I have a confession to make. Until recently I was never much of a Porsche guy and the 911 never appealed to me. As a concept, it’s astonishing that it even works, but for years, it failed to tickle my gearhead pickle—until I drove a 997 Turbo S. Then I realized that God does, in fact, exist. Here are the reasons why you need one.
We live in a world of relative value. Fun fact: If you make around $30,000 a year, you may be knocking on the door of poverty in the United States, but you’re goddamn royalty if you’re comparing yourself to the earning potential of the rest of the world. It’s important to note, because although a Porsche 997 Turbo is an expensive car, the value it brings is absolutely tremendous value, especially in the lightly used car market for a few reasons.
First, there are a ton of models to choose from just with the Turbo namesake. You have the early 997.1 and the facelifted 997.2 later in the 2004-2012 production cycle, available in both Turbo and uprated Turbo S models, and each of those models are available as a drop-top cabriolet, hardtop, or Targa, and each of those models are available with various packages and your choice of a Tiptronic automatic, double-clutch PDK, or a six speed manual.
Before counting any specific trim or brake packages, and leaving alone the GT2 model, that’s three dozen combinations for a base sports car. That’s fantastic for the used car buyer because it not only means that you’ll have a great selection when lease returns come back and the elderly owners have to finally make an account of how many teeth they swallowed when flooring it, but prices will be much lower than if Porsche had just kept with a one-model-is-good-enough strategy that seems to have worked with Nissan’s GT-R.
As it stands, you can find a first-edition Porsche 997 Turbo, both in automatic and manual transmission variants, for less than half of what a new one would cost. A 997.2 Turbo with PDK would up the ask to around $80k, but for that money, you have something that could potentially show Mclaren MP4 owners how not all horsepower is created equal.
Tesla’s Ludicrous Mode has all of its torque available from zero RPM, a Mazda RX-7 makes all of its power at the top of its rev range, and a Airbus A380 unleashes its power in the form of thrust that never seems to end. The underlying theme is that all of these vehicles are powerful in their own right, but they deliver that power in different ways, making for a vastly different experience. When tempered in that sentiment, the Porsche 997 Turbo is a special case indeed.
Porsche 911s have had a knack for being able to launch hard for ages, mainly because the boxer engine’s low center of gravity, light rotating components and the rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive setup made for the best weight distribution this side of something owned by John Force.
However, the Turbo adds to that by introducing two front drive wheels, incredibly wide rear tires, and an engine configuration that’s over the rear axles instead of being trailered behind it. What this means is that if you’re into stoplight drags, this car will beat anything, and I do mean anything on the road short of a Bugatti Veyron.
In Motor Trend’s test with a 2012 Turbo S, it performed a 0-60 MPH sprint in a cornea-dislocating 2.8 seconds. That’s superbike fast, and a great feat considering that it’s a car that can now be purchased for about the price of a brand new BMW M4, without being overly flashy, loud, or obnoxious. It proves that you don’t need to have the nicest or newest running shoes to beat everyone else in a sprint.
No one liked the Porsche 996 Turbo, not at first anyway. Anyone who tells you differently is either lying, is patiently awaiting for the chance to be Porsche’s newest PR intern, or drives a warrantied Range Rover daily.
Its runny egg headlights, Ford Taurus-esque interior design, and uncomfortable aesthetic similarities to the IMS-prone naturally aspirated version made it a model that was all but avoided by people who didn’t understand that it would kick the ass of any car in the surrounding three mile area.
However, when the 997 came out, it was a return to what a Porsche 911 should’ve been from the start - sporty and understated. Elegant and refined, while having just enough of that obsessive German quality we all grew to love with the cars that made the automaker famous. The Turbo model was simply more of what you wanted - large air scoops, bigger wheels and tires, but it never looked particularly intimidating. It gave its drivers the confidence that they, too could drive it without the constant fear of death and paparazzi presence that you’d get in, say, a mid-engined Ferrari painted in Arrest Me Rosso.
The later face-lifted version also approached the model with class, simply updating small features of the car, while leaving its inherent Porsche-ness alone. Hell, the new 991 looks almost identical to the 997 because it was such a winning design, both in the aesthetic sense and in the amount of car you buy with your many thousands of greenbacks.
Here’s a super specific, but representative scenario - you’re moderately financially successful and you decide to splurge and get yourself a nice car, because those TPS reports didn’t submit themselves last Sunday, now did they? You buy a Challenger Hellcat because you read that when it was released, Germany turned the Nurburgring into the world’s largest KFC drive-thru out of respect and it doesn’t know how not to do a burnout.
That’s fine for you, but remember that you have a spouse that doesn’t really like going 200 miles an hour and a driveway that’s getting narrower the older you get. You also can’t take a Dodge Challenger to any fancy events or dinners, and on top of having to fill up every 11 feet, you’ll have fanboys constantly telling you about how their leased rental-spec R/T is just a de-tuned version of your car.
Or, you could get a Porsche 911 Turbo and have none of these issues. Not only is the Turbo a better built car with more usable horsepower, but you can actually fit children in the back, the cabin is remarkably easy to see out of, with thin A, B, and C pillars, and a whisper-quiet exhaust note. Even if you mashed the go-pedal in Sport mode, you’d get little more than a concerned yawn from the engine bay, with a whole lot of forward momentum in a short distance with no semblance of loss of control, tire squeal, or poo-inducing moments to recount on social media. It’s all very German, and it’s actually a shame that no other manufacturer approaches car design this way.
If you’re off-boost, you’ll get stellar fuel economy since the car is light and the engine is relatively small. It has enough trunk space for a weekend trip and it’s extremely comfortable to drive long distances. It’s pro-tested, amateur approved, and it will likely appreciate in value the more people revolt against electric steering and increased production costs.
I will definitely have one in my garage, and I urge you to do the same, because I’m not sure prices will go any lower for early models. It’s damn near the perfect car, and it’s worth saving for.