By on August 3, 2010

Great artists steal, and I’m obviously inspired by Paul Niedermeyer’s GM’s Deadly Sin series here. I am currently the owner of three Porsches, as pathetic as that may be, and I’ve experienced firsthand the many ways in which Porsche disappoints its fans and buyers. Few companies have been as comprehensively whitewashed by the media and the corporate biographers, but the truth is available to those of us who wish to look a bit harder.

We will start with the big betrayals, of course, and the unassuming fastback you see above represents perhaps the worst of Porsche’s many middle fingers to the customer base. It is a 1999 Porsche 911, known to everyone in the world as the “996″.

From 1964 to 1998, the 911 evolved on an incremental basis. As with the first and last Volkswagen Beetles, there are very, very few parts which survived the thirty-four-year journey unchanged, but there’s an amazing amount of interchangeability. It is possible to “update” a 1971 911T to look just like a 1998 Carrera 2S, and it’s also possible to “backdate” a 1994 911 Carrera to look like a classic 1973 Carrera RS. Both of these offenses against human decency have occurred many times, incidentally. Take a look here to see a rather lovely example of a “964″ turned into a “long-hood” 911S, in a color that will be familiar to many TTAC readers.

The 911 was never intended to last thirty-four years. The front-engine, water-cooled 928 was supposed to replace the 911 in the Seventies… but it didn’t, so the 911′s lifetime was extended another decade. The costs and inefficiencies of building a car with a Sixties architecture tortured Porsche. A complete re-engineering was necessary, and Porsche worked with Toyota to squeeze every last dollar out of the new 911′s design.

The list of cost-cuts in the Porsche 996 can be recited by nearly every Porschephile. Frameless doors, complete commonality with the Boxster from the door latches forward, horrifying interior trim quality, drop-in assemblies provided by the lowest bidder, and the engine…

An article on the most common failures suffered by the 3.4L watercooled boxer six can be found here, but for those of you who don’t click on links, the problems range from oil leakage at the rear main seal (which is more or less universal) to cylinder head failure. In nearly all cases, the “fix” is the same: to purchase a complete rebuild from Porsche, at your expense. Figure on $15,000 or more for the “subsidized” engine.

Porsche had been “fighting” failures of the watercooled engine, which appeared first in the 1997 Boxster, from the very first car that rolled off the line. Porous engine blocks, intermediate shaft failures… the watercooled boxers were junk. This is enough for a Deadly Sin — knowingly equipping every naturally-aspirated Boxster and 911 they sold from 1997 to as late as 2008 with failure-prone engines — but, as always, Porsche raised the bar in the customer-screwing department.

During those years, Porsche worked with its dealers to deny warranty claims, place blame on customers, withhold knowledge of fixes, and generally burn every last bit of goodwill they had built up over years of… um… previous engine failures in air-cooled cars. Again and again during those years, owners of pampered, low-mileage cars found themselves paying five-figure bills to keep their cars on the road. For more than a decade, Porsche simultaneously denied knowledge of engine problems while claiming that their newest engine revision did not suffer from the problems that they were denying had occurred previously.

While waiting for his $75,000 Porsche to experience a $15,000 engine failure, the 911 owner could at least fail to enjoy the most dismal, fragile interior ever seen in a production Porsche. Buttons wore out, dashes cracked, radios committed suicide in new and interesting ways, and every single electrical component in the car seemed prone to intermittent, untraceable failure. Naturally, the fabulously low prices Porsche paid suppliers for the jumble of garbage components in a 996 were never reflected at the parts counter. The replacement cost for the “Litronic” headlamp assemblies is enough to make an NBA player weep. I saw brand-new 996s with cracked leather on the seats when the cars were still in dealerships. Make no mistake. Every possible corner was cut.

Long-time Porsche owners found the 996 driving experience to be as bewildering as the build quality. This was a quiet, flimsy-feeling car that outhandled, outaccelerated, and outbraked the outgoing 993 while never feeling anything like as substantial as said air-cooled predecessor. The flimsy feeling came honestly — amazingly in this modern era, Porsche actually cut weight out of the car compared to the previous model — but it didn’t satisfy.

The men from Stuttgart knew they had a loser on their hands, so the 996 was freshened in 2002 with a more durable, more powerful engine, interior revisions, and a facelift. The market’s opinion on these cars, however, is written in the resale values. If you had purchased two Porsches in a row — a 1998 Carrera 2S for $75,000 and a 1999 Carrera 2 for $75,000 — and put 50,000 miles on each, you would find that the 1998 car would command an easy $50K in PCA classifieds, but the 1999 would struggle to fetch $20K.

The 1999 Porsche 911 was a failure in every way but one: the massive savings realized with the new model made it possible for the company to plan new models. And since the new model in question was the Cayenne, you could say that all the news was bad, after all. But that’s a Deadly Sin for another day.

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117 Comments on “Porsche’s Deadly Sin #1: 1999 Porsche 911 (996) 3.4...”


  • avatar
    SomeDude

    I hope those in doubt will now see why the $16.4 million/defect fine didn’t work. A couple of defects and you lose half a billion dollars in an instant – isn’t this a better deterrent for Porsche and their Toyota advisors not to engage in cost-cutting and cover-ups?

    P.S. And I recommend Carquestions to consider sending the link to this article to his Toyota paymasters

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      You can make a car that’s utter crap and never, ever see a recall provided the problems aren’t safety issues.

      Take GM’s plastic intake manifold issue on millions of their OHV V6s. It’s far more of a problem (eg, it affects thousands, if not tens of thousands) of actual people, and it’ll never see the light of day. Ditto Honda’s 5AT/V6 combo from 2000-2004.

      Porsche (or anyone) could make a car that, 100% of the time, would fall apart two days after the warranty expired and—as long as it could only happen when the car was parked and empty and wouldn’t catch fire—it would be entirely legal.

    • 0 avatar
      car guy

      Porsche’s Deadly Sin #1: 1999 Porsche 911 (996) 3.4
      Not sure if any research was done for this article, however the fact is that the 996 and the Boxster saved Porsche from financial failure. The air cooled 993 was without a doubt a fantastic car and in many ways the last of the classic Porsche. The 996 was the first modern 911, it was faster, better handling, water cooled, bigger inside and out. There were improvements on the interior and aerodynamics. The 996 was a better car in every way. Despite the number of cost cutting measures taken by Porsche AG the 996 was a stellar performer.
      Did the author of this article ever drive a 996? From my read it seems he has no personal, first hand or hands on experience with the 996… however …..
      Top Gear host Tiff Needell (One of the most respected car experts/Race car driver/Car enthusiast in the world) said the 996 was better than the previous 993 in every way. The car was raved over around the world in all the US magazines as well.
      The 996 did and does have some major issues, which could result in a catastrophic engine failure, however if properly maintained and cared for many of these issues can be avoided. The 996 is the first true daily driver 911.
      The resale value of the 996 is the lowest of the water cooled 911s, however good condition, well cared for and maintained, average mile cars are now going up in price.
      However the author also over looked that there are way more 996s on the road than the 993. The whole run of the 993 was from 1995 to 1998 producing 68,000 cars. The 996 was produced from 1998 to 2004 producing 140,000 cars (Using the same engine with improvements along the way, incorrectly stated in the article that a NEW engine was used in the 2002 model, there was a face lift in 2002 however this was still a 996) The interior and all body panels were basically unchanged in 2002 only the headlights and tail lights were changed and bumpers to match. The engine displacement went up to 3.6 litters using the same engine. From 2002 – 2004 the car was still called a 996.
      However by the author’s logic the 993 would have been a failure because its run was shorter than the 996. If you are going to write an article you should do some research, find out the facts, and don’t blindly spew out miss information.
      I could go on but I’m sure this wont be well taken

      • 0 avatar
        player2u

        Well I can speak on this as an expert because I feel I owned a Unique 1999 996 for 8 years. I just recently sold my 996 with 176k miles on it for $12k Everything on this car was taken care of. My avg bill yearly to maintain the car I would put at $6k to $8k a year. I had 0 problems with the Engine or Transmission which was a manual. I Purchased this car with 42k miles. First thing I had done to the car was replace the factory fly wheel with a light weight flywheel and a performance clutch. I never had to replace the clutch in this car. I did replace a WHOLE LOT of other items. So Master and Slave for clutch replaced twice. The car went through 7 AC Compressors. The Car had Coils replaced twice. The car in the first year decided to have an electrical Short and began to slowly cook the electrical. The car was parked next to a firetruck and they had begun unhooking the battery. The car was parked no key inside it. The cost to replace the electrical harness was $25K Insurance covered this. The car spent 8 months in the shop. It only leaked antifreeze one time due to a bad hose. otherwise its all original hoses. maintenance was belts, plugs, oil, antifreeze, and trans flushed every 30k miles. Tires lasted about 7k miles I drove this car hard. and had a 150 mile round trip to work every day. This car was just expensive to maintain Compared to my 93 Acura Integra GSR which I put over 700K miles on. The Odometer in my acura broke at 450k had to get a new one. My acura only needed 1 transmission and this was due to the fact I towed 2 Jetski’s with it for 3 years. Now that Acura was an amazing reliable car. I can’t say that about the Porsche 996. It left me stranded 4 times. 2 times was because of some Shifter Bushing that holds the Stick up in the center console wore out and the shifter will drop. the two other times because the coils went up. I loved the performance of the 996 I hated the depreciation of the 996. I literally feel I just gave away a Porsche 911 in perfect running condition for $12k. But Kelly Blue Book says the car is only worth $11k in excellent condition. My hope is when I get my 997 S Porsche it will hold a value above $20k no matter if it has 300K miles on it. Do I think the 996 will go up in value ever? No way. But was the 996 a daily driver car? Yes it is. Was the 3.4L motor a bad motor I had No issues at all. In fact that car NEVER LEAKED a drop of oil.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    The more I read about Porsche, the more I want Miata.

