Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Review

Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Review

Ownership Review written by Scott Laurie

I have written a couple of articles on Porsche 911‘s, including 964s, 993s and 996 GT3 RS’s – all have their dedicated followers. Most Porsche aficionados will know and understand the merits of the air cooled cars and also that when Porsche introduced water cooled cars that (apart from the outcry by Porsche fans that no more air cooled cars were being produced) the new water cooled cars were to suffer from design faults such as IMS (intermediate shaft failure) and bore scoring. YouTube and just about every Porsche themed magazine has written articles detailing the issues, the cures and the risk you take when buying one. In short all Boxsters, 996 and 997 model Porsches up until Generation 2 models (with the exception of Turbo and GT3 models) have potential catastrophic engine problems with IMS or Bore Scoring – don’t they? It’s certainly something that put me off buying a stock 996, but funnily enough we owned two Boxsters, both as daily drivers and never had any issue with them. Also, crucially we never really worried about it. Ignorance is bliss. So why now would I buy a 996 Carrera 4S that could potentially go bang?

I think the reality is that the web created a huge amount of hype about the problem but in reality its limited to a small percentage of cars. I am not going to speculate about the actual percentage but leave it as a known fault that could happen but as time goes by, surely the likelihood reduces. Well that’s assuming you are working on the principal that the cars are now 10 to 15 years old and if its not gone bang by now then its probably okay. Add in the fact that there are modifications available at reasonable cost for the IMS that can be fitted when you are changing the clutch that solves one big issue. My mechanic basically said, failures are rare but it is worth changing the IMS bearing next time it needs a clutch. Annual oil services are a good idea as opposed to the 24 month recommend by Porsche. Other modifications such as lower temperature thermostats are also potential areas for improvement.

In years gone by the 964s were plagued with articles about leaking engines and expensive top end rebuilds, in reality they are old enough now to have be sorted or didn’t ever experience the issues. The 996s I think fall into a similar bracket in that some have had problems and been repaired and some simply won’t experience any issues but eventually will have work done as they become older cars that are upgraded.

I have owned and driven just about every 911 built from early 70s cars up to the new 991 GT3. Early air cooled cars have rocketed in value and the newer cars are serious money. A 996 Carrera 4S is around £15,000 to £25,000 depending on mileage and condition (May 2016).

The Carrera 4S has one of the most beautiful rear ends of any Porsche – this alone sold me on the 4S. A few friends in the Porsche Club owned them and when they dropped to under £20,000 I started to look at them as a bit of a bargain. Half the price of a good 964 or 993, the only question was, what would they be like to drive? Is it a real 911? Will it give you the same excitement as an air cooled car? Only you can truly decide for yourself but here are my thoughts.
From when you first walk up to a 996 model 911 the impression is of a modern car, gone are the classic lines of a 964 but it is definitely a 911 through and through. Once you get inside it is still undeniably a Porsche but more modern and there is less of a classic 911 look with perhaps a bit more plastic. The 4S comes well appointed with extended leather and certainly in my own car with hard back sports seats it feels quite luxurious compared to my 964.

When you start the car up there is a nice rumble from the stock exhaust and the induction noise is quite similar to a GT3 on full throttle. The exhaust is quiet enough to not be intrusive but burbles along nicely that there is a nice sound track to enjoy. I don’t have the Porsche Sports Exhaust which is switchable and provides an even greater soundtrack. However, with the added complexity of valves and levers to operate baffles in the exhaust I prefer the simplicity. They are great when they work but can give problems as they get older, both with leaks from the vacuum system, sticking actuators and wear in the baffles that can give a rattling noise. Given the choice I would have preferred a perfectly working sports exhaust though!

When setting off in the 4S the first thing you notice is how quiet and comfortable the car is – BMW level of comfort and a car you could use everyday – is this not what Porsche have always said, a supercar you can use everyday? Are they fast? Well fast is subjective based on what else you drive but with 320bhp on tap its certainly not slow, it’s not GT3 quick but for a twelve year old car its plenty fast enough for a quick blast on a Sunday morning. The handling on my car which has standard suspension (and may or may have not been replaced) is predictable. The 4S turns in well, it inspires you to push harder and never really makes you feel like you are on the edge of it all going wrong. The suspension is definitely on the soft side and on track you would experience more body roll than you would in a GT3 but for road use this works in your favour on bumpy A or B roads where the suspension sucks up the bumps and undulations without the steering really being affected.

