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owner report

Total 911’s real-world owner reports

Total 911’s ‘Living the Legend’ section is a popular feature of each issue, providing readers with real-world owner reports from our global band of contributors who not only live and breathe Porsche 911, they own them, too. Below is an excerpt from three of our dozen-strong lineup, whose models cover the entire breadth of the model’s 55-year history. You can catch their latest escapades in each issue of Total 911 – take out a subscription and get each issue delivered to your door.

 

Contributor: Tony McGuiness Porsche 911 model: 991.1  GT3 & 997.2 GT3 RS Dates acquired: December 2014 & February 2011

It is widely known that some 991.1 GT3s have had engine issues. In fact, in November of last year, GT3 owners including yours truly received a letter from Porsche stating that effective at once, the limited warranty on the GT3 internal engine components continues for ten years or up to 120,000 total miles, whichever occurs first.

This could become very important for me because last month on one of my usual drives through San Diego County, the GT3 lost power and began to run quite rough. I was able to drive it back home but clearly it wasn’t good.

I should also mention that occasionally on start-up the car could blow a huge plume of bluish-white smoke. It is worth noting that it isn’t unusual for a GT car to blow a small puff of smoke on start-up; it can be considered a charming characteristic of a GT3. However, my GT3, along with other owner’s GT3s, can occasionally blow a massive plume of smoke. When it does occur it can cover several cars parked behind in a huge cloud of smoke, which not only is embarrassing but obviously concerning.

Hoen Porsche in Carlsbad examined the GT3 and found the following: “Noted rough idle. Found fault misfire on cylinder six. Swap spark plug from cylinder six to cylinder four. Delete faults. Restarted engine, check engine light came on. Found misfire fault for cylinder four. Reinstalled spark plug from cylinder four, removed and replaced spark plug from cylinder six. Deleted faults. Turned on engine, noted check engine light is still on. Performed a second evaluation. Ran faults. Found fault for misfire on cylinder three active. Removed and swapped spark plugs from cylinder three to one and one to three. Deleted faults, turned on vehicle, found check engine light still on. Ran faults, found misfire on cylinder one active. Reinstalled original spark plug to cylinder one, removed and replaced the spark plug from cylinder three. Deleted faults. Started vehicle, no check engine light on. Performed a post evaluation and vehicle ran well.”

Porsche also found light oil in cylinder two which they consider to be within parameters according to the report. I can unequivocally state that the amount of smoke the GT3 can randomly discharge is in no way normal. Unless, of course, it was a battleship trying to hide under a smokescreen! Essentially, two spark plugs were replaced. This engine episode, of course along with the massive plumes of smoke, are very concerning to me, and not isolated occurrences. I have learned similar events have happened to other GT3 owners that led to Porsche replacing their engines. It would definitely seem that Porsche has extended the engine warranty for a reason. I will now video each engine start-up. This is unfortunate but something I will have to do. I truly hope that my GT3 ownership does not take a turn for the worse, and I am forced to report these issues each month. I will keep Total 911 readers posted!

 

Contributor: Joe Croser Porsche 911 model: 997.2 Turbo Date acquired: December 2015

My OPC Extended Warranty ran out in May and I didn’t renew. It wasn’t an easy decision – the OPC warranty is widely regarded as the best – but it was the right decision for me. After over two years and more than 8,000 miles I think I know my car well; I’ve seen it from all angles in various stages of undress and it’s never skipped a beat. Indeed, if ever there was a car I should worry less about it is (fingers crossed) probably this one, especially after filling the gearbox and engine with Millers Oils finest NT+ lubricants to reduce friction and improve longevity.

But it wasn’t risk which tipped the scales in favour of dropping the warranty, it was reward. You see, to truly enjoy my car I have made some essential mods. In late-summer 2017 I added the SharkWerks exhaust to transform the sound of the 3.8 flat six (issue 159). In the autumn I added the revolutionary DSC V1 PASM upgrade from TPC Racing to make my suspension truly adaptive (issue 160), and then as winter turned to spring I added Rennline radiator grills to protect and preserve my radiators and condensers from damage and debris (issue 165). Finally, as my old tyres were ready for a change, I had a new set of Michelin Pilot Sport 4Ss installed (issue 166). While the 4Ss in my size are without a doubt the best wet and dry tyre on the market, the tyres in my size remain without an N-Rating from Porsche, which means that my car will not pass the 111-point check with them wrapped around my alloys.

