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996.2 v 997.1 GT3

Passers-by seem impressed, if a little nonplussed as to why we’re photographing two seemingly identical 911 GT3s. But to Porsche aficionados the 996 and 997 generations actually represent two very different flavours of GT3, and spark lively debate. Today we’re comparing the last of the 996 GT3s with the first of the 997, putting the GT3’s first generational shift under the microscope and declaring a winner.

It’s now 20 years since Porsche released its first 911 GT3, a road car that was produced to homologate the racers. The arrival of Andreas Preuninger soon after saw ‘Mr GT3’ put his stamp on the 996 generation with the revised 996.2 GT3 of 2003. He had to wait for the subsequent 997 GT3 of 2006 to take ownership of a GT3 generation from the start. That car is now identified as a 997.1, differentiating it from the later 997.2 GT3.

Both 996.2 and 997.1 Porsche GT3s remain highly coveted sports cars today, and overlap in pricing – the bulk of 996.2 GT3s span £60,000 to £80,000, with 997.1 GT3s grabbing the baton at £70,000 and accelerating off to £90,000.

We’ve come to Porsche specialists Paragon in East Sussex to explore two excellent examples currently residing in stock. Paragon’s 996 has covered 37,000 miles and is up at £74,995. The 997, meanwhile, is yours for £84,995. Both have undergone significant prep work to lift them to Paragon’s standards.

Both are as road-spec as they come in Comfort trim – no roll cage, fire extinguisher or buckets – featuring stock six-piston brakes with no carbon-ceramics, and factory suspension specs including camber settings. You’re unlikely to find two fitter, more representative, more comparable examples.

I jump into the 996 for the 20-mile trip to our Beachy Head photo location for two reasons: I’ve had good seat time in 997 GT3s, but have only once driven a 996 GT3, and pretty briefly on track – this is the car I really need to get my head around. I’m also curious to see how different it is from my own 996 3.4 Carrera.

The GT3’s headline changes versus the Carrera included lower, stiffer suspension; deletion of the rear seats; slightly wider 18-inch alloys; uprated six-piston front brakes (four rear) and, most importantly, the completely different Mezger 3.6-litre flat six, here rated at 380bhp and 385Nm.

I’d expected a significantly more aggressive temperament than my own car, but that’s just not true. Yes, it bobbles a bit when driven slowly over imperfect urban tarmac, and you notice the more responsive front end, a little extra weight to the steering on initial turn-in and reduced body roll even at more moderate speeds, but it actually rides with generous compliance, and there’s no huge penalty in terms of road noise. More aggressive than a Carrera, of course, but potter about and I don’t think there’s a huge trade-off here.

Driven harder on the twists that course down to the coast from the top of Beachy Head, the 996 is sublime. The steering immediately loads up with weight to contextualise lateral forces loading through the suspension; its intimidating detail encourages you to hold the wheel gently to better let it breathe and communicate through your fingertips. 15 years on its ratio still feels perfectly quick enough, and the way the front end arcs into corners without delay remains strikingly immediate – there’s very little roll and waiting for mass to settle, no slack to work through to get the steering working.

For the full 996.2 v 997.1 GT3 head-to-head test, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 177 in shops now or get it delivered to your door via here. You can also download a digital copy with high definition bonus galleries to any Apple or Android device.


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Porsche: the 996 story

The 996 was a revamp in the evolution of the 911 as suddenly, by 1997, Porsche’s icon was thrust headlong into the 21st century. Improvements were introduced, while much-loved quirks were expunged. Enthusiasts found it instantly familiar yet disconcertingly different. It still divides opinion today.

This guide details the evolution of the 996, from replacing the 993 in 1997 to being phased out by the 997 in 2004/2005. It includes the Cabriolet, Targa and Turbo, with the preceding feature having documented the GT cars. We’ll cover updates, specification changes and options added during the model’s lifetime, along with what to look for when buying one.

Our story starts in the mid-1990s. Porsche was in dire straits, haemorrhaging money with the threat of takeover looming (GM, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota were all interested, according to rumour). Times were tough, as 996 designer Pinky Lai told us in 2015: “The pressure and burden on my shoulders was bigger than the fate of the company: I had to deal with the fate of the 911!” A radical rethink was needed – and delivered.

