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Porsche 997 Buyer's Guide

I am a father of two who lives north of Boston MA. I have been working as an IT Infrastructure architect for the last 15 years.

Everything you need to know about buying a Porsche 997

Everything you need to know about buying a Porsche 997

What to Consider When Buying a Porsche

The Porsche 997 started arriving at the end of 2004 and was met by pretty much universal applause. Its updated looks harkened back to the much-loved 993, combining classic, nostalgic familiarity with new, modern twists. Performance and handling were also better, with many reviewers claiming Porsche had finally managed to eliminate the undesirable effects of having the engine slung at the back of the car (something all auto journalists seem to state every time a new 911 arrives).

Things to Consider When Picking a Porsche

  1. The Year
  2. The Specific Model
  3. Manual vs. Automatic
  4. Additional Options
  5. Pre-Purchase Inspections
  6. Detailing, Warranties, and Depreciation
The Porsche 997 started arriving at the end of 2004 and was met by pretty much universal applause.

The Porsche 997 started arriving at the end of 2004 and was met by pretty much universal applause.

1. Which Year Should You Choose?

The 997 received a major facelift for the 2009 model year. In forums, you will generally see these cars described as 997.2, and cars for the model years 2005 to 2008 as the 997.1. However, there were some engine changes between 2005 and 2008 that helped improve, but not totally eliminate, a design weakness that was fully rectified in the 997.2 model.

If you have done any research on the 997, you will have come across something known as IMS and RMS. You may have even heard reference to the term "scored bores" (a parts failure that can cause the engine to rip itself apart). I am not an expert in any of these areas, and so will not go into great depth, but my understanding is that this risk is important when looking to buy a 997.

It's worth noting that the problem is relatively uncommon. There are also steps you can take to mitigate the issue. A preventative step is to install third-party parts that eliminate the problem. You can also purchase a warranty.

I also want to point out that some models of 997 are less susceptible, if not immune, to all or any of these issues, either due to model type or year. I know that the tales on Porsche forums make for some pretty worrying reading in regard to these issues. They scared me when I first read about them.

Early 2005 cars had a smaller IMS bearing installed. These were changed, but you will need to do some research to be more precise. Dates on the various forums seem to alter, so don't always take everything they say to be gospel. The earlier cars fitted with the smaller IMS are more susceptible to major failure than those with the revised bearing. But revised bearings are not a cure, so don't assume that a car equipped with this upgraded IMS bearing means there is no risk.

Porsche 997 Years to Avoid

You should stay away from early 997, i.e., those delivered in late 2004 to some time in 2005 (do your own research to be 100% sure). The price of the early 997 reflects the potential issues, but if you find a car with a good service history and get your pre-purchase inspection done, you are in a good place. Early cars with the smaller bearing can, in fact, have an advantage over later revised bearing 997.1's, as the fix to these LMS issues is far cheaper as less labor is required. Check out a company called LN Engineering for really detailed information about what is involved in swapping it out.

Note: If you want to know whether the car you are looking at is installed with the larger or smaller IMS bearing, get hold of the VIN number. It is possible to check this information. Again, visit Porsche owner forums.

2. Which Model Should You Choose?

Which 997 you choose will come down to personal taste. I have listed the model types below with a brief synopsis of each.

There are many choices in the 911 line. I honestly don't think there is a bad choice among them. Personally, I went for a 997.1 C2S cabriolet, because for me this car was going to be a toy for the weekends and not something I was planning on driving every day. I chose a rear-wheel-drive 911 because this was my first one, and I wanted to experience the full sensation of having the engine in the back of the car.

The reason my car is a Gen 1 and not a Gen 2 was purely budgetary. The 2009 models similarly equipped with similar miles were in the region of 14 to 16k more than I was willing to pay. I would have accepted a 997.2 Carrera convertible, however, even these were still another 4 or 5k more. I didn't find one while I was looking that was more appealing than the car I eventually chose.

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Carrera

Often referred to as the base model, if such a term can be leveled at a 911, 997.1 models generated 325 hp with the facelift, a number that rose to 345 hp. The disadvantage that this model has, compared to the S version, is that there is a slight stigma to having what people term the "base" model. This stigma has, however, pushed prices down on this model, making these cars particularly appealing for those on a lower budget. Likewise, the facelifted Carrera offers a very good alternative to those who were certain they needed an S.

