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Porsche index: 991.1 Carrera S

HISTORY & SPEC

Launched alongside the Carrera, the S made its debut at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show and went on sale in December of that year. It was instantly apparent that Porsche had taken a slightly different path with its new Neunelfer, the relatively compact dimensions of the 997 making way for something notably wider and longer.

Sitting on a wheelbase stretched by 100mm, this was an altogether roomier, more luxurious proposition, and it’s one that not all 911 devotees were comfortable with – more than a few voices accused the new model of being more cruiser than sports car. Thankfully the flat six sitting in the tail would appease most critics, the Carrera’s 350hp, 3.4-litre unit making way for the larger 3.8 boasting 400hp and 440Nm of torque. Naturally aspirated, it featured direct fuel injection and VarioCam Plus and was linked to a new seven-speed manual gearbox or an optional PDK unit.

The manual has come in for criticism since, but the double-clutch unit was impressive, getting the Carrera S to 62mph in 4.3 seconds and on to 187mph. However you view this car those are impressive numbers, and they were little different for the Cabriolet variant that arrived in March 2012 wearing a price tag of £89,740.

This was certainly a cleaner, more efficient 911, with Porsche claiming that fuel consumption and CO2 emissions had been reduced by 14 per cent; new technological features such as auto stop/start, better thermal management for the engine and a coasting function for the PDK ‘box all coming to the 991’s aid.

Adopting electrical assistance for the steering no doubt shaved further fractions when it came to efficiency, but it was at the expense of yet more criticism in some quarters. In reality, it’s a good system. As for the rest of the chassis specification, it was a more-than-tasty recipe that featured PASM and Porsche Torque Vectoring as standard, along with uprated and iconic ‘Big Red’ brakes: compared to the Carrera there were larger discs and Monobloc fixed front calipers with six rather than four pistons. 

There was the option to spend plenty of cash on further enhancements, too, from the likes of Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control and Sport Chrono to special interior finishes and £3,000 of Burmester hi-fi. With plenty of buyers happy to indulge when it came to options, there are rich pickings to be had for today’s buyers.

Like its immediate predecessors, just four years were allowed to pass before the Gen2 model arrived, bringing with it the end of natural aspiration. Today the 991.1’s specification marks a good link between the more classic-oriented 997s and the tech-laden drive of the 992.

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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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rise of the Porsche 997

The classifieds can be a dangerous place to spend time. It never used to be so easy, either. As a kid I’d scour the Sunday Times, latterly Auto Trader and Top Marques, though the internet’s killed that. I don’t look too often, but writing here it’s an occasional, occupational hazard.
A potentially dangerous one, too. I’ll happily admit I’d missed how much of a bargain the 997 is these days. As a strong advocate of the 996, I’d pretty much ruled its successor out. Not because I’m not a fan – quite the opposite – just that I was under the impression it is still too new to be affordable, at least in my world. Editor Sibley’s call to write this somewhat changed that.

As I type this, on my other screen there’s an advert for a 2005 997 Carrera 2 manual Coupe for a fiver under £22,500. When did that happen? That’s the first one I’ve found, and I’ve not even looked that hard. While I and plenty of others have been banging on about hoovering up 996s while they’re still cheap, the depreciation curve’s turned the 997 game on its head. Want one? I sure as hell do.

Not to take away from the 996, but the 997 moved the game on significantly. The 996’s close association, both visually and technically, with the Boxster did it no favours among many. That it introduced water to the mix only made its task more difficult. The 997 reasserted the 911 as a more distinct offering after the 996 had softened the blow of the manner by which the 911 is cooled (technically by water, but then that water is cooled by air…).

The 996 was a necessity, creating the format from which the 911 line would follow to this day. That the 996, and in particular 996.2s, have been creeping up in value in recent years underlines a growing acceptance, though we’re at a point now where the 996 and 997 prices are converging, and in many cases the 997 is cheaper. It’d be a staunch 996 owner who’d assert their preference over the newer car. On looks alone the 997 has the 996 licked, but underneath it’s a significant step up technologically.

For for full story on why the 997.1 is the best-value 911 you need to buy right now, get your copy of Total 911 issue 171 in shops now, or get it delivered to your door. Alternatively, you can download the issue to any digital 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. 

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