Porsche 996 Turbo: Long-term report, November 2014

Porsche 911 Turbo

This month the Turbo has had a chance to show another side to its personality – the long-distance express cruiser.

I’ve had a couple of weekends away from home that necessitated very early starts and lots of motorway miles, and though it shouldn’t come as a surprise, I was impressed at how well-suited the Turbo is for this sort of journey. I’ve always considered the standard Porsche seat a bit too narrow and lacking in lateral support, but it’s certainly comfortable enough to prevent backache after a few non-stop hours at the wheel, and the heated seats are very welcome on those cold misty autumn mornings.

The car will lope along at the national speed limit on the motorway and return 28mpg if you’re not too heavy-footed, though I got the distinct impression that it would be happier cruising along in triple figures; at one point we were running a little late and my wife turned to me to suggest I push on a bit, then caught sight of the speedo which was reading 20mph more than she expected! It’s almost too easy to squeeze your right foot down to pass a dawdling car in front and find yourself at potentially license-losing speeds in an instant, even without changing down and waking the turbos. This car must be a monster on the autobahn.

The boot at the front will just about fit a suitcase but the spare wheel underneath the floor means the boot isn’t especially deep, so you have to be more careful in packing your luggage in there. There’s useful space in the back seats to squeeze a few bags and other paraphernalia, and if you happen to be attending a wedding as we were, the flat parcel shelf under the rear window is especially useful for storing formal wear to prevent creases!

Not everything is so useful, though. The PCM1 stereo/nav unit wasn’t exactly state-of-the-art back in 2002 and now the whole thing feels clunky and awkward to use. The sat nav maps are very dated and the directions have a tendency to arrive far too late; on one memorable occasion I was told “Turn left in 1000 metres”, followed almost immediately by the command “Turn left now!”

My car is fitted with the Bose sound system, which adds a subwoofer in the back and upgraded speakers that give reasonable sound quality, but there’s no auxiliary input, which means no easy way of connecting my iPhone to the stereo. I’ve found forum threads from a number of people who’ve removed the PCM1 unit and fitted double-DIN Pioneer head units to their Turbos, using a genuine Porsche surround to keep the dash looking neat and tidy. I’m usually a big advocate of keeping the OEM sound system – no matter how good the install, aftermarket stereos always seem to look out of place – but the PCM1 system’s drawbacks do have me tempted to replace it with something more modern. However, that’s a project for the future, so for the time being I’m going to buy a cheap FM transmitter widget to get tunes from my iPhone into the car stereo.

One casualty of piling on the miles in the recent wet weather we’ve been having are the wheels. They’re looking a lot shabbier than they did when I bought the car back in the spring, and on closer examination it seems that water has got behind the paint, causing it to bubble and peel away from the wheel. All of the wheels have been refurbished in the past but clearly not to the highest standard, so that’s another job to be addressed in the near future. I was hoping to find a cheap set of scruffy spare wheels to use while the originals are away being refurbished, but even on eBay the average price for a set of genuine Porsche hollow-spoke Turbo twist alloys is well over a grand, regardless of condition. If anyone knows of a cheaper alternative wheel that’ll fit a 996 Turbo, please let me know.

Wheel woes aside, using the Turbo as my regular transport for a few days this month really highlighted how easy it would be to live with as a daily driver, and in a way I’m a little sad that I don’t use it in this fashion more often. However, Christmas is approaching and with it the need to visit a few far-flung relatives, so perhaps I can persuade my wife that we can use the Turbo as family transport this festive season.

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