In 1998 Porsche released the 996 model, which was a monumental change in their legendary 911 Carrera series, they switched from an air-cooled to a water-cooled engine. This change as well as its different design is probably why the Porsche 996 is regarded today as one of the most unloved generations to date, as reflected in current resale values.
Porsche was compelled to switch from their legendary air-cooled flat 6-cylinder (horizontally opposed) engine to a water-cooled version due to more stringent noise restrictions (especially in Europe) and environmental concerns. Not only where government restrictions pressuring Porsche to make the change, but they also hit a horsepower ceiling in their air-cooled engine.
The all-new Porsche 911 design came from designer Harm Lagaay. The design pushed the new 911 towards a more aerodynamic look with a more slanted windshield. With the design veering from previous generations and the changing to the legendary power source this irked Porsche enthusiasts everywhere. Too much change in too short of time. The 996 Porsche impacted the enthusiast base so much that the next 911-generation released, the 997, reverted in styling to previous ones while keeping the necessary power plant change.
The new Porsche 996 was released in 1998 with a 3.4 liter water cooled flat 6-cylinder engine producing 296hp capable of pushing the new 911 0-60 in 5.1 seconds. Their first water cooled power plant is known to have some issues, so much so that in 2002 (available in 2001 in the 9114S) they changed it to a 3.6-liter which improved its reliability. The 3.6-liter Porsche flat 6 engine was what powered the Porsche 993, which to most enthusiasts' represents one of the most desirable air-cooled Porsches ever built. Although this was a water-cooled version it improved the 996 appeal to the Porsche fan base and improved its power to 320hp and 0-60 to 4.9 seconds.
The Porsche 996 still struggles to win the hearts of enthusiasts today creating one of the bargain 911s available on the market today. Pricing on the early models with the 3.4 liter are definitely stained due to the known issues, while the 3.6 liter models hold a somewhat stronger price, compared to previous models, the 996 is a bargain.
In 2000 Porsche released there new all wheel drive Turbo edition of the 996, which boosted the power to 420hp, 0-60 to 4.2 seconds and was praised by the automotive press as a triumph of engineering. Even this new Porsche 911 Turbo today represent the cheapest generation available on the market.
So what can we take from this discussion? Will the Porsche 996 produced from 1998-2005 remain an outcast or eventually gain the admiration of enthusiasts. Till then this model represents a cheap way to experience the legendary Porsche 911 Carrera engineering.