    • 0 avatar
      car guy

      The 996 is an expensive car and still is with 13 year old models selling for 25k, It is expensive to fix and own, buy a miata or a S2000 if you are scared or you cant afford a 911, however those cars do not compare to a 996 in every sense of the word.

      • 0 avatar
        jimbob457

        Or if owning the little brute of a real Porsche 911 frightens you, buy a new dick.

      • 0 avatar
        duncan1957

        Would you choose a 1999 996 for $42,000 with 79,000kms on the clock or a 1994 993 for $47,000 with 115,000kms on the clock?

        • 0 avatar
          jimbob457

          As a previous poster pointed out, the 996 is a better car as a daily driver than the 993 in every way. Only caveat – for the non-turbo 996 you MUST replace the IMS bearing with a heavier duty part, a $1,500 job. Stuttgart pissed a lot of people off by not being more forthcoming about this design failure. The rear motor seal (RMS) is about the only other thing to watch.

          The prices you mention seem about twice what they should be. There are well over 1,000 996′s currently for sale in the USA and Europe.

          P.S. I used to own a 1970 911. It was a terrific car for its day. Compared to the 996, forget it. The 993 had pushed air cooling to its limits, and it was really too fragile to be a proper daily driver.

          • 0 avatar
            Kmac

            There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding failure rates of the IMS bearing.The truth of the matter is that 996′s failure rate from 1999 to 2002, and 2004 onward was less than 1%, and between 2002 and 2004 the failure rate was between 4 and 10 percent. That being said my 1999 996 would have had a failure rate of less than 200 cars since approximately 21000 were made in 1999. The figure I got were from the law firm handling the class action lawsuit, and were found during discovery. A different bearing was used from 2002 to 2004. I have owned my car for a year and have found it to be a delight and a totally different driving experience. Statistically, over 2/3rds of all porsches ever made are still on the road, a truly amazing statistic. Don’t knock the 996 for resale either since prices are increasing.

          • 0 avatar
            Jack Baruth

            IMS hit the Boxster harder than the 996. RMS is the primary 996 issue, I’d say.

          • 0 avatar
            duncan1957

            Hi. The prices I quoted above from June 2013 were prices in New Zealand where things are more expensive due to shipping costs and availability. At the moment there are about 20 996′s for sale in NZ. In the end I bought a MY03 996 Carrera 2 coupe with 38,200kms on the odometer. The engine seal had been done quite early on in its life. I have now the car for just under one year and I am really happy with it. It is a lot of fun.

  • avatar
    Revver

    Very good article. My only comment is the link showing transformations of 964s to an earlier look is an act of mercy not to be questioned on “purist” grounds.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    SherobornSean, welcome to the club. Best of all, one can buy a used Miata for almost as little or as much as you want to spend. It may not be the fastest car on the street, but it’s a lot of fun. They rarely break and when they do, it’s extremely affordable. And by the way, when you call State Farm to insure your Miata in New Jersey, you won’t experience chest pains, either.

  • avatar
    discoholic

    It’s a miracle that there aren’t thousands of Porsche drivers (and ex-Porsche drivers) out there who feel they’ve been taken for a ride. (Figuratively speaking.)

    This is the company that made enough money over the last ten or so years to almost buy Volkswagen and to pay its CEO a salary to the tune of $200 million in two years. It’s also the only company I know of whose profit in one fiscal year was higher than its turnover. And they did all that making something like four dozen cars a year.

    Am I the only one to think that Porsche buyers have been overpaying? (Feel free to gloat.)

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      It’s a miracle that there aren’t thousands of Porsche drivers (and ex-Porsche drivers) out there who feel they’ve been taken for a ride. (Figuratively speaking.)

      It’s an ego-mobile—especially the 911—perhaps more of one than any other vehicle on the road. People will go to great lengths to justify this kind of thing, often using things like “soul” and “heritage” to explain it away, even to themselves.

      Jack himself does this in this article, inferring that it’s the hand of Toyota that sullied Porsche, even when Toyota was still making Supras and MR-2s that, while not this capable, were far more robust. I don’t think Jack means it’s Toyota’s fault, but I’ve heard Porsche people say the same thing to make themselves feel better.

      An NSX, for example, might not have the “soul” of a 348 or the “heritage” of a 911, but what it does have is the maintenance costs only a little higher than an Accord. Go ahead and ask what it costs to keep a 348.

    • 0 avatar
      protomech

      An NSX, for example, might not have the “soul” of a 348 or the “heritage” of a 911, but what it does have is the maintenance costs only a little higher than an Accord.

      The NSX snap ring failure is the only thing that worries me about the cars. $7k for a new transmission would be a very good thing to avoid with a careful inspection. Rear tires tend to go pretty quickly as well. But yes, generally no expensive surprises.

      http://www.nsxprime.com/FAQ/Troubleshooting/transmission.htm

    • 0 avatar
      Lumbergh21

      You mention the NSX,a car I have lusted after since the first tiem I saw one. Also I’ll never forget the episode of Cops where an officer tries to pull over an NSX. It disappeared from view quite quickly then reappeared wher it went off the road. The officer said something like, there’s no way we would have caught him if he knew how to drive. Not often you hear a cop who’s that honest.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Having owned and worked on German machinery…I’ll stick with my Mazdas and Hondas. To put it bluntly, Germany is only slightly behind Detroit in their quest for producing expensive junk. Fun to drive junk – yes – but still junk.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    I’ve teetered on the brink of Porsche ownership several times over the past decade. I’ve always been drawn back from the leap by a timely encounter of some random owner with a horror story.

    The general concensus seems to be that Porsches are like Crack – the initial rush is unbelievable, but unless you’re Rock-Star(Baruth) rich, it’s going to end in your stealing something to maintain your habit… and the problem (whatever it may be) is always YOUR fault according to the dealer. Essentially, you see,the problem with the car is that you’re not worthy. If you were, you’d smile and pay the $800 to repair it again and go on.

    • 0 avatar
      Domestic Hearse

      Lokki, there’s nothing I can think of on a 911 that can be repaired for less than four figures.

    • 0 avatar
      DanDotDan

      I’ve had a 996 C4S for five years. It had the RMS failure in my first year of ownership, which was fixed under warrantee and hasn’t reoccurred. There are been some smaller failures: headlight switch, oil pressure sensor, and clutch helper spring. There seems to be about one a year, and all of them were fixed at the dealer for far less than $800.

      For a sports car, the 911 is amazingly solid. I’ve driven across roads in Philly (and even the infamous cross-Bronx) that looked like minefields, but the Porsche shrugged it all off.

      Everyone bemoans the end of the old, hand-built Porsches. But Porsche was losing their shirt building those things.

  • avatar
    thats one fast cat

    Sometimes, when I am working underneath my Miata, I just gaze in amazement at the simplicity of its engineering design.

    Then I move to my 87 911, and I am again amazed at its engineering robustness on a nearly 25 year old vehicle.

    I get underneath my friend’s 2000 911, and I wonder what in the hell they were thinking.

  • avatar
    jmo

    The flimsy feeling came honestly — amazingly in this modern era, Porsche actually cut weight out of the car compared to the previous model

    Really? So, maybe people like a heavy substantial feeling car – contrary to the receiver wisdom of the TTAC crowd.

  • avatar
    JasonH

    Great article. All of the reasons mentioned are why earlier this year I bought a 2003 M3 instead of a 996. The poor quality of the 996 interior cannot be overstated. That, along with the constant fear of catastrophic engine failure really made the decision easy.

    • 0 avatar
      Johnny Canada

      Agreed. Oh, and Jason, don’t forget to have your rear subframe mounting points carefully inspected. This is BMW’s “quiet recall” for the E46.

    • 0 avatar
      campocaceres

      Johnny,

      Hate to go off topic– but I have heard about this. Did you get it done? Did you just schedule an appointment with the dealer? I’ve heard that the deadline is October of this year, need to get it done myself..

    • 0 avatar
      JasonH

      Yeah, mine are fine. I had them checked before I bought the car. The problem tends to be pretty rare on convertibles, either because of the extra bracing or because they’re more flexible. Just call the dealer to have them checked.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    This article is one of the daily moments when I ROFL at the US-car haterz/bashers and their supposed import superior quality. MEH!

    Corvette, Mustang, Challenger FTW

    :p

    • 0 avatar
      car guy

      Any German car from a VW polo to a Merc SLS to any 911 any year has a better and more ethical build quality when compared to any American offering esp. a Mustang one of the worst cars ever to come out of Detroit

      The Mustang has a horrible reliability record and the interior is just awful and GOD forbid you take a turn in a Mustang at speed.

      The Vette and Challenger have come a long way with help from Europeans and really only the Vette is a good car.

