Porsche 996 Turbo: Long-term report, October 2014

Porsche 911 Turbo

The Turbo gets a new battery, and sheds some weight.

The nights are drawing in and the weather is turning autumnal, and with them the opportunities to drive the Turbo in the dry and the daylight are reducing. I’ve been taking every opportunity to take the car out for the last few weeks, so my local Shell garage is fast becoming a second home.

The Turbo is a weekend car so fuel consumption isn’t normally something I worry about too much, but the 50-litre fuel tank does seem rather small for a car that returns as little as 8mpg when you use its full performance. I’ve also discovered that you need to fill the tank completely if it’s nearly empty, or the fuel gauge won’t register that you’ve put any more fuel in. One hurried ‘splash-and-dash’ fuel stop had me worried that I’d just paid £30 and received no fuel in return, but fortunately it turns out that it’s a common issue with four-wheel drive 911s. The fuel tank is shaped around the front differential, and as a result the fuel gauge can only measure the top two-thirds of the tank, with the last third being calculated rather than actually measured. From now on I’ll just have to brim the tank every time!

The recent cooler weather has highlighted a common issue as winter approaches: a dying battery. I’d noticed that the car was reluctant to turn over after a week sat stationary on the drive, and though it did still eventually start I felt that it probably wouldn’t continue to do so for much longer. On opening the bonnet and checking under the plastic battery cover, I found a genuine Porsche battery, which might well have been the original item.

I didn’t fancy paying the Porsche tax on a new battery, so a quick trawl through the Porsche forums online found that the recommended non-Porsche item was a heavy duty Bosch Silver S5, which I found at Euro Car Parts for a fairly reasonable £115. I picked one up before the existing battery lost all of its charge, and fitting it turned out to be simple enough even for someone of my limited skills. If you’re doing this yourself, I do have one tip gleaned from the forums – remember to have the key in the ignition and switched to position 1 so the alarm doesn’t go off.

The new battery hasn’t been the only addition to the car lately, either. After the recent GT Porsche track evening at Brands Hatch, I discovered that I’d absentmindedly left all of my valve caps behind in the pitlane after checking my tyre pressures, so I splurged a whole £9 on a set of genuine Porsche crested aluminium valve caps from Design 911. They look lovely, but unfortunately as of the time of writing a couple of them have gone missing, presumed stolen by neighbourhood kids who seem rather attracted to the Turbo sat on my driveway. It’s a minor thing and not something that bothers me very much, but it does make me wish I had a garage to keep the car in.  For the time being, I think I’ll take the other two off and put some cheap plastic ones on instead.

I’ve also been removing some things from the car, namely the rear seats. This isn’t in the name of weight-saving, I hasten to add, since they don’t actually weigh very much, but more so I can get the child seat further back in the car. With the rear seats in place, my rapidly-growing son’s feet were starting to press up against the driver’s seat, so after yet more research online (particularly in the RennSport forums), I found a useful guide on removing the rear seat backs. This is something that many 996 owners do in order to fit a rollcage, and it’s a relatively easy job which mainly involves carefully prising off a couple of plastic covers to get at the bolts which hold the seat backs in place. Once you’ve removed a couple of Torx and allen bolts, you can remove the seat backs and their mountings altogether, which gives a bit more space to fit the child seat into so I don’t feel my son kicking me in the back every time I take him out in the car!

Finally, last month I mentioned I was planning on taking the car to Nine Excellence for some braking upgrades, but the pressing need to replace the cambelt and tyres on our family car has meant that my budget has taken a bit of a dent this month. In lieu of a full-blown upgrade, I’m going to book the car into my nearest Porsche specialist, RPM Technik, for a brake fluid flush and to seek their advice on cost-effective ways to improve the braking performance. Pagid pads seem to be a popular upgrade, so perhaps a set of those combined with fresh race-spec brake fluid will make a difference to the power and feel.

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