The most tech-rich, driver-focused 911s of the period are now within most buyers' reach - should you take the plunge?

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The sixth-generation (or 997) Porsche 911 is every bit as outrageously competent and delicate to drive as you would imagine. Even the basic versions are just fabulous sports cars.

And let’s not mess about: the basic version is the one to go for. When it was launched in 2004, the Carrera produced 321bhp, 272lb ft of torque and, when fitted with the six-speed manual gearbox, a 0-62mph time of 4.8sec – fast even by today’s standards.

Of course, this being a 911, there was a variant for every taste and market. These included the 4, S, GTS, 4S, 4 GTS, GT3, GT3 RS, Turbo, Turbo S and GT2. A Sport Classic variant was introduced in 2012 on the facelifted ‘997.2’ car, which itself was introduced in 2009.

There isn’t enough room here to dissect each and every one, but they can be summarised thus: if you want precision and poise, buy a 4, S or GTS. If track driving is your bag, buy a GT3 or GT2. If you enjoy crushing continents, buy a Turbo. And if you want the one that we recommend for its inherent balance and daintiness, buy the standard Carrera.

No matter which 997 you go for, you will get a car that, for its time, came dripping with technology. This was the first Porsche to get the brand’s new PDK dual-clutch automatic – a welcome departure from the sluggish Tiptronic torque converter that preceded it.

It was also the first Porsche to have direct injection, torque vectoring and variable-geometry turbochargers (on Turbo models, obviously) and the first to be offered in Sport Classic guise, which sold out in 48 hours.

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While it didn’t look that different from the 996 that it replaced, only the roof panel was carried over and a huge amount of work went into its aerodynamics. The swooping, bulging, 993-inspired bodywork reduced the drag coefficient from 0.30 to 0.28 for the Carrera, reducing lift and improving airflow.

So the 997 was a trailblazer. But that wasn’t what defined it – the way it drove was. Take it on a winding road and your confidence in its ability will quickly turn to trust; your scepticism will turn to disbelief as its poise refutes the tail-heavy weight bias; and any driving talent you have will be nurtured by a grippy, flat-nosed determination to hurl you out of a corner. No wonder we awarded it five stars when we road tested it back in 2004.

It’s fair to say, then, that this car came with a measure of drivability that bordered on the freakish – and that’s before you get to the engines. They ranged from the 3.6-litre flat six fitted to the standard Carrera to the sensational 4.0-litre unit in the GT3 RS. S versions and above got a 3.8-litre engine, with outputs ranging from 350bhp in the Carrera S to 522bhp in the Turbo S, itself a ruthlessly controlled tribute to forced induction.

Those engines sent their power through a five-speed automatic, a six-speed manual or, in later examples, a seven-speed PDK.

As a result of Porsche’s typical attention to drivability, the 997 is a hugely desirable car, prices for which are high and are likely to stay that way. But many are within reach, from Turbos with around 60,000 miles to Targas with less than half that. And as for Carreras? A good one of those will set you back around £23,000.


Is the Porsche 911 (997) reliable?

The 997 911 is a reliable car if it has been taken care of. In the latest WhatCar? reliability survey, Porsche finished 15th out of 32 manufacturers putting it behind Audi but ahead of BMW and Jaguar. With the 997, you should be aware of the the inevitably high repair costs given the fact that it's a specialist piece of German machinery. This is why it’s so important to buy a good, well-maintained example.

Engine: Bore scoring happens when the piston ring rubs against the wall of the cylinder. It’s an often-mentioned issue with the 997, but it isn’t as wide-reaching as online scare stories would have you believe, and all Turbos and post-facelift models are granted immunity. Check for a rattling noise at idle and black exhaust tips, and if either presents, request a borescope inspection. The ECU sends information to a Porsche database recording every instance it has been redlined since it rolled out of the factory. Ask a garage to check the ECU. If over-rev codes appear, you should have the engine checked for abrasive abuse.

Cracked coil packs are one reason why taking a test drive is so important. If the car is misfiring, goes into limp-home mode, is louder than normal or is lacking some power, these are almost always the cause. Budget around £180 for replacements and £100 for labour.

The earliest 997s fell foul of intermediate shaft bearing failure; later cars received a factory-fitted solution. When the IMS bearing fails, the camshaft timing is disrupted, causing the piston and valves to collide, resulting in extensive and expensive engine damage.

Cooling: The unconventional cooling system pumps water between the rear-mounted engine and a front-mounted radiator through lots of intermediaries. Thus it’s more prone to leaking, particularly around the rubber-sealed connections, which can perish. The metal connections are more resilient but can still rust.

Interior: The build quality of early 997s wasn’t Porsche’s most convincing effort, so detaching gear knobs and jettisoned trim pieces are common, especially among cheaper and leggier cars.

General maintenance: Owners recommend a very specific maintenance schedule: change the oil every 5000 miles, flush the brakes every two years, change the spark plugs every 40,000 miles and replace the transmission fluid every 100,000 miles.

An owner's view

Pete Osborne: I own a 2010 ‘997.2’ Carrera. I was keen to stick to the narrow body, rear-wheel drive and manual gearbox, and frankly even the ‘base’ 3.6-litre model is more than fast enough, hence me not even looking for the 3.8-litre Carrera S. It took a while to find mine, but having owned it for two years, I’ve clocked up 5000 miles. Apart from the road roar, I love everything about it: the looks, the gearbox, the steering, the seats and seating position, the practicality and most of all the noise.”

Also worth knowing

RWD cars and the GT3 feature the narrow body, while 4WD cars and the GT3 RS have the wide body, which is 44mm fatter across the rear. There are some customisations that owners swear by, including a Fister exhaust (£650), Eibach springs and dampers (£1000), a LaPower Bluetooth adapter that can sync your phone with the car’s infotainment system (£150) and a module that expands the dynamic range of the electronic stability control (£1000).


