Evolution of Porsche 911: Porsche 996

Mid 1998 – 2005 Porsche 996

Porsche 996 Carrera 2
Porsche 996 Carrera 2

Porsche 996 was introduced in 1998. It was different in many ways from the venerable 911 lineage. As a matter of fact, it had very little in common with its predecessor.

For the first time, the Porsche 911 lineage, water cooling was added instead of the older air cooling system. Porsche 996 was the first water-cooled car to come with after 34 years of air-cooled engines in the 911 series. The interior was plain and wasn’t in line with the interior of the previous 911 variants.

Changing to a water-cooled engine was controversial with Porsche conservatives, who argued that this is the end of the true 911 lineage. They also criticized the plain interior which was very different from the interior of any given Porsche 993 or 964.

Porsche 996 also received major styling changes and now it shared the front fascia with the entry-level Porsche Boxter.

Porsche 996 Cabriolet
Porsche 996 Cabriolet

Development of the Porsche 996 was shared with its entry-level sibling, Porsche Boxter. Porsche Boxter was only available in roadster body style and was introduced at the same time. 

The suspension setup, the engine, and many internal mechanical components were different from the Boxter and were improved and better performing than the ones used in the entry-level Boxter.

It featured an all-new chassis platform for the first time since the original 911. In technical terms, it was a major change and a complete breakthrough from the original 911 and all its descendants like the Porsche 993, and Porsche 964.

The chassis was of high strength steel construction and it was 45% stiffer due to that. It was 50kg lighter despite having additional radiators and coolant. 

Porsche 996 Carrera mechanical components
Porsche 996 Carrera mechanical components

The multi-link rear suspension setup derived from the Porsche 993 was used for the Porsche 996 to save development costs. Porsche was facing severe financial troubles at the time and the decision to rely on the successful yet old Porsche 993 derived multi-link rear suspension system resulted in cost savings of approximately 30% in the development of the car.

1998 Porsche 996

Porsche 996 featured many changes from the previous iterations of the Porsche 911. A water-cooled engine instead of the air-cooled engines of the past, progressive development, and engineering to meet strict emission and noise regulations, priority given to improving ride quality and everyday practicality, and a four-valve system for every cylinder to get the best performance out of it were the most significant technical changes.

Porsche 996 Carrera 2
Porsche 996 Carrera 2

The exterior was also changed significantly though it still followed the same simplistic designing principles used by the developers of the original Porsche 911. The body shape was sleeker with a more raked windshield, front fascia sharing with the entry-level Boxster, a redesigned interior, and fried egg-shaped headlamps instead of the previous bug eyes.   The Porsche 996 featured 7 inches longer and 2 inches wider wheelbase.  The fried egg headlamps were influenced by the 1997 Porsche 911 GT1 race car.

Porsche 996 Coupe interior
Porsche 996 Coupe interior

The bodywork was designed by Pinky Lai under the supervision of head designer arm Lagaay.  The Porsche 996 is the first completely redesigned Porsche 911. The sleeker body style and new aerodynamical tweaks made the car achieving a drag coefficient of 0.30 Cd. 

The reason to switch from air cool to water cool engines

Porsche 996 Engine
Porsche 996 Engine

During the 1990s, Porsche was facing severe financial troubles and many financial experts believed that a takeover of the company was inevitable.

Besides that, the emission regulations were getting stricter with every passing day. Especially in the US and key EU markets like Germany, France, and the UK.

To address these issues, it was necessary to switch to a water-cooled engine layout from the signature air-cooled engine of the previous iterations of 911.

Porsche teamed up with Toyota to get an engineering consultancy to overhaul the manufacturing process of the Zuffenhausen factory to introduce mass-production techniques that would allow Porsche to carry out production processes more efficiently.

Porsche 996 Carrera
Porsche 996 Carrera

To save research and development costs, they had to share the development of the Porsche 996 with the entry-level Porsche Boxster. Sharing development and certain mechanical components would increase the efficiency of the manufacturing process as well as reducing maintenance costs.

The Porsche 996 was available in rear-wheel drive at first and with a four-wheel-drive layout later on.

Porsche 996 was available as a coupe or a cabriolet body style.

Porsche 996 Carrera Cabriolet
Porsche 996 Carrera Cabriolet
Porsche 996 Carrera Cabriolet side
Porsche 996 Carrera Cabriolet side

The Porsche 996 was equipped with a naturally aspirated 3.4-liter flat-six engine. This engine was then mated with a five-speed automatic ZF transmission, a five-speed Mercedes Benz G Tiptronic, or a six-speed manual Getrag G96/00 transmission.   

The Porsche 996 was packed with 296 horsepower.

For the 2000 model year, the standard Porsche 996 Carrera model got a performance increase and now delivered a maximum power output of 399 horsepower.

In the 2001 model year, production for the base Porsche Carrera 4 coupe in narrow-body style ended.

For the 2002 model year, the standard Porsche Carrera models underwent a new facelift to address the complaints from customers who were not pleased with owning a premium car which is sharing the front fascia of the entry-level Porsche Boxster.