      • 0 avatar
        THE_F0nz

        Wow you have a very skewed view on the automotive landscape. Google the class action lawsuit Porsche just lost on the 2001-2005 Porsche 911”s and boxsters.

        EDIT: Here is the link:

        http://forums.rennlist.com/rennforums/996-forum/745057-ims-class-action-suit-2001-2005-owners-win-update-mar-12-a.html

        What reliability data are you looking at? Consumers? True Delta? I have memberships to both and I don’t see anything close to what you are saying. Which mustang generation? The 90′s? You might have a point on those turds. But they were so cheap any kid making 12 bucks an hour could afford them. Can’t really put that in the same category as a costly import.

        Take a look at a BMW 128 and 135! Yeeesh.

        • 0 avatar
          car guy

          I dont think its skewed, have you sat in and driven a german car and then sat in and driven an american car? And you can say that the german car isnt better made than the american car?

          Why do german cars sell for more money then their import counterparts? Why do they sell at all if the americans make a better car?

          Yes the mustangs from the 80s and 90s are very big turds but the early to mid 2000s arent much better. I have driven many versions of the mustang and the best is the newest.

          I think the bottom line here is that people commenting on this article dont really understand the 996 and what it did for porsche. People are making blanked statments about german cars which arent educated.

          Whats up with the bmw 128 and 135?

          • 0 avatar
            mgibb112

            I couldn’t agree more with car guy. I have driven every car out there and have worked on more than the average guy. You probably can’t speak on a 996 until you have owned a 996. As far as the class action lawsuit, it was related to IMS bearing failure, which every educated 996 and Boxster owner is aware of. If you neglect the IMS update service (at this point) as an owner, then you are asking for a problem and will probably get it.

          • 0 avatar
            oak

            And what if you didn’t ignore anything and serviced the car at Porsche and the damn thing dies 2 months out of warranty right after a $1200 service and in spite of the problem being widespread Porsche tells you you’re out of luck because the car is 2 months out of warranty and they didn’t see any issues when you did the $1200 service right before the motor died??? Of course we know you can’t see problems if you choose not to look and then get to charge customers for a NEW MOTOR

  • avatar

    It’s really sad for Porsche that we’ve reached the day where quality and durability are two reasons to buy a Vette over a 911.

    • 0 avatar
      LXbuilder

      Not sad at all when you look at how great the Corvette has become. Long live the new King.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I don’t think this has ever really been different.

      The Corvette has always been a pretty reasonable car to keep. The interior was never any great shakes and there were problems with electronics and steering columns, but it’s entirely possible for a “normal” person to own a Corvette, though perhaps not a ZR1, and not get killed on maintenance.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    This weekend I realized I have had my Miata for a year and two months, and it has needed nothing but gas and oil.

    It’s from 2002 with 42k miles and the combined maintenance so far, according to receipts. has been less than $1000 excluding tires.

  • avatar
    LXbuilder

    Every German car I’ve encountered in my life has told me that German engineering is way over rated. And I have also found that the cars only break because of the fools that drive them, or so says your friendly completely arrogant service manager.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      We were at the plumbing supply place to buy the fixtures for a remodeled shower. The salesgirl started to tout the “German Engineering” of the shower-head. I laughed at her.

      • 0 avatar
        jeffzekas

        Grandpa was German. His comment: “Where did this ‘new’ German quality come from? Not from me! These BMW’s and Porsches are Scheiße!” It should be noted: we have owned 4 BMW’s, one VW Jetta, and a Porsche Boxster. All were expensive, unreliable (compared to my Bronco) but have pretty interiors. Handling? My son’s Integra and Vette felt just as good on the road. Guess I’ll never fit in with the eurotrash snobs!

  • avatar
    DanyloS

    Jack, any opinion on special variants of the 996: GT3/Turbo which had the 964 engine block?

    Im guessing it will be car built on the cheap with a much better motor…

  • avatar
    philadlj

    I don’t know when Toyota started advising Porsche on cost-cutting, but I can bet it was during Toyota’s years of transition from “fat” to “lean” quality…otherwise, the next 911 could have turned out as bulletproof as the 1990 Camry, albeit without any actual cost savings…

  • avatar
    Morea

    Hmmm, an attractive car with thrilling performance but high maintenance costs?

    The Porsche engineers must be studying Italian!

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    From TTAC member Carnick (Nov 8 2008):

    I owned a 2006 Porsche Boxster S for 2½ years, and recently sold it and bought a Honda S2000. I sold the Boxster because of the looming problem of IMS. I personally am done with German cars, at least new(er) ones, pretty much anything German built since about the late 1990’s onward.
    The Boxster is an absolute blast to drive, as are all Porsche cars. There’s nothing like a mid-engine car and its low polar moment of inertia for phenomenally neutral handling. But, while I loved driving it, owning it was a different experience than a half hour test drive. It is a great combination of performance and luxury. However, Porsche has also done a fantastic job of marketing itself over the years. The company has set standards for skillful product placement. So many movies and television shows have Porsches in them whenever “upscale, affluent” lifestyles or “beautiful people” are depicted. Porsche itself now touts the “Porsche lifestyle” in their marketing, just like BMW. Their efforts have been phenomenally successful. Most people think “Porsche” when they think “upscale” car, or “upscale” lifestyle. Just like the cigarette advertising of the second half of this century, a whole generation – us – now has Porsche successfully branded on our psyches as the “it” car to have. Most people that are – or want to be – “upscale” want to have a Porsche (BMW has been even more aggressive with brand image marketing, maybe Porsche gets the silver medal to BMW’s gold in this regard).

    For many years Porsches richly deserved that reputation. The 911, which started the whole legend, was for decades fun to drive, beautifully engineered, and reliable, the standard by which all others were judged. There has never been anything else like it. I’ve owned several air-cooled Porsches before the Boxster, starting with the 356. The last one I had was a 1990’s 964 series 911, one of the later air cooled ones, and will always regret selling it. Unfortunately (IMHO), Porsches today have morphed into a different animal. After years of aggressive marketing, Porsche is now focused on maximizing profits.

    Think about this: Porsche’s company mottos in the past used to be “Excellence is expected”, or “There is no substitute”. For the past 10 years, ever since the introduction of water cooled Porsches, the official company motto is now “The most profitable car company in the world”. The IMS issue is what you get when a company – and its CEO – are focused on maximizing short-term profit, no matter what.

    If you take a close, critical, objective look at the Boxster, it is apparent that the company has gone through it with a fine toothed comb looking for ways to cut costs. They clearly looked at everything and asked, “will people still buy it for the same price if we do this”? The Boxster doesn’t even have a limited slip differential, which is shameful in any sports car (but then, the mall profiling crowd will never know the difference). It even lacks an oil dipstick, instead using an electronic oil measuring system (might seem cool at first, but it’s a lot more straightforward, and reliable, to just pull out a dipstick and see the oil level and condition). Save $5 here and $10 there, the next thing you know, it’s $1,000 more profit per unit, an impressive accomplishment in the razor-thin margins of the automobile industry – and you’re on your way to becoming the ‘most profitable car company in the world’.

    People may poke fun at crudeness of Mustangs or the rattles of a Hyundai, but even in a $12,000 Korean car you can reasonably expect the engine to last 100,000 miles if it is given a modicum of care. In this day and age, when reliability is expected, selling any car, especially a $60,000 one, where 10% to 20% of engines can fail at any time, without warning, is reprehensible and completely unacceptable. Think about how people would react if 10%-20% of Toyota or even GM engines would fail unpredictably. People would take to the streets with torches and pitchforks like the villagers heading for Frankenstein’s castle.

    In addition to the appalling IMS design flaw, there were other a few other things that ultimately I just couldn’t stand about the Boxster – which screamed of cost-cutting and brazen attempts to reach into my wallet and empty it – which is why I sold it –

    1) The car is fragile. The seat leather was so cheap that every 4th or 5th time I drove the car I had to recondition the leather because it would wear through the dye. Buttons would break. Electrical components would fritz. The top was wearing holes through it (which might not have been tolerable if a replacement convertible top wasn’t $6,000).

    2) You can’t see the engine. It’s in a sealed bay, accessible only from the bottom. Engine access in a mid-engine car is always tight (I’ve had mid engine cars before), but the Boxster is specifically designed to discourage owner access and force you to bring it to the dealer for everything, since the only way to get to the engine is on a lift and by removing the belly pan. Which results in…..

    3) Maintenance costs are heart-stopping, and for no good reason. The Boxster was designed to make owners dependent on the dealer, and addicted to expensive – and not easily substituted – maintenance. Oil changes are $230. Brake rotors last about 15,000 miles. The final insult was when the dealer tried to shake me down for a $450 annual “comprehensive inspection”. When I asked why, they said that if I ever had a warranty claim – like, just maybe, IMS – they wouldn’t back it up unless they did this “annual inspection” to verify proper maintenance, no abuse, etc. Which means, the dealer wants a $450 yearly bribe just to honor the warranty the car came with. I guess the dealers are just following Wendelin Wiedeking’s example of vacuuming up owner’s money any way they can.

    Where the Boxster was unreliable, the S2000 is a robust Honda. Where the Boxster was fragile the S2000 is well built. To the Boxster’s lack of engine access and outrageous maintenance costs the S2000 has the best engine access of any car I’ve owned in the past 10 years, and with simple, straightforward upkeep costs.

