Everyone loves the Porsche 911. Even my wife, who couldn’t care less about cars, appreciates a Porsche. The only disagreement I’ve ever heard when it comes to Porsches is whether we love the 914 now because it has no coolant, or still hate it because it’s a Volkswagen.
I’d like to own a 911 one day. But not a regular 911—I’d want a turbo. Not because there’s anything wrong with naturally aspirated 911s; I’m just addicted to the extra power in the turbo models. It’s my crack. I need more power all the time. Too much is never enough. It’s why I named my blog Torque Affair.
But the problem with 911 Turbos is that they are extremely expensive. Even a seven-year-old 2009 911 Turbo is going for roughly $65,000, and for that much money. That will buy you a hell of a lot of performance cars brand new with just as much power, or more, and far fewer headaches.
But if I go for a 911 that’s 15 years old, I could manage to get my hands on a 911 Turbo for a hair under $40,000. Much better.
The 911s from that era, designated by Porsche as the 996s, are actually excellent cars. The 996s were the first water-cooled Porsches; this marked a departure from the prior generation air-cooled Porsche 993 which enthusiasts adored. The 993 was lighter, sounded better, drove better and to some Porsche fanatics, introducing the water-cooled 996s completely destroyed the Porsche brand. To them it was akin to burning a nation’s flag—the ultimate desecration of what Porsche stood for. Whatever.
A 996 911 turbo rocks. I don’t care how it’s cooled. However, there is one big problem with the 996s. Those 911s have the widely-loathed runny-egg headlight look and are starting to look so outdated that they’re about as visually appealing as a billboard ad for Walmart. The design is just not standing the test of time.
With all the new stuff out on the road, if you accidentally catch a glimpse of a 996, you’d rather divert your attention to graffiti in a tunnel than look at the car. Also, it doesn’t help that most of the 996 911s I see on the road are falling apart—completely covered in bird poop, dented-in and utterly neglected.
I didn’t think very highly of 996s either, until I laid eyes on this:
When I first saw this beautiful car, it took me a second to realize that what I was looking at was indeed a 996 and not a Walmart billboard ad. How could it look this good? Oh wait, it was the WHEELS and the lowered suspension! That made all the difference. I then realized that the sloppy-egg headlamps weren’t the problem—it was the factory wheels, they were the problem.
These Roderick wheels, made specifically for the 996 Turbo, made the stock wheels look like the steelies on a base-model Chevrolet that would have been deemed to embarrassing for General Motors to even sell.
This particular 911 belongs to Josh Sargent, who reached out to me because he liked what I was doing on Torque Affair. I couldn’t believe it—someone besides my dad was actually reading my stuff!
Josh bought the car in an estate sale in Florida a few months ago which previously belonged to an 82-year-old owner who was its only owner. After Josh bought the car, he had to put in some work and money into the car to fix things like a power steering leak, replace axles and bushings and added his own touches like changing the wheels and painting the center console to match the exterior color. The end result was a regular ol’ 996 Turbo being into something worth lusting after.
Owning a turbo version of the 996 is probably the best reasonably-priced used Porsche to own because the 996s suffer from the infamous IMS (intermediate shaft) bearing problem. If you’re not familiar with this issue, it’s where the bearing can randomly fail without any warning and instantly kill your engine and ruin your life. You could preemptively upgrade the bearing to avoid getting an undesired heart attack, or you could just go with the much faster and cooler 911 turbo that doesn’t have this issue.
The 996 911 turbo is already pretty quick but Josh decided to make it even faster by purchasing the Cobb Tuning Accessport Stage 2 tune for about $1000 which gives his car—wait for it—485 hp and 539 lb-ft of torque to the wheels. That’s a significant increase over the stock output of 415 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque (a bit lower at the wheels due to drivetrain loss).
I couldn’t wait to drive this ridiculously powerful 3,200 pound 911. It’s so low to the ground that you have to kind of roll into the cabin that’s barely big enough to fit a couple of half-grown teenagers. Assuming you’re built like a 12-year-old boy who works out all the time (which I am, sadly), you’ll feel like the car fits like a glove.
Once you’re situated nicely in the glove, the 911 has a strange way of making you focus on driving it right away without you paying much attention to anything else. Which is a good thing, because there’s not much going on inside the car—I was lucky to find a switch to adjust the sideview mirrors. Were there power seats? Not sure.
Throw your phone out the window and forget about the stereo. Three pedals and a gear lever—that’s all you need. I’m pretty sure I have ADD, but somehow I was able to focus and get lost in driving the car as I paid zero attention to anything else. I wasn’t bored for a second, which never happens.
After about 2500 RPM is when the fun really begins. The 485 horses kick in with the extra turbo boost and all the noises from the turbo and exhaust mix in together to create a driving experience that’s second to none. You’d think that with a 3,200 pound car, 539 lb-ft of torque might be a bit too much, but the power works. Sure, the grip goes away occasionally and you’re momentarily scared that you’re witnessing the last seconds of your life, but the huge 315 mm-wide tires manage to find traction and stick to the road.
And when they do, the thing just flies. Your head tilts back and the car picks up speed so rapidly that you’re not sure if you can stop quickly enough. But don’t worry, you can—at least in Josh’s Porsche.
I would’ve been fine with a stock 996 911 Turbo but after getting a taste of a modified one with more power, I’m realizing that this would be a pretty breathtaking rocketship to drive around. And by “breathtaking,” I mean it would be tough to breathe with all the G-forces squeezing the air out of my lungs in this blisteringly fast Porsche. Going back to a stock 911 after driving a modified one would be like going to Panda Express after getting treated to the finest five-star restaurant in Hong Kong. There is no going back.
I really think that the often overlooked 996 911 provides one of the best values around—especially the turbo model. With a simple tune upgrade, you could have one of the cheapest, fastest Porsche 911s around making it the deal of a lifetime.
The 996 Turbo and the M5 provide such different experiences that I wish I could have both. No matter what I do to the M5, it will never be able to provide the kind of driving exhilaration that the 911 turbo does. I hope Josh sells me his.
If he doesn’t, not to worry, I’ll just steal it.