Porsche flew in consultants from Japan to streamline its Zuffenhausen factory. The 911 would no longer be hand-built, but mass produced – it also merged design and development of the 996 with the new entry-level 986 Boxster, allowing both cars to share components. Cost savings of 30 per cent versus the outgoing 993 were quoted, a figure almost unheard of in the industry.

The 996 Carrera Coupe made its world debut at the 1997 Frankfurt Motor Show. Controversially, it bore more than a passing resemblance to the cheaper Boxster, being almost identical ahead of the A-pillar. Lai had spent many hours in a wind tunnel refining the car’s slippery shape and a Cd of just 0.30 was the result, down from 0.33 for the 993. An electric rear spoiler extends at 75mph, then retracts again at 37mph – Mr Lai recalls how he had to fight for the inclusion of the electrically operated rear spoiler to better manage downforce at high speeds, despite the company arguing there wasn’t enough money in the pot for this to be included. Thankfully Lai won through, and the active spoiler was included as standard in the final production specification.

More controversy lurked beneath the engine lid, though. Despite the protestations of purists, Porsche claimed the introduction of water cooling was vital to meet emissions and noise regulations. However, as 996 development chief Horst Marchart later acknowledged, cost was also a factor: “Nobody in the world had air-cooled engines except us… it took a lot of money to make special systems since we could not share technology with anyone else.”

At least the M96 motor was still a rear-mounted flat six. It displaced 3,387cc and produced 304hp at 6,800rpm, with 350Nm of torque at 4,600rpm. Four valves per cylinder featured for the first time in a mainstream 911, along with Porsche’s new Variocam adjustable camshaft timing to boost response. Headline stats were 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds and 174mph flat out. Buyers could choose a six-speed manual gearbox from Getrag or a five-speed Tiptronic auto from ZF, the latter offering clutchless manual shifts.

The 996 was 185mm longer and 30mm wider than its predecessor, with a 45 per cent stiffer chassis formed of high-strength steel. Impressively, it was 50kg lighter than a 993, too, despite the additional radiators, pumps and 20 litres of cooling water.

For the full feature on the evolution of the 996, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 167 in shops now or get it delivered to your door. You can also download the issue to any Apple or Android device. Don’t forget you can also subscribe to ensure you never miss and issue. 


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Porsche 996: GT3 Genesis

GT3: the most evocative, desirable collection of letters and numbers as you can ask for to be tacked to the rump of a 911. Add RS into the mix and that’s even more so. The GT3, as its name and subsequent RS spin-off highlights, has its tyres firmly rooted in Porsche’s racing activities. It’s enough to elevate all the cars here above the usual rhetoric spewed about the once ‘undesirable’ 996, the GT3 badge signifying something very special indeed.

There are three GT3s in the 996 generation, the Gen1 available from 1998-2001, the Gen2 coming in 2003 until 2005, with the RS spun off that between 2004 and 2005. That Gen1 car is unique among GT3s, largely because it’s the only GT3 not to have a same-generation RS model based on it, the Gen1 being Porsche’s GT3 genesis.

It’s inconceivable that you’re reading this and don’t know at least the basics surrounding the GT3. Lighter, more engaging, its creation allowing homologation of parts to allow Porsche to race the 911 to great success around the world. Actually, with the original GT3 that lighter element is a misnomer, as put the Gen1 car on the scales and it’s carrying around 30kg more mass than its base 996 Carrera relation.

Blame that on the marginally heavier G96/90 gearbox and M96/76 engine, as well as an additional engine radiator. Porsche didn’t elect to go down the lightweight panels, thinner glass route with its first GT3 model, though it did bin the rear seats in a small – 8kg – concession to mass reduction, while Sport bucket seats removed around 20kg over the standard Carrera’s pews. As a means of recompense for the weight gain, the M96/76 engine, more commonly referred to in reverential tones as ‘the Mezger’, was fitted, its specification being pure motorsport, with lightened, stronger internals to cope with the stresses of winning competition.

