Okay, I’m just going to say it, the 996 generation, out of all the generations is the worst 911 ever built! Now, this is an ideal car, but man, there are some things that I absolutely dislike. See, the 996 and the Boxster were the “transition cars“, the cars to transition Porsche from acting like a boutique marque, and to move along to more efficient logistics and manufacturing processes.
This is the time when Porsche had to learn and adapt to keep their business, well, feasible. Remember, in the mid-90’s, Porsche was on the ropes, so lowering their costs, and the price tag of cars like the Boxster, was critical if they were to survive.
And growing up, I liked the 996 simply for the fact that it influenced the design of the Le Mans-winning GT1-98, which I still think is one of the most beautiful cars ever designed. But the 996 hit a few too many branches when it fell out of the ugly tree! And yes, technically, I have no doubt that a 996 is a proper 911, it’s a rear-engined sports car that will give you all the thrills a Porsche should.
But I’m not here to tell you how great it is, I’m here to tell you why I dislike my 996 C4S with its turbo exterior, big turbo brakes, and what I think few debate, the rear is one of the best rear ends on a 911 of all time.
But remember that ugly tree? Let’s take a walk to the front of the car!
Personally, I hate the 996 front end a lot. Most car people seem to feel the same way. This definitely means 20 years from now they will be very popular. 94% of people that don’t like the 996, don’t like the headlights. I call them the “fried egg specials” and you can snag a limited edition Ideal tee if you want to be the talk of the town at any car show!
Remember that GT1-98? There’s something so racy and slick about those headlights. The 996 headlights, I can’t put my finger on it, but no bueno.
There’s really two remedies with the headlights: the cost-effective option is some people put on the body color covers. But man, oh man, no amount of makeup is going to cover that ugly face. There’s also the less cost-effective option, which is you can pay more and just get a 997, which is exactly what I did, and I tried to make it as ugly as possible with a blue wrap, yellow headlights, and rocket launcher on top.
And yet, time and time again, more people comment on how much they hate these 996 headlights than how much they hate the ugliest 997, which brings me to my second point.
It Looks Like a Boxster…
But it’s not just that. See, back when they were developing the 996, they were also developing the new Boxster. In order to cut costs, they developed both to share a lot of parts, including pretty much the whole front end. Just look at the Boxster and the same year 911.
This wouldn’t have been a problem, but they unfortunately released the Boxster first. Then the “new” 911 followed. Every die-hard 911 fan was shocked to see the 911 look just like a cheap Boxster from the front. If only they had released the 996 first, then the Boxster, everything would have been fine. 911 die-hards would have said, “Oh, that’s cute, the Boxster wants to be like our beloved 911!” But they really screwed up the timing.
The ironic part of the story is that the 911 was in development first, and they used the 911 development to save money on the Boxster. So, essentially, the Boxster is a 2-seater 911.
IMS RMS LOL
The intermediate shaft bearing and rear main seal are known weak points in the 996. I’m not going to get into it, but essentially, the issue is actually with the seal for the bearing for the shaft. The seal breaks down and allows engine oil into the bearing. Engine oil isn’t the appropriate lubrication and can bring in unwanted materials. This can cause the bearing to fail. The failure of the bearing is what causes the engine failure.
Some have said the bearing failure has been wildly reported as “overblown” on the internet, but I will report from experience that it really isn’t. I have a dozen actual stories and more from 2 Porsche mechanics.
It costs about $2,500 to install a ceramic bearing IMS replacement versus the approximate $20,000 cost of replacing an engine. Say we have a 1 in 10 failure rate, that works out to $2,000 per car. And I think you just need to work that into the cost of any 996 non-GT or Turbo that you’re looking to buy.
Why? Well, my car with just 50,000 miles on it had the problem. Hey, I’m not complaining, because now this sled has a 4-liter in it! However, the previous owner footed a hefty $25,000 rebuild.
I think they’re super ugly inside and out. Everything was so overly rounded off, and it lost all of its defining lines like the headlights and the hips. It looked like you put a Porsche in the microwave.
And the 996 is such a bigger car than it’s ancestors.
They really blew it on the interior too. They went too far from what was a 911 interior. Too round. Look at a 997 and you’ll find the door panels are much more like a 993, same goes for the whole thing.
The interior looks very dated, but not in the good way that those of some older cars look. Come to think of it, the 996 interior reminds me of a mid-90’s Taurus. Very spartan! Maybe better materials, but the same allergy to straight lines. That’s an aspect of 90’s automotive design I’m happy to have seen the end of.
If you cover up the Porsche logo on the wheel, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in a nice Toyota. As far as how it drives, it still drives like a Porsche! It makes all the right sounds and feels great in the throws!
Still, the 996 sold more than any other 911 before it, so they must have done something right. This has the side-effect of creating a lot of used cars today, which is probably the biggest reason above all others the 996 is cheap. Bang-for-the-buck, it can’t be beat.
Not saying any of these are reasons why you can’t enjoy a 996. I’m just answering why many hardcore Porsche folks dislike the 996.