2004 Porsche 911 Carrera 2 Tiptronic
2004 Porsche 911 Carrera 2 Tiptronic. Photo: Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge

By Chris Chase

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For years, Porsche’s 911 has been a car that enthusiasts around the world have aspired to own. It’s also one of few cars that offers performance normally reserved for Italian exotics but at far more accessible prices. Still, it’s never been particularly affordable either, and in the late 90s, Porsche introduced the Boxster as an all-new “budget” model. But while it shared underpinnings with the new-for-1999 911 (otherwise known as the 996, according to Porsche’s internal naming convention) and was still fun to drive despite a deficit of about 100 horsepower, the 911 still bested the Boxster in performance and in practicality, thanks to its rear seats.

When the 996 was introduced, it ushered in a new era for this storied sports car maker. It may not have been the first Porsche to use a water-cooled engine, but it was the first car bearing the vaunted 911 nameplate to do so. It also rode on a highly revised suspension that eliminated the twitchy (read: downright scary) handling that had become a hallmark of all previous generations of 911. Some panned the 996 largely because of these changes, but others praised it as the first 911 to offer the refinement and day-to-day driveability that the older cars lacked.

2004 Porsche 911 Carrera 2 Tiptronic

2004 Porsche 911 Carrera 2 Tiptronic

2004 Porsche 911 Carrera 2 Tiptronic
2004 Porsche 911 Carrera 2 Tiptronic. Photos: Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge

Initially, the 996 was powered by a 3.4-litre horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine producing 296 horsepower and 258 ft.-lbs. of torque. In 2000, the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4 model was added to the line-up, and in 2001, the all-wheel-drive-only 996 Turbo arrived, with its heavier-breathing 415-hp version of the 3.4-litre engine. In 2002, all 996 engines got a bump in displacement to 3.6 litres and for naturally-aspirated cars, that meant a boost in horsepower to 320 (but only for 2002: 2003 and 2004 models had 315 horses). The turbo model’s horsepower rating remained at 415, but a higher-performance 911 GT2 joined the line-up. Built for pure speed, the GT2 eschewed the turbo model’s AWD system for a more lightweight RWD set-up. And in 2004, the GT3 was added to line-up, slotting in between the Carrera 4S and the Turbo in price and performance with a highly-tuned, naturally-aspirated version of the 3.6-litre engine making 380 horsepower and 284 lb.-ft. of torque.

With all that power and performance, you might expect the 996 to be a serious gas-guzzler, but these 911s actually boast pretty good fuel economy. According to Natural Resources Canada, a rear-wheel-drive, non-turbo 996 will consume premium fuel at a rate of about 13.5 L/100 km in the city and 8.5 L/100 km on the highway – about the same as the numbers for a new Mustang GT (though the Mustang doesn’t require Premium). The all-wheel-drive Carrera 4 is a little thirstier, with ratings closer to 14 L/100 km city and 9.5 L/100 km highway, and the Turbo is rated 15.5 L/100 km city and 10 L/100 km highway.

2004 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet

2004 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet

2004 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet
2004 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet. Photos: Russell Purcell. Click image to enlarge

While the 996 was the first truly user-friendly 911, it has also earned itself the reputation of being the most reliable generation of rear-engined Porsches. Thanks to its relatively low sales volume, Consumer Reports only has reliability info for 2002 models, but the news they have to report is good: those 2002 cars get the magazine’s recommended rating with no major trouble spots to speak of. That said, things still wear out and you can guarantee that maintaining and repairing a 911 won’t be as cheap as keeping your winter beater on the road. And according to the 996 FAQ on www.rennlist.com, this generation of 911 is not without its mechanical issues. This page (and indeed the entire website) is definitely worth a read for anyone considering a used Porsche. Many consider the 911 a perfect compromise – a car that offers near-supercar performance but with maintenance requirements closer to those of a mainstream vehicle.

Neither the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have crash tested the 996.

