The Porsche 997-series draped a shapely new skin over the 996 unibody; only the coupe's roof panel carried over. As a result -- and to the undoubted relief of 911 fans -- dimensions were little changed. Wheelbase, for example, was still 92.5 inches, and overall length was actually a tad trimmer at 175.6.
The most visible alteration was a near 1.5-inch gain in overall width to 71.2 inches. This reflected a "wide-track" rethink of the 996 suspension that pushed contact patches 1.2-1.3 inches further apart, matched by wider subframes. Geometry was basically the same -- coil springs all-round, modified MacPherson struts on lower control arms in front, five-element multilink rear -- but most components were new, stronger and lighter. Engineers also specified hydraulic suspension mounts in front, new foam-type mounts at the back (replacing steel or rubber), and repositioned antiroll-bar pivots.
The 997 Carreras were almost 1.5 inches wider than 996s. Here's a 2005 S coupe.
S-models sat 0.3-inch lower than other Carreras (at 51.2 inches) thanks to standard Porsche Active Suspension Management. Optional for base models at $1,990, PASM was something new for a Porsche 911, but not a new idea.
Computer-controlled "active" shock absorbers had been around for years, and the Porsche Cayenne SUV bowed in 2001-2002 with its own PASM. If nothing else, the chip-managed shocks expanded the sports car's dynamic repertoire.
The Porsche 911's PASM used two accelerometers -- one at the right front shock, the other at the left rear -- to register body motions as real-time data for an electronic control unit. The ECU, in turn, regulated oil level in each shock absorber (via a bypass valve), thus varying firmness to suit speed and road surface. A dashboard button selected normal and sport modes, each calibrated across five operating variables. Normal favored ride comfort, while sport approximated the firmer damping of the previous sport suspension option. You could also activate sport just by accelerating or cornering faster.
Porsche bragged that PASM cut five seconds a lap in testing at the demanding Nürburgring circuit, but not everyone liked it. AutoWeek groused that sport mode made the car "too stiff -- at times even skittish -- over bumps, and the normal mode isn't quite sporty enough...Note to Porsche: Add a third PASM setting between normal and sport."
There was less dispute about the 997's new variable-ratio steering rack that "speeded up" response when the wheel was turned past 30 degrees from dead-straight. And most every tester appreciated that the wheel itself now adjusted for angle as well as reach.
Road wheels weren't overlooked. Carreras now came on 18-inch five-spoke light-alloy rims spreading eight inches wide fore, 10 aft, and mounting Z-rated tires respectively sized at 235/40 and 265/40. S-models had standard 19-inchers measuring eight and 11 inches wide; shoe sizes were 235/35ZR and 295/30ZR, respectively.
Porsche never forgets brakes, so Carreras got a more powerful hydraulic booster. S-models did, too, but they were also treated to larger 13-inch rotors all-round, with reinforced four-piston calipers and larger pads. For the ultimate in stopping power, Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB) were a first-time option for "mainstream" 911s, still tagged at a hefty $8,150.
Other brake-system changes benefited the Porsche Stability Management (PSM) antiskid control that was newly standard for all Carreras. The larger, faster-acting booster was supplemented by a "pre-charging" pump that pressurized the brakes on sudden throttle liftoff, positioning the pads lightly against the rotors, ready to clamp. The idea was to shorten response time and thus stopping distances.
Also, the ABS software added an "emergency brake assist" function that furnished full hydraulic boost on strong, sharp pedal applications, even if the pedal wasn't fully depressed. And instead of switching off automatically when braking, PSM would now remain active unless antilock control was triggered on at least one front wheel. This allowed for gentle "trail braking" in corners, which Porsche said provided "the enthusiast driver more dynamic freedom."
It was all for the sake of a safer, quicker, more enjoyable Porsche 911, still the holy grail even after 40 years. Abetting the quest for the 997 was a structural shoring-up that included a stouter crossmember at the cowl, steel reinforcing plates in the door frames, plus improved welding and bonding techniques. These measures combined to increase torsional rigidity by eight percent over the 996 and bending resistance by an amazing 60 percent, according to Wolfgang Durheimer, the new executive vice president for research and development.
Despite their tougher bones, rear-drive 997s were only some 55 pounds heavier than equivalent 996s. Carrera 4 and 4S models weighed a modest 110 pounds more, while the four Cabriolets -- base, S, C4, and C4S -- suffered a reasonable 187-pound penalty versus counterpart coupes. Speaking of C4s, their all-wheel drive was essentially unchanged.
The 997 Carrera 4s, like this '96, weighed 110 pounds more than equivalent 996s.
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:
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- 2007 Porsche 911
- 1999-2006 Porsche 911
- 1995-1998 Porsche 911