Looking at a “new” 911 is always fascinating, not least because it is interesting to see how Porsche has developed a model range that has become something of an icon. After more than 40 years of development it must get harder and harder to make quantum leaps in design and engineering.
I am sure you will have already read articles introducing and test-driving the 997. Hhere I would like to have a closer look at the recent evolution of the species. This article includes all the important core information on the new model, including UK pricing & option information.
The new bodyshell combines the sleek modern looks of the 996 series with the addition of some of the more popular styling cues from previous generation 911s. The new front end, complete with round lights and separate parking/fog/indicator lights in the front apron moulding, combine with wider hips (the coke bottle look returns!) to rather echo the last of the air-cooled 911s, the 993.
Other notable changes include the new door handles, wing mirrors and the stylish cut of the rear wings into the bumper/lights. Having said this from some angles (particularly the rear) the car does look similar to the outgoing 996. In fact only the roof has been carried over from the older model.
The new car is actually 38mm wider than the 996 C2, creating a more aggressive look, but it is still some 22mm narrower than the wide body C4S and Turbo models. As each new model is introduced Porsche has aimed to reduce the drag co-efficient helping the 911 “slide” through the air more effectively, hence aiding performance. The latest model is no exception and despite taking some of it’s styling cues from the 993 we only need to compare that models Cd of 0.34 to the 997’s 0.28 (.29 for the “S”) to see how far the aerodynamic game has moved on. The latest body shell & rear wing combine with new underbody paneling to also offer increased levels of down force for this latest evolution of Porsche's finest.
Improving a car's rigidity helps ensure the suspension can work more effectively and whilst not making such a quantum leap as they did with the 996 (which offered a 45% improvement) Porsche has managed to improve torsional rigidity by 8% & at the same time adding as much as 40% more flexural strength, all helping to make the latest model one of the best handling 911’s ever.
Improved crash safety includes the addition of two new air bags located in the side of each front seat back-rest, designed to protect the thorax. As before there are also two front and two side airbags, making six in total. The reinforced body shell features further enhancements to the crash and safety cells including more extensive use of super high strength steel.
Not least because of modern stringent crash safety regulations new cars seem to come with increased weight and despite a whole range of weight saving measures, including an aluminum bonnet, the latest model is no exception. With an unladen weight of 1395kg the 997 is some 50kg heavier (75 kg for the 997 Carrera S ) than the 996 facelift. Having said this the 4 wheel drive C4S weighed in at a portly 1470kg! At least the boot is now slightly larger at 135 litres.
Aside from the crash safety improvements, much of the additional weight can be attributed to the higher standard specification of the new cars. Power to weight is similar with the latest car offering 233 bhp per tonne against it’s predecessors 238 (227 for pre-facelift cars) and the new models improved aerodynamics must help it post Porsches claimed performance figures, which are identical to the 996.
Chassis, Wheels and Tyres
Chassis changes include a new evolution of the front McPherson-strut design including revised front hub carriers and cooling channels, plus a front track now widened by 21mm. The rear track is also widened, by 34mm, and features a new lighter development of Porsche's (sub frame based) multi-link race proven LSA (Light stable agile) suspension.
Porsche claim pitch & roll have been significantly reduced, there is also added stability under acceleration and greater overall precision and agility, whilst road noise & vibration have also been further reduced.
Porsche also claim the steering has been enhanced by a totally new variable ratio system (although some of the motoring press aren’t so sure) used for the first time in a 911. At the straight-ahead the ratio is less direct, but becomes more direct once the wheel is turned harder. This is designed to improve cruising stability whilst also enhancing the cars reactions to high speed cornering & manoeuvring. The turning circle has increased slightly from 10.6 metres to 10.9.
The 997 Carrera features the lovely slim spoked 18-inch “Carrera” wheels as standard, (previously 17 inch wheels were standard) & the tyre sizes are now 235/40ZR 18 front and 265/40ZR18 rear. It is interesting to see that the front width has been increased (previously 225mm) but the rears are reduced in width (285’s before) and increased in profile (now 40, 30 before) over the optional 18 inch wheels fitted to the 996. This suggests more front-end grip and Porsche's confidence that the rear weight bias of the tail has now been tamed!
The Carrera S offers a completely new design of 19-inch wheels (called 19inch Carrera S!) standard on a 911 for the first time. Developed by Michelin, it wears huge 295/30 ZR19 rear tyres (the same width as the 18inch tyres on the 996 Turbo) and the front tyres have again grown in width and reduced in profile to 235/35 ZR19. Lower tyre pressures have also improved the cars ride quality, despite the increase in wheel size.