    Overall, after owning both, the S2000 to me just feels like more of a true enthusiast’s car, while the Boxster has evolved into more of a car for posers, or for orthodontist’s mistresses (some posers might be too insecure to have an objective discussion about cars, but then, maybe the old joke about (some) Porsche owners and porcupines is true…. ). To me, the S2000 has similar performance, is much more reliable, and costs half as much. Every time I drive it I get a huge smile on my face, and can’t believe a car can be this much fun (in some ways even more “fun” than my 911, which was a fantastic but ‘serious’ car).

    And, I don’t worry about a ticking time bomb of a design flaw in the S2000’s engine waiting to grenade itself without warning or provocation like the Boxster’s IMS Sword of Damocles hanging over the head of every owner.

    I know some people will consider it sacrilege for me to not unquestioningly worship at the altar of Porsche, and I’m sure I will no doubt be lambasted for my blasphemous comments. But, I’ve been to the top of the Porsche mountain, and while I loved my old 911, the Boxster just is not a Porsche from the “excellence is expected” school – it seems to be built by the same kind of people and mentality that brought us the current wonderful economy.

    Porsche’s CEO Wendelin Wiedeking, and his CFO Harald Härter, should be congratulated on their masterful and cunning, but also devious scheme in which Porsche acquired VW. Since hedge fund managers are among the lowest forms of life on Earth, maybe Wiedeking and Härter should get a medal for giving them a taste of what they have been doing to the rest of us. But, I think this also shows where their heads are at. They are obsessed with profits at any and all costs. They are not focused on making great cars. Their priority is to come up with conniving tricks to make money. Good for them, and good for their shareholders (in the short term – profits may be up 52% now, but let’s see what happens in a few years as more people realize what the reality is with current model Porsches). But that doesn’t mean I want to be part of it and own a car built by these kind of people.

    The fantasy is that Porsches are built by bespectacled engineers in leather aprons, lovingly assembling each engine by hand. While there may have been some kernel of truth to that image in the past, today the reality is Wiedeking and Härter with a spreadsheet looking for one more corner to cut to make another buck (or Euro, as the care may be) today.

    Porsche owners can be very passionate about their cars. I used to be. That passion could easily become anger as people realize they were duped. Wiedeking better look out his window to check for a crowd with torches and pitchforks on the horizon…

    Wait a minute…. I think I may have seen this movie before. Let me think…. Glorious past history… great cars that were the standard of the world, that people genuinely wanted to buy…. Dedication to engineering and quality…. Then, mushrooming egos, sacrificing quality for the sake of chasing more short-term profits, obsession with money, growing disregard for the product which ultimately led to buyers getting tired of being burned and walking away. Isn’t this the same kind of myopic nonsense that got the American car manufacturers swirling down the porcelain bowl?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      The S2000 is a torqueless piece of shit that looks like a Pinewood Derby car, doesn’t fit anybody bigger than an Oompa-Loompa, and has an interior that makes the Boxster’s look like it was milled from titanium.

      Oh, and if you actually drive them hard the transmissions explode.

      Last but not least, every autocrosser in America knows the phrase “S2K clutch delay valve”.

      Seriously, the Boxster has a lot of problems but going to an S2K is like sending the fugu fish back and ordering a Big Mac.

    • 0 avatar
      SherbornSean

      Sounds like somebody’s seen a lot of dust kicked up by S2000′s overtaking them.

      Seriously, wasn’t it hilarious how throughout the last decade, every time there was a comparison of the Boxster, TT and SLK, the S2000 which was half the price outperformed them?

    • 0 avatar
      JeremyR

      While there are certainly some valid criticisms of the Boxster, engine access isn’t one of them. Performing an oil change is the same as on pretty much any car. There is little reason to access the top of the engine (replacing the air filter is the only common reason I can think of), but when the time comes, it only takes a few minutes to get in, using nothing more than a socket driver. Changing spark plugs requires more effort than with many cars, such as removing the rear wheels and part of the wheel well cover (held in by four or five screws). Replacing the serpentine belt requires removal of an access panel behind the seats, again requiring just a socket driver. I’ve not had to replace a water pump, but I believe that it can be done through this same access panel. And if one does need to remove the plastic undertray to access the bottom of the engine for some reason, it’s not like it’s a big deal to remove it.

      The Boxster is the only mid-engine car I’ve ever owned, so I have no other comparable experience, but performing one’s own service on the car doesn’t require any heroics. It’s silly to suggest that the engine is in any way “sealed” to discourage self-maintenance.

      I won’t try to defend the indefensible, such as the intermediate shaft problem. But, despite this “Deadly Sin,” lots of people still drive and enjoy these cars. I don’t know what other Porsches Baruth owns, but it appears that at least one of them is a Boxster–which suggests that, for all its faults, there’s still something compelling about it.

      • 0 avatar
        dlcave

        Well put JeremyR! While I have only had air cooled Porsches I can’t imagine that the engine is inaccessible…and while mid engines are tight inherently, they are incredible to drive. Even the 914…it can be difficult to work on at times but when my son let one of his gear head friends drive his…he couldn’t believe the handling ability and the fact that there is no body roll what so ever. I full intend to check out the Boxter to see how it handles. I love Porsche cars and I consider them to be a labor of love. Anything worth owning requires some amount of work to keep it operating properly.

        If you want a comparison… my wife bought a PT Cruiser…Try working on that thing…and I don’t have to tell you there is no comparison in handling and performance.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    Wow, hope all the GM, Ford, and Chrysler haters remember that at least parts are cheap and cheap to have installed as long as you avoid the stealership after the warranty has expired.

  • avatar
    Boff

    Holy Cold Shower! 996′s are just coming into my price range…I guess I’ll just have to save up a little extra for a cherry ’87-’89! I’m glad you did mention that the air-cooled motors were far from bulletproof…the ’75-’77 ones were guaranteed to need a rebuild every 60,000 miles or so.

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    I was looking for a new car in 2001, and thought, largely based on what I’d read in C&D, that a lightly used 911 was surely the car for me. I test drove one and was shocked: plastic bits that could have been manufactured by Mattel, a generally tinny feeling to the whole experience (I took a lot of long-range road trips in those days, and back-to-back 12-hour days seemed like they would be torture), and a dealer network with its head so far up its a$$ that they couldn’t even fathom that they had competition.

    The following weekend I drove a 330ci. The BMW felt more substantial, the parts quality was superb, it was perfectly fast enough in every day life, and the dealers… okay, the dealers were also a$$holes (the guy called me at 11am on 9/11 and asked if, because I wasn’t otherwise busy, “we could do some business today”). But the car made up for it. I’ll never understand how Porsche sold a single one of those droopy-eyed lemons in all my days.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    What is it with Germans and low quality plastics? The VWs I’ve owned all suffered from periodic random failures of plastic parts. I also happen to own a matched Whirlpool washer and dryer set. The washing machine was made in Germany, the dryer in the US. The they both were the same color when new about five years ago, but all the plastic parts on the German built washer have turned that sickly yellow old plastic color one used to see on computer monitor cases when they aged while the plastics on the dryer look as good as new.

    For all of the hype about German engineering and manufacturing prowess, much of what comes from that country looks good at first, but doesn’t hold up well.

    • 0 avatar
      Johnny Canada

      Plastics are a real problem under the hood for BMW’s. After 75k miles the entire cooling system (including the fan) becomes a potential bomb. The rumor is that Germany requires a higher percentage of recycled (crap) plastics in new components.

  • avatar
    webebob

    I had hoped to own Porsche into retirement; little did I know that if I did not order the $2K “fat boy” seats and only ordered the $800 “sport” seats in the 2007 997, I would be tortured incessantly by the narrow V seat cushions cutting into my thighs on long “Gran Touring” trips. I also wanted a “real” Porsche, so purchased a used 993 cab (much more comfortable seats!) Although the 993 was mostly restored, the (used car) dealer tossed me the struts for both hood and trunk on my way out the door and said “just have any porsche dealer where you live install these” The rear deck struts go in with ease, the car literally has to be disassembled (4 hours labor!) to replace the front trunk struts.

    The seats on the 997 caused me to trade that car; the labor bill on replacing hood struts still fresh in my mind, when I heard the 993′s AC blower motor begin to make that worn-out bearing squeal, I drove it over to a Chevy dealer and drove a second Z06 home.

    I do miss the 993, it was more fun than a go-kart!

  • avatar
    david42

    Jack, I’d love to see a post on the more general topic of “German quality.” Most people know that it’s long-gone from today’s cars, but I wonder when it all went to hell. Was it really Lexus that did them in? Was it ever true in the first place?

    I own 2 pre-Lexus Mercedeses (w124 and w126), both with less than 100k miles. Compared to my parents’ old ’92 Camry (sold with 175k miles), neither of these “tanks” is particularly tank-like.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I raced BMX for nearly two decades with a fellow who worked in Mercedes service. I vivdly remember him complaining about the hallowed W123 cars, to say nothing of the W124 and W126. To hear him tell it, anybody who bought a straight-six Mercedes was doomed to a lifetime of mechanical problems.

      Sometimes we remember what we want to remember, for good or ill.

    • 0 avatar
      david42

      Ha! Both of mine are straight-sixes; I figured they would be more reliable than the V8s. Ooops.

