Porsche 996 Turbo: Long-term report, September 2014

Porsche 911 Turbo

I’ve spent the last three months gushing about the Turbo and how much I’m enjoying the ownership experience, but in the interests of balance I’ve decided that in this month’s report I’ll mention some of the aspects of the 996 Turbo that I’m less fond of.

In the October 2012 issue of GT Porsche magazine, as part of his excellent ‘Turbo Files’ series, Andrew Frankel wrote the following sentence which has remained lodged in my head since purchasing the Turbo: “You can see evidence far more clearly today than you would have in period of where Porsche systematically took money out of the car.”

I think of this phrase every time I indicate for a turn or activate the wipers; the stalks in the 996 are unforgivably flimsy items in a car that cost £86,000 when new. In fact, the 996 interior in general doesn’t have the build quality you’d expect of Porsche, with cheap-feeling and oddly-shaped buttons scattered around the dash. The steering wheel doesn’t adjust for rake, which is a minor quibble on a car this age, but in combination with a driver’s seat which doesn’t drop quite low enough, it leaves me feeling a little like I’m sat on top of the car rather than in it.

Looks-wise, those sharper facelifted headlamps are an acquired taste for me; I much preferred the old ‘fried-egg’ units fitted to my old Boxster. In fact, the whole front end of the car with its three gaping radiator inlets is probably best described as ‘purposeful’ rather than attractive, which probably explains why virtually all of my photographs of the car are from the rear three-quarters.

I’ve already mentioned my lack of confidence in the brakes in a previous report, despite them having been renewed all round with new OEM discs and pads shortly before I purchased the car. They just don’t feel up to the job of slowing down a car capable of hitting 190mph. I’d hoped that the braking performance might improve after a couple of heat cycles, but there’s been no appreciable difference in braking feel or power even after a couple of punishing sessions on track.

While I was at the recent GT Porsche track evening at Brands Hatch, I offered Perfection Detailing’s Richard Tipper the chance to take the Turbo out for a few laps. As well as being an ace detailer, Richard is pretty handy behind the wheel and has a lot of experience with 996 Turbos, so I was interested to hear his thoughts on my car’s braking performance. 

After a number of maximum attack laps, Richard brought the car back into the pits and delivered an assessment that wasn’t far off my own thoughts: “The braking power is there, but you have to push the pedal an awful long way – much more so than normal – and it’s hard to trust the brakes as a result.” The braking system on the 996 Turbo was lauded in contemporary road tests for its power, but I’m just not confident in the braking system as it stands.

That’s probably enough moaning for now! The truth is, braking issues aside there’s very little about the car that doesn’t make me smile, and for every cheap-feeling indicator stalk, there’s something else about the car that more than makes up for it. A couple of my favourite things about the car at the moment are the slow rise of the rear spoiler in the rear view mirror as you gain speed, and the cooling grills at the rear of the car that remind me so much of the 959. Oh, and then there’s the acceleration.

I’ve not written much about the performance of the Turbo so far, largely because the initial shock of the thrust it generates at full boost wears off surprisingly quickly and you find yourself able to deploy almost all of the power in anything other than torrential rain. Familiarity breeds confidence very quickly in this car.

With this in mind, I recently took my best mate Andy out for a ride in the car, just to gauge his reaction to full-bore second gear acceleration. After several track days I felt I’d almost become immune to the feeling of boost, to the point where a small part of my brain wondered if I’d left some power somewhere around Bedford Autodrome. I needn’t have worried; the expletives that came out of Andy’s mouth are unprintable in a family magazine, but suffice to say his reaction confirmed that the car isn’t lacking in performance.

That said, I do want to get it onto a rolling road at some point soon, largely out of curiosity to see if the engine is actually making the quoted 450bhp that the DMS remap is supposed to give. I have two excellent Porsche independents reasonably close by (JZM and RPM Technik), but in this instance I’m tempted to take the car to Nine Excellence who have a lot of experience in working with the 911 Turbo. They also offer brake upgrades, so I’m keen to find out potential options for improving the braking system on my car.

This article was originally published in the October 2014 issue of GT Porsche magazine.