My mate Ben calls this the ‘opportunity cost’: to renew the warranty I would have to forego other opportunities to improve my car or incur additional costs to take off and refit these aftermarket improvements before and after an inspection. Even then I’d run the risk that a claim would be declined if the cause pointed to a third-party product as the issue or contributor. My car is better to drive with the PASM upgrade, the grippy Michelin tyres and the PSE-like exhaust sound. And with the reassurance of the Rennline grills I no longer fear for the integrity of the fragile rads and condensers hidden behind the front bumper. It’s a liberating thing and it’s the way it should be.

I have now owned this car for longer than any of its previous keepers, completing more miles in it than anyone else. It really is ‘my car’ for me to use as I see fit. I am not merely preserving it for its next owner; I am configuring it for my enjoyment, and I am now beyond being told by the Porsche Warranty company what I can and cannot do to it. I bought my car to drive. And drive it I shall, with a big grin from ear to ear.

 

Contributor: Lee Sibley Porsche 911 model: 996 Carrera 4S Date acquired: April 2017

Remember that KW V3 kit I brought home around three months ago? Well, after finally sorting a mysterious engine noise (which resulted in a need for a new auxiliary belt and water pump) and getting sidetracked with restoring my ‘Big Red’ brake callipers, at last I was ready for a switch-up in suspension.

For fitting I took my 996 along to Matt Samuel at ZRS Engineering. Matt is the brother of fellow columnist, James. My decision to go to Matt for the work came down to three key factors: as an owner of a 996.1 C4 himself he’s attuned to the workings of a 911; as 2013 British Drift champion he certainly knows all about car handling and control; and in running a small, independent business, I know exactly who’s going to be undertaking the work on my beloved Neunelfer.

I rocked up to Matt’s premises in Poole, Dorset early on the Saturday morning, and the man I would soon realise is nothing short of an engineering whizz soon got cracking. The car was promptly in the air, wheels off, front driveshafts popped off and factory struts whipped out. From here it was a case of fitting KW’s new front drop links to the KW front struts, plus top mounts. It’s a good idea to replace top mounts when fitting new struts, but luckily for me the rears were fine, while Matt had a spare set of very nearly new top front mounts from James’ 997.1 Turbo (cheers mate!), which is an identical part. Incidentally, Matt also tells me a 997 Turbo top mount is cheaper from Porsche than a 996 C4S, despite their striking similarity…

With top mounts and drop links affixed the KW coilovers were installed. Matt had the coilovers set at the height KW delivered them, but after a test drive found the car to be too low, promptly raising the 996 by 10mm at the front and 20mm at the back to give a slightly ‘raked’ stance. “The springs will need a bit of time to settle, so when you’ve burned through a tank of fuel, come back to me for a final tweak,” he said. It was at this point Matt earned my admiration: whereas others would have wanted to get the job done, the car out the door and the money in the bank, Matt’s diligence to getting the task at hand absolutely right really struck a chord with me. We agreed to leave the bump and rebound on KW’s ‘basic’ settings – they are 16-way adjustable – and have a play with the car as the miles roll along.

So how does it handle? Well I’m just about to complete that tank of fuel Matt has advised I burn through, so I’m due to revisit for a final tweak before a good geo. For road use the front is great, it feels supple enough to be palatable on our bumpy British B-roads while ensuring the front wheels stick stubbornly to the asphalt. The back, though, will need looking at, as it’s too harsh at slow speeds – the sensation is akin to M030, which I’ve always found too crashy on the road. I’ve noticed the car has also dropped slightly in ride height, so it’ll need raising, I’m estimating by around 10mm. I’ll report more on the finished article next issue, but for now I’m mega happy to have these KW V3s on the C4S and have been left so impressed by Matt’s excellent work.

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R v GT3 v Carrera T: Revival of the manual 991s

What a difference a few short months can make. For a time it looked like the 991 generation was threatening the very existence of a manual gearbox in a Porsche 911 altogether. Unwanted alterations to the new stick shift, twinned with the prominence of PDK, lead some to believe the company was at one point shaping up for a future solely dedicated to auto-shifting sports cars, similar to events at some of its rivals.

While this ‘death of the manual’ movement has raged like a fire through the workshops of other automotive manufacturers, nobody really expected the flames to be fanned as far as the doors of Zuffenhausen. After all, a Porsche has always been about style over outright speed – exemplified by the company’s time-honoured tradition of placing the tachometer and not the speedometer in the centre of the 911’s five dials. It’s how you get there, not how fast.

