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“The bad news about the new Porsche 911 Turbo is that its owners are probably going to get a lot of speeding tickets. The good news is that if they can afford its $110,000 price, they can probably afford the tickets. The new, fifth-generation 911 Turbo is not only the fastest-ever street-legal 911, it's also the most refined.” Car and Driver, 2000.
Ah yes, the 996. From pretty much the day it was launched it has been the whipping boy of the 911 dynasty. Tales of 996 owners desperately trying to swap back to their recently part exchanged 993s abound and the ‘barstool experts’ have been lining up to give it a good kicking for years now. We know, we were there and until recently still saw their point – sort of. In the words of the Fast Show’s Jesse, “This week I have mostly been very pleasantly surprised” and it was this 996 Turbo that was the source of this mini-epiphany. Recent rumblings (e.g. Octane magazine’s front cover, October 2017) have confirmed that the tide has finally but firmly turned in favour of the black sheep of the 911 family. Yes, the spotlight has hit the first of the water cooled cars partly because the last of the air cooled cars’ values have taken off like a Harrier Jump Jet in the past five years and their being worth just 30% off the older machines was simply nonsensical and not sustainable. Revisited due to their bargain status people have found that the years have treated them well and now they can be appreciated without recourse to justifications such as, ‘Yes, but it is the cheapest 911 bar none’; these are great cars in their own right and this became blindingly obvious to us when we evaluated and drove this fine example.
So the 996 is not half the pantomime villain it once was ('Where is the engine? It's...") but one variant has more going for it to justify its rehabilitation into the Classic Porsche family than most – the mighty Turbo. Not only does it wear the most evocative badge (RS aside) a Porsche can, it boasts a technical specification that more than backs this up. At its core, as with all significant Porsches, is the engine; not as one might expect a stretched and blown version of that found in the cooking 996 Carrera, which it is fair to say did originally have some reliability issues (ISB is not just a childish anagram), but rather a turbocharged version of the fabled, dry sump, ‘Mezger’ unit found in the specialised 996 GT3 and even the Le Mans purposed GT1. With a KKK K64 turbo and associated intercooler for each bank of boxer-arranged cylinders blowing at 12.4 psi, 420 bhp results and a numerically almost identical torque output is available from as low as 2,700 right through to 4,600 rpm. Not to labour the point but that is around 15 bhp more than the previous generation Turbo. On top of that, what the bare numbers don’t reveal is that clever electronics in the 911’s engine management system recognise your mood and current driving style so when you are shall we say, pressing on, the turbos are kept spinning even on part throttle in anticipation of the next bout of right ankle flexing, effectively eliminating the lag that otherwise is part and parcel of a turbocharged engine. Massive power hikes a few seconds after you requested them can someetimes be less than ideal.
Power without control is of dubious benefit so it was a good job the guys from Stuttgart had honed their transmission skills on a certain Group B targeting 911 supercar a few years earlier and its drivetrain was inserted pretty much lock stock and barrel into the 996 Turbo making it arguably a 959 for the ‘Volk’. Clever viscous coupling diffs sent just 5% of the engine’s prodigious output to the front wheels under normal Asda car park driving conditions, but if that elusive pint of milk needed collecting from say the far end of the B4520 (Google it) as much as 40% could be channelled to the front end; essentially a rear wheel drive car with a front axle which will obligingly pull you out of situations your enthusiasm might have got you into. Further attempts to bend the laws of physics were made with the fitment of ‘Porsche Stability Management’, Sports Suspension and enormous 13” drilled and ventilated brake discs clamped by four piston callipers all round.
An original Porsche ‘C16’ code UK right hand drive machine, this 911 Turbo was supplied to its first owner by Chapelgate, the Official Porsche Centre in Ferndown, Dorset in July 2002. Very well specified with options such as PCM 1 (Porsche Communications Management consisting of on screen satellite navigation and mobile phone hook-up with radio and cassette player), preparation for fitment of a CD player, sunroof, top tinted windscreen, rear parking sensors, heated front seats, twin stainless steel exhaust tail pipes, cruise control, a five speed gearbox with Tiptronic controls and ruched leather trim. All these goodies were of course in addition to the generous standard UK specification which included niceties such as air conditioning and six-way electrically adjustable seats with a memory function for the driver’s side plus an alarm/immobiliser in case the whole package became rather over-attractive...