Porsche 911 997 front drift

Compared with the 996 it replaced, the 997 has a glass-house that hovers over the bulging hipster wheelarches to make it appear slimmer and longer, though it’s actually 3mm shorter in wheelbase, and more rounded, front and rear.

Porsche put an enormous amount of work into the aerodynamics, not just in lowering the drag co-efficient - from 0.30 to 0.28 for the Carrera, 0.29 on the S - and reducing lift, but also in improving the airflow under the car, from the front radiators and around the wheelarches.

Visually, you could position this as the spiritual successor to the 993, rather than the conservative, knee-jerk reaction to criticism of the 996’s avant-garde ‘broken egg-yolk’ headlights that it was.

Its most obvious draw is the fact that it is still a 911 and, importantly, won’t be confused with either predecessor. When we tested it, however, one of our biggest criticisms was that it lacked the boldness needed for such an iconic coupé.


Porsche 911 Carrera interior

With wide and supportive bucket seats and a greater adjustability of the driving position compared with the 996 - courtesy of the height- and reach-adjustable steering wheel - as well as pedals that are positioned 10mm forward, the cockpit is a nice place to spend time. 

Combine this with material quality and fit and finish which, at the time, was seen as superior, and you need not ask for much more from a sports coupé. However, be aware that some trim pieces have been known to shake themselves loose especially if the car has been subjected to wear and tear without general maintenance. 

The styling of the dashboard is quite conservative – again, borrowing its theme from earlier 911s – but the ergonomics, largely shared with the Cayenne SUV, are easier to get to grips with. A couple of small touches we liked were the digital speedo’s return to the lower section of the central rev counter, where it’s easier to read, and you the turn indicator click is aubidle, like it wasn't on the 996.


Porsche 911 997 front three quarter

When we tested the 3.6-litre flat six in the Carrera S, we found it to be gutsy and responsive around 3000rpm where it began to tap into an intoxicating induction snort. It's also equally happily to rev, despite 350bhp being developed at 6600rpm, 200rpm below the engine's power peak.

A total redesign of the induction system and variable valve timing means the engine really comes alive from just 2500rpm, thanks to the variable intake-valve timing and a total redesign of the induction system. The effect is an induction howl that takes on a harder and more aggressive character at 5600rpm, building in volume to a deep scream by 7300rpm that seems to sing from the bowels deep within the engine.

August Achleitner, who was director of the 997's development, told Autocar that the S is set up to reach its 182mph top speed at the 7300rpm fuel cut-out, something the standard 177mph Carrera (they share gearing) can’t achieve. Porsche claimed the S’s 4.8sec run from 0-62mph was a mere 0.2sec quicker than the Carrera’s, the difference widening to over a second by 124mph, which the 3.8 hits in 16.5sec.

The Turbo, meanwhile, feels as rapid as it is planted and eager to destroy whichever road you throw at it. For the Turbo S, Porsche quoted a 0-60mph time of 3.1sec, which at the time made it the fastest-accelerating 911. It will also pull to 100mph in 7.1sec – a gain of 0.3sec over a similarly equipped Turbo.


Porsche 911 997 front three quarter lead

The 997 is quieter and more comfortable of ride than the 996 it replaced, most notably in normal mode. The suspension absorbs bumps that would have jarred the rear end of the old model, and the notably stiff sport setting feels as firm as any regular 996’s. The gear change is fast, light, full of character and a joy to operate.

So too is the steering. It is difficult to imagine any sane driver running out of adhesion in even the standard Carrera, at least on the road. It sticks at both ends, PSM rarely intruding and then so subtly it never spoils the action. Lift off and the rack merely tightens the line by tucking the nose neatly, without worrying the driver. 

Body control is brilliant. The 911 stays flat, linking corners in a series of incisive, flowing movements, the suspension soaking up bumps and surface changes that would upset the previous 911’s poise.

But be warned. Because the variable-ratio steering is lighter and slightly less direct off-centre, the immediacy of responses taken for granted by longtime 911 drivers, are reduced. This is something to be aware of, especially if you're moving from a 996 to a 997.


Porsche 911 997 front three quarter lead

Over four years of ownership, one particular Carrera 4 S owner spent £9000 on repairs at independent garages, £1500 on a warranty extension which eventually paid for itself, as well as £10,000 on fuel costs. Overall, depreciation totalled £11,750, or £815 per month. Generally, service costs total around £500 and a set of tyres is around £1000.

Real-world fuel economy ranges from 25.7mpg for the standard Carrera to 23.9mpg for the S versions. On longer, steady motorway runs owners have reported as much as 35mpg.


The 997 Porsche 911 is faster, more stable, more precise, and forgiving, an altogether superior than the 996. If you can live with the fact its steering is less linear and build quality worse than some of its most competitive German rivals, you will quickly come to realise why we thought, at the time, that it is almost too good; a genuine supercar at an un-supercar price.

It also retains all the practicality that has made the 911 unique ever since it launched in 1963, and though it may look similar to the old car it was almost an entirely new model, and apart from the absence of aural thrills, it’s an absolute peach to drive in any guise.

Jonathan Bryce

Jonathan Bryce
Title: Editorial Assistant

Jonathan is an editorial assistant working with Autocar. He has held this position since March 2024, having previously studied at the University of Glasgow before moving to London to become an editorial apprentice and pursue a career in motoring journalism. 

His role at work involves writing news stories, travelling to launch events and interviewing some of the industry's most influential executives, writing used car reviews and used car advice articles, updating and uploading articles for the Autocar website and making sure they are optimised for search engines, and regularly appearing on Autocar's social media channels including Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.