The engine displacement of the engine was increased from 3.6 from the 3.4 liters across the range. This resulted in a 15-horsepower performance increase.

Porsche 996 Carrera 4
Porsche 996 Carrera 4

A new Carrera 4S model was also introduced in 2002. It featured the wide-body Turbo looks, brakes, and suspension with the previous generations Carrera 4S.

Porsche 996 Targa

Porsche 996 Targa
Porsche 996 Targa
Porsche 996 Targa
Porsche 996 Targa

The Porsche 996 Targa was introduced for the 2002 model year. It featured the greenhouse-style retractable body style which was featured for the first time in previous Porsche 964 Targa variants.

This design featured a rear glass hatch to give the driver access to the storage compartment.

2001 – 2005 Porsche 996 Turbo

Porsche 996 Turbo
Porsche 996 Turbo

The Porsche 996 Turbo was unveiled at the Frankfurt Auto show in 1999.  It was made available for sale in the US market in the summer of 2000 as a 2001 model year car.

The Porsche 996 Turbo is powered with a 1998 Le Mans-winning Porsche 911 GT1 race car-derived 3.6-liter flat-six engine, but it was now twin-turbocharged and intercooler.

The maximum performance of the car was rated at 414 horsepower at 6000rpm and a maximum torque of 415 lb-ft.

Porsche 996 Turbo
Porsche 996 Turbo

 The Porsche 996 Turbo had an all-wheel-drive layout and was available with either a six-speed manual Getrag unit or a Mercedes Benz five-speed Tiptronic transmission.

The Porsche 996 Turbo also featured the wide-body turbo looks and it was necessary to adopt this wider stance to cool the engine more efficiently and to achieve more grip and improve the overall stability of the car.

Porsche 996 Turbo
Porsche 996 Turbo

The Porsche 996 Turbo came with new bi-xenon headlamps and a fixed rear wing. It also came equipped with a VarioCam and a stability management system as standard. The bodywork was redesigned to allow airflow to three radiators upfront. The wider wheel arches were necessary to house the 18-inch alloy wheels and wider tires. 

Porsche 996 Turbo
Porsche 996 Turbo

The US-spec Porsche 996 Turbo features an electronically adjustable rear spoiler as standard. This rear spoiler rose at speeds of 76mph to improve downforce and lowered it at 36mph and lower to improve braking.

  For the 2002 model year, a new performance package was offered as an option on the Porsche 996 Turbo. This was known as the X50 package.

This X50 package included a larger K24 turbocharger and intercoolers. The package was completed with a revised ECU and a quad pipe exhaust system. This increases the power output up to 444 horsepower.

To address the complaints regarding the plain and basic interior, Porsche added some creature comforts such as a center-mounted cup holder, a glove box, and rain sensing wipers.

Porsche had to restate their performance spec due to the SAE changes for the 2003 model year. Still, the Porsche 996 Turbo was delivering 415 horsepower, and the X50 option now listed at 445 horsepower.

2005 – 2006 Porsche 996 Turbo Cabriolet

Porsche 996 Turbo Cabriolet
Porsche 996 Turbo Cabriolet

The cabriolet variant of the Porsche 996 Turbo Cabriolet was unveiled for the 2004 model year. This was the first Turbo cabriolet variant of the 911 series since the 1989 Porsche 964 Turbo Cabriolet. 

2005 – 2006 Porsche 996 Turbo S

Porsche 996 Turbo S
Porsche 996 Turbo S
Porsche 996 Turbo S Cabriolet
Porsche 996 Turbo S Cabriolet

The Porsche 996 Turbo S was available as either a coupe or a cabriolet. The Turbo S was a Porsche 996 Turbo with the X50 option as standard. It also came equipped with a six-CD changer, a PCCB, and machined aluminum-faced instruments. 

Porsche 996 GT

The Porsche 996 was used as the basis for the creation of track-ready lightweight GT variants.

1999 – 2002 Porsche 996 GT3 MK1 

Porsche 996 GT3
Porsche 996 GT3

The Porsche 996 GT3 was based on the standard Porsche 996 Carrera 4, but it was stripped of many creature comforts, and many unnecessary interior trim pieces to reduce weight.

The suspension was now stiffer, the suspension was adjustable, and the brakes were upgraded. All these resulted in better handling and better cornering. Additional front-end stiffening was added to accommodate the Carrera 4 all-wheel-drive system.

Porsche 996 GT3 engine
Porsche 996 GT3 engine

Porsche 996 GT3 MK1 was introduced in 1999 for all markets except North America.

It featured a naturally aspirated 3.6-liter flat-six engine from a Porsche 996 turbo. This engine was derived from the engine of the 1998 Le Mans-winning Porsche 911 GT1 race car. The power output was rated at 355 horsepower.