The bodywork is exceptionally good with excellent panel fit and no evidence of even a supermarket carpark dink (thank goodness for the B4520) never mind anything more serious. There is just the slightest (and we mean slightest) unevenness to the rear bumper which we were barely able to show on camera (check the picture in the gallery anyway) and the odd stone chip to the front as one might expect on a car of this age and mileage. Aside from these tiny blemishes, the Arctic Silver finish is still in superb order while the glass and exterior plastics are all in virtually unmarked condition.
The trademark 18” ‘Hollow Spoke’ Turbo Twist wheels (8” wide at the front, 11” at the rear) are virtually un-kerbed with just the lightest brush on the near side front and a couple of areas of slight oxidation causing the paint to lift on the offside rear. Generously treaded N Rated Michelins are fitted all round, a good indication of a no expense spared attitude to maintenance.
Under the 911 the engine appears oil-tight with no significant leaks and there is no evidence of major scrapes or wear to the car’s under-shields or even the notoriously vulnerable front splitter which has evidence of just one or two light brushes. Topside the unit is clean and again dry and thankfully shows no evidence of having been ‘enhanced’ with cosmetic preparations.
The VIN label still in place on the underside of the luggage lid would seem to confirm the panel’s originality and the spare wheel and tools are unused.
Inside the dark blue, almost black in some lights, ruched leather and alcatara headlining are in very good condition indeed. There is barely any sign of the expected creasing to driver side seat though it has just the slightest additional sheen to it in comparison to the other chairs. The optional aluminium trim shows no evidence of major scratches or scrapes and lifting the Porsche floor mats simply reveals another set of Porsche floor mats.
The Bose sound system is most impressive offering powerful, deep base notes and a beautifully clear top end and a luggage compartment mounted ‘Solisto Pro’ remote storage interface allows a memory stick or similar to be connected for a virtually unlimited choice of ‘tunes’ – or recorded philosophical debates.
A complete set of books is present in the leather wallet along with CDs for the Bose music system and Porsche navigation set up. The all-important Service Book has no fewer than eleven stamps – ten from Official Porsche Centres taking the Turbo through to 92,649 miles and one final recognised Specialist at 97,348, just under 5000 miles ago. All this is backed up with stamps for the relevant air bag checks, Long Life Guarantee inspections (to 80,000 miles) and brake fluid changes. Each and every one of these services is backed up with a detailed invoice for the work carried out, confirming that the history is not only exceptionally comprehensive but also genuine. Other bills are on file for additional non-Porsche work such as adjustment of the tracking and fitting of new tyres.
Of particular interest in the history file is a comprehensive report of a 230 point inspection carried out a little over two years and 5,000 miles ago by Porsche guru Peter Morgan. Tasked with evaluating three potential cars for a fastidious buyer, Mr Morgan felt this was the best example by some considerable margin and the purchase was duly made. The report makes fascinating reading and the recommended new tyres, check of the cars tracking and major service were all carried out to maintain the car’s exemplary condition. Interestingly, by plugging a bit of diagnostic kit into the Bosch Motronic 7.8 ECU, all manner of historical information was obtained. For example, at that stage the engine had been run for 3,576 hours and the machine could even tell how long it had spent between 6,750 rpm and the 7,200 rev limiter – 6.7 seconds to be exact; an exceptionally low figure (set against nearly 13 million seconds total running time) in Mr Morgan’s view and indicative of ‘fairly careful use’. Generally very enthusiastic about both its condition and history, Mr Morgan concluded that, “The service record is good with the car being serviced throughout its life” and that “Bills with the car suggest diligent owners with a full Official Dealer Service History”.
Used just as Porsche intended throughout its life to date (21,000 miles being covered in one particularly good year), this 911 ably demonstrates the sense in doing just that, so long as it is maintained accordingly. It is fair to say that these cars thrive on this sort of use and this particular example remains wonderful to drive, taught and tight in all areas and feeling totally un-burstable. More than usable as an everyday car, the 996 Turbo is definitely living up to its “Best used 911 you can buy” label and with the price guides already adding £1,000s to its value over the past year or so, it may also prove to be a good financial move too, especially given its predecessor has now cleared the £100K barrier by some considerable margin.