I had already put a deposit on the 996, and paid for a PPI prior to even driving it, and all along, it was instinct that drew me towards the car. Before I can continue with the review, I thought it would only make sense to say a few words about my background with cars. Unlike Suren, who gets to drive quite a few cool Porsches every single day, this was a first for me. Since I can’t compare it to a Porsche, I’ll use my last performance car instead. She was the mean, and not so lean 2011 Mitsubishi Evolution X. The Evo was my first sports car in many years. After a horrendous accident with my 1995 Trans Am, I knew I needed to hang up my sports car hat until I was older. In hindsight, I wish I knew about all the driver's training schools that were available, but this was before the internet was available in every nook and cranny of the big city. I wanted my car to be a proper blend of performance and luxury, and I found what I was looking for in the 911.
As mentioned in my previous post, I wanted to get back to basics with the 996. My 911 fits this perfectly, and the luxury features it does have are well concealed. I didn’t even realize the car came with auto windows until I accidentally activated them. I sat there like a kid for the next 5 minutes trying to make it happen again, up, down, up, down. After digging into the manual, it turned out to be relatively easy- just quickly double tap the switch to make it go automatically in either direction (in the later models, it was changed to a single quick tap). The kid in me was ecstatic! After wearing down my window motors some more, I stopped and looked up. I stared at the sunroof for a brief second before engaging it the same way. It was like I was engaging hyper-drive on the Millennium Falcon, and the most exciting bit was that the sunroof was still fully functional! In case you don’t know, many 996 model 911s suffer from a variety of electrical gremlins which surface over the life of the car, and the sunroof is one of the most frequently reported points of failure. I found another feature in a similar fashion, as I noticed my horn would randomly blip when I locked the door. This is Porsche’s way of saying “Hey dummkopf, you left the console open again!”
Finding features like this every now and again makes the car feel newer than it really is, and leaves the owner more satisfied in the purchase. While I think it’s pretty cool that Porsche packed two features into one inconspicuous button, it left me wondering just how many such features would it take before it was a nuisance. While the occasional Easter egg is certainly fun, having to sit there like a detective from an Agatha Christie novel to uncover each feature isn’t exactly my definition of “fun”. That brings me to the “Coolant Warning Light”, which uses four indications for one little orange light with no writing:
1. Engine coolant level too low -- light flashes slowly (0.5 Hz)
2. Engine compartment temperature too high -- light flashes slowly (0.5 Hz) (engine compartment blower might be faulty)
3. Engine coolant temperature too high -- light is lit; pointer on the right
4. Temperature sensor at water outlet faulty -- light flashes rapidly (1 Hz); pointer on the right
It’s a sad leftover from the OBD1 days, when one had to decipher the code through intense concentration. Miss a blip, and you got yourself the wrong code. Similar story here, the light is just a bit nonsensical for a car that was designed for the 21st century. A simple written dash light, or two, would have been far more convenient. And while it may not seem like much, I can’t just carry on with a review without saying anything negative about a car. Suren told me of another hidden feature he had found, that the cruise control shuts off at 145mph… still yet to try that.
Moving on from the hidden features, let’s go over a few of the more obvious ones that drew my attention. The digital oil level indicator can also be very handy, just one of those that I didn’t know existed. The oil level gauge, in my opinion, should be standard on all performance cars. Too bad Porsche decided to do away with the dipstick on the newer cars, because having one of those is always going to be better than just having a digital gauge. Dipsticks break, and can be replaced for under 15 dollars. When an oil level sender for a gauge breaks, best believe that it will definitely cost more than 15 dollars to remedy.
While the Evo had more raw power than the 996, the computer did everything for you. It truly is the poor man’s super car (until you get to the GTR price range). However, the Evo is a car built for lap times, while the 996 is more of a car to enjoy for what it is. Both, the Evo and the 996 aren’t much of anything special on paper. However, 0-60 times and top speed figures aren’t the reason I purchased the 996. In my experience, all these computer enhancements that are meant to compensate for the driver's mistakes take away from the definition of a “sports car”. I don’t want to be in the matrix, I just want a fun car to enjoy in the canyons, or for dodging cones on an airstrip, and maybe an occasional track day. I want a car that won’t do everything for me, and that will make me pay for (and learn from) my mistakes, much like an E30 or a Miata does.
The gearing in the 996 definitely helps the performance, as I’ve never had a car that I could achieve over 100mph in 3rd gear. I could only get to 86mph in the Evo, and even then it sounded like I was beating every inch out of it. It was clear that Porsche had the quick “point A to point B on the Autobahn” cruises in mind when setting the gear ratios up. I haven’t hit top speed yet, but I do believe it can get there well before the Evo. It just seems to always want more. The shifting of the 996 is very smooth and precise. What little shifting problems I did have, I dismissed them as driver error. The 996 communicates with the driver very differently from other cars, and it will not warn you before biting your head off if you mess up in a corner. It isn’t scary, per se, but it will kill you if you don’t take it seriously.
