Does A Bargain Porsche 911 Exist? Yes, And It Has Two Turbos
The 996-era Porsche 911 is currently wallowing at the bottom of its depreciation curve. The 996, built between 1998 and 2004 with its amoebae headlights and water-cooled engines, is neither as retro-cool as the earlier 993 or as aesthetically on-point as the subsequent 997. It also suffered from a colorful variety of mechanical ailments, including time-bomb intermediate shaft bearings.
All of which is wonderful from a car-buying perspective, because now you can get a 996 Turbo or GT3 for as cheap as they’ll ever be. OK, scratch that—they’re already on the way back up. But we’re talking $40,000 to $70,000 for cars that now cost three to five times that, new. So the question is, which one would you want? The screaming GT3 or the quiet riot, the 911 Turbo? We took a 2004 GT3 and a 2003 Turbo to the airstrip to decide for ourselves.
Either way, you get a car that’s far removed from the lesser 911s of the era. That IMS bearing flaw, for instance, isn’t an issue for these two cars, because their 3.6-liter flat six is a completely different engine, an evolution of the previous air-cooled design (and also related to a GT1 race engine). So, counter-intuitively, the most powerful 996s are also the most reliable. The GT3 was good for 380 naturally aspirated horsepower, while the Turbo came standard with 415 horses but cranked out as much as 450 horsepower with the X50 package. And, then as now, the GT3 was rear-wheel-drive while the Turbo was all-wheel-drive. You end up with two machines with incredibly different characters. They’re both 911s, but they’re each on a distinct mission.
The GT3 is the track rat, crackling with ill intent from the moment you turn the key. You’d probably only need the tachometer for the first day of ownership, so vocal is the clattering, raspy 3.6. You hear, and feel, everything that’s going on—close your eyes for a long moment mid-apex and you could probably call out your RPM and the height of the corner curbing. There’s a nervous energy to the car. It’s not that it doesn’t track straight, but the GT3 always feels like it’s anticipating a corner. It’s ready. Where’s turn-in?
The Turbo, on the other hand, locks on a course. It’s completely game to attack your favorite mountain hillclimb (and in any weather), but the Turbo has always been defined by its outrageous straight-line thrust. And this one, 13 years old, still has the magic. I know the 911 Turbo in Bad Boys was air-cooled, but in an X50 996 you can definitely imagine large explosions going off behind you as the boost hits. Pacing the Turbo in the GT3, you can see how hard the Turbo is pulling. Even at the 2-3 shift, at perhaps 70 mph, the Turbo squats on its rear suspension and looks like it wants to pull the front tires off the ground. I imagine that the GT2—a Turbo with more power and rear-wheel-drive—is a royal handful.
These days, 450 horsepower isn’t a big deal, but believe me when I say that an X50 Turbo’s 450 horsepower does not feel like a Camaro SS’ 450 horsepower. There’s some old-fashioned turbo lag to ratchet up the drama, and then the boost hits with an unsubtle wallop.
In a straight line, the Turbo walks away from the GT3. On a road course, it might be a different story. In the Turbo, you hear the induction noise, while in the GT3 it’s all exhaust. The GT3’s throttle is precise, with a high-rpm rush of power up above 7,000 rpm. The Turbo is sleepy for that half-beat till the turbos spool up. Blazing down the runway, the Turbo is faster. But the GT3 feels faster.
So which one do you get? I love the GT3, but I wonder if it wouldn’t wear me out. The Turbo, on the other hand, is the kind of everyday supercar that can rack up 200,000 miles. It’s got more power, back seats, and all-wheel-drive. You can drive it in the snow. And, generally speaking, the Turbos are going for about $10,000 less than the GT3s. Personally, I’d go for a Turbo. But if you prefer the GT3, I can understand.
Either way, these two cars are a bargain—for now. Get one while you still can.
Wow. Check out this sweet #video clip teaser of the video coverage to drop on #SundayFunDay of the #ccm24 aka #ccmcota #charity event that was held at #CircuitOfTheAmericas ( @cota_official ) .
Reposting this for all of the #carfamily members that could not make it out so that you can see what you missed and for those that were there as well. The video is going to be amazing! 🙌
There were #paradelaps ( I was one of the #pacelapdrivers ), #autocross , #drifting and #carshow which were all for a great cause to benefit Safe .
Hope to see you at the next event! ✌😎 #nissan #nismo #r35 #gtr #twinturbo #boost #lfa #porsche #911 #audi #bmw #m5 #cota #f1 #sanantonio #austin #texas #battalion30five @volk_racing @seiboncarbon @dsport @superstreet (at Circuit of The Americas)