Back in the 1960s, sports car company Porsche was readying to launch their all-new sports car that would totally revolutionize the entire market. That car was the 911, a rear-engined, rear-wheel drive 2+2 sports car with a very distinctive shape and design roots in the original Volkswagen Beetle. Even though the earliest 911 models were quite dangerous to drive, the 911 family has grown to become one of the most iconic and legendary nameplates in sports car history, and a yardstick for other similar sports cars to follow and try to match.

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For most of the 20th century, the 911 formula was very simple; an air-cooled flat six in the rear, rear-wheel drive, the same basic body shape, and a manual transmission. It was also well known for its round headlights at the front. However, all of this changed in 1999 with the introduction of the 996 generation 911. This was the first 911 to switch to a water-cooled engine, and the first not to have round headlights. Consumers and enthusiasts especially reacted with hatred and dismissal almost immediately, but fast-forward to the present day, and it has become a bargain used performance car.

Overview Of The 996 Carrera

Front 3/4 view of a 996 Carrera S

Porsche introduced the 996 911 in 1999, with a facelift coming along in 2002. The facelift eschewed the controversial "fried egg" headlights, in favor of more conventional items. As was the case with most 911 models, the entry point to the lineup was the Carrera, and it was available as either a coupe, a convertible, or a targa top.

Rear 3/4 view of the Carrera S 996

There were three different Carrera models available; the base Carrera (also called the Carrera 2), the Carrera 4 (with AWD), and the Carrera 4S (C4S). The 996 generation lasted up until 2005, with the 997 generation following that same year.

Aside from the fried egg headlights and a slightly more modern overall design, the exterior styling of the 996 911 was business as usual. At the time, the 911 competed with the likes of the Jaguar XK8, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage and the Chevy Corvette.

996 Carrera Powertrains And Drivetrains

The front of the C4S on the move

Things get a little complicated with the powertrains and drivetrains on the 996, as there's quite a few combinations to be had. All Carrera models use the same engine, a 3.6-liter naturally-aspirated flat six. Pre-facelift cars had 300 hp, whereas the 2002 model year facelift bumped that up to 320 hp. Pre-facelift cars had 258 lb-ft of torque, whereas the facelift bumped that up to 272 lb-ft. The 2WD Carrera models could do 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds, whereas the slightly heavier AWD models did it in 5.0 seconds.

The rear of the C4S on the move

The engine sent its power to either the rear or all four wheels through the buyer's choice of a six-speed manual transmission or a five-speed tiptronic automatic. This was before the days of PDK, and the automatic tends to be a little wonky, so the manual is the one you want.

In terms of the driving experience, this is a 911 through and through; thrilling, exciting and pin-sharp. If you want the most raw, visceral driving experience possible, go for a 2WD Carrera with a manual transmission, as Porsche enthusiasts often say that it's the best one to have from this generation. In either case, all of them are fantastic.

996 Carrera Comfort And Quality

The interior of the C4S, from the driver's seat

On the inside, the 996 is fairly familiar as far as Porsches go. The instrument cluster is the same as it's always been, with the tachometer front and center, and two gauges flanking it on either side. The key goes in on the left side, hearkening back to Porsche's competition days at LeMans.

While the 996 doesn't have the latest and greatest tech, it does have some nice amenities, including an available navigation system, climate control, cruise control, and a Bose sound system on some models.

The rear seats in the C4S Convertible

In terms of quality, the 996 Carrera is fairly reliable, with one caveat: the intermediate shaft bearing problem, or IMS. The IMS issue plagues almost all 996 Carrera models, but it's not as bad as it sounds, as this is an easy and relatively cheap fix.

You can check to see if the owner you're buying the car from has replaced it already, and if they haven't, replace it early on to avoid headaches later. The 996 has a 2+2 seating configuration, and the front trunk boasts 4.5 cubic feet of cargo space.

996 Carrera Prices

Front 3/4 view of a silver 996 Carrera

As far as 911 models go, the 996 really is a bargain, and one of the best performance car deals of the moment. Prices run the gamut from around $20,000 for early models with around 200,000 miles, all the way to around $80,000 for extremely low mileage C4S models.

As of this writing, the sweet spot of the price range is around $35,000 to $40,000, as that gets you a decent, well-preserved Carrera model with good mileage and good equipment.

Porsche 911 Carrera S 996 4

That's not exactly dirt cheap, but considering that the preceding 993 generation currently goes for around $80,000 at the very lowest, the 996 suddenly looks like a fantastic buy.

It might be the most hated of all the 911 models, but don't let that discourage you; this is still a true 911, a thrilling sports car in every sense of the word. Values seem to be on the rise for this one, so buy one now, before prices skyrocket.

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