      I guess I should’ve gone for diesels, though I’m not sure that their reliability justifies the huge price premium. Heck, maybe they’re not even that reliable…. my cars have had a whole variety of issues, not just powertrain.

    • 0 avatar

      I think VW’s slide must’ve started somewhere in 1993.

    • 0 avatar
      crc

      The difference build wise between my wife’s gen2 Golf and gen3 Jetta was amazing. That Golf could take a beating. The Jetta not so much.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      My ’89 Golf I Cabriolet (bought new) was a hanger queen … I too was visited by the plastic gremlins (instrument cluster substrate – holds instruments and radio and heater controls, etc.- embrittled and cracked and the mounting screws pulled thru Twice, while in warranty!) Broken rear spring, carbon problems on the valves, door handles sticking, plastic grille embrittling and cracking, water leaks, and the radiator support rotting thru adjacent to the hood latch … All during the warranty period!

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    It’s a disease. It really is. Porsche ownership has no reason or logic attached to it whatsoever. And for those with early water-cooled models in their garages, Porsche ownership borders on masochism.

    I will admit to going weeks while my (air cooled) 911 is in the shop. That it suffers from a long list of maladies which many never be fully sorted out. It causes me to spit in disgust, and curse the day I bought it.

    But then, I look at it, freshly polished and glistening in the sun. The perfect, iconic sports car. Tidy, purposeful, muscular, poised.

    The engine snorts to life through the M&Ks, then settles into a thrumming, basso idle which sounds like a velvet-enriched nuclear reactor. After letting it warm up, let the revs stretch out past 4000…5000 and the car switches to a banshie scream probably last heard by ME 109 fighter pilots. Downshift and shed speed approaching the corner and it gargles, growls and snaps like an angry Rottweiler.

    Toss it into the turn and set your line…don’t lift. Just hold it and be brave. It hunkers down and turns like a cat on carpet.

    And for an hour or two, you experience automotive nirvana.

    The Miata and S2000 and M3 — all wonderful, balanced, razor-sharp performers, and no doubt better than the old 911 in all regards.

    But there’s something missing. That mechanical savagery. That smell of hot oil, old leather. The Steve McQueen racecar sound track.

    I come close, so many times, to selling the 911 and opting for a Z4 or TT. Something modern. With AC that actually does more than blow less-hot air. A modern auto transmission with manual shift instead of the 915 tractor cog swapper.

    So far, I remain brain-addled and delusional. The passion for the the Ass-engined-nazi-slot-car still outweighs the pain.

    911, I just can’t quit you.

  • avatar
    salhany

    Do the 997s have this many issues, or did Porsche get that nonsense somewhat sorted out?

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      The 997 is a much better car than the 996 and does not suffer from most of the problems that plagued the 996. The interior on a 997 is leaps and bounds better.

    • 0 avatar
      JeremyR

      I believe the 9A1 engine appeared in 911 Carreras, Boxsters and Caymans in the 2009 model year. Although the new engine design eliminates the problematic intermediate shaft, it remains to be seen what new issues will arrive with the new engine.

  • avatar
    jaje

    996 can be had for great deals. Buy one cheap and replace the IMS with a sealed ceramic aftermarket bearing and replace the ream main seal. Also have several of the coolant ports redone b/c Porsche instead of using hoses that clamp down on metal jackets…they glued plastic tubes that stress fit into the engine block. A lot of 996 guys have had coolant leak failures at track days and had sudden snap oversteer for it dumping on the rear wheels (and the cars behind get a nice slick to drive over at speed).

    It is telling when Porsche quality dropped significantly when they let Toyota help them!

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    I am very good friends with a very honest and brilliant independent mechanic who works exclusively on German cars. His assessment of them is unsparingly brutal. To a one, they are absolute horrifying garbage, in his opinion. He has begged me …. BEGGED me …. not to do it over and over again.

    His theorem: people who actually love cars and love driving cars should never buy German. They are truly only poser mobiles.

    I have done so twice, notwithstanding his advice, and got away from the disastrous decision quickly, again at his earnest pleading. I traded in a Volkswagen New Beetle the very afternoon he told me the auto transmission was undergoing the beginnings of the familiar death-spiral (at 50,000 babied and pampered miles). I owned that dog turd for two months. Then I bought a 40,000 Audi A-4 and kept it for …. one week or so, until he told me that the timing belt needed replacing, which involves taking off the entire sheet metal on the front end for six times the price and hours expended as used in changing a Miata timing belt.

    Then once I looked longingly at a 911, and he promised to shoot me if I bought it. Although I am a highly-compensated professional, and the mint-looking 911 had the usual “receipts” proving the usual rebuilt anything and everything, he told me I could not afford it. This time, I listened and bought the Vette.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Couple things I can chime in…

    1st…if Porsches are so junky, why are they always at the top of the quality rankings? Seriously. I remember as a little kid in the 80′s and early 90′s being told repeatedly how much maintenance and cost was needed on a Porsche (or any supercar really). Even today. Now you read stuff like this and I can’t figure out how they consistently are at the top of these ratings…

    2nd… I worked at a VW/Audi/Porsche dealership as a summer job my freshman year in college in 2000 (so these cars just came out). I would have to clean them up, move them around, and I remember thinking it was pretty cool to work at a Porsche dealer (in the bay area…big volumes), and I’d jump in and be completely underwhelmed at what I was sitting in. Then you look at the options list and the base price and be even more appalled…everything was an option, and the car still felt crappy to be in. I really liked the VW’s and Audis then too, but I would hang with the service guys and one dude who had been there for a few decades said that the new VW’s and Audis were total crap, even worse than they had been previously (where they would break, but at least they for the most part would still keep running). Turns out he was right on that one too.

    I have a MK5 GTI now (my first German car), and I LOVE it. I have been fortunate so far that in 2 years I have had nothing really scare me….though a mechatronic unit replacement common on all cars my age has me worried if the DSG ever bites the dust. I loved the car (like the Porsche crack mentioned), and I said I would give the Germans ONE chance….wow me and I’ll come back, burn me and I’m finished. Its a shame too. Live in Germany now, and the difference in rental cars I get every now and then is shocking. The German cars (BMWs are my favorite – the 3 Series is superb…better than Audis, VW’s, Mercedes, Opel) are faster, planted, brake better, turn better, are more comfortable, quieter, etc. There is no doubt they are overall the BEST cars in the world when they are working. I just hope that they’ve improved the build quality so the cars continue to drive that way over the years (plan to keep my GTI awhile). I would like to have a BMW sometime if my confidence remains. I am willing to pay a bit more for the drive offered (brakes, etc) but I just will not accept massive, catastrophic, expensive failures (in any car for that matter)….avoid those and they will get my business. Give me one, and I’m finished. I thoroughly enjoyed enough Hondas and Mazdas to gladly go back to Japanese cars.

    Did have a diesel+automatic Cayenne rental last year. Sucked. HATED it. Drove like a damn truck that it is. Fast, but a brute. Everything was forced. Nothing special in it at all. That’s the real Porsche Deadly Sin in my book….

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      Perhaps Porsche owners report high (initial) quality because nobody wants to admit they spent $60,000+ on a lemon. The type of egomaniac that wants to be seen in a Porsche may be similar to the Hummer buyer profile: does not care if the vehicle is an overpriced POS as long as it gets noticed.

      Judge the Porsche as a car for racing or sex appeal and it is probably a good vehicle. By any other standard the car is wanting.

    • 0 avatar
      JeremyR

      By that logic, the top of the chart should be dominated by luxury brands, and it isn’t.

      • 0 avatar
        jeffzekas

        BMW and Porsche owners I’ve met seem to be cult members: they see no evil, deny any major expenses, and spout the “quality” mantra. Yes, a car can be “junky” and still sell millions i.e. the new Mini and the 3-series. As P.T. Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” BTW: I didn’t say Beemers and Mini’s aren’t pretty, but they are beautiful, good handling, fun to drive… junk.

  • avatar

    And all us 944 968 owners (front engine, rear wheel drive) are smiling gently, paying low prices and winning races.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Amen. I had a little bit of worry when I bit the bullet and bought that 924S last year with 116k on the clock. Bit the second bullet and had the cam belt/water pump/etc. work done immediately.

      6k later, I’m in absolute lust with that car. Seriously considering a 968 when the time comes to buy something newer (or just put the 924S on antique plates).

      I look at my drive, read all the horror stories about the late model Porsche’s, and occasionally check the emblem on the nose just to make sure we’re talking the same marque.

  • avatar
    h82w8

    Porsches have always had various mechanical issues of varying degrees of severity (and cost to correct), including every iteration of the venerable air cooled 911. Fortunately, there’s beau coup documentation and a wealth of information on all of it for every version, model year and model, including DIY tips and tricks, so owning an older model 911 is not as economically painful and one might think. And speaking from experience, air cooled 911s, especially pre-993 versions, are surprisingly simple mechanically and easy to work on for the DIY owner.

    Re: modern P-cars…. I tested, and seriously considered buying, a really nice low mile 2002 996 C2S before I bought my ’96 993 C2 a little over a year ago. It was really a stark contrast in fit/finish, material quality, and driving experience between the two models. Porsche made a turd with the 996, no question.

