off my C4 and collecting a 981 Cayman loan car in return. The inevitable ‘sweetener’ before a financial hammer blow when said health check was complete, perhaps? I was fearful.

However, I need not have worried. Around four hours into temporary Cayman possession, I received a concise email from Richard containing a first-person video assessment of the 996. You can see the video for yourself here: Senior Technician, Nick Perry (who incidentally has more than 25 years of experience at Porsche Centre Bournemouth) provided a comprehensive breakdown of the car in just three minutes, picking up on the same points made in the PPI from RPM Technik. Three notes to consider from the video: I do indeed have a CSR lightweight flywheel fitted to the car, I covered 1,700 miles between the PPI and health check, which is when the tyre gash likely occurred, and Porsche Bournemouth were not aware of my 996’s PPI at the time of the health check being conducted.

Porsche Centre Bournemouth carried out a complimentary health check on the 996 one month into Lee's ownership of the car.

Porsche Centre Bournemouth carried out a complimentary health check on the 996 one month into Lee’s ownership of the car.

After collecting my 996 from the Porsche Centre, I was happy, relieved and suitably impressed, the latter thanks to two key points of the health check. First was the video link which, though commonplace today at many manufacturer service centres, elucidates transparency. Unedited video evidence is unequivocal: I can see for myself what niggles Nick had found, giving me confidence that I’m not being fleeced. Second was Nick’s mechanical sympathy. Rather than just proffer that I replace anything remotely worn – a stigma often associated with a Porsche Centre in general – I was told, for example, that my exhaust nuts have one year left and that the lower arm bushes are perishing but useable. I appreciated that greatly.

What have I learned? For starters, RPM Technik are excellent. Their PPI was meticulous, easy to understand and, above all, accurate. My Porsche Centre experience was also exceedingly pleasant: I felt as welcome in my 996 as the rather more fortunate chap next to me collecting his 991.2 C4S, and was bouyed by the knowledge of the technicians and Senior Service Advisor, Richard Pearce, who knew his way around my 996 far better than even I did. Both businesses have therefore given me complete confidence in them caring for and maintaining my 996 going forward. Of course, the real battle will commence when parts need to be ordered – more on that soon…

Got any thoughts on the OPC vs independent specialist debate? Share your comments with us below.

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In praise of the Porsche 996 Carrera

‘Thank goodness for the 996’. Granted, it’s not a sentence you’re likely to hear too often from a Porsche enthusiast, if ever at all. In fact, you only need take in a brief observation of the internet to stumble across a plethora of forum threads and articles dedicated to defaming the virtues of Porsche’s first water-cooled 911. So is the 996-generation of 911 really that bad a catastrophe for Porsche? The answer, emphatically, is no.

996 Carrera: the very reason for the 911s existence today.

History tells us the 911 has had a few close shaves with mortality. In the Seventies, impact bumpers had to be incorporated for the G-series cars in order to comply with US road safety laws, and engine adjustments in the 911 range were necessary to meet stringent Stateside emissions tests – all undertaken by Porsche to help safeguard a huge export market for the model. Then there was that oh-so famous meeting between incoming CEO Peter Schutz and lead developer Helmut Bott in the latter’s office at the time of the flagging SC. After ingesting the wall-mounted production timeline of the 911 that stopped abruptly the following year, Schutz promptly picked up a pen and continued the line not only to the end of the graph, but all along the wall and even around the corner. Thanks to Schutz, the 3.2 Carrera was hastily introduced shortly after, and the 911 lived on once more.

However, if the 3.2 Carrera can lay claim to being the model that saved the 911 (see our 16-page celebration in the current issue of the magazine for more) then the 996 can take the credit for being the car that saved Porsche.

By the turn of the Nineties, Porsche were widely reported to be in a near-perilous financial state. Great sportscars were still leaving the factory floor (read ‘the 993’), but profit margins were strained. Something needed to be done.

The 996 Carrera is the very reason the 911 has kept on motoring today.

Step forward the 996: a new-era 911 designed by Pinky Lai, complete with an engine cooled by water and built in tandem with the new 986 Boxster platform. Many parts were shared, keeping labour and outsourcing to a minimum while, crucially, maximising profits. Sales of both cars were healthy (nearly 79,000 996 Gen1 Carreras were sold compared to 38,000 993 Carreras before it) and the company, as we well know, duly turned a corner. A facelifted 996 was released to satisfy those who lamented those admittedly divisive front headlamps, and Zuffenhausen’s premier sportscar has since evolved further and still lives on today (so too does the Boxster).

It’s sad then that Porsche’s saviour 911 has to put up with an unfair legacy full of hyperbolic scored bores and failed IMS bearings alike.

For sure, a small proportion of 996s have suffered here, but nothing like the scale that forums will have you believe. Contrary to that, most run fine: we’ve even taken a drive in a 173,000-mile 996 Carrera for a recent feature and reveled in its ability to still delight – without any form of engine rebuild in sight (Total 911 issue 113).

Think a 996 Carrera won't last? Think again, as we showed you in issue 113.

Better still, the 996 Carrera now makes for a phenomenal entry-level foray into 911 ownership, with examples readily available for as little as £10,000. There’s not much else in the contemporary market that can offer such rewarding performance for so little cash.

So, next time you come across undue slander against the 996, remember there’s an awful lot about that particular 911 that we Porsche enthusiasts must be forever thankful for.

Do you agree? Comment below or tweet us @Total911 with your thoughts.
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