There have been few cars for Porsche more controversial than the 996 generation of the 911. Sure the front-engined water cooled cars caused a stir, as did the VW sourced engine in the standard 914 and the 912 E. But, none of these changed the tried and true formula of the 911 that had represented Porsche since the mid-60’s.
Between the controversial headlights and the even more controversial move to a water cooled engine, the 996 was a major evolution for the 911. It’s a bit like the jump from an ape to a man, with nothing in between, the rational person would think that is simply impossible.
For the 911 the move to a water cooled engine was foreshadowed first by the 959. While it was still partly air-cooled it also had a form of water-cooling. That all other cars that Porsche had made, besides the 911, had used a form of water cooling since the late 1970’s was another clue. The 924, 944, 968, 928, 959 and Boxster all used at least partial water cooling. The 986 Boxster, which was released to the public before Porsche 996 911 (although the 911 design was started first) showed exactly where Porsche was heading, although many purists hoped it wouldn’t.
The 911 from its start had been air-cooled, but because of new government noise and emission restrictions Porsche felt they had to make the change. The change to water cooling forever altered the sound that the 911 emits and not to the liking of all. Sure the 996 and following generations sound good, but in a more refined way and not quite as raw as the earlier 911s.
The Porsche 996 was a major shift and looking back we can say things like, “why would you change the headlights” or “why have the front of the car look almost exactly like the boxster”? But, what did the automotive media think when the 996 was first unveiled?
When reviewing the first 996, Motor Week said.
But the 911’s impressive accomplishments are easily enjoyed off the track, too. As expected, turn-ins are razor sharp and right on the money. With just a bit more understeer felt at high speeds. And even the roughest roads we could find evoked nothing more than a trace of cowl shake from the Cabrio’s rigid structure. Less of a Porsche? We think not!
Make no mistake. Many of the things we grew to love, and loved to hate, are gone. But, think of it as a new beginning, rather than the end of an era. Because, in spite of all the changes, the 1999 911 Carrera Cabriolet is still the perfect candidate as Porsche’s ambassador of speed to all parts of the globe. Only now, it carries the title a little more gracefully.
Some journalists really liked the new 911, but many still wanted the air-cooled car. And then there was the question of saving the money by just purchasing a Boxster.
Car and Driver’s Larry Webster summed up what many thought of the change from the previous generation 911 and the, then new, 996.
I hate to say this, but I prefer the old 911 to the new one. That’s not to say the new car isn’t an improvement over the old car—it is in many ways. For starters, Porsche has finally fixed the 911’s low-end grunt. The dashboard and the windshield aren’t right in your face, and the pedals actually feel normal. But with the old 911, after a couple of days driving it, things that at first felt weird—the pedals, the driving position, the steering-wheel placement—actually begin to feel right. The new car gives you this feeling of normalcy right away, but it’s lost the previous 911’s gritty mechanical feel and character. As for the 911 convertible, I’d save my money and get a Boxster.
Tiff Needell of old, old Top Gear (and more recently, Fifth Gear) was a big fan of the new car. He even got a chance to talk to the Porsche designer behind the 996.
Summing up their thoughts on the Porsche 996 Motor Trend said.
After our first taste of the first all-new 911 in three decades, we’re happy to report the new 911 Carrera is a faithful, modern interpretation of Dr. Porsche’s original and carries the spirit of previous Porsches. But it’s not the same car, and it wasn’t meant to be. To survive into the next century, Porsche must attract new customers and continue to reduce production costs. The new 911 will pamper these new owners when they can’t find an open road and reward them with fiery acceleration and responsive-but-forgiving handling for the ever-decreasing times in which they can. To the chagrin of some Porschephiles, 911 drivers will no longer do penance in the form of agonizing ergonomics and challenging handling. But, there’s little doubt that the all-new version of one of the most beloved sportscars of all time is an improvement. That said, we’re moist with anticipation of what the upcoming Cabriolet, Carrera 4, Targa, and Turbo will bring.
For some the new 911 was a huge improvement over the outgoing 993.
Based on what was said when the Porsche 996 was put in the hands of the media, they all liked the first water cooled 911. However, most missed the quirks that made the air-cooled 911s so unique. The 996 was one of the most important cars to ever be released by Porsche. It may have gotten a lot of flak, but it paved the way for the modern 911 and prepared the German performance car maker for the future.
What do you think of the Porsche 996? Scroll down to the comments and let us know.
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