2001 Porsche 911 Turbo
The Porsche 911 Turbo has long held a special place in the pantheon of ultra fast road going cars. It has dominated teenager’s walls and middleager’s wallets since the first Turbo in 1973. That tradition has carried on through at least seven successive generations of the 911. The 2001 Porsche 911 Turbo comes somewhere in midst of that timeline. It is the first model year of the Turbo variant for the “996” generation of 911’s (“996” is Porsche’s internal designation for the 1999 to 2004 generation of 911’s, and is a moniker now commonly used by enthusiasts). With the 996 Turbo, Porsche delivered a car that was faster, lighter, more reliable, and more fuel efficient than it's predecessor, and by all measures continued progress into the next generation. Progress in this instance, however, was not without resistance.
The 996 gen 911 was seen as a sudden leap from classic to modern 911s, triggering some to feel that 911 tradition and lineage had been beheaded. It was an all new body, had an all new water cooled motor, and shared parts with other Porsche models (oh my!). Because many of these qualities were incorrectly perceived as firsts for Porsche and/or the 911, it caused much hand-wringing amongst some fans, and enraged the Porschephiles at the fringes. Even among more objective bystanders, it is thought of as a drastic new direction. In reality, the history of the 996 is more nuanced. It was far from the first water cooled turbocharged Porsche (including 944 and 924 variants that preceded it), and it was not even the first water cooled rear engine Porsche. Porsche campaigned several water cooled race cars going back decades: the famed 959 supercar had water cooled heads; and the 911 GT1 homologation car of the mid 1990s had water cooling. Additionally, many Porsche models over the years used a parts bin approach, albeit the 911 typically borrowed from the predecessor model. Regarding the perception that the 996 was the first “mass produced” 911, in reality Porsche’s transition to assembly line production, including extensive use of robots, was an evolution that started long before. Tellingly, the outgoing 993 and new 996 shared the same assembly line while they overlapped production. While the use of automation increased for the 996 gen, it was an evolutionary progression that betrays the common misconception that the 996 is a pure assembly line car, whereas prior 911s are bespoke and hand built.
The 996 Turbo variant came along midway through the 996 gen life cycle. Around the same time, changes were made to lesser 996s, and collectively these are known as MKII cars. Important changes debuted with the 996TT and trickled down, including a stiffer chassis, wide body option, and a revised headlight design (out were the “fried egg” headlights of the first Boxsters and 996s). The 996TT had some significant differences from other 996s, perhaps most importantly a completely different motor, often referred to a Mezger motor after its designer, Hans Mezger.
This motor is a derivative of several very important race motors, it’s genesis being the GT1 race car that won at Le Mans. It shares some architecture with other important cars like the GT3, and even the 959 Supercar. In fact, it has a “964” part number stamped on the block. Notably it does not typically suffer from the intermediate shaft bearing, and rear main seal maladies of other 996, 997 and Boxster motors.
Values for the 996 cars are the lowest for each sub model, relative to those of other generations that precede and follow. Just as a rising tide lifts all boats, an ebbing tide will bring them down. The Carrerra 996s fried egg lights, tendency of motors to destroy themselves, and shared front clip with the Boxster have depressed values in the used car market. And although the 996TT does not have any of those traits, its values have lagged as well. Adding to that, many are critical of the “tweener” 90’s style oval interior themes, and the quality of interior craftsmanship (or lack thereof) which the Turbo does share with all 996s. However, because the Turbo has a more reliable motor, better looking lights, and marked separation from the Boxster, it is perhaps unfair that it's values have followed. In any event, what that means for the enthusiasts is that it represents a great value in performance Porsche motoring. Make no mistake, the 996TT drives better in every quantifiable way than the 993TT. Admittedly it does not evoke nostalgia like the prior Turbo, but when it's really raining you reach for Gore-Tex, not wool. But if you want to accelerate faster, corner harder, emit fewer noxious fumes, and do it all with fewer repairs, then for roughly 80% less money than a 993TT, the 996TT is a pretty damn good take.
Will the overall upward arc of 911s over the last decade or more carry the 996? Certainly the GT2 and GT3 cars will see appreciation, and possibly the 996TT (values for the best examples have increased over the past 5 years, while remaining largely flat for the driver level examples). As for the Carrera 996s, history has shown that some 911s that are seen as outliers have their day in the sun. While they may never shine quite as bright as the most coveted generations (and are too numerous to be rare), over time perceptions may change. Remember that there was a time that the early impact bumper 911s were downright cheap, and even 964s were a bargain few saw big potential in.
Since its inception the 996 has been hotly debated. What is irrefutable, is that the 996 and its Turbo variant came at an incredibly important time for Porsche. It represented many new characteristics for the 911, and the Turbo is stonking fast, even to this day. The 996TT may not be top tier investment grade material, but as a beautiful driving Porsche not likely to depreciate, it really is a Driver’s Dream.