And what compensation, the Le Mans-winning GT1-derived, naturally aspirated 3.6-litre flat six unit was rated at 360bhp at 7,200rpm – redlining at 7,800rpm – with peak torque of 370Nm. It’s a glorious engine with enough power to allow the GT3 to reach 62mph in 4.8 seconds, 100mph in 10.2 seconds and a quoted top speed of 187mph. But it isn’t the numbers that matter, really, rather how it delivers its performance. In Walter Röhrl’s hands the first GT3 lapped the Nürburgring in 7 minutes 56 seconds – isn’t it ridiculous to think how far things have come in under 20 years? Stopping all that are 330mm cross-drilled, inner-vented discs of 330mm in diameter, grabbed by four-piston monoblock callipers.

Getting into James Samuel’s yellow Gen1 car today demonstrates exactly what Porsche intended its customers to do with their GT3s: track them. Why else would Porsche include adjustable suspension with extended-axle geometry sitting 30mm lower than standard, an adjustable rear wing and the possibility to quickly (relatively speaking here, and if you’re a race mechanic) swap out gear ratios to suit differing tracks, as well as the synchro rings? To that Porsche added differing hubs, with 10mm larger bearings over the Carrera’s 70mm ones for the greater forces racing tyres would exert. Spherical top joints more rigidly position the front suspension, the same possible at the rear if you’re off racing, the GT department adding five alternative mountings at the back for the adjustable tubular anti-roll bars.

For the full feature, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 167 in shops now or get it delivered to your door. You can also download a digital copy, featuring a bonus gallery, to your chosen Apple or Android device. 


Pour consulter l'article original et complet, cliquez ici.

Lee’s 996 Carrera diary: performance brake upgrade

You may have read from my last 996 Carrera diary entry that I was on the lookout for some twisty roads after having the excellent Bilstein PSS10s fitted. Well, it happened: I took the 911 up to Scotland for a weekend touring from Pitlochry, just above Edinburgh, across to the Isle of Skye and back down via Glencoe and Loch Lomond.

Returning to the south coast, I realised two things. First, I’d by now accumulated 5,000 miles of driving (including one track day!) in the Carrera 4 since I bought it in February, which was the point at which I’d previously said I’d treat the 996 to an oil change. Second, my brakes were crap, and needed a change.

before after

My 996 had a major service (including the obligatory oil and filter change) just before I bought the car, but I’ve since been wilfully advised by a number of specialists to change the oil at an increased rate over 996 factory service intervals, just to be on the safe side. Considering the M96 engine’s reputation with IMS issues as a case in point, I figured for the cost of a few litres of Mobil 1 and an oil filter, it’s a price worth paying. Having fresh oil will keep the engine optimally lubricated and protected, and of course there’s a chance when extracting the old oil to check for significant detritus that could hint at imminent catastrophe from an IMS failure (even though the reality is, by this stage, the news isn’t going to be good anyway!).

I booked the car in to RPM Technik to carry out the oil change. I always favour RPM when it comes to service and maintenance, and not just because that’s where I purchased the car from; the 996 911 is a real favourite at RPM and Ollie and Darren, two of the company’s directors, have 996s themselves, which means genuine empathy is guaranteed for any work undertaken. For an owner such as myself, that means a lot.


Having my car on the ramps served as a good time to upgrade the brakes, and here I went for EBC discs and pads all round (I brought these along on the day and Ollie agreed to fit them with a labour charge). EBC’s Yellowstuff pads appealed as they’re designed for fast road and occasional track use, which typifies what I use my 996 Carrera for. The discs are cast iron and made to OEM specification here in the UK, complete with drilled slots to aid heat dissipation.

The difference, already, is positively startling. I previously had to really jump on the middle pedal to get my tired factory brakes to scrub any speed, and even then brake feel was minimal (I had brake lines renewed when I bought the car and calliper pistons checked so this wasn’t a question of hydraulics). It wasn’t confidence inspiring at all.


Even though I’m still bedding in the EBC brakes – I’ve done circa 400 miles thus far – the merits of the high-friction surface on the face of Yellowstuff pads is giving me a confidence in stopping ability that should always have come with a 320hp 911 weighing 1,430 kilos. Brake pedal feel is also noticeably increased, too, for added inspiration at the wheel.

