The Porsche 911s you can afford - The Porsche 911s you can afford

We look at three 911s ranging from £13,000 to £35,000 that won't break the bank

Choose your spec

While the 996 was launched as just one model with the rear-wheel-drive Carrera, it wasn’t long before additional variants arrived. Buyers soon had the choice of the Carrera 4 drivetrain, which from the outside looked all but identical, and then Cabriolet and later Targa variants, the latter continuing the sliding glass roof idea first seen on the 993. The later C4S 996 (there never was a 996 C2S) used the wider body of the Turbo, and this was carried over with the ‘4’ 997s which used the wider body in both regular and S guises. All the cars were available with either a six-speed manual or five-speed Tiptronic torque converter auto ’box, with the latter replaced by the first-gen PDK ’box on the 997.2 in 2008.

Both the 996 and 997 were made in the era when silver was a hugely popular exterior colour, and you’ll find most of the cars for sale so painted. If they’re not silver, then they’re usually black, or grey, or occasionally blue. Nevertheless, in the 996 era there was still some ’90s Germanic flamboyance going on with the colour palette, so Pastel Yellow and Ocean Jade can occasionally be found, amongst numerous other shades.

One infamous aspect of the 996, particularly when the cars were unfashionable, was its interior. While available in the usual (very) all-black finish, you could also order Graphite Grey, Space Grey, Metropole Blue, Savanna, Nephrite Green and Boxster Red, with Cinnamon Brown, Dark Grey and Natural Brown appearing on later cars. Being Porsche, the approach was not to incorporate flashes of colour on specific trim elements, but to drop a tin of paint into the interior and give it a very good shake. The resultant effect, punctuated by the stark contrast of black plastic switchgear, is an eyeful, to say the least. Much the same approach was carried over to the 997, albeit perhaps with a little more success (but much more rare).

On the mechanical side, the switchable sports exhaust is always popular and has a particularly sweet tone compared to many aftermarket systems. The sports suspension option on both models was a fixed-rate, lower set-up, so don’t expect the same level of comfort as a modern 911, although they are fun to drive. A limited-slip differential was a desirable option, as well, as were xenon headlamps later on (the standard lamps are weak), while the factory powerkits are very rare on the Carreras (X51) but more common on the Turbo (X50). The debate will rage on about which wheels look best, but at least with the 996 Turbo there was just the one hollow spoke wheel available.

Essential checkpoints

1. Front-end wear

One well-known area of concern for any water-cooled Porsche of this era is damage to the radiators in the car’s nose. Typically, leaves and general road detritus enters via the intakes and gets lodged against the rads, where if left to rot will then corrode the radiators. Expensive.

2. Bore issues

Damage to the engine’s bores, whether by scoring or them turning ovoid and even cracking, is one of the 996/997’s weaknesses. Lots of theories abound as to why this should happen, but it’s wise to get any potential purchase inspected with a borescope before you buy. Undesirable noises from the engine at idle can be an indicator, too, although most flat-sixes are a bit noisy with age.

3. The IMS

The Intermediate Shaft Bearing was a constant thorn in Porsche’s side during the lifetime of the 996 and Gen 1 997, only disappearing when the all-new MA1 DFi engine was released in 2008. Porsche changed the design repeatedly throughout production, and today you have the choice of replacing like-for-like, or fitting an upgraded unit, with ceramic and independently oil-fed versions available.

4. Suspension

With its complex multi-link rear suspension and beautifully resolved ride and handling, the 996/997 has much to lose by wear in this department. While springs and dampers aren’t especially expensive, the lower suspension arms have an integral bush and replacing all four is £1000 in parts alone. For a complete rebuild reckon on £5000. 

Recommended

Porsche 911 Carrera (996): review, history and specs
Porsche 911 Carrera (996) icon
Porsche 911 coupe

Porsche 911 Carrera (996): review, history and specs

Performance cars have come a long way since the 996 Carrera became our first eCoty winner, but are the qualities that made it stand out in 1998 still …
6 Feb 2021
Porsche 911 review
Porsche 911 Carrera S track front angle
Porsche 911

Porsche 911 review

The latest Porsche 911 is more complete than ever, but it takes time to discover its character
11 Jan 2021
Porsche 911 Carrera S manual 2020 review – immersion therapy
Porsche 911 Carrera S manual blue -
Porsche 911 coupe

Porsche 911 Carrera S manual 2020 review – immersion therapy

A manual gearbox brings welcome additional driver involvement to the 992, but it’s not without its drawbacks
5 Dec 2020
Is this a new Porsche 911 Safari?
Porsche 911 coupe

Is this a new Porsche 911 Safari?

Tall ride height and wheelarch extensions suggest a surprise 911 derivative could be coming
22 Oct 2020

Most Popular

Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS 2022 review – middle child 992 shapes up
Porsche 911 GTS review (992) – front cornering
Porsche 911 Carrera

Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS 2022 review – middle child 992 shapes up

Two and a half years after the launch of the 992, the GTS treatment both adds and subtracts but does the result gel on the road?
21 Sep 2021
2022 BMW M3 Touring teased ahead of reveal
2022 BMW M3 Touring
BMW M3

2022 BMW M3 Touring teased ahead of reveal

BMW has released new images of its upcoming M3 Touring before it reaches customers next year
24 Sep 2021
Lotus Emira First Edition priced from £75,995 – production to commence in 2022
Lotus Emira
Lotus

Lotus Emira First Edition priced from £75,995 – production to commence in 2022

First examples of the new Lotus Emira will roll off the production line early next year, with the entry-level four-cylinder to follow
20 Sep 2021