Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Porsche 911 History

2001-2005 Porsche 911 Turbo

If the GT3 reincarnated the classic Carrera 2.7 RS, the fifth-generation Porsche 911 Turbo, announced for 2001, channeled the historic 959. It was, as Automotive News reported, "the nearest Porsche has come to mass-marketing the package and performance heralded by the 959" -- polished by 13 subsequent years of technical innovation.

The heart of the 996 Turbo was its water-cooled, 24-valve 3.6-liter engine. Designated G96, it was developed from the 1999-2000 GT3 unit but differed in construction. Instead of two blocks with Nikasil-coated cylinders bolting to a two-piece crankcase, the G96 had Lokasil-treated blocks integral with the crankcase halves.

Porsche 911
The 996 Turbo featured a 24-valve 3.6-liter engine. Here's a 2002 Turbo coupe.

Another distinction was Porsche's VarioCam Plus, which varied not only intake-valve timing but also lift. Like Honda's similar VTEC system, this new two-stage VarioCam improved both low-end torque and high-end power.

Twin turbochargers returned, but their intercoolers now nestled low in the rear fenders, behind the wheels, ingesting through a trio of 959-type slots. The engine gulped air through a vertical duct high on each rear fender. Up front was a modestly enlongated nose with two large outboard intakes for cooling the brakes and a wide central opening for the engine radiator and a separate oil cooler.

Despite all the ductwork, plus compression bumped from 8.0 to 9.4:1, the 996 Turbo was only a bit more muscular than the 993 model it replaced. Horsepower climbed by 15 to 415 at 6,000 rpm, while torque swelled by 13 pound-feet to 413. However, that torque spread over a broader range of 2,700-4,600 rpm.

Boost pressure was raised to 9.4 psi, with bursts of up to 11.4 psi available when allowed by the Bosch Motoronic ME 7.8 engine computer. Also notable, the G96 engine was "greener," rating U.S. Low-Emission-Vehicle status at a time when many lesser cars did not.

Predictably, the 996 Turbo inherited the latest C4's all-wheel drive with Porsche Stability Management, so this was the first Porsche 911 Turbo available with automatic transmission, a suitable fortified five-speed Tiptronic S. The standard six-speed manual returned with revised intermediate ratios to suit the torquier engine. Final gearing was unchanged.

Tire sizes and hollow-spoke wheels carried over, but brakes were upgraded to GT3 size, and Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes -- rotors made of a ceramic/carbon-
fiber compound -- were available straight from the mid-engine Carrera GT supercar.

The PCCB option wasn't cheap -- $8,150 in the U.S. -- but the brakes weighed half as much as the normal iron binders, removing a useful 11 pounds at each corner. Just as important, they were impervious to corrosion, heat, and moisture. Porsche claimed the PCCB would last the life of the car, or around 190,000 miles.

Porsche 911
A Turbo cabriolet entered the game in 2004, the first open-air Turbo since 1989.

Suspension changes were Turbo-traditional: stiffer springs and shocks, thicker antiroll bars, a wider rear track (by 1.3 inches), and greater overall width (by 2.6 inches, mostly at the rear). Significantly, though, suspension tuning was now biased a bit more toward comfort.

Aerodynamic work produced a new two-piece spoiler whose upper section rose automatically above 75 mph. This produced a slight amount of rear downforce, a plus for high-speed stability, but combined with the wider body and all the air intakes for a 0.31 drag coefficient, a tad less slippery than a Carrera but slicker than the prior Turbo.

The 2001 Turbo also sported new front lamp clusters resembling the letter "Q" turned on its side. This answered criticisms about the Carrera's "runny egg" design -- and that Boxsters used it, too. Other Porsche 911s would make this change for '02, as well as offer high/low-beam xenon headlamps, which were standard for the Turbo.

For all the comparisons with the landmark Porsche 959, the 996 Turbo disappointed many enthusiasts. There was no doubting its performance. Road & Track's manual model scorched 0-60 mph in just four seconds (Porsche claimed 4.2), 0-100 in only 9.2 seconds, and the standing quarter-mile in 12.4 at 115.6 mph. The magazine also recorded a stellar 0.96g of skidpad grip and around 16 mpg in, er, exuberant driving.

Car and Driver's Tiptronic Turbo was almost as hot: 0-60 in 4.2 seconds, 0-100 in 10.0, 12.6 seconds at 112 mph in the quarter-mile, 0.93g on the skidpad. Yet somehow, it was all too easy, too tame. Some R&T staffers thought the Turbo had lost "that combination of hard edges, eccentricity, lightness and Teutonic simplicity of trim beloved by Porsche nuts." C/D agreed, declaring the 996 Turbo "so easy to drive that my mom could handle it." And the price, while reasonable for such staggering performance, was still pretty formidable: initially $111,000 in U.S. trim before taxes and options.

Though Porsche wasn't about to lower prices, it did try to restore Turbo enthusiasm, starting with the X50 option for 2002. Modifications to the turbos, intercoolers, engine electronics, and exhaust amped up horsepower to 450 at 5,700 rpm and torque to 457 pound-feet at 3,500-4,500. Transmissions were strengthened to match. Alas, the package didn't improve performance to a major degree.

A Cabriolet arrived for 2004, the first open-air Turbo since 1989, and Porsche built a few 30th Anniversary Turbo coupes with the X50 upgrades and special trim. The X50 option vanished the following year, but the '05 Turbo coupe and Cabrio got an S suffix, denoting 444 horses (and unchanged torque). With that and few other interim changes, the 996 Turbo then stepped aside for a more promising 2007 replacement based on the new 997-series 911.

Make no mistake: the 996 Turbo was an awesome car. But it was now overshadowed by a turbo 911 that enthusiasts could respect and acclaim -- the 2002 GT2.

Porsche 911
The Porsche 911 Turbo coupe and cabriolet got an S suffix in 2005.

Check out the complete story of Porsche cars, including these fabulous models:

Porsche 356
Porsche 911
Porsche 914
Porsche 924, 944, 968
Porsche 928 Porsche 959
Porsche Boxster Porsche Cayenne Porsche Cayman

For Porsche prices and reviews from the auto editors of Consumer Guide, see:

  • Porsche new cars
  • Porsche used cars
  • 2007 Porsche 911
  • 1999-2006 Porsche 911
  • 1995-1998 Porsche 911