EBC claim the pads’ high friction surface improves brake effect by 30-40%, which I’d say is absolutely spot on, and they’re still very capable even from cold. EBC also promise me there’s no such ‘fall off’ from heavy brake use and while I’m yet to significantly test that, a track day at Brands Hatch in two weeks should make for a worthy baptism of fire. So far then I’m pleasantly satisfied with the performance of the brake upgrade – just as well, as stopping is important!



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Six reasons I’ve bought a Porsche 996 Carrera

It’s no secret that I’d been harbouring ambitions to get myself into a second-generation 996 since the end of last year. Fortunately, my first field assignment of 2016 was to conduct Total 911’s 996 Carrera Gen1 v Gen2 head-to-head in issue 136, and I came away from that test positively amazed by the value for money a 996 Carrera holds. So much so, in fact, that I decided I had to have one, and soon.

I eventually bought 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’. As such it didn’t come with a warranty, IMS upgrade or G-Techniq paint protection, which are customary traits of a 996 sale from RPM (where applicable).


However, the car did have RPM Technik’s 110-point inspection and boroscope (closely resembling that of the service at an OPC) and it’s since had a major service and IMS upgrade carried out at RPM. I also opted for a lightweight flywheel from the company’s revered CSR range. So, it was good to go, and I collected the car at the weekend.

In a bizarre way, long-term 996 ownership fascinates me, so I’ll be reporting on my experiences – warts n’ all – with the 996.2 C4 in the ‘Living the Legend’ owner reports section of Total 911 in each issue. To start with though, here’s six reasons that swayed me in buying a Porsche 996.

1) The 996 cabin is a vast improvement over old

Gone is the ‘shoot-from-the-hip’ placement of buttons and dials that stymies the interior experience of any air-cooled 911, replaced by a cabin that’s had clear purpose and ergonomic thought gone into it. The famous five dials on the dashboard fall neatly within the circumference of the steering wheel for the first time, aiding clarity from the driver’s point of view, while the heating system doesn’t take days on end to figure out how to use, which was seemingly a first for Porsche.


2) The 996 is great value for money

It’s by far the cheapest used 911 generation on the market, yet it’s comfortably quicker than any air-cooled Carrera before it (in terms of top speed, 0-62mph and bhp/tonne). The 996 was lavished with a healthy array of modern comforts too, and even came with switchable PSM (in later models) for added security on the road (this could of course be turned off). So, you have performance and mod cons all together in an enviable package for just a little more than a first-generation Boxster – and with a 996 you get the added prestige of entering into 911 ownership, too.


3) The 996 has great potential for modifications

Only a brave man would currently start modifying something like a 993 Turbo, in my opinion, as residual values for classics such as those are so high. However, humble values of the 996 mean modifying won’t significantly affect its resale potential. Also, parts are relatively cheap, and you can take your pick from a wide spectrum of specialists who’ve now got nearly 17 years experience in fine-tuning their products to make the great 996 even greater.


4) The 996 Carrera is a true 911

Here are the facts: a 996 Carrera is narrow-bodied (even the C4), is naturally aspirated, has a passive rear axle and has mechanically assisted steering. By and large, these are all key components that no longer ring true on any 911 currently sitting in OPC showrooms. Moreover, the 996 is petite: place a 996 Carrera next to a 991 Carrera and delight in the former’s elfin appearance – exactly how a 911 should be.

Blue Porsche 996 Carrera 4

5) The 996 Carrera is a good daily driver

Aside from those modern comforts mentioned earlier, the 996 won’t get hot in traffic like its air-cooled forebears, and there’s plenty of room in the revised boot, too, which has a deeper recess (this is only slightly more shallow on C4 examples), and body work is generally considered excellent. If you find rust on one, it’s likely down to poor accident repair work, rather than anything that can be levied at Zuffenhausen.


6) The 996’s long-term prospects are good

Let’s be honest, values of these can’t go any lower. There’s been a small spike in residual values of the 996 in recent months too, though this is largely immaterial. The fact is, the 996 is a great 911, and people are finally waking up to its merits – I am one of them. As a specialist recently remarked to me, it’s funny how the ugly duckling can turn into something of a swan, eh? I couldn’t agree more.



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