PORSCHE 911 996 REVIEW

By 1993 the Porsche 911 formula was well and truly tried and tested, so it came as no surprise that the brand new 911 993 looked very much like its predecessors. Though most elements were the same (rear-wheel drive, rear-mounted air-cooled flat six), there was also a great deal that was different. The bodywork was completely changed for a start. Though it looked like the 964 from a distance, trained eyes are drawn to the much fatter rear wheel arches, teardrop mirrors and the retractable rear wing, penned by Englishman Toni Hatter. The bumpers were also smoothed off, as was the style at the time. Despite the subtle external changes, the roof panels and doors were kept the same, showing the close similarity with earlier models.
The styling changes weren’t all for show though. The wider rear arches, aggressively cool as they were, were actually a requirement due to the new all-alloy subframe, complete with alloy suspension arms. This modification helped to increase high-speed stability, and the new suspension did much to address the 911’s tendency for oversteer – a well-noted problem on previous iterations of the model.
The changes went deeper still, with the 993 being the first production Porsche to be fitted with a 6-speed manual gearbox. A Tiptronic option was also available, the slick 4-speed transmission capable of smooth and quick shifts – definitely worth considering if you do a lot of driving in the city. Changes were also made to the optional 4-wheel drive system that was available with the 964. The new system did away with one of the three differentials, replacing it with a viscous coupling system that reduced weight and improved handling characteristics.
While the 911’s trademark flat-six engine stayed at the same capacity at the 964, its 3.6-litres now translated to 272bhp, largely due to an improved management system and better exhaust. However, the cream of the crop was the RS version. As with previous iterations, the engine was bored-out over the capacity of the standard model, this time to 3.8-litre. This was enough for Porsche to tease out 300bhp.
The most powerful production 911 of this era, however, was again the 911 Turbo, only this time it put out over 400bhp. Not only did it offer staggering performance, it was the first production Porsche to feature a twin-turbocharged engine, and was also the first 911 Turbo to be fitted with permanent four-wheel drive.
The 993 was a special car not only for its looks and performance, but for what it represented the end of an era. The 993 was to be the last air-cooled Porsche to ever be made, bringing to a close a chapter of motoring that is looked back on with great fondness for sports car fans. As the last ‘true’ 911, the 993 is valued strongly, with the Turbo version being top of the pile. A decent example will set you back upwards of £30,000, with the sky being the limit for especially low mileage examples. Though reliable, we would advise you to get a specialist to check over any potential purchase. Engine rebuild costs can be hugely expensive.

VITAL STATISTICS 
ENGINE 3600cc/6-cyl/DOHC
POWER 281bhp@6100rpm
TORQUE 252lb ft@5250rpm
TOP SPEED 171mph
0-60MPH 5.4secs
ECONOMY 24mpg
GEARBOX 6-speed manual

ROAD TEST
It's the brilliance of the steering that really defines this car. It didn't promise much initially, feeling distant and unresponsive at the off. But up the ante, and really drive this 993-generation Porsche 911, it wakes up, and you begin to feel at one with the car as it settles into its comfort zone. But then the 911 is a car of contrasts - and has been in each successive generation.
These mixed messages start with the interior. It's easy to be less than impressed at first acquaintance. The Spartan dashboard comprises an oval bank of instruments, a radio (in front of the passenger) and that's about it. The pedals feel offset towards the centre of the car - much like the steering wheel, and once you've adopted the necessary seating position, you wrestle with the vast turning circle, rubbery steering and those broad hips, which make placing it tough in tight spaces.
On the plus side, it's beautifully-trimmed, and while headroom is at a premium, there's plenty of wiggle-room for your elbows and ample legroom for the driver. But 911 veterans know that the urban grind is not for these cars; what you need is a winding A-road, is its natural hunting ground.
Point it at a flowing ribbon of tarmac, squeeze the throttle, and that rasping flat-six begins to sing. It's then you find that controls have been set-up perfectly for the driver in a hurry - almost as if Porsche had applied more than 30 years of development to get you down this road as quickly as possible.
It's not quite perfect, though. The floor-hinged throttle is lower than the brake, making heel-and-toe shifts near-impossible, save under hard braking. Otherwise it gels supremely well.
As familiarity mounts, you learn to confidently place it, inch-perfect, on the road. The lack of headroom feeling like a race helmet rather than a roof.
The oft-debated position of the engine, isn't as mad as some would have you believe. Having all that weight at the back means the nose is lighter, more delicate and easier to point. Treat it with respect and factor in some common sense, and the 993 is far from being a widow-maker.
Once you master the correct technique, and get the most from the 993, it comes together and truly begins to make sense. Any reservations simply melt away. And you begin to see the 911's seemingly glacial evolution for what it is: not a result of a lack of imagination, but a classic sports car that has undergone relentless improvements over the decades.
The 993 is, in short, the pinnacle of Porsche's air-cooled development. It's exciting, visceral and an all-time classic. In a very real sense, it could well be the greatest Porsche 911 of the lot. 
 
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Produced from 1998 to 2005, the Porsche 911 996 carried on the 911 dynasty that started ruling in 1963 – but it did things slightly differently. 1998 marked the end of the air-cooled era, and the 996 was the first 911 to feature an engine that was liquid-cooled. Despite this change, continuity was the order of the day in other areas. Styling, in particular, stayed true to Porsche’s tried and tested formula – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Subtle cues were added as a nod to modernity though, most notably the larger headlights. The oval headlamps of previous models had been a trademark of the brand since the 60s, but by the mid 90s were looking decidedly dated.
 
While it was outwardly very similar to previous 911s, the 996 was in fact the first 911 not to use any significant components from the previous model – largely due to the new water-cooled engine. Some things never change, though, and the car still had its engine at the back, and it was still a flat-six. In naturally aspirated guise it produced a handy 296bhp.
 
After two years of strong sales Porsche introduced the eagerly anticipated Turbo model, which, following the trend set by the 993, featured a twin-turbocharged engine – this time 3.6-litres. The performance figures were impressive 420bhp and a 0-60mph time of 4.2 seconds. If this wasn’t enough raw power there was even a ‘X50’ option that became available in 2002, using larger turbochargers and a revised management system it produced a whopping 450bhp. These cars are still highly prized among enthusiasts, though they share performance stats with the Turbo S, which arrived in 2005.
 
Far and away the most desirable models of the range are the fabled GT2 and GT3 variants – lightweight pseudo-racers based on the 996 platform. The GT2 was the most powerful version, offering a staggering 489bhp. All this power was channeled through the rear wheels, as the GT2 class of racing mandated rear-wheel drive only. It was light as well, being essentially a stripped-out Carrera 4S. Both GT2 and GT3 were offered with much stiffer suspension and no creature comforts in order to save weight. Six-speed manual transmissions were the order of the day; these were essentially race cars for the road, after all.

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