In early S form it wa s our 2004 Car of the Year, and to­day prices start be­low £ 25k, but it’s es­sen­tial to ap­proach this 911 with cau­tion by Peter To­ma­lin

Evo - - CONTENTS - Our buy­ing guide tells you how to bag a 997 Car­rera and we’ve driven a 200mph Abt Audi RS6

THE FIRST THING WE NO­TICED when the new Car­rera went on sale in Septem­ber 2004 was the lights. De­sign boss Harm La­gaay wanted to re-es­tab­lish the 911’s iden­tity after the eco­nom­i­cally en­forced sim­i­lar­ity of the 996-gen­er­a­tion ver­sion and the orig­i­nal Boxster. So out went the last ves­tiges of the fried eggs and in came oval lamps that harked back to the ear­lier 993-gen­er­a­tion 911, along with an over­all look that was broader, cleaner, chunkier, tighter.

An­other key change was a choice of two en­gines. The ba­sic Car­rera got a 3.6-litre 321bhp ver­sion of the wa­ter­cooled flat-six from the out­go­ing 996. For the Car­rera S – in­stantly iden­ti­fi­able by its quad ex­haust tailpipes – it was mildly up­rated, bored out to 3.8 litres and de­liv­ered a whole­some 350bhp.

Chas­sis-wise, there was a Sport vari­ant, which was 20mm lower, stiffer, and came with a lim­ited-slip diff. Then there was PASM or Porsche Adap­tive Sus­pen­sion Man­age­ment, with its adap­tive damping, stan­dard on the S and an op­tion on the ba­sic car. Other new tech in­cluded vari­able-ra­tio steer­ing as stan­dard, and an op­tional Sport Chrono pack which, in ad­di­tion to a dash-mounted stop­watch, came with a Sport but­ton that sharp­ened throt­tle re­sponse, loos­ened the PSM sta­bil­ity con­trol and tensed the damping.

So the new car was more so­phis­ti­cated than any ‘reg­u­lar’ 911 we’d seen be­fore – and more ca­pa­ble, too. Stable, poised, with fewer than ever of the old, scary 911 han­dling traits. But still fun and en­gag­ing.

All-wheel-drive Car­rera 4 and 4S ver­sions ar­rived in Novem­ber 2005 and there were also Tar­gas and Cabri­o­lets, but it’s the rear-drive Car­reras we’re fo­cus­ing on here, and the next ma­jor de­vel­op­ment came in late 2008 with the launch of the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion 997.

The gen-2 en­gine was com­pletely new, now boast­ing di­rect in­jec­tion and Var­i­o­cam Plus valveg­ear, and power was up – 340bhp for the Car­rera, and 380bhp for the S, cut­ting its 0-60mph time to the low-4s. The op­tional Tip­tronic auto was re­placed by a nifty twin-clutch PDK ’box.

A gen-2 S has be­come the ‘one to have’, but any 997 is a truly great car, blend­ing gen­uine ev­ery­day use­abil­ity with real driver en­gage­ment. Scare sto­ries about the en­gines in early cars have de­flated val­ues, so there are bar­gains to be had. You just need to know what you’re po­ten­tially get­ting into.


There are lots of scare sto­ries on the in­ter­net, but the first thing to un­der­stand is that gen-1 and gen-2 cars have com­pletely dif­fer­ent en­gines. Most prob­lems are with gen-1s and, ac­cord­ing to Grant Pritchard, MD of lead­ing in­de­pen­dent Hartech, a lot have been ex­ag­ger­ated. ‘It has re­ally de­pressed prices,’ he says. ‘The gen-1 en­gine does have short­com­ings, but if you un­der­stand and can work with them, they’re good value cars – and fan­tas­tic to drive.’

The weak spots are crank­shaft bear­ings, tim­ing chains, the in­ter­me­di­ate shaft bear­ing and cylin­der lin­ers. ‘Some is­sues are mileage-re­lated,’ says Grant. ‘Crank­shaft bear­ings wear over time, and cylin­ders be­come more oval, but this tends to be from 90,000 miles up­wards.’

More ran­dom is­sues are tim­ing chains that snap – ‘very rare, but it does hap­pen’ – and IMS bear­ing fail­ure, which is more com­mon ‘but nowhere near as com­mon as in­ter­net chit-chat sug­gests’. From late 2005, Porsche dou­bled the size of the bear­ing, which helped con­sid­er­ably.

The big­gest gen-1 is­sue is scor­ing of the cylin­der bores. The prob­lem was the ma­te­rial used – Lokasil – and the only fix is re­plac­ing the cylin­der lin­ers with a harder-wear­ing re­place­ment. Clues to scored bores in­clude ex­ces­sive smoke on start-up and black­ened tailpipes. A num­ber of spe­cial­ists of­fer checks by en­do­scope, but scor­ing could start at any time. So if you’re look­ing for a gen-1 car, ei­ther buy one that’s had a re­build by a spe­cial­ist, or keep funds in re­serve – from around £6k up to about £10k to re­place all six lin­ers and do the crank bear­ings and chains at the same time.

‘ We ad­vise buy­ers to fac­tor-in the prob­a­bil­ity that they are go­ing to have to re­build an en­gine at some point,’ says Grant. ‘If you’ve done that and picked up a car for £25k, it’s not such a drama. It’s peo­ple who stretch them­selves to buy a car for £22k who fin­ish up in trou­ble…’

Mean­while you can re­duce – but not re­move – the risk by low­er­ing the op­er­at­ing tem­per­a­ture of the en­gine by in­stalling a low-temp ther­mo­stat and us­ing high-qual­ity low-fric­tion oil.

Gen-2 cars (from late 2008) have a much bet­ter rep­u­ta­tion. One of many changes was a switch from Lokasil to Alusil for the cylin­der ma­te­rial, an­other was do­ing away with the in­ter­me­di­ate shaft, and the crank was re­designed, too. ‘Over­all gen-2 en­gines are mas­sively more re­li­able,’ says Grant, ‘though we are start­ing to see some is­sues with higher mileage cars. Per­son­ally, I would have a con­tin­gency fund even for a gen-2.’


‘All the trans­mis­sions – man­ual, Tip­tronic, PDK – are very strong in our ex­pe­ri­ence,’

says Grant. ‘ We very rarely see any prob­lems.’


‘All of these things wear, just as they would with any per­for­mance car,’ says Grant, ‘and gen-1 dampers are get­ting prone to cor­rod­ing now, but you’ve got to re­mem­ber some of these cars are 13 or 14 years old. On high-mileage cars we of­ten find the sus­pen­sion is get­ting a lit­tle tired, so you may be look­ing at re­new­ing dampers and bushes.’


‘No sig­nif­i­cant cor­ro­sion is­sues as yet. Even on early cars, it’s usu­ally just things like ex­haust fix­ings,’ says Grant. The grilles at the front tend to suck in damp leaves and other crud, which leads to cor­ro­sion of the air-con con­densers and coolant rads. Some own­ers fit fine-mesh in­serts to pre­vent ingress.

Above left: en­gine is your main area of con­cern with 997 Car­reras, par­tic­u­larly first-gen ex­am­ples. Above: body­work should be cor­ro­sion-free. Be­low: PCM in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem adds value

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