    My 993 is my second 911…owned an ’87 3.2 Carrera coupe back in the late ’90s. 993s and prior air cooled (in reality they are oil-cooled) 911s all have a certain something, an amalgam of dynamic mechanical purity and singularity of purpose about them that you just won’t find in any other car. There are faster cars, there are quicker accelerating cars, there are better handling cars, there are better braking cars (not many), but nothing else puts it all together in a such a sensuous driving experience like an air cooled 911 does. Nothing.

    And on this score, except possibly the 997 GT3 and GT3 RS, and maybe the GT2, modern Porsches fall well short of the mechanically sensuous driving experience standard of the old school 911s, IMO.

    Finally, new Porsche have ALWAYS been overpriced. That’s just the deal, take it or leave it. But they depreciate like everything else, which is why you buy a well-documented used one. A nice older 911 for less than the price of a new Camry? Heck yes!

  • avatar
    carguy

    Porsche are like most car makers – they make good cars and bad ones. The 911 is questionable value at beast and has tuned soft over the years. Personally, I would much rather see a more aggressive development of the Cayman/Boxter than more 911 bloat.

    From a sheer value point of view I wouldn’t buy anything but a used Cayman or Boxter. You can get an low mileage S in the high 30s which gives you 90% of the performance and better balance. It’s the only Porsche that makes any sense to me.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      From a sheer value point of view I wouldn’t buy anything but a used Cayman or Boxter. You can get an low mileage S in the high 30s …

      Or you could go with a new RX-8 and have cash left over for mods. I’m conflicted… A respected mechanic favors the Cayman, but my gut tells me stay away from used German iron…

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The RX-8 is reliable if you don’t turbo the car and keep the oil topped up (eg, check your oil when you fill your tank). Problems with unblown rotaries stem from people treating the oil change interval like that of a piston engine, and the rest of the car is pretty solid. If this still scares you, the Miata is a wholly viable option and is more mod-friendly

      The Cayman? Everything will cost a mint to fix.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      There is also nothing unreliable about a low mileage Cayman. Many used examples have spent more time getting polished than driven and 3-4 year old examples with only 5-15K on the clock are common. The service and tires will cost around $2K per year but that is well worth the sensational balance and sheer driving pleasure on offer.

  • avatar
    rwb

    That color looks gorgeous applied the the classic, compact Porsche.

    It looks god damned hideous, however, on a puffy new Audi. Brown, black, and lime green don’t match, guy.

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    Not sure why VW/Audi were brought into this, they didn’t own Porsche at the time when this crap was built.

    No sheet-metal is removed to replace the timing belt on any A4 I have ever worked on. The front bumper and radiator support comes off in about 45 minutes.They are both plastic not metal. Once you do this you have access to most of the major engine components.

    Sounds like a Value Added mechanic you have, recommending 40Kmile timing belt changes as well. Hopefully that includes draining flushing and refilling the blinker fluid as well as rotating the air in the tires.

    Last time I changed vehicles I really lusted after a used Boxster, great car to drive. However the reliability and cost of maintenance put me off. Though people do DIY them it is a challenge. I have a friend with a 2006 that he has to employ a battery tender if he doesn’t drive it for a week.

    Sad thing is that since many of these cars are weekend toys they tend to expire at 5+ years old at pretty low miles with about 10 seconds warning.

    Great car to rent though, and I have done that as a Birthday gift to myself.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    I would have thought that Porsche’s support for the Nazis would rank ahead of building a lousy toy for the rich, but what do I know.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      You lived in Germany in the 1930′s and wanted to do engineering jobs that involved government money, you dealt with that jerk with the moustache. It’s not like you made deals with the opposition party – seeing they were having their meetings in a Dachau dormitory cabin.

      Last I read, Ferdinand was rather apolitical. He cared about engineering, not politics. He was a German. Like most citizens he supported his country. Pity about what they had for a government at the time.

    • 0 avatar
      rnc

      I always understood it that he was a die-hard nazi and close personal friend of the father, who allowed him to build toys instead of weapons that got germany smacked on the eastern front (the elephant).

  • avatar
    ThisWas

    Jack wrote “the 911 owner could at least fail to enjoy the most dismal, fragile interior ever seen in a production Porsche.”

    I road-tested my daughter’s Neon today after making a minor repair. Reading Jack’s article I discovered the Teutonic inspiration for the Neon’s plastic-fantastic instrument panel. See: http://www.edmunds.com/pictures/EVOX/2005/Dodge/2005.dodge.neon.20127338-E.jpg

    In this case, imitation was not the sincerest form of flattery.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    “Few companies have been as comprehensively whitewashed by the media…..”

    And that would also include TTAC, would it not?

  • avatar

    Great article – you truly capture the disillusion Porschefiles felt with the release of the 996. The air cooled cars just have more heft, more feel, more fun – even if they’re not as fast (and understeer like dogs – yes, I said understeer – unless you decide to lift the throttle in a noob panic).

    I for one honestly believe Porsche still has no clue how to build a water cooled car . . . . . but just like Porsche, I never learn (former 951 turbo owner, current 986 Boxster 2.7 and 944 S owner).

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Excellent article

    I thought for sure the Porschephiles would storm TTAC en masse calling for blood, but things have been relatively civil. It’s interesting that in having seen the sins of other manufacturers not too long ago we are able to acknowledge and break down sins now almost in real time.

    One mystery that eludes me- why DID Porsche abandon the air cooled engine? Was it a problem with emissions? Seems like gambling with water cooling on their cash cow made no sense, as all the engineering for the air cooled motor had been done and spread out over 40 years. I know they had the 924-928s but those were off shoots, and from what I understand those had no problems. How could Porsche mess up so badly?

    Resale values always tell a car’s true story, and most German cars of the early 996 vintage have all suffered immense depreciation. W220 V12 Benzes can be had for well under $15K all day. The later twin turbo versions go for not much more. Even relatively good cars like the E39 M5 have gone from 80K new to 15-20K, and the tale is even worse for the 99ish W210 E55. Meanwhile, mid 90s special edition German cars command prices often higher than their replacements… maybe due to nostalgia, but probably more due to better build quality and a more mechanical, “Teutonic” driving experience. The late 90s-early 00s were really a low point for European marques, and with the swift action of the Japanese through cars like the Lexus ES, Infiniti G and even the 02 Nissan Altima I think ground has been covered that can’t be reclaimed.

    The last hope for the Germans is in riding the coattails of their name and the weak economy that prevents conservative marques like Honda/Toyota to invest in competition. But even Hyundai is throwing a worthy hat into the ring. Definitely interesting times.

    But yea, the 996 kind of personalized the beginning of the fall from grace for German marques in general. It, coupled with the 96 E class really threw up red flags for many German car devotees. I don’t know that their reputations will ever recover.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      I’ve heard that there are displacement and hp limits in air cooled engines that engineers have not been able to work around, remember that’s just an IIRC.

      http://ateupwithmotor.com/sports-cars-and-muscle-cars/159-days-future-past-porsche-928.html

      Ate Up With Motor mentions Porsche may have been worried about noise regulations that never materialized in developing the 928.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      It is my understanding that the aircooled Porsche six could not pass the “drive-by” noise regulations in Europe.

      My 993 has B&B Triflos on it and it’s LOUD.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    Notwithstanding the mechanical issues, modern Porsches (beginning with the subject 996) look like uninspired melted lozenges to me. The previous generation car had that hard, distinctive window shape/opening that goes all the way back to the ’60′s, as well as the “hewn from a solid block” look that the current blandmobiles they are peddling definitely lack.

  • avatar

    I always thought the 996 was an abortion, top-to-bottom, beginning to end.

    Ugly, overpriced, unreliable, and did I mention ugly?

  • avatar
    vaujot

    “The 1999 Porsche 911 was a failure in every way but one: the massive savings realized with the new model made it possible for the company to plan new models.”

    What is the business objective of Porsche, or any car company for that matter? It is not building cars that please traditionalists and enthusiasts at subsidized pricing! Porsche did that for a while in the late 80s and early 90s and it almost killed the company. Rather, the objective is to build cars and make a profit as large as possible. They did that rather well since Wiedeking took the reigns and the 996 was quite a success in that regard. That this success led to the attempted take-over of VW and the take-over eventually happening the other way round is a different story.

    On the 996: I am a 993 guy but had the opportunity to test drive a 996 last weekend. I liked it more than I expected. The difference to my car was striking but, at the same time, I thought that it still captures the 911 feeling in a more modern, sanitized way. The 996 and all water-cooled boxers have their achilles heels (IMS, RMS) but if you find one where the engine hasn’t leaked for 50k miles or so, chances are that you have found one that never will. I also hear that using oils with higher viscosity (10w-60) rather than the factory recommended 0w-40 will help preventing leakages.

    Finally, look at prices for 1999 sports cars with about 300 hp. I just did. Look at how well the contemporary competitors of the 996 fare. It is rather telling. I can only think of one competitor of the 996 that I’d find clearly more desireable: Honda NSX. That was an extremely well-built car for enthusiasts. It also was a massive sales failure. Which brings me back to my starting point.

  • avatar
    siennaslammer

    —advice needed—
    for 20K, should i buy 1995 911 or 2000 911 ??

    • 0 avatar
      JeremyR

      At $20K, I’d be concerned about the condition of a 993 (1995) or a 996 (2000), but especially the 993. For that kind of money, a Boxster is probably a better bet.

