Our new heading The Thrill of Owning is about cars that are not only a thrill to drive, either because they are very good value, or because their future value can be expected to hold up very well, alternatively even rise. One car that firmly ranges in the first of those categories is the Porsche 996, produced between 1997 and 2006 as the successor of the fabulous 993. Looking at the classifieds in different countries today, early rear-wheel drive 996 Carreras with less than 100.000 kms on the clock can be had for around 20.000 CHF/EUR. As anyone who has driven a 996 knows, that is a true steal and there is clear reason to believe they will never be cheaper!
Most readers of this blog will be familiar with the 996 so we’ll keep it short. The new model was the 993’s successor but and in many aspects a new car – larger, roomier, more comfortable and far more practical than the old one. It was also Porsche’s first water-cooled, six-cylinder boxer engine, something that didn’t go down well with the 911 purists. For slightly more flexible owners, it did present several advantages (notably that of cheaper servicing) but more importantly, it was something that had become necessary as certain technological developments and new emission regulations were not compatible with the air-cooled boxer.
The other thing that didn’t go down well with the purists were the headlights. The Boxster had been launched one year earlier and some cost-saving genius in the marketing department came up with the not-so brilliant idea of fitting headlights in the same layout as on the Boxster to the 996. This is something that has haunted the car ever since and is today given as the main reason for the poor secondary value. We agree – the headlights are not pretty and especially on the Mk1 version until 2002 they are downright ugly. But we are talking about a pair of headlights, and as long as they light up the road in front of you when you are driving, that is about as much thought as you should given them.
The 996 was available as coupé (Carrera) and convertible in 2- and 4-wheel drive versions. Standard output was 300 hp (320 hp from 2002). The four-wheel drive Turbo (above right) was launched in -00 with 420 hp, increasing to 450 hp in the Turbo S from -05, as coupé or a very fast hair dryer. Further versions included the more hardcore, rear-wheel drive GT3 (above left) and subsequent GT 2 with up to 483 hp.
As some of you know, my fellow blogger Sven is a 911 aficionado, having owned both a Mk2 996 Carrera (with performance kit, as he is keen to point out…) and a Mk1 GT3 Clubsport (pictured right). He loved them both and praises the practicality of the “standard” 996 that he used as an everyday car. This is not something that is recommended with the hardcore driving machine GT3 CS, of it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a low-mileage one in good condition.
Which one to get?
The real bargains are the low-mileage Mk1 996’s, that even well-equipped will be yours from around 18-20′ CHF/EUR with less than 100′ kms. Many 911 drivers praise the 2-wheel drive version as a bit more agile than the 4-wheel drive, so if you have money to spare, rather put it on a cabrio if that is your thing, or on a Mk2 version, which both start at around 25′ CHF/EUR. Whether to go for the 6-gear manual or tiptronic is a matter of taste but the manual difficult to fault.
Looking at Turbos and GT3’s, they both start at around 45-50′ CHF/EUR, again for sub-100′ kms cars, and come roughly at the same price even if the cars are radically different – whereas the Turbo is comparable to the standard 996 in practicality, the GT3, standard or CS, is a pure driving machine. In terms of future value the GT3 is probably the way to go, especially the GT3 CS (if you can find one, that is…).
To put these prices somewhat in perspective, a comparable 993 (i.e. the previous, last air-cooled version, pictured left) in standard version costs about 3 times more than a standard 996, starting at 60′ CHF/EUR. The 993 is a fabulous car, but it is not 3 times better than a 996.
Whether the early 996’s will also start to see their value raise is difficult to say, notably given the quite large number of cars produced. But there is clearly reason to believe they will never be cheaper than today. In terms of driving and value for money, you could argue it is one of the best deals on the market, and one that is very hard to resist!