July 16, 2024

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25 years of the Porsche 996: ensuring its survival and guiding the future of the 911

Exactly 25 years ago, the new 996, along with the 986 Boxster, made sure that Porsche It can continue as an independent brand. made public In 1997 at the IAA in Frankfurt for the first time with the fifth generation of the 911. The paradigm broke with many conventions. With the exception of the heavily modified iconic 911 styling and rear-engined engine concept, everything was new. The 996 was no longer air-cooled, but water-cooled and shared in several parts with the Boxster. Both models had nearly identical B-pillars and in terms of interior layout. What remained was the principle of the six-cylinder boxer engine.

25 year old Porsche 996 Photo 1

break with “old traditions”
It is time to abandon the “old traditions,” as August Achleitner declared a quarter of a century later. Achleitner was strategically responsible for the overall 996 concept between 1989 and 2000. Porsche needed a lower-priced car to ensure higher sales volume. This is how the idea of ​​exchanging parts from a 986 Boxster and a 996 was born. “There was no doubt that the new 911 had to look like a 911—but which engine it would fit in the back was unclear at first.” We tried the engine. The air-cooled, two-valve-per-cylinder designs were technologically at their end of the game in terms of emissions and power,” he explains. “And the four-valve, air-cooled boxers didn’t work for several reasons. In 1989 an inline V8 was fitted in the rear as a test, but that idea was also discarded. This is what brought us to the four-valve, water-cooled boxer engines.”

25 year old Porsche 996 Photo 2

“It was a tough job.”
The design of the 996 was developed in the 1990s under the leadership of Chief Designer Harem Lagige. The Dutchman still remembers how amazed he was at the unique choice at the time to make a mid-engined roadster and a rear-engined coupe identical from front to B-pillar. “It was a difficult task. But first we succeeded in designing a number of different versions of the Boxster / 996.” Due to time constraints, Porsche immediately began building 1:1 models. The Lagaaij team had grown to eighty members at its peak to speed up the work.

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best offer
The fact that the 996 and Boxster resemble the Boxster study model that Porsche introduced at the 1993 Detroit Auto Show is due to that concept car’s success. The Boxster study model won the hands of the public and was named “Best of Show” in Detroit. “It was immediately clear to me: The nose of the study model also fits in the 996,” says LaGeuge. The team worked simultaneously on all three versions – the 996, 986 and test car. Chief designer Lagaaij was well aware of the dangers of mixing the 996 and 986 Boxster models, but he had other concerns. “The pressure and the need to save the company was the top priority.”

25 year old Porsche 996 Photo 4

There was little internal criticism of the concept and design – but the “fried egg” headlights were not well received by the media. This came as a complete surprise to the designers. After all, the design in the Boxster concept car was praised. “The design was completely unique: with high beam, low beam, fog light, strobe light and headlight washer in one unit it was inexpensive and could be installed on the assembly line in minutes,” explains Lagage.

25 year old Porsche 996 pic 5

Four-wheel drive
The Porsche Cabriolet was introduced in April 1998 with an all-electric roof that was raised or lowered in twenty seconds. When opened, it disappeared under a metal cover plate, so that a seat cover was no longer necessary. About six months later, Porsche supplemented the twin-engined all-wheel drive 911 Carrera 4 as a coupe and cabriolet version – each with the chassis of a base 911. This Carrera 4 and 305 km / h fast all-wheel drive 911 Turbo, which was planned from the start 420 hp bi-turbo engine starting from january. “When designing the 996, we made the transmission tunnel large enough to make it suitable for all-wheel drive. The Boxster also had this center tunnel, although it was never available with four-wheel drive.”

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25 year old Porsche 996 pic 6

Almost coincidentally
While the Turbo and Carrera 4 models were planned from the start, the 911 GT3 that Porsche launched in May 1999 came about almost by accident. As motorsports regulations changed, Porsche built a 360-hp version as a road-going homologation car as the successor to the 911 Carrera RS. “The economic success and the numbers weren’t great at first,” Achleitner reveals. “But the 911 GT3 was still the beginning of its own brand – because with the 996 GT3 we created a version that made a clear difference between the everyday 911 and the motorsport-inspired street version.” In January 2001, the 911 GT2 was adopted on the basis of the 911 Turbo with a 3.6-liter boxer engine with 462 hp – the first model with ceramic brakes as standard.

25 year old Porsche 996 pic 7

Never before have so many 911 alternatives
Porsche made a number of modifications to the 996 for the 2002 model year. Displacement increased to 3.6 liters and power to 320 hp. The 911 Targa and 911 Carrera 4S Coupé with the wider body of the 911 Turbo join the family. An open-top 4S version followed in 2003. For the 2004 model year, Porsche also offered a Turbo convertible version and—as one of many special models—the 911 Carrera Coupé ’40 Years of Porsche 911′ with 345 horsepower, sports suspension and a sunroof. electric. From 2005 the Turbo S was available in Coupé and Cabriolet trim with 450 hp. Never before have there been so many variants of the 911 as there are in the 996 generation.

25 year old Porsche 996 pic 8

According to August Achleitner, the program was planned in such a way that Porsche could sell at least 30,000 of the two models at a good return in total. “This was also why the Boxster was introduced to the market in 1996 – a year before the 996.” The plan worked: The first water-cooled 911 was a worldwide success. Porsche sold approximately 175,000 units of the 996 between 1997 and 2005.

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25 year old Porsche 996 pic 9

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