  • avatar
    shawnshekari

    I drive the shit out of my 1999 996 daily.  Bounce her off the rev limiter about every time I get on the freeway, the power just keeps building and I always wish I had another couple hundred rpm. :P
    I bought it at 40K miles 5 years ago and now am well past 100K.  It’s been through several track days & HPDE events with NASA and local PCA.
    Second week I had it I replaced the suspension for some Cross coil-overs and a huge H&R sway bar in the rear to dial out the under-steer.  I’ve also added a short throw shifter, light weight flywheel, headers, sport mufflers, center console delete, 19″ Champion Motorsport RS98 wheels.
    Sure there are faster cars, but I sure don’t know of any cars this fun that will still get you to work every day and even blow ice cold air sitting in traffic with an OAT of 117deg.
    http://www.renntech.org/forums/index.php/garage/vehicle/415-carrera-996-c2-coupe/
    -Shawn

  • avatar
    SamT

    Really, there is no substitute.

  • avatar
    zblue996

    I looked at used vette’s, sl55′s, 993′s, 911 SC’s, XKR’s, M3′s and ended up buying a beautiful 996 for less than $20K.  I think its a steal.  I was ready to pay over $40K for one of the other cars mentioned, but when I added everything up I was so impressed with the performance/looks/value of the 996.  Sure, it could explode but I’ve got money left over to deal with it.  

    I buy cars to impress ME, not anyone else.  In fact, if I could ride around in a veil so no one could look at me I’d be very happy.  I don’t give a crap about image.  That being said, I noticed that only old wankers drove vettes, SL55′s, and XKR’s.  Young fools drove M3′s.

    I thought the older 911′s were more like Volkswagens due to their clutch layout.  They just didn’t have the punch that the 996 has.  Also, the M96 engine has a truly intoxicating sound when the variocam kicks in. 

    I couldn’t be happier with the 996 and I, for one, am damn glad there are so many haters out there that have forced down the resale value.  Keep it up.  I may go for a deflated 996TT in the near future…..

  • avatar
    zblue996

    Oops, that’s varioRam.  It really is wonderful and a big leap over the older system.

  • avatar
    CDN_Stig

    Most of the cars listed as being so much greater than a 911 because they are Japanese have the same sort of catastrophic failure points that are unacknowledged by their manufacturers:

    Mazda Miata – Crankshaft failure
    S2000 – valve retainer springs
    NSX – Snap ring failure
    MR-S and SE-R – pre-cat failure

  • avatar
    CDN_Stig

    … as for these cars being too hard to work on, ask your “neighbour” if he’s capable of changing the spark plugs on his new F-150.

  • avatar
    cc_2001_911

    There are some great points and definitely some valuable reading here for anyone looking to buy a 996 or anyone that has an interest in the 996. I have to say though, with all due respect, I think there are some important details missing which make it an unfair and scary read. This kind of reading would unjustly scare the hell out of anyone looking to buy what is in fact a great sports car despite some known issues. Purchased wisely and looked after correctly, this car is unstoppable and a total blast.

    The 996 has it’s issues for sure but no more than any other 911 or many high powered sports cars. I think it would have been more balanced to have added that there are now ways to address the 996 issues particularly the main cause for any concern which is possible (but not commonplace) IMS failure. Suggesting that the value of a 993 vs a 996 on the market today is an indicator of desirability isn’t right either… supply and demand plays a big factor here. Basically Porsche built many more 996 cars than the 993.

    With regards to IMS, the June issue of Excellence has probably the best-written IMS article. If you can get your hands on a copy, it’s gold. I think it’s a must if buying a 996 or any M96 powered Porsche. In short though, an IMS retrofit is available. Here’s more info from the engineers themselves http://www.lnengineering.com/ims.html . I’ve had mine done and I sleep very soundly at night thanks. In the scheme of things, it didn’t cost a great deal either. I’d have the rear main seal checked at the same time.

    If you are looking to buy a 996 or even just want a well-researched book on the 996 then Adrian Streather’s book ‘Porsche 996 The Essential Companion’ is a must. After reading the recommendations given in the buyer’s guide, knowing what to ask and look for should set anyone up with the knowledge to get a gem. This book is vast and thorough, myths and truths are all covered too. It’s honest about known issues but also puts right other rubbish that plagues the web. For example (although this may be an obvious one) air cooled 911 models were not hand built by qualified German craftsmen whilst the 966 was build by robots. They shared the same production process, line and even assembly team.

    I’ve read so many of these posts in various forms but also studied like a nut comparing all my 911 options before I committed to buying my 2001 911 C2 manual coupe. I must say I avoided the early ones knowing that many of the issues were corrected by the time they made the 2001 model.

    On interior quality, well I think the 996 cabin is a big improvement on previous models. Whilst it was improved further by the time they built my car, mine does have some painted plastic. This was a common daft German car interior thing at the time and of course the paint peels and scratches. Perhaps someone should tell Porsche, BMW and Mercedes that plastic comes in all colours… stop painting it! Having said this, mine looks very tidy inside and most of the cars that I looked at did too so it’s really not that bad. I must say, I don’t care about a few scratches considering how much fun this car is anyway and I’m fussy. I haven’t heard about, or had any of the electrical problems mentioned but I’m sure there are some… this many sounds a bit exaggerated to me though.

    It was either a 993 or a 996 for me and I looked at as many examples of each car available and agonised over so many factors. I will always love and respect the 993. The shape is awesome and arguably the nicest in my mind and those hips (wheel arches) are oh so sexy. It also sounds awesome which is why I very nearly bought one over the 996. I needed my car to be a daily driver though and wanted the better performance and interior comfort.

    Was the 996 built on a budget? Aren’t all cars? It’s true that Porsche had to change the way they manufactured cars and I’m glad they did because they survived. Most savings were with parts sharing between cars Boxster/911. Look, mine doesn’t have a glove box and I don’t know for sure but this might have been a budget decision…. I still don’t care! I’d rather not have a glove box and an awesome car overall.

    I design for a living and it’s in my nature to analyse everything from a visual as well as experience perspective. The passion and determination to relentlessly improve on driving performance and experience whilst retaining but refreshing the 911 shape was successfully achieved with the 996. There’s no doubt in my mind.

    And what about the headlights? Mine has the last of the Mk1 lights so they are the same as the 986 Boxster and GT1 without the fried egg bit. They maybe controversial but I know that I’m not alone in liking them. Actually I love them. Take out any ‘sharing front end with Boxster’ arguments or any ‘they aren’t classic 911 round’ arguments and look again. They work well. I think the lines accentuate the sports car shape and help give the front a curvaceous yet wide and low sport look. I think they’re sculpted around the shape of the car just right following the line of the front bumper. I don’t think it worked as well when they cut a corner out to differentiate it from the Boxster. The 996 headlights also make for a unique one off 911 now and no, they were not carried over or copied from the Boxster, they were penned first for the 911 as I believe were all the shared parts.

    I think that the 996 is likely to be a rare and sought after future classic for a number of reasons such as marking the revolution to water cooled and a very smart and sexy smooth evolution of the 911 shape. If you’ve come across this page whilst researching to possibly buy one, you should and you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

  • avatar
    mikegr

    THAT IS ALL CRAP. THE GUY MENTIONS THE HIGH REPAIR COST WHICH TERRIFY PEOPLE BUT DOESNT REFER WITH NUMBERS TO CARS THAT REALY FACED THAT FAILURES. THE TRUE PERCENTAGE OF THESE CARS IF YOU MAKE A RESEARCH YOU WILL SHE THAT IS BELOW 10%.
    AS FAR AS DEPRECIATION, IT IS KNOWN THAT AIR COOLED 993 ARE IN HIGH DEMAND AND KEEP THEIR VALUE EVEN BETTER THAT 997. 996 HAS REACHED ITS BOTTOM AT DEPRECIATION AS 997 WILL DO WHEN 991 STARTS ROLLING IN NEXT 1-2 YEARS. IN FACT 996 TURBO IS THE MOST BARGAIN SUPER CAR IN MARKET TODAY WITH 40K$, BULLETPROOF ENGINE AND EASILY-CHEAP TUNE TO 500+HP

  • avatar
    A_JourneymanII

    WOW!!! So I’m out yesterday helping my step-daughter look at a new vehicle. Low and behold a 2003 911 is on the lot. Being a bit of a wrench head and past owner of German auto’s, I was blown away by a large portion of the posts. I’ve owned and wrenched on VW’s, Bimmer’s old and new (2002′s and 3 series)and an Audi S4. Maybe I need to rob a few more banks because there’s no chance of a professional sports career. 80k miles on a nine year old vehicle I thought wasn’t to bad, having driven cars to more than 275k. Is it the same old burning question “You can afford the car or the mechanic, not both”? NOT ASCEERD! Just a little more educated and cautious. I suppose I keep my e30 for a back-up?

  • avatar
    jhood

    I have a pastel lemon ’99 996, just like the photo at the top of this screed, except that mine is a soft-top. It’s my second Porsche. The first was an ’03 Boxster that I got in ’06 or so and absolutely drove the hell out of. Daily driver in horrendous traffic and weekend warrior out in the hinterlands. Great car. Changed the oil a time or two. Kept open orders at the tire store.

