Friday, September 18, 2009

2000 Porsche 911 Carrera -- thoughts and review

Yup, I admit it, I have a love/hate relationship with this car.  This is the first car I bought directly from an auto wholesaler. 

Since I had this car for the past 4 years, there must be some redeeming quality there, right?  In retrospect, I do wish I listened to one of my friends who said, "don't rush into buying this car if it's not exactly what you want, there will be others."  I did rush into purchasing this car, and it did cost me some additional money to modify the car to where I like it, but everything worked out in the end.  First things first, I do wish I got the car with xenon instead of having to spend $1,400 to upgrade later on.  In addition, I probably should have waited for a car that came with their stock 18"s and an OEM aero kit.  Lastly, for some reason I have always liked the 3-spoke steering wheel vs. the traditional 4-spoke. 

A little history on Porsche Carreras.  The "911" model designation was given to the first true Porsche Carrera, and that body style designation stuck with the car even when newer models came to be.  The vehicle I purchase was designated the 996 body style.

This car was a fundamental change for Porsche as prior to that all of their Carrera vehicles were air cooled.  Due to the limitations of the air cooled engine, the engineers at Porsche decided to give in to water cooled technology (what almost every other car on the road today is based on) and the 996 body style was the result.  Another interesting note of this model is the very distinctive mid-year refresh, separated by the designation of Mk1 and Mk2.  The reason for this was the initial headlight redesign made by Porsche was not very well received by the public, therefore they had a mid year refresh to update the look.  The company eventually reverted back to the oval headlights in the most current generation.  The vehicle I looked at and eventually purchased was the 996 Mk1, what I consider the purest incarnation of the first water cooled 911.

To put things into perspective, my previous car was a Honda S2000.  The S2000 and the 996 I was test driving weighs about the same, except this car has significantly more torque and 60 more horsepower.  This translated to a much, MUCH, faster car.  I was sold right after the test drive and did not take the advice my friend gave me earlier.

I still remember the first time I drove this car home from the North Bay.  I went into first gear, and then second, played with the radio and lost track of which gear I was in.  Since I was already going 65 mph, I figured I must be already in third gear.  I hit the gas and hit the rev limiter at 75 mph.  What I did not know was second gear goes all the way up to 75 mph.  I guess that's why the 0-60 mph of these cars are so fast.

This was the first vehicle that I purchase out of warranty (for better or worse) for the purpose of being able to mod it without voiding anything.  The first modification I did was intake and exhaust.  Sharkwerks is a very well known and respected local tuner for Porsches, specializing in 996 and 997 body styles.  Installed were EVOM V-Flow Intake system and Tubi Style Mufflers (I went through a cheaper quality muffler before and realize being cheap was not the way to go).  Both products are very high quality with almost OEM build and look/feel.  I figured since I was already installing the intake and exhaust, I may as well have the ECU upgraded/chipped.  The end result was a much more responsive car that had a nice deep note at lower RPMs and an exotic howl (sounds very much like an Aston Martin) as you accelerate.  Other upgrades of note was OEM Xenon retrofit headlamps as well as a short shift kit (coming from the S2000, the stock shifter throw made me feel like I was rowing a boat).  Eventually, I also got 18" hollow spoke turbo wheels to help with the overall look of the car.

One feature I did add that I would highly recommend on all 996 body style Porsche is the remote spoiler switch.  This relocates the switch to the dash of the vehicle using the OEM Turbo spoiler switch.  The feature allows you to manually activate the spoiler without having to reach into the foot well.  Very handy when you're stuck in stop and go traffic in a hot summer day and your car starts overheating -- since when the spoiler opens it also allows more hot air to escape from the engine compartment (it's a rear engine vehicle).  Also very handy when you drive by a cop after a spirited drive, since these spoilers don't automatically activate until past 75 mph, and they don't retract until you drop below 40 mph.

Positives.  Same weight as the S2000 with much more torque and horsepower.  Handles like it's on rails, during high speed maneuvers and turns the vehicle feels very planted and stable.  In fact, when I go through turns I could feel the car pressing down into the ground.  Very good low end pickup, much faster than a stock S2000 or even an E46 M3 based on highway pulls.  You will need some time to adjust to the rear weight bias of the vehicle.  I learned that I needed to drive much more smoothly to get the most out of the car.

Negatives.  It's not the purchase price of the car that kills you, it's the maintenance.  Be prepared to spend on average $1,000 per maintenance trip.  Repairs I had to do to my car ranged from replacing the rear control arm ($2,000) to the coolant overflow reservoir ($600) and replacement of the oxygen sensors and MAS (Mass Airflow Sensor) ($1,000).  General maintenance ranges from $600 for general 15,000 maintenance to over $1,000 for the 30,000.  One hidden benefit of this is there is no maintenance in between, so besides repairs and warranty work (which I had very little of), you will spend very little time at the dealership.  With stock exhaust, this car sounds very much like a Honda Accord.  In other words, it's very quiet. Goes through rear tires very quickly because of the rear wheel drive platform (as well as the engine resting on the rear wheels).  The stock seats in the 996 are also VERY uncomfortable.  They are not very supportive and I spent hours adjusting the seat and could never find the right position that works for me. The rear seats are great for insurance but horrible for anyone except for toddlers. 

Price paid. $36,000 USD + license and taxes.
Price sold. $21,000 USD

Tenure. 4 years.

Overall, I was very happy with the car, and sad to see it go.  With the car reaching close to 90,000 miles, I did not want to test my luck with the reliability of this car.  I've experienced the new 997 body style Porsches and they are even better than before.  I'm very excited for when I'll be ready for my next Porsche.

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