The Misunderstood Modern Water-Cooled 911
The Porsche 996 brought the water-cooled 911 to the masses. To many Porsche owners that in itself made it a ‘lessor’ 911. Then Porsche tried to bring a modern looks to the exterior and brought to the public the ugliness set of front-headlights ever placed on a Porsche 911. And then finally the Porsche 996 came with a terminally-flawed design on the intermediate-shaft bearing (IMS) which can destroy your engine. That is not a mis-print, yes the IMS can destroy your engine at any time, leaving you with a shell of a car.
These circumstances have made the 996 priced inferior in the 911 used car market today. In addition there were many of these cars made. The Porsche 996 came out in a great market at the time and people at first embraced the new Porsche for its technology, speed and prestige. Porsche also released a horde of models based off the 911 model, and today there are so many models to choose front. The best ones to buy are the mid-model refreshed models from 2002 and on. These cars had new updated headlights (still ugly to many), updated interior parts so it wasn’t matching what was found in the cheaper Boxster and bumped up performance. And most importantly it brought the Porsche 996 C4s, which may be the instant classic of the lineup.
So some of the reasons the Porsche 996 did not succeed in the used market space. There are literally tons of 996 on the used market for sale – which is great if you want to become a 1st time Porsche owner. Second it was water-cooled, which shocked the previous air-cooled 911 buyers. 3rd, the car came with a bad exterior design and the narrow body style (people just like wide body 911s, and Porsche followed up with the successor 997). 4th, the engine had numerous issues including the infamous intermediate shaft bearing issue (or known as IMS). Just Google this term and you’re find all you need to know about it. Unfortunately many potentials will not buy one specifically for the fear of a blown engine due to IMS. A new engine is easily 20k. Many owners have posted war stories on how the car just died with the sudden IMS issue. Lastly, the performance didn’t out-shine the competition of it’s time (i.e. the e46 M3 or the Corvette).
But the silver-lining is that these cars are very cheap to buy. Its highly recommended to get a pre-purchase-inspection (PPI) on any Porsche 996 you are looking to buy especially for the IMS and the RMS (rear seal). The high-lights of this model is the Porsche 996 C4S and the Porsche 996 Turbo.
The Porsche 996 C4s has the same suspension and bodywork of the Turbo but has the standard 320 hp engine. But it drives very well, and the rear is very wide and has the classic wide-strip reflector that Porsche owners love. Again, it will suffer from IMS, so you need to get that checked out if you will buy one.
The Porsche Turbo is a Turbo – its the best and fastest 911 of its model year. And it does not have the same engine as the other 996, so the IMS is not an issue. But due to the stigma placed on the 996 line-up, the Porsche 996 Turbo is very affordable and may be the super-car deal of the decade. Brand new, these cars went for 150k but now can be brought for 50k or less. And you are talking about a car that has 420 hp, powered to all 4-wheels.
The sleeper hit is the Porsche 996 GT3 which is the race-focused model in the lineup. Again, it does not use the same engines as the rest of the lineup and does not suffer from IMS. But these cars are very high-strung and race-spec so they don’t make great daily drivers.
With such a collection of models to choose from, you will have a great time picking a Porsche 996.