    The 996 had about 45k when I found her a few months ago and so far everything appears to be holding together despite my best efforts. Having owned numerous Alfa Romeos of every imaginable vintage and numerous other French, Italian, German and US buggies, the Porsche seems to me to still be the “purest” driver’s car. Plastic interior? Who cares? The extra torque and sound effects of the 996 make up for any slight defects in handling as compared to the Boxster.

    Reliability isn’t everything, after all. Did I mention I used to own Alfa Romeos?

  • avatar
    mgibb112

    I own a 2000 996 and couldn’t be happier…..an awesome car to drive! If you want to label a Porsche junk, then I guess you have to throw Benz, BMW, and Audi in the mix too. I’m a veteran shop owner and fix tons of German cars, and the 996 has been no more expensive to own then the rest of them. If you want them to run well, you have to take care of them, which requires spending $$. IMS bearing update is a must. RMS is a must. Scheduled maintenance is a must. If you worry about spending a few $$ here and there, then German sports cars are not for you. Buy Japanese, But really…let’s be honest.. a Honda S2000, a Mazda Miata, a 350Z ? They don’t even fall in the same class. When was the last time a Miata pulled up next to you and you took a second look….high school? I wouldn’t spend $100G+ on a new 997, but $20K for a nice, sorted 996….a no brainer if your’e not afraid. Or you can play it safe and buy a lower miles Vette. Just my opinion based on owning one, unlike many on here.

    • 0 avatar
      heavyrightfoot

      Responding to jhood & mgibb112 above… I agree with both your comments. I gather that the early Boxsters and 996s did have some engine issues but buy 2000/2001 these were by and large resolved.This is why I did not buy earlier vehicles. Since these vehicles were under warranty Porsche had a financial incentive to fix these issues. So this is history and there are many other car companies who have had similar issues with the introduction of a new models that extend to other major components.
      Of all the European brands and practically all other brands excluding Lexus, Porsche rate best for low faults and well for reliability considering that they produce high performance vehicles. No other brand producing vehicles in this class does as well.
      I have owned a Miata – lots of fun, reliable and a good drive but lacked power, decent brakes and it felt pretty tinny. The interior on these cars is pretty ordinary, flimsy and typically Japanese.
      Have a Boxster S and Carrera 4 Cabriolet now from the 996 era. Both are very robust and practical and very easy to own and maintain. All the basic parts for maintenance are cheap. They are different driving experiences and have many ownership advantages when compared with say the 993 and 964 although they provide an excellent driving experience. With respect to the 996 turbo – mind blowing and next on my shopping list. That car is underrated and even if you never want to own one, drive one anyway as it is probably the closest you will get to being strapped to a rocket.
      Interior quality issues: Yes, not brilliant but when I am driving don’t look at it. No glove box? Fortunately I don’t own any gloves.

      • 0 avatar
        mr.drama

        After $1200 in diagnostics on my . DD ’97 BOX-13 yrs of ownership-with no,believe me,no expense spared, I was given a vague diagnosis that one my timing rails broke(maybe)…engine shot @ 115k.I was idling when this occurred.Now that in itself is a drag,but what goes unsaid is that I spent about $1.50 a mile over the last 10K miles BEFORE that.I called it”renewing my vows”….does it matter why the engine blew?well yes, because Jake Raby (lnengineering.com)has documented over (20)(!)more causes of failure BEYOND the IMS/RMS design flaws.So,enjoy your M96′s,drive them regularly,change the oil every 3 or 4K and a rabbits foot wouldn’t hurt either.Last year I would have been in the other camp,but now:I for one will never buy another M96 based car.As Ronald Reagan once said,”a recession is when your neighbor loses his job, a depression is when you lose yours”-this applies to this pro-con discussion as well

  • avatar
    amca

    I’ve got a 996, 1999. Since new it’s had an instrument cluster replacement, the radiator overflow tank replacement, and the ignition lock replacement. All apparently common failures. And at 50k miles, I did the clutch and a new IMS bearing at my (independent) mechanic’s insistence.

    And I still love the car. Nothing feels like a Porsche at the wheel. Not even a 997. And definitely not a new 991.

    • 0 avatar
      amca

      I am sad to announce the passing of my beloved 1999 996.

      Some idiot semi driver in bumper to bumper traffic didn’t see that little car down there. Bam! And that was the end of the road.

      After 14 years together, she will be greatly missed.

  • avatar
    CRay

    I would love to own a Porsche but my 370Z is cheaper, lower maintenance and faster then almost all the Porsche’s out their until you get to the 540hp model and then it is very very close. And both draw the looks when you buy the 370Z from the factory with the Nissan racing team support. She is a fun sport’s car.

    • 0 avatar
      car guy

      There is a reason they are cheaper, because they are less desirable.

      They arent faster and they dont handle as well. They arent as good looking.

      I own a porsche 996, a panamera S and a 1976 280z, so i do understand the appeal of the older Zs. However every Z after and including the 350Z is subpar by their own standard. Plastc, tinny, and ugly.

      The 370z is the Timex and Porsche are the Rolex of the car world. They both get you from point A to point B, but dont lie to yourself about which is better or more desirable car

  • avatar

    Over many years of driving, I have owned a number of Porsches. They have ranged from a ’57 Speedster (back when they were somewhat affordable) to my most recent – a 2007 Carrera 4S. Along the way there were several 996′s.

    I, too, thought the 996 Carreras to have a truly cheap looking and feeling interior. My first, a ’99 Carrera Cab was silver with “Boxster Red” leather. At 26K miles the seats had begun to age badly and the plastic buttons and rubber knobs began to feel as though they came on a kit car. Bear in mind I am a woman of normal size and build and never permitted anyone to use this car. Terribly disappointing. On the plus side, I thought the exterior design based on the Boxster was attractive enough to get me into a Porsche Stealership.

    That 996 was replaced with another and even another until I (slow and stubborn learner that I am) finally opted out and bought a 2006 Z4 Coupe. A lovely car, despite all the jokes about it being made in Spartanburg, SC. From the start, this car has been a joy to own and drive and I use it for track days and often as daily transport. The run-flats are long gone, of course. Other than some new tires, it’s just been oil, filters and fuel.

    But, having owned Porsches and having been involved in PCA for so many years, I felt the urge (obligation?) to own a Carrera again. $104K later I became the proud owner of a 2007 C4S – now worth about $52K with only 27,500 miles on it. I wish I had bought $104K worth of Ford stock instead. LOL.

    Anyway, I read many of the comments here and have to agree with some. It is ironic that Porsche’s little scheme to buy VW backfired and the tables were turned on them. I still like my C4S, but it may very well be the last Porsche I own. I tried a Cayenne S, by the way. A Toureg by any other name, huh?

    VW Group are most likely laughing their “asches” off now that Porschephiles can spend $80K on a revamped Q5 with about 2/3rds the storage area.

    Yes, I sometimes feel the fool for continuing my interest in Porsches even though some of my more mechanically educated contemporaries have left the fold.

  • avatar
    raminduction

    I can’t comment on the “911″, but I can add a lot to the Boxster part, having owned a 1999 until the engine blew due to head failure (fully documented problem on both Pelican and Rennsport). I bought the car used from Sonnen in Mill Valley with a extended factory warranty. The car had just over 25K on the clock. Never experienced any of the interior, instrument, button, electrical problems mentioned in the comments here. Yes, the interior was sparse, but I expected that of a sports car: I wasn’t looking for a luxo-pimpo. The only thing disappointing about the interior was the lack of a oil pressure gauge and amp/volt gauge in the instrument cluster. After about a year of driving, I noticed oil spots under the car and took it back to Sonnen. They immediately took the car in, issued me a loaner, and replaced the IMS bearing and seal along with the clutch, and all under the extended warranty.

    Maintenance wise, this was probably the most maintenance free car I have owned. I was surprised at how long the intervals were for regularly scheduled maintenance, but halved the oil and filter change mileage to 7500. The only other thing I observed was that rear tires seemed to “disappear” rather quickly, however, with the exception of my 4-wd Tahoe, ALL my other cars (rear drive, naturally) managed to make rear tires “disappear” as well…strange, eh?

    However, the driving experience was incredible! What a corner carver, with NONE of the nastiness of 911s (squirrely rear end movements, and twitchy front ends), and especially NONE of the “chip-on-the-shoulder” bs the 911 is noted for. The Boxster had a true soul and loved to be driven fast slow or inbetween, just so long as it wasn’t granny-driven…it just doesn’t like to be lugged down. The driving experience was so great that it became my daily driver (probably one of the reasons the rear tires went away so quickly). Just pure driving heaven.

    Then, in one instant, everything in the toilet: driving home (in the fast lane of course), as I accelerated to get ahead of a shadowing car to get to the right to take the exit lane a VERY loud noise came from the engine compartment. Everything suddenly died and all the warning lights came on. Fortunately I had enough momentum to get off the freeway to the shoulder. Towed the car back to Sonnen, where they informed me after a few days that the #3 cylinder head had failed, destroyed the piston, and the flailing conn rod had done the rest. Well, no matter how much fun the car was, KBB said it was only worth $9K with 114K on the clock, and a replacement engine was going to run $8K to $12K depending on whether I wanted the stock 2.7 or the later 3.2. Sold the car to a scrapper…..


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