2002 – 2004 Porsche 996 GT3 MKII

Porsche 996 GT3 Mk II
Porsche 996 GT3 Mk II

The Porsche GT3 MKII was introduced for the 2002 model year following the revised mechanical and exterior. This car features improved aerodynamics and a more powerful version of the 3.6-liter engine from the GT3 MK1. This powertrain was connected to a Getrag G96/00 six-speed manual gearbox. 

The maximum power output was now 375 horsepower.

Porsche 996 GT3 RS
Porsche 996 GT3 RS
Porsche 996 GT3 RS
Porsche 996 GT3 RS

The Porsche GT3 MKII was capable of achieving 0-60mph in 4 seconds and produced a 1.03 g on the skidpad, the second-highest number ever recorded by a street-legal vehicle at the time.

 2001 – 2006 Porsche 996 GT2

Porsche 996 GT2
Porsche 996 GT2

The GT was introduced as a turbocharged variant of the Porsche 996 GT3. Unlike the all-wheel-drive GT3 variant, the GT2 was rear-wheel-drive only. A rear-wheel-drive system was chosen to save weight and to avoid any power loss through the transmission.

Additional aerodynamical body features were added to improve aerodynamic drag co-efficiency.

The twin-turbocharged system featured bigger turbochargers and intercoolers. The intake and exhaust manifolds were revised. The engine control software was reprogrammed. This engine was then mated to a Getrag G96/00 six-speed manual gearbox.

This resulted in a maximum power output of 476 horsepower at 5700rpm and a maximum torque of 472 lb-ft at 3500 to 4500rpm.

This power increase unable the car to achieve 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds, and a top speed of 196mph.

To cope with the extra power and torque, bigger and wider wheels and tires were added to the package as standard. The brakes were now replaced with heavy-duty lightweight ceramic brakes as standard.

2002 Porsche 996 GT2
2002 Porsche 996 GT2

The fixed rear wing which was made for 2003 and after seasons was a concession to the racing rules that usually outlawed adjustable aerodynamic components.

The Porsche 996 Turbo, Porsche 996 GT3, and Porsche 996 GT2 models use an aluminum crankcase of the air-cooled 911 with its original dry-sump oiling system.

The six-separate individual Nikasil lined cylinders in the engine were covered with two separate water jackets each covering a bank of three cylinders on each side of the engine. This setup adds water cooling to the crankcase originally designed for air-cooled cylinders.

2000 Porsche 996 Millennium edition.

Porsche 996 Millenium edition. Image credit @Porsche
Porsche 996 Millenium edition. Image credit @Porsche

For the 2000 model year, Porsche offered a special edition of the Porsche 996 called the Millennium Edition.

The Porsche 996 Millennium Edition was based on the Porsche 996 Carrera 4 coupe.

All were painted in Violet Chroma Flair paint with a natural leather interior and dark burr maple trim. All the cars were equipped with turbo-look polished alloy wheels.

Porsche 996 Millenium edition. Image credit @Porsche
Porsche 996 Millenium edition. Image credit @Porsche

The interior was done in natural leather and dark burr maple trim. The center console featured a number plate. The engine lid had a unique 911 badge and lettering on the door sills.

Porsche 996 Millenium edition. Image credit @Porsche
Porsche 996 Millenium edition. Image credit @Porsche

The car was available with a Mercedes Benz five-speed Tiptronic gearbox or a Getrag six-speed manual gearbox.

 Only 911 cars were made.

2004 40th Anniversary Edition

Porsche 911 2003 Carrera 3.6 Coupè 40Jahre
Porsche 911 2003 Carrera 3.6 Coupè 40Jahre

Porsche decided to unveil a limited-run variant of the Porsche 996 to celebrate the forty-year production of the Porsche 911.

Porsche 40th Anniversary Edition featured an X51 performance kit, turbo radiators, limited-slip differential, sport-tuned suspension, polished five-spoke alloy wheels, and many other unique features.

The car featured a GT Silver metallic paint job, natural gray leather interior with matching luggage set, GT3 derived side skirts, sports seats or optional power comfort seats, electronic bi-xenon headlights, special dynamic sealed panels, polished exhaust tips, special dynamic sealed panels, etc.

The power output was now 341 horsepower.

Only 1963 cars were made and this was a reference to the start of Porsche 911 production in 1963. 

Issues of the Porsche 996

Most of the Porsche 996 generation of the Porsche 911 was affected by a vulnerability in the intermediate shaft that drove their engine’s camshafts. A failure of the ball bearing within the intermediate shaft leads to catastrophic engine failure.

All the M96 engines were prone to this issue except for the Porsche 996 Turbo, Porsche 996 GT2, and Porsche 996 GT3.  

A retrofit is the only solution to address this issue.

The Porsche 996 shared its front fascia with the entry-level Porsche Boxster. Many Porsche 996 Carrera owners started to complain that their premium cars are looking like lower-priced cars. This forced Porsche to redesign the front headlamps of the Carrera for the 1992 model year. The newly redesigned headlamps were similar to the headlamps of the Porsche 993 Turbo headlamps. 

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