The braking system benefits from an improved 4-channel abs function from the uprated Bosch 8 system and the new brake booster enables easier pedal inputs, aerodynamic changes also allow greater airflow and cooling for the brakes. The standard 997 retains the same 318/299mm cross drilled discs front and rear as it’s predecessor, although the S gains the 996 C4s/Turbo’s awesome system with 330mm discs all round. Ceramic discs are available as an option.
Engine, Performance & Transmission
As you would expect Porsche haven’t forgotten the engine, enhancing it’s operation (although retaining it’s capacity at 3596cc) to meet stringent new legislation, they have also found a very few extra horses as power has gone up from just under 320bhp/370nm (for the 996) to 325bhp/370nm, both at 6800/4250 revs. The new Carrera S features an increased capacity 3.8 litre engine, which offers 355bhp & 400nm of torque at 6600/4250, improving the cars power to weight to 250bhp per tonne. Both cars appear to offer slightly less aural stimulation inside the cabin than the last of the 996’s.
|Performance||996 Carrera||997 Carrerra||997 Carrera S|
In “traditional” 911 style the power is transmitted via the rear wheels only, with Porsche expected to introduce the new 997 Carrera 4 (along with the Cabriolet) some time during 2005.
Both new models also feature the very latest sophisticated Motronic ME 7.8 engine management system and despite the small increase in power the 997 offers a slightly improved combined mpg figure of 25.7 (previously 25.5) whilst the S manages 24.6 mpg (these figures are for manual cars).
Another very useful change is the new reduction in service costs. This is due to extended service life for air/oil filters, v-belt and the spark plugs now only need changing every 48K-56K. The standard service is only required every 18k or two years (rather than 12K one year) & the first major service is now at 36,000 miles. By the time the car has traveled 56K Porsche claim there will have been a 26% reduction in servicing requirements.
The Carrera S’s increased power output has necessitated the development of a new 6-speed gearbox (used in both new models), which incorporates a number of improvements including a 15% shorter throw than that found in the 996. Porsche have also slightly changed the gear ratios, partly to match the new larger 19-inch wheel sizes. Porsche’s Tiptronic S 5 speed automatic (with manual control via steering wheel buttons) is still available as an optional extra.
Interior and Controls
Much has been said about the 996’s interior, but personally I always found it to be stylish and functional, if a little too similar to the Boxter’s. The latest models interior certainly differentiates itself from the Boxter, with higher quality materials and an all new look featuring a more upright dash board design that some how mixes 996 with 993 & adds some of it’s own unique genes! As before, in the UK, both new 911’s will feature full leather interiors as standard.
Opening the door you will see a new design for the standard (or optional sports) seats, both of which provide a welcome improvement in support during cornering. As before they only include electric backrest controls as standard, with full electric operation still being an expensive option!
For the first time the new look steering wheels are also adjustable (by some 40mm) via both rake and reach, this sounds like a small change but in combination with the more supportive seats the 997 offers an improved driving environment, particularly for tall individuals.
A new 5-dial instrument panel brings a welcome return for the digital speedo, back to the bottom of the large central rev counter. The information from the standard computer is also displayed here, including the optional tyre pressure display. To the left is the analogue speed dial (still useless) with the mileage and trip odometers display, the "all new" (and welcome) oil temperature display is to the far left.
The right hand dials display water temperature and fuel gauge along with the time and outside temperature. To the far right is the oil pressure gauge. All the digital displays are now higher resolution.
The standard fit PCM module, complete with colour screen, takes pride of place in the center dash/consul, with a more numerous and cluttered group of control switches than before, depending on options there could be more than 50 in total!
The PCM incorporates a radio and CD whilst also controlling the audio, trip computer functions and also the satnav plus phone. Previously specifying PCM would have included the phone and satellite navigation modules, but these are still on the options list. The PCM will also control the sports chrono functions, more on this later. Below the PCM are separate control buttons for the rear spoiler, heated screen etc and also the controls for the climate control/air-conditioning, which is still standard equipment.
At long last Porsche have also upgraded the standard fit stereo, which now contains the sound pack (plus) as standard, with 9 loud speakers and two separate amplifiers. I have always felt the standard stereo in the 996 wasn’t good enough, so this is a welcome addition. The glove box contains a handy new CD storage area & the cabin also has the now obligatory twin cup holders!
Pricing and Options
The price has risen by nearly £2,000 over the 996 Carrera 2 (which was £56,630) with prices now starting at £58,530, but in addition to the changes mentioned above the specification has improved and now includes the following additional items as standard equipment- PCM colour control screen, PSM (Porsche Stability Management), 18 inch wheels, oil temperature gauge and Sound Pack plus. Although it should be noted that several items previously standard are now extra, including the rear wiper and metallic paint, which is now a £542.85 add on!