And yet, as is well documented, it was the 991 generation which began to change the 911’s relationship with the manual gearbox from the get-go. Upon launch at the tail end of 2011, enthusiasts found the six-speed stick shift in the 997.2 replaced by an all-new gearbox for the 991.1, which featured an additional seventh ratio. Conceptually something of a modern-day overdrive gear, this seventh ratio was exceedingly tall, intended for cruising on motorways or the Autobahn, all the while keeping engine revs low and thus improving the new 911’s MPG return.

On paper these changes made sense, but in reality enthusiasts struggled to adapt to the feel of the seven-speed shifter, it unnecessarily clunky and lacking a directness through each gate which the 997’s unit had mastered so wonderfully. Somewhere beneath that protracted H-pattern, Porsche’s slick stick shift had seemingly been lost.

Then the arrival of Porsche’s first 991-generation GT car in 2013 gave rise to another revelation. The GT3 was presented for the first time with a PDK-only transmission, Porsche telling Total 911 in issue 99 at the time: “There’s no chance of a manual gearbox in the future.” The PDK-only GT3 RS that followed went some way to hammering home the point, which left many enthusiasts wondering what future lay ahead for the manual gearbox in a Porsche.

Alas, we know how the script developed from there. A wave of appreciation for manual gearboxes (some might even have called it a public outcry) brought about the Carrera S-engined Cayman GT4 in 2015, before the emphatic arrival of the 991 R in 2016 as the 911’s saviour of the stick shift.

The R proved Porsche’s GT department was prepared to listen to its customers, yet the car’s exclusivity (just 991 were produced worldwide)
meant only a few could benefit from this significant U-turn in company policy. Porsche again listened, unveiling the 991.2 GT3 last year with PDK but, crucially, a six-speed manual gearbox was available as a no-cost option.

The company went further still. For those who couldn’t get their hands on this latest prize GT car, Porsche presented the Carrera T: essentially a pared back and driver-honed version of its base Carrera 911. The line-up was thus complete, with stick shift available, at last, throughout the entire contemporary model range.

So, these are the crusaders; reviving the spirit and flair of the manual gearbox, this the crucial ingredient in any sports car that wishes to be associated with any notion of an analogue, purist drive. The big question, of course, is what is the driving experience on offer from all three?

For the full article, including expert buying tips for each 911 Cabriolet model, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 168 in shops now or get it delivered directly to your door via here. Alternatively you can download the issue to any Apple or Android device. 

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Lee’s 996 Carrera 4S Diary: new brakes and tyres verdict

So that’s how a 996 C4S is supposed to stop! I mentioned last month I had discs and pads replaced all round on my Porsche 911 after the items present when I bought the car were looking very tired. I got the new parts from VW Heritage’s newly-created Heritage Parts Centre and have now had a chance to bed them in. I am so impressed. The C4S now stops with the ability I’d expect from a set of Porsche’s ‘big red’ brakes and has transformed the way I drive the car. In short, I have more confidence in the 911, and can drive it harder as a result – as we all know, the harder you push a Porsche 911, the more you get back from it.

I also replaced the worn Continental tyres for a set of N3-rated Michelin Pilot Sport 2s. A few people have since asked me why I didn’t get a set of the newer PS4s, but the honest answer is there weren’t any available in my size when I needed them, so PS2s it was. Again, I am immensely impressed by my new rubber.

500 miles in, in comparison to the Continental Contact Sports, the Michelins are noticeably quieter, which is great for me as I wrack up a lot of miles, plus the Michelins are simply superb in the wet – I’ve not come across better for a 996. If the PS4’s can build on that, I already know what tyres I’m getting next, though I do note the PS2s have a slightly quieter rating. In the dry, there’s not a lot between the Michelins and Continentals (for fast road driving at least) but I’d love to try a track day to see how they differ at greater speeds and temperatures in them. Any excuse…

I’ve also had the C4S back at Porsche Centre Bournemouth for its annual service, this one being a major/72,000 mile service. We’re lucky that in the UK we have a broad selection of very good independent specialists that in the past I’ve had little hesitation in using, however my current 911 has an immaculate service record at Porsche main dealers and I’ve decided it’s important for me to uphold that for the sake of its value. As ever, the Centre didn’t let me down, even sending me before and after pics of the various parts, consumables and sundries being replaced on the 996.

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