Pictured: The actual 997 I actually test drove. Black and Tan color combo. In my opinion, the best car color combo ever. Maybe it's because I like Guinness.
As you know, I’ve been a huge Porsche fanatic for as long as I can remember. That fanaticism was only galvanized further many years back when I test drove a 996. Since driving that 996, however, I’ve owned a few more cool, decently powered cars and I decided it was time to revisit and reverify the notion that the Porsche 911 was the best car I’d ever driven. Or, was the Porsche 911 the best car I’d drive up until that particular moment in my life? I also needed to find out if the idea of owning and driving a Porsche 911 had been made more sweet by social media, car reviews and pop culture. So now, I’m on a mission to understand if I want a Porsche 911... or something else entirely. During this blog, I’d planned to try to drive some other cars that are competitors to my 370z or even a level or two up. You, like an M4, M2 Competition, or even a C8. But that got cut short because within a few test drives, I'd already found and purchased my dream car. I'll reveal what that car was in my next blog. In the mean time, here's a quote from when I first started writing this blog so you can see where my mind set was.
"I do feel like it’s time to upgrade my sports car to something that I’m impressed with sans any modifications. You know... a grown up car. I have my B5S4 which I will continue to build and love and make my own. But now I’m looking for something to put wheels on and call it a day. I’m looking for a nice suit. Right now, I feel like I have two pairs of jeans. That’s okay. I love jeans. But it’s time to diversify."
Now that I’ve killed you with metaphors, let’s talk about the car. The last time we spoke, I’d driven a 2015 Porsche 911 991. I purposefully wanted to drive the base model because it was similar in horsepower to my 370Z (350hp) and I didn’t want to simply be enamored by straight line speed and not really get a sense for whether or not I appreciated the car. To learn more about that, please read Part 1 of this series.
This time, I decided to drive a 997.1 Carrera S. It’s a little lighter, and more powerful than the base model 991 that I’d driven and if you listen to all of the reviews, It’s Porsche’s last true driver’s car. No brainer. I literally spoke to my wife to make sure she wouldn’t be mad if I pulled up in a Porsche at the end of the day... and headed out to the stealership. I parked, greeted the salesman and just walked toward my new Porsche. The salesman, feeding off of my confidence was up beat. He pretty much knew he was making commission today. I knew it too. Taking this car for a test drive was pretty much a formality I was checking off before purchasing. If the 991 felt slightly large and sluggish, surely, all I needed was a bit more power and few less pounds. Statistically, the 997 was it.
Here's the good. The 997.1 looked to my eyes the same size as the air-cooled Porsches and I just thought that was the best. Manual transmission, check. Steering feel and responsiveness? Double check. No, wait. Triple check. The steering was direct, full of feedback and the chassis was rigid and finely tuned for the track. I had to squeeze the sound out of the engine a little by revving it higher into the power band, but the chocolatey smooth wail of the flat six was more than a worthy reward. With the manual transmission, I could stay in that RPM range for as long as I wanted. It checked all the good boxes I wanted from a sports car. So, home run.
There was, however, that thing about the bad. In the car world, saying anything bad about the 911, especially the beloved 997, is a bit like saying Mother Theresa was great and all, buuuuuuuuut...
So here I go. Off to poo poo on Porsche's water-cooled return to design purity. I have found a way to articulate my thoughts in a way I find reasonable and I think just maybe, a lot of you will agree with my assessment. The Porsche 911 997 is a great car. The value for money sucks.The car I test drove was listed at about $50,000. I was a 2009, so I wasn't expecting anything for infotainment and modern gadgets, but that's ok. The B5 S4 and 370z aren't the most modern tools in the shed either. To my dismay, when I got into the car and could see everything up close, it just felt old. Not old technology or layout wise, but old as in tired. Well loved, but tired. See velveteen rabbit. Ok, not that bad. But you get the point. The beautiful tan leather was marked and darkened, plastic bits were chipped and metal bits were scuffed and scratched. It got worse when I began to drive. There were so many rattles and odd sounds I thought it would take me years to get sorted. In short, it really felt like I was getting ready to purchase a project car at a new car price. It would've been different if this was a rare car that was meant to sit and collect mountains of equity the way regular project cars collect dust. But, it's not that rare of a car and I really wanted something I could commute in. It was also way too stiff. You could tell it was dampened the way manufacturers used to dampen sports cars and honestly, it's far too harsh for daily consumption. You can trust that I really mean this and know what I'm talking about. I daily drove a rough natured Z4M for years on the pothole infested streets of Seattle for years. I refuse to go back to that sort of situation and the 997.1 Carrera S was ever so slightly stiffer. Modern technology has proven that you don't need to be quite this stiff to get performance out of a car. That's one of the few modern ride quality advances that I truly adore.
With all of that said... do I want a Porsche 911 or something else entirely? Sadly, the answer for now is... I want something else entirely. I would love a 997 at a much cheaper price because it would need to be a second car. Though I plan to maintain a two car garage... I do need one of them to feel modern and road trip ready. As it turns out, I actually did find that car. Stay tuned to find out what it was. The Porsche 997.1 is a truly great car. Just a bit over priced.