In short it’s certainly as quick as a 964 or 993 and the handling definitely lets you go quicker with less fear of things going wrong. On motorway runs it’s a very comfortable, quick and competent car. But it’s more at home on sweeping A roads where you get to blast from corner to corner and with brakes from the 996 Turbo, there is more than enough stopping power. I have only owned my 4S for around eight month and I bought it to use, I have a company car for daily use but the 4S is used every week no matter the weather and has proved to be a reliable and easy car to live with.

So where are the values of these cars going to go. Like all 996 models, good manual cars with low miles in desirable colours are becoming hard to find and prices are beginning to reflect that. My own car is a manual and has just covered 60,000 miles. It is in Polar Silver with Metropole Interior (dark blue). If you watch eBay or PistonHeads you will notice that good cars are now being advertised at mid to high twenties which is above the price of some equivalent 997s. A similar trend happened when 993s started to be advertised at prices comparable to 996’s.

What I think sets the 996 Carrera 4S apart from the 997s is the rear end of the car. While the 997 had both a narrow and wide body variant there was little to distinguish them. the 996 4S was significantly different from the narrow body car and is the one I would tip to be collectable in future. I am not predicting the price difference that is reflected in narrow to wide bodied 993’s but I expect the ‘S’ model 996s will become more collectable than its narrow body counterpart.

With the values of 964 and 993s having doubled or tripled over the last three years this is having a knock on effect on both what is affordable and what is value for money. Both good condition 964’s and 993’s are £40,000 to £50,000 so suddenly a £15,000 to £20,000 for a 4S looks like a bargain (May 2016). Running costs will be similar and whats now apparent is that 996 models and in particular 4S have reached the bottom of the depreciation curve and prices for good cars are stable and increasing.

Ultimately the 997’s will continue to fall for a while yet but are likely to bottom out at a similar value to 996’s with premiums being paid for low mileage cars of either variant.

I predict that low mileage 4S’s will continue to appreciate slowly and many of the buyers are now enthusiasts that are looking for the best cars to use as weekend toys. I don’t think they are quite collectable yet but they are certainly more desirable than they once were and its only a matter of time before they are considered classic 911s. So potentially a car that is easy to live with, has no depreciation and the potential to become collectable in the future. Whats not to like? Mine is certainly not up for sale.

Buyers Guide for the Porsche 911 996 Carrera 4S

Written by Raj Hunjan

The Carrera 4S transformed the ‘good’ Carrera 4 into a truly great car. It added choice upgrades from the Turbo and a key styling cue from previous 911 models – that red stripe across the rear. The Turbo wide body never looked so good.

The all-wheel drive system sends between five-to-forty percent of torque forward depending on traction and power applied, so it is mostly rear wheel drive. The standard solid-spoke aluminium alloy Turbo wheels suit the rest of the car down to a tee. Crucially, the Carrera 4S shares the 911 Turbo suspension and 13-inch vented, cross- drilled steel disc brakes, which takes handling up a notch. Adding all of this in for just £2610 over the regular Carrera 4 made the C4S the bargain in the 911 range. Today, it seems that the 996 is starting to be recognised among collectors, the GT2, GT3 and Turbo are highly sought, the C4S will soon be too.

Why buy a Porsche 911 996.2 Carrera 4S?

  • The turbo wide-bodied rear complete with red light strip styling is timeless.
  • Classic 911 boxer sound is alive and kicking in the C4S.
  • Prices for the best are rising dramatically as collectors are sourcing them.
  • A relatively understated sportscar, you can park it anywhere.
  • Formidable safety net on the road with all wheel drive as standard.
  • The C4S is a practical all weather sportscar.

Buying one

Prices start at around £20,000 for a Tiptronic S model and go up to around £30,000 for a low mileage manual gearbox C4S (May 2016). Prices are dependent on whether the car has a complete OPC/specialist service history, number of owners and also the transmission. Most people prefer the manual gearbox so these tend to sell quickly and for more money than the automatic equivalent. Our recommendation is to buy a manual gearbox C4S.

Buyer Checkpoints

There should be no oil leaks from the engine. Two big areas of concern with the Carrera 996 models are the rear main seal and intermediate shaft. When the rear main seal (RMS) begins to fail, oil seeps past and drips down into the gearbox bellhousing and onto the ground. It will need to be replaced, which is an engine out job. The intermediate shaft (IMS) has a sprocket on the end that drives the cams and is held in place by a small stud. This stud can break off and allow the IMS to wear the bearing that holds it in place.The cam chain may be noisy at around 2,500 rpm, make sure it is investigated if it is. Ensure that there is no blue smoke from the exhaust during idling and test drive. Carefully inspect the front mounted radiators and air conditioning condenser for any corrosion or damage, leaves and road debris are prone to collecting around them.