The 997 Carrera S is priced at £65,000 and aside from the uprated engine (mentioned earlier: 30 bhp and 30nm torque) it also has the following extra goodies as standard to help account for the £6470 extra over the standard Carrera
- Four exhaust pipes
- PASM (Porsche Active Suspension management) with a 10mm lowered chassis (a 20mm lowered set up with mechanically locking rear differential is a NCO, but doesn’t feature PASM)
- 19 inch wheels
- Bi-xenon lights and cleaning system
- New sport steering wheel
- Aluminium dials and dashboard trim
- More powerful braking system with the larger discs from 996TT
- More powerful coolant pump
- Two extra fins on the uprated oil/water heater exchange
- Lightweight plastic air intake
- Uprated self-adjusting clutch
When you consider that Porsche charge £6,644.63 for the powerkit alone on the 996 (345bhp) the price premium for the S could even look like good value. Particularly when you add a few other S extras to your standard 997, e.g. PASM (£1030) 19-inch wheels (£1018) Bi-Xenon lights (£705), which means you are paying around £3.7k for the other additions including the more powerful engine & brakes.
As with previous 911 models you are likely to end up spending at least £5,000 on extras (even on the S) necessary for best re-sale, like Sat Nav (£1260) and telephone module (£523). Perhaps the Bose sound system at £768, a 6 CD player (£248) Sports Seats (£377) with full electrics adding £1006 & heating £269. A sunroof will set you back £864, cruise £294, Tiptronic £1961, sport chrono pack £507, Tyre Pressure Monitor £427 & all this is before you look at aluminium/carbon/leather extra’s for the cabin! The S even has a VERY tempting sports exhaust option (not available for the 997 Carrera) costing £1160….you know it makes sense!
There are a number of new options available for the first time, here is an over view of the main ones:
For the first time on a 911 Porsche's Active Suspension Management offers electronically controlled dampers allowing continuous adjustments, automatically adapting according to the road conditions & driving demands.
Designed to maximise both ride comfort and handling the system offers two settings: Standard and Sport. If Sport is selected the suspension is set to a harder damper rating, but (as with the Standard setting) PASM can still vary the damper rating’s to maximize control, for example improving the tyres contact with the road & improving the ride over poor quality roads, then firming the settings again during hard cornering. It is available as an optional extra on the Carrera and is standard on the “S”.
Displays/monitors tyre pressures in the central On Board Computer display.
Multi-Function Steering Wheel
Allows control of audio/ Sat. Nav/ phone functions from the steering wheel.
Bose Surround Sound
The latest Bose upgrade takes another step up from the 996’s flagship sound package and now offers a system of over 13 loudspeakers especially tailored to the 997, complete with surround sound and superb amplification.
Designed to open your electronic garage doors...
Sport Chrono Package Plus
Adds a very suspect (some would say ugly) chrono dial to the top centre of the dash, which allows you to record your lap/journey times (etc) displayed and stored via the PCM module.
The pack also includes a sport mode, this changes the cars engine mapping to ensure a far more aggressive response from the engine for each given pedal input. The PSM limits are also set higher to ensure intervention only in very extreme conditions.
If PASM is fitted it will also switch the dampers to sport. All this is designed to maximize and focus the cars performance, particularly on track. The system even offers a more aggressive control of the gears in cars fitted with Tiptronic.
In addition various memory functions can be stored via the PCM module, including personal preferences for door lock modes, daytime light functions, air con etc.
New 19" Wheels
These are also available for the standard 997, including Carrera Classic, SportDesign & the S’s wheel designs.
There are other new options including new interior and exterior colours, wood carbon & alloy packs for the interior & much more including the ability to specify the Ceramic Brakes (PCCB) on a standard Carrera for the first time, if you have a spare £5,349.
Having just finished co-authoring a book on the 996 series, I have found this early look at the next evolution of the 911 very interesting. I hope you have enjoyed sharing this peek under the skin of the 997 with me.
For the many readers that can’t stretch to the cost of a new 997 the good news is that 996 prices will soften, with prices now starting below £30k & a great choice of models there has never been a better time to start considering a 996.
A new comprehensive buyers guide for 996 series 911 is due for publication in September, for full details you can pre-order a copy of the Ultimate Buyers Guide to the 996 Carrera, Turbo & GT by visiting www.petermorgan.org.uk (Tel- 01672-514038).
The guide looks at the entire 996 model range including a technical focus, specifications, model year changes, how to understand the VIN, VIL & country codes and why they are important, known problems and issues, important options and codes, colours by model year, what to look out for when inspecting a 996, including the body shell, wheels/tyres, suspension, transmission, interior and more, complete with dozens of full colour pictures.
Whilst containing most of the information you will need, it continues Peter's “Ultimate Guides” theme of being easy to read, understand & digest.