Handling and Braking
The 996 sticks to the ground unbelievably well, even in the rain. The on-ramps and off-ramps are just as fun as in the Evo. This 911 definitely gives you that needed feedback to keep that heavy behind from twerking too hard, although the front does come loose when the tires are cold. A couple of weeks of ownership in, I took her to the playground- the Carolina Motorsports Park. I love this track, as it’s all about proper braking and aggressive cornering. Every car is tested to the absolute limit here, corner after corner.
I mean, this is what everyone does after buying a new car, right? What’s a better way to learn the limits of your new steed other than to take it straight to the racing circuit and beat the living hell out of it? Looking back after the first couple of laps, the Evo made me feel almost too confident behind the driver’s seat, so much so that this track scared me for the first time I was in the 996. I got more bite from the Evo’s Brembos, but the 996 was about on-par, especially considering the fact that the 996 is 12 years older, and could use a brake service. Keep in mind that the 996 is nearly 600 lbs lighter than the heavy Mitsu. The handling is on par with the Evo, and the car is very planted through the corners. In my personal experience, the car was very neutral, and had little to no tendency for oversteer.
The seats are wrapped in leather, and are very comfortable. Upon my initial entry into the cabin, I found that everything was relatively well made and all the parts were mounted well. It wasn’t until I installed my muffler deletes that I realized how easily some of these parts tend to fall off. That brings me back to my first post regarding a few things missing on the original PPI. My wizard of a Porsche mechanic found a few other issues with the car after the first track day. Here are some of the issues that the PPI revealed on my car:
• Highside horn not working
• Front rotors were shot.
• Wrong coolant in car (blue/green color)
• Very slight oil seep on Bank 2 valve cover
• Driver's side muffler making a rattle - bolts
I had the dealer replace the rear rotors and pads, and in addition, they had the expensive coolant flush done because the 996 takes as much coolant as it takes fuel to feed an RV. After putting on a good five thousand miles, I decided to do the 60k service. I knew the previous PPI said that a major service has been performed at 56k, but why the hell would they use the wrong coolant? I needed the peace of mind. The 60k service is basically just a tune up: spark plugs, oil change, and a couple of filters, nothing drastic (or so I thought). After many calls, I received quotes ranging from $900 to $1700. I started to browse some of the forums, and after a while, I called one mechanic I found online. I called him a number of times, and he didn’t answer the phone once. After this disappointing attempt, I figured I’ll go ahead and down a beer or two, but before finishing my first one, he called back. $450 later, my 60k service was done with a free tour of all the beautiful automobiles in his garage. As he sat back vaping, he told me the following:
• Exhaust is bad enough to need to be replaced.
• The slight oil seep is due to the Air-Oil separator needing to be serviced- nothing major, but more serious than I originally assumed.
• Aero is missing on the underside. I asked him if it was important. After letting out a huge cloud of smoke, he said “It helps the aerodynamics of the car and improves the fuel economy, bro”. I’m sure Suren will clue me in on what the hell he is talking about. I love the new mechanic, but sometimes I feel like I’m in Pineapple Express and find it hard to interpret what Yoda is telling me.
Other than the above, he gave me a clean bill of health, and made me confident that I made a good purchase. I’ve even been offered more for the car than I paid for it, but of course, it is not for sale. I used the excuse of “well, my exhaust is bad” to go ahead and install the previously mentioned muffler deletes. Not only does the car sound absolutely menacing now, but the weight savings in the back are phenomenal. I bet dragging a dead lithuanian man from that Top Gear episode would have been easier than dragging out each one of those big mufflers. The second unexpected benefit is the able to have the 996 voice your opinion. It gets to be extra handy when there’s a Toyota piece of shi… I mean Prius is cruising at 10 under the speed limit in the left lane on the highway, with nowhere to maneuver around them (yes they have the family stick figures on the back window). I tell the 996 to alert them of our presence by dropping it from 6th to 4th. Seconds later, I see the inviting turn signal followed by a swift lane change… absolutely glorious!
My intention was to make the 996 my weekend car, but just like a good relationship, she changed my ways. For now it’s going to be my daily driver, that is until winter comes. She continues to surprise me more and more, day after day, and I’m more and more excited to drive her places. I don’t mind the rock chips, I don’t mind the worn tires and the wasted brake pads. The sound that the car makes when traveling through a tunnel at high RPMs is enough by itself to convince me to keep this beauty. This car is really undeserving of the flack that so many elitist Porsche owners give it, and it most certainly does not deserve people like Suren saying things like “oh, that’s not a 911”, because while the chassis code may be 996, in my opinion, it’s as much of a 911 as any of the iterations before and after it.