Why the Porsche 996 was so controversial

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Porsche 911 996

The Porsche 996, or the fifth generation of the 911, has been around for 25 years. Its introduction in 1997 caused quite a stir. That had several reasons.

When you think of a controversial Porsche, you quickly think of the Cayenne. After all, that was the brand’s first SUV and that was quite a ‘thing’. A little earlier, however, Porsche also hit several enthusiasts against the sore leg with the 911. The 996 generation, to be precise. In 1997, Porsche pulled the curtain on the car that brought the most radical changes to the 911 since its introduction in 1964.

Big Boxster

The most striking point with which the 996 caused quite a stir was its appearance. Of course, the basic shape was kept, which is still the case today, but the 996 got a rather unconventional front. The 911 has had round headlights for many years, only with the 996 did the designers take a little more freedom here. The round part was given a spur and, in addition, the flashing lights previously placed separately in the front bumper were integrated into the same unit. It gave the 911 – compared to its predecessors – a rather bulky set of headlight units. All in all, it was very reminiscent of the previously introduced, much cheaper Boxster. So that was completely wrong.

The similarities between the 911 and its lower-positioned brother went much further. Up to the B-pillars, the 996 and first Boxster were almost identical and they also resembled each other like two drops of water on the inside. August Achleitner, responsible for the 996 project, explains: “Porsche needed a car in a lower price segment to ensure a higher sales volume. That is how the idea was born to exchange parts of the 986 Boxster and the 996.”

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Cost-wise perhaps a wise move, but it did earn Porsche scorn. According to Dutchman Harm Lagaaij, who was in charge of designing the 996, the criticism came as a surprise. Internally there had been no criticism of the concept car on which the Boxster was based. In fact, it was still received with praise by the general public in 1993. Lagaaij was undeterred by any controversy the 996 would cause: “The pressure and the need to save the company was the top priority.”

Water instead of air

Anyone who did not like the appearance of the Porsche 996 could at least enjoy the wonderful roar of the six-cylinder boxer engine in the back. That was anything but a certainty during the development of the fifth 911, because a V8 was even considered at a certain point. The reason: Porsche wanted to say goodbye to the 12-valve engines because of emissions and power, but, Achtleitner explains: “Air-cooled boxers with four valves did not work for various reasons. In 1989, a compact V8 was even installed in the rear as a test. mounted, but that idea was also swept aside, so that brought us to water-cooled four-valve boxer engines.” The 996 therefore broke not only with its appearance partly with a tradition, but also technically, as the 911 had always remained air-cooled up to and including the 993, but that came to an end with the 996 for good.

“Water is for cooking,” was jokingly said by some Porsche fans, who undoubtedly couldn’t live with this change either. The sound of the 911 changed and it got relatively large holes in its already so much modified nose for cooling. That took some getting used to. But hey, maybe the fans who were critical had stuck in the past a bit too long. To make the 996 brighter than the 993 and to send the 911 to the future at all, Porsche had to switch. It was actually quite something that it could keep the air-cooled 911 alive until the 90s.

Porsche 911 996

Wider than ever

The 996 was literally the widest 911 ever, but certainly also figuratively speaking. The choice within the 911 range became wider than ever before. Evil tongues would claim that Porsche really ‘milked out’ the 911 for the first time with the 996. In addition to the Carrera, Carrera 4, Carrera 4S, Turbo and Turbo S, there was also the first 911 GT3. It originated as a homologation model and essentially succeeded the 993 Carrera RS. With the GT3 and later the GT3 RS, a new sporting concept was created in 911 land. However, the GT2 would really take the 911 to new heights, with its no less than 484 hp blown 3.6 boxer engine. This clearly showed the potential of the water-cooled engines.

Whether you liked the 996 or not, whether you were happy with water cooling or not, whether you thought the 911 theme was expanded too far, Porsche will look back on the 996 chapter with satisfaction. The 996 became a sales success and that was precisely the goal. Porsche sold about 175,000 996s, making the model a greater success than its predecessors.


– Thanks for information from Autoweek.nl

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