AS YOU CAN SEE from this theme issue, the owners of 996s really like and enjoy their cars. But what was the reaction when the 996 first appeared on the market? I went back to my usual sources to find out: old Excellence magazines, Road & Track, Karl Ludvigsen’s Excellence was Expected and others.
It appears that Provinz at the time only published the Porsche Cars North America press release without comment.
Road & Track had quite a few comments, mainly positive. In its 50th anniversary tribute to Porsche, Paul Frere commented “Much as I like the 993 series, there is no doubt the 996 series is an even better car, probably the best affordable and practical sports car money can buy.” Elsewhere in the same issue, “With its water-cooled engine still in the rear, this latest Porsche is quicker, quieter and it stops better. And its road-holding sets new standards. Plus it has 296 horsepower.”
The 911 is dead. Long live the 911!
In its December 1997 issue, Excellence magazine’s cover story was “New 911 The Best Ever?” Inside they commented, “Overall Porsche has an entirely worthy new 911 here…Diehard ‘air 911’ fans can still buy one but they will constantly be faced by the evident improvement in their friend’s 996 models.”
Excellence conducted its first US road test for the August 1998 issue, which stated, “You can carp all you want about the negative implications of Porsche going Detroit (longer, lower, wider) but in this case, the formula works, because you can definitely add ‘better’ to that list of adjectives.” There was a mild criticism of the “slab sides, Boxster beak and chintzy wheel bolts.” The author summed up by saying, “I just never could get enough of this car.”
Car and Driver was also effusive in its praise stating, “Even if the new car is a less tactile grand tourer, can we really argue against a bigger, more comfortable, but similarly priced GT that outperforms its purebred sports-car forebear in every objective contest? Not really. The 911 is dead. Long live the 911!”
Motorsport took a somewhat contrarian view commenting that it was an outstanding car but not a 911. The author did however find that the 996 is “a fine car and a great Porsche. Ultimately, it is that which matters most.”
The German press was harsher, especially regarding the styling. Comments ranged from “bastard of the Boxster and 928” and the “current model is too trendy.” “Butzi” Porsche replied when asked about the 996, “The new model, on the other hand, represents a break with this principle, (characteristic shape…absolute functional minimum) at any rate in the refined fittings and the shape of the headlights which, to me, are incomprehensible.” Ludvigsen notes that as the creator of the 911, “Butzi” has earned the right to render this judgement.
Comments from other sources are similar and need not be repeated.
Concluding, it appears that in all objective measures, aside from styling which is subjective, the 996 was a better car than its predecessor. As you can see from this issue the car is still liked as the saying goes, “Ask someone who owns one.” </>