That’s all fine and well, but what will it cost to get your butt into one of these fine sports cars? That depends on how much you’re willing to shell out for performance. According to Canadian Red Book, pricing for naturally-aspirated models starts at $40,275 for a 1999 911 Carrera and tops out at $115,900 for a 2004 Carrera 4S Cabriolet. Turbo pricing ranges from $93,975 for a 2001 model to a breathtaking $153,525 for a 2004 911 Turbo Cabrio. A nice middle-ground is the 2003 Carrera 4S at $79,175 – certainly not chump change, but not a bad price for a sports car that can seat four in a pinch and whose all-wheel-drive system makes it a reasonable proposition for winter driving. Indeed, a brand-new Corvette can be had for less than $70,000, and while it too is an amazing car and represents a tremendous value, it only seats two and offers no all-wheel-drive option.

Even at used prices, a 911 is still not likely to fall within the parameters of many budgets, but if you can afford one, any 911 is hard to beat for the performance it offers. The 996 strikes a great balance between that performance and the practicality and day-to-day driveability that most drivers want – a combination that few sports cars, particularly in this price range, possess.

Online resources

www.forums.rennlist.com – This online community has more than 35,000 members, which is a lot for a site that specializes in a low-sales-volume automaker like Porsche. The forums are separated into sections for air-cooled, water-cooled and turbo cars covering all model ranges and eras, plus there are regional and how-to sections. Membership has its benefits: sign up and you’re entitled to discounts from the site’s sponsors, plus you get free web space, a rennlist.com e-mail address and a bunch of other goodies – all for free. Donations to the site are encouraged, of course, in order to make it all possible, but from the looks of what the site has to offer, pitching in a few bucks wouldn’t be a bad investment.

www.6speedonline.com/forums – While the focus of this site is Porsches past and present, there are forum sections for discussing other exotic performance and sports cars. Though membership is tiny compared to the Rennlist forums, the forums dedicated to newer Porsches are plenty busy. Registration is free.

www.forums.pelicanparts.com – Technically the website for a Porsche and BMW parts distributor, the forums – which are split up according to model – are very busy and full of a wide range of discussion topics. The fact that the forums can boast almost 33,000 members says something about the quality of those discussions, too. Registration is free.


Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004061; Units affected: 98

2003: On certain vehicles, the front seat backs may tilt towards the rear during a rear end collision. If this were to happen, seat occupants could be injured. Correction: Dealer will replace both front seats.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2000115; Units affected: 177

1999-2000: On certain vehicles, incorrect programming of the electronic logic unit can cause an incorrect reading of the fuel level and range of remaining fuel available in the fuel tank. The display will indicate a level of fuel that is higher than is actually available and therefore, in some circumstances, the vehicle may run out of fuel causing a loss of power and the potential for a vehicle crash. Correction: The software in the instrument cluster will be updated so that the fuel level and the range of remaining fuel are determined and displayed correctly.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2001037; Units affected: 35

2001: On certain vehicles, the fuel supply line may leak due to chafing with the intake manifold and/or the fuel return line may lead due to chafing with a spring band clamp used to secure a coolant line. A fuel leak, in the presence of an ignition source, could result in a fire. Correction: All affected vehicles will have a protective sheath installed on the fuel supply line. Also, on certain vehicles, the spring band clamp will be replaced with a screw type hose clamp and installed in such a way that it can not come into contact with the fuel return line.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2001036; Units affected: 61

2001: On certain vehicles equipped with a manual transmission, the clutch pressure line may leak in the area of its connection with the clutch slave cylinder. This may result in loss of power assist to the steering or clutch system. If the hydraulic fluid comes in contact with hot exhaust components a fire could result. Correction: Clutch pressure line will be replaced and an additional bracket will be installed.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003150; Units affected: 47

2003: On certain vehicles, a fitting in the pressure line of the power steering assembly may be loose. Correction: Dealer will tighten fitting to specification.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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