the hofmeister kink

Porsche 996 Turbo

Never meet your idols. This was the thought that raced through my mind over and over in the moments leading up to making the decision to rent a Midnight Blue 996 Turbo. I was planning a trip to California and needed a vehicle for the four days I'd be there. I'd heard about a site a few weeks earlier that made it possible to rent used cars. To celebrate graduating college and finding a job, I figured I'd treat myself to something fun for tackle California's Famous coastal roads. And there I was, a click a way from rented one of my all time favorites cars. The perfect year, the perfect gearbox, and the perfect color. And so with wildly high expectations I reserved the car.

First a quick bio of the 996 Turbo for those who aren't quite as fanatical as I am. The 996 variant of 911 debuted in 1997 and was sold up until 2004. The 996 generation sold well but was generally disliked by the Porsche community. At this point in history, Porsche wasn't in good shape financially, and to save money the 996 shared many components with its younger brother, the Boxster. This meant to the average Joe, a top of the line 911 looked very similar to the cheaper Boxster, especially from the front.

In addition to the controversial styling, the 996 was the first generation of 911 to feature a water cooled engine. To most of you this doesn't seem like a big deal. However, the Porsche loyal are a very traditional bunch, and the air cooled engine of old was felt to be one of the key characteristic of a 911.

The 996 like the previous few generations came in Carrera, Targa, Convertible, and Turbo variants. Two more track ready models also existed but let's nnot confuse matters. As you would imagine the Turbo model came with a turbocharged flat 6. However this was not simply a tweaked Carrera motor. The 996 Turbo actually received an engine based on the '98 GT1 race engine with a full dry sump setup. The Turbo also received a special aero kit, larger brakes, and an adjustable wing to keep that back end firmly planted. This unique engine is huge as many of the early 996 Carrera's suffered from very expensive engine problems that don't plague the Turbo model.

So why is the 996 Turbo my favorite 911? Very simple, its a huge bargain. Of all the Turbo generations, the 996 is easily the cheapest simply due to the fact that its not old enough to be a classic and not new enough to be cool. A spotless 996 Turbo will run you around $45,000, a more worn model will set you back around $35,000. This is the point where many of you reading decide I should be sent to a happy house for calling this 10+ year old car a bargain. But we can agree to disagree. Just for perspective, a used 993 Turbo (1 generation older) sells for around $125,000 and a used 997 Turbo (1 generation newer) sells for around $70,000.

So whats was the car like? Well in a word, terrible. Or at least that's what I was thinking to myself as I pulled into a coffee shop 10 minutes into day one of the trip. To start, the clutch was heavier than a mountain. Combine this with a very high release point and you get a quite a workout driving this thing. On top of that, the exhaust drone could quite literally rattle your skull right off your shoulders. Combined with stop and go traffic in the infamously hilly San Francisco and you have a pretty terrible first impression.

The next day I ventured out to some of the epic coastal roads that California is known for hoping to find some redeeming quality in the car. (Page Mill and the Skyline Blvd). And boy, redeeming quality did I find. It was on these roads that I realized why this car was on my all time favorite list. First, the sheer brutality of the acceleration once the turbocharger has spooled up is unreal. Is is a completely different type of fast compared to my CTS V. At low speed the Turbo is completely docile, but when you ring its neck and keep the revs up it becomes the monster that it is. The stiff skate board suspension that broke my back the day before meant the car stayed completely flat in the curves. The steering, oh man the steering was unbelievable. Every single bump, every pebble in the road was felt through the wheel. You could place the car exactly where you wanted. The steering, combined with the handling and bonkers speed made this car shine beyond belief.

Even more good news, as it turns out this particular 996 had a custom exhaust and a high performance clutch installed. Which means the two things that ruined this car aren’t even an issue if you get a stock version. So there you go, as long as you keep it stock, the 996 Turbo is, in my opinion, one of the best used sports cars you can buy today.

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