Porsche 997.1 vs. 997.2

The 997.2 Carrera has only fractionally less horsepower than the 997.1 Carrera S, and has the advantage of a better cabin (namely the nav system, or PCM as it is referred to by Porsche) and is also meant to be immune to the IMS issue, better economy, improved breaks of the 997.1 Carrera, and updated exterior looks. Many argue that the 3.6 litre engine of this car is also better sounding.

  • Carrera S - 355 hp in 997.1 form and 385 in 997.2. In 997.1 form, the S had improved breaks and suspension as standard over the standard Carrera. 997.2 S has the advantages of a better cabin, exterior refresh, performance, and economy improvements over its Gen 1 counterpart.
  • Carrera 4 and 4S The main difference is the drive train as the car moves from a rear-wheel-drive car to an all-wheel-drive one. The other advantage, or desirable feature, depending on your point of view, is that the all-wheel-drive version has a fatter rear end than the two-wheel-drive counterparts. Cosmetically many, including myself, find this a very appealing feature. The four-wheel-drive model was also ever so slightly faster around the track than the two-wheel-drive model (fractions of a second), but is interesting nonetheless, as this was the first time an all-wheel-drive variant of the 911 was quicker than its rear-wheel-drive counterpart. Which you prefer to drive is going to come down to personal preference. 997.2 saw the reintroduction of the red reflective strip to the back of the car which helped to further distinguish it from the rear-wheel-drive model.

GT3

  • GT3, without fail, these cars have dominated the drivers' best award category since they arrived on the market. In essence, they represent the nearest to a race car level of Porsche allowed on the open roads. All naturally aspirated, they offered 415 hp in Gen 1 and 450 in Gen 2 format. You will often hear the term "club sport" when talking about GT3s. This tended to denote the fitment of the roll cage to the GT3 as well as bucket seats, which offer a slightly more track-focused version of the car. RS versions of the models stripped out even further weight and made use of the wider Carrera 4 body shell while remaining rear-wheel drive and included more aggressive aero packages. They are truly inspiring machines.
  • GT3 4.0 I have chosen to separate this car out from the other GT3s as it was an extremely limited production car. I personally believe this car will enter the hall of all-time great 911s, along with the 2.7 RS. Still very new, it's too hard to say what will happen in terms of depreciation, but long term you would have to bet on this being one of the few that may actually start gaining in value. With a 500 hp naturally aspirated engine and a more extensive aero package than we had seen on other 911 GT3s, its old-school charm made it hit among road testers.
GTS

GTS

GTS

The GTS arrived later on in the life of the 997. It is the most powerful naturally aspirated 911 you can purchase that still maintains the rear seats. With 410 hp, this car delivered exactly the same performance as the limited edition speedster and sport edition 911s, which were released earlier. The GTS had a number of additional little tweaks, such as black tailpipes and wheels, which were also attached with a single central bolt. This car was incredibly well-received and for many, offered the ideal balance between cost, performance, and flexibility. AWD and RWD versions of the car were available, as well as coupe or cabriolet configurations.

GT2 and GT2 RS

Again, a more track-focused version of the 911, however, this time with turbo-charged engines, unlike the turbo-only RWD. The GT2 997 was the first Porsche-produced 911 with a speed in excess of 200 mph. The RS version offered a lightweight and slightly more striking appearance, due to the large amounts of carbon fiber visible on the bodywork (such as the front bonnet). The RS version was extremely rare, with a very limited production run.

Turbo

Turbo

More Model Specifics

Each of the following sections gives insight into the details you should consider when looking to buy a 997. These details refer to both body style and engine specifics.

Cabriolet: Without Top

All of the models listed below have the option of coming as a convertible. These models tend to command a slightly higher price than the equivalent coupe version of the same model. Disadvantages would be loss of the classic coupe lines, also slightly less rigid structure than a coupe, although you would have to be a far better driver than me to feel the limits. The main advantage is the ability to drop the top on a sunny day and enjoy the noise of the flat-six as it pulls you closer to the redline.