Clutch & Gearbox
The clutch should be good for around 40,000 miles of normal driving before replacement. If the clutch pedal is stiff, this could be due to a failed hydraulic accumulator. The manual gearbox is a durable unit. Check the gear change is clean, with no notches, as the linkage cables do wear with time and use. The transmission should be maintenance free, but check from underneath for any gasket leaks. The Tiptronic auto is also reliable, but make sure the car cycles through all five ratios smoothly and the manual function works cleanly and quickly with the kickdown.

Suspension & Steering
The suspension and steering components are generally hard wearing, but bear in mind that bushes and mounts might need refreshing if they are still the original items. A creaking sound from the front end is almost certainly worn lower track control arm, often referred to as ‘coffin arms’ because of its shape.Prices are reasonable for component parts.

Check the condition of the brake pads and discs to ensure they have plenty of life left in them.

Wheels & Tyres
Check for any damage on the alloys. The tyres should be Porsche approved N-rated tyres that are a matching brand. Tread wear should be even across each of them, if not the car may need the suspension alignment adjusted.

Bodywork & General
Corrosion shouldn’t be an issue, but check all areas of the car including the underside. At the back, the automatic boot spoiler should lift at 75mph and retract again when speed dips below 37mph. It can also be operated by a switch in the cabin, so use this to check it works cleanly and quickly.

Servicing is every 12,000 miles or annual.

What the motoring press said about the Porsche 996 Carrera 4S

“In short, the C4S is a Turbo without the fear factor. The improved aerodynamics and modified suspension give it such poised road manners that upsetting its demeanour seems impossible (not that several of us didn’t try). The roads through the Dolomites are exceedingly twisty, yet the C4S never once balked at the terrain’s demands. Switchbacks, hairpins, decreasing radii, all were traversed with amazing ease.”

Car and Driver, 2008

“You learn something new about it on every journey, and by working with it you evolve new, subtle techniques for gaining the most from it. It rides extremely well, displaying the kind of suppleness only a structurally stiff chassis can provide, soaking up the worst that UK roads can throw at it and never being knocked off its stride. Grip levels are impressively high too, and with all that weight on the rear tyres traction never becomes an issue.”

EVO Magazine, 2006

“Driving a new Carrera 4S quenches an enthusiast’s thirst like nothing else can. It is a sports car, a supercar in every respect, yet it’s also a perfectly practical car for all those days and nights when you’re not tearing through the mountains. In the mountains, or on the way to work, it ravenously consumes the visible landscape at an alarming rate, as if by the mouthful. You just can’t get enough.”

Motor Trend, 2002

Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Evolution

1999 – The Porsche 996 was a completely new 911 design by Pinky Lai. All new body work, interior, and the first water-cooled engine in a 911. The 996 replaced the 993 from which only the front suspension, rear multi-link suspension, and 6 speed gearbox were retained in revised form. Initially released in 1999 as a Coupé or Cabriolet with rear wheel drive. Four-wheel drive came later in the year. Power in the early cars came from a 3.4 litre flat-6 engine

2002 – The Carrera 4S model was first introduced in 2002, as part of the mid life upgrade which also included an engine upgrade to a 3.6 litre unit and revised front end with new headlight design. The C4S shares the wide-body of the Turbo as well as the brakes and suspension. The C4S was also available with an optional sports exhaust. The cost of the upgrade from Carrera 4 to Carrera 4S was £2610 in the UK.

2004 – Production of the Carrera 4S ceased in 2004, along with most other 996 generation 911 models, excluding the GT3, GT2 and Turbo S.

Engine cylinders/capacity: 6/3596
Carbon Emissions CO2g/km: 277
Power bhp/rpm: 320/6800
Miles Per Gallon: 24.0
Torque lb ft/rpm: 273/4250
Wheel & Tyres Width/Sidewall/Diameter: Front 225/40/18 Rear 295/30/18
Max Speed mph: 174
Weight Distribution Front:Rear 40:60
0-60mph seconds: 4.9
Track width Front/Rear: 1472/1528
0-100mph seconds: 11.6
Wheelbase: 2350
Weight kg: 1470
Transmission: 6 speed manual or 5 speed tiptronic (automatic)
Power to Weight Ratio: 214
Drivetrain Engine position/Driven wheels: Rear/All
Dimensions Length/Width/Height: 4435/1830/1295
Price New GBP: 59,800
Years Produced: 2002 – 2004
Number Produced worldwide: 17,298

Buy MotorStars Magazine #28 which contains our full 14 page article about all aspects of buying, owning, the factory options, available colours, technical specification, part prices for the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S(996): click here

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