Turbo: More Power

If you want to get around even more quickly, while maintaining all the creature comforts then this is the option you will find most appealing. An AWD system gives this car huge levels of power and torque. Gen 1 cars were based on the 3.6 Metzger engine and delivered 480 hp. Gen 2 cars had a more powerful 500-hp engine. The Metzger engine in the Gen 1 car is seen as a classic developed from years of motorsport knowledge, with great potential for upgrades and devoid of the problems that graced most other 997 gen 1 cars. This may allow the car to guard its residual value better going forward. The engine in the Gen II is based on new construction. It is still probably too soon to say how good a unit it will be. Turbos were also made available in cabriolet form. An S version with even more horsepower arrived later on in the gen IIs life.

Targa: Glass Roof

Allows the feel of a Cabriolet while maintaining a solid roof and structure. A full-glass roof gives an airy feel to the cabin, but does add weight to the structure and necessitates a slightly softer suspension setup.

Speedster and Sports Edition

Both of these cars were limited-edition, with bespoke bodywork and potent 410 hp units. In both cases, these cars are more appealing in person than in magazines. The twin bumps in the roof and ducktail of the sports edition gave this car a very aggressive look on the road. I can see in both cases why these cars are highly desirable; however, their bigger price tag put them beyond reach for most of us. The GTS offers nearly the same experience without the bespoke bodywork, however, due to their exclusivity, I am sure these special edition cars will hold their value very well.

GEN II Interior with PDK

GEN II Interior with PDK

3. Manual vs. Automatic

The manual gearbox on the 997 Gen 1 and Gen 2 is a great unit. If I had to make one criticism, I would level it at the position of reverse and first gear. Reverse gear is selected by pushing hard to the left and then up. First gear is selected by pushing to the left and then up. The first time I drove a 997 Carrera I got caught at a tricky junction with very fast-changing lights on a hill. I managed to select reverse rather than first gear and almost had a very embarrassing situation. I haven't had this issue with my latest car.

If you prefer the two-pedal option, there are a couple of things to know. The first is that 997 Gen 1 cars have an automatic box that is referred to as a Tiptronic unit. These cars tend to be slightly slower accelerating than the manual. By today's standards, this gearbox is very dated, however, having never driven one I can't comment on whether they are still nice to drive or not. With the arrival of the Gen II 997 Porsche introduced PDK. A twin-clutch gearbox, as seen first in the Audi and later VW, this box offered smoother changes and great acceleration times. I haven't driven a Porsche equipped with this gearbox but a friend who has said it was very good. I must admit I have always been impressed with it in the Audi A3 I had previously, and in the current Golf GTI my wife has today.

Personally, I wanted a manual as I wanted to feel more connected to the car. Also, the 991 manual gearbox has received less stellar reviews and part of me feels that if I am ever lucky enough to have another 991, I would probably lean toward the PDK box. The 997, in my opinion, will mark the end of the manual box being the gear shift of choice in the 911.

PDK Buttons Versus Paddles

One of the main criticisms of PDK when it arrived was the control mechanism Porsche implemented. This actually led them to release a sports design steering wheel with paddles, bringing the control method into line with other car manufacturers. What you prefer is going to be a matter of personal choice. Note, however, that if the car you find is equipped with buttons and you prefer paddles, this shouldn't be a deal breaker. You could purchase the Porsche sports wheel with paddles, or buy one with buttons and pay a third party to upgrade it with paddles. This is probably a cheaper option.

4. Which Options Are Essential?

After you have decided on your year and model type, the next thing to consider is which options you want. Again this is going to be largely subjective. Here is a brief overview of my opinions.

PASM (Porsche Active Stability Management) - This was actually standard on Carrera S but not on the Carrera. It allows the car to be used in a more everyday mode or switched on for a sportier (read harder) setting as well.

Seat Types - Sports, standard, power, adaptive sports, and bucket. Which are the best? Well, this is really going to depend on what you want. Even the standard seats give lots of support. Power and adaptive sports seats are great if more than one person drives the car, as the memory option moves the seat to your preset position as soon as you use your personal key to open the car. Bucket seats, while expensive, add to a more hardcore racing feel while reducing weight. I have the 12-way power seats in my car which both my wife and I use and I have to be honest, the memory function and the ease with which it works means I would be very reluctant to have nonmemory seats again. Having said that if I had a GT3 I would want the bucket seats.