I Added Apple CarPlay to My 20-Year-Old Porsche With Factory Parts
Too much money and time later, and we have Apple CarPlay.
One of the things that helped convince me to buy a 996-generation Porsche 911 (other than not being able to afford a 997) was the availability of something called Porsche Classic Communication Management Plus for 996s and 986 Boxsters. This system basically retrofits the 991-generation 911's infotainment system into a 996 dashboard without the need to cut anything and with factory-like fitment. I just installed it, and while it wasn’t cheap, the upgrade makes my 2003 Porsche feel just about as cutting-edge as a new car.
While this seems like the ideal situation to get modern functionality into your old 911, there are a few hitches with the system that initially gave me pause. The biggest one is cost. There’s no way around it; you’re paying around $1,500 for what is essentially a reskinned Chinese Android-based car stereo head unit with a Porsche logo on the front, and a bunch of Porsche factory wiring adapters. You also need to order a bunch of stuff that’s not included in the kit to mount the head unit, and being Porsche parts, they’re not super cheap.
Second is the fact that Porsche strongly recommends that a dealership install the system. I don’t have much experience doing car stereo stuff, and the possibility of being in way over my head was very real. Ultimately, documentation created by people on sites like Rennlist and 6SpeedOnline took some of the mystery out of what I’d need to order in addition to the kit for a clean factory-like install.
This is what $1,500 buys you from Porsche Classic.
The third potential issue is the lack of support from Porsche for known issues with the system. Mostly, the problems that people have experienced are simple annoyances, but they’re definitely things that should be addressed by now given the cost of this unit and the fact that it’s been on the market for two years. The biggest problem is that the PCCM Plus system can randomly reset the car’s trip odometer. Mine does this, and while it’s ultimately not the end of the world, it does drive me nuts.
With all that in mind, I ordered the PCCM Plus unit, the metal and plastic dash parts for a double-DIN stereo, a piece of trim to relocate my HVAC unit, and a few necessary screws. My car already had its CD storage unit deleted for a second dash cubby, so I didn’t need to order one, but people who have a totally stock dash setup will need to. The total for all this stuff was around $1,600.
Once all my parts arrived, I started disassembling my 911's interior. As I’ve mentioned previously, the 996 is shockingly easy to take apart. Popping the trim surround for the stereo head unit and center climate control vents is just a matter of using a little force to pop some clips out while trying not to scratch the soft-touch plastic. Behind that are a few Torx-head screws that allow you to slide out the factory stereo in its bracket. The vents get pried down a little, and they slide out too. After disconnecting the handful of plugs from the back of the stock radio, everything is free and can be set aside.
The install just after I finished relocating the climate control.
The next step is taking apart the lower part of the center dash stack. Some people delete this entirely, which is how the 996 GT3 came from the factory, but if you’re going with PCCM Plus, that’s not an option because the climate control unit needs to be relocated there. Doing that is as simple as carefully snaking the wires for the climate control down through the dash and snapping in the new face plate you hopefully ordered with the rest of the PCCM Plus stuff. The climate control will now live in the lowest slot on the center console, with a plastic cubby above that.
Assembling the new double-DIN brackets and the PCCM Plus head unit was a struggle for me, because there’s no good documentation from Porsche or the forums on how any of it goes together. I found out the hard way (a.k.a. having to take the dash apart a second time) that the plastic double-DIN bracket goes on the head unit, and then the metal brackets that come with the head unit bolt on behind it. There’s also a metal bracket that gets installed in the area where the head unit will go, but before that all goes in, I had to figure out what I wanted to do with the GPS receiver, the microphone for hands-free calling and the USB breakout box that lets you plug in your phone for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
All factory wiring. No cuts, no patch harnesses.
Porsche suggests that you mount the microphone on the top of your steering column and the GPS receiver in the bottom corner of your windshield, but this is stupid. The GPS can live happily on top of the climate ducting inside the dash. There’s no metal between it and the windshield, so reception is great, and you don’t have a big black wart on your dash. As for the microphone, I ended up going above and beyond by removing the instrument binnacle (super easy, only requiring you to pull out your hazard switch, undo two screws and then remove three color-coded connectors) and using the factory microphone location used in cars equipped with factory original Porsche Communication Management.
The USB box is more challenging to hide, which is another low point of the PCCM Plus system. The box is about the size of a deck of cards and has around 12 inches of cable hanging out of the back of it. On the narrow front side, there are two USB A ports and an aux jack. Porsche recommends you install it in the cubby above the climate control unit, or in the glove box. Neither option is great, in my opinion, but ultimately I went the cubby route because it made accessing the USB ports simple. The PCCM Plus models for 997/987 cars have USB ports on the front of the head unit itself, which is a much better solution.
After snaking all the various cables back to where the head unit will live, it’s just a matter of connecting everything and slipping it back into the dash. I used the tutorial from YouTuber ProjectsMB, which I found to be the clearest and easiest to follow when it came to figuring out what plugs go where without always being able to see them. From there, it should just be a simple matter of sliding the head unit into its new home, screwing it down, and snapping all the trim back in place, but this is where I ran into my biggest issue.
The USB box that shipped with my PCCM Plus system was dead on arrival. Like an idiot, I didn’t run into the house to grab a cable to test it before I put everything back together, so I didn’t find this out until later. This would have been a manageable problem in and of itself, but getting a replacement box proved to be a nightmare.
My first stop in trying to get a replacement part was the dealership that I bought the system from in the first place – Sunset Porsche Parts in Oregon. I use them regularly for genuine OEM parts, and they’re usually well-priced and easy to deal with. In this case, they said I’d have to either go to a dealer to have them troubleshoot the issue under warranty, or buy a whole new PCCM Plus kit and then attempt to warranty my old one. The latter method would require me shelling out another $1,500, which wasn’t going to happen. The former involved a few billable hours of diagnostic time at my local Porsche dealer at nearly $300 an hour.
This is basically the same screen as the current generation Boxster and Cayman.
Ultimately, I had to do the thing I didn’t want to do: get in touch with the folks at Porsche’s North American PR department to try and find a solution. This isn’t something the average customer can do, and I don’t like calling in car-journalist favors for personal projects, but I was left without other viable options. They got me a replacement USB box (tested to ensure it was good), and I shipped them back my broken one.
This lack of support, both for the installation and in the case of something going wrong, would lead me to say that most people probably shouldn’t buy the PCCM Plus kit, at least not if they plan to install it themselves. I am particularly lucky that my car, being a late model with Bose stereo, is the easiest, most plug-and-play version of 996 to install this system in, and I still had some issues. People with earlier cars have reported much more complicated problems, with tons of troubleshooting required to make the system work as intended.
The other major fact is that for most people, this is a whole lot of money to spend on something that offers the same functionality as a generic head unit costing maybe 1/10th of the price. For me, having something that matches my car’s interior aesthetically and which is completely reversible with no damage done to the car’s wiring harness is worth it.
As far as sound quality goes, it’s excellent. I was pretty underwhelmed by the Bose stereo when I bought my car back in November. Now it sounds awesome, with tons of bass and a clear midrange and treble. With some upgraded speakers, it’d be incredible. The CarPlay part of things is great, too, even if it’s not wireless, and my hacks for the microphone and GPS antennas are working great, with people reporting crystal-clear audio on phone calls I make from the car.
Now my 20-year-old 911 feels like a modern car inside, with modern infotainment, and that is a big deal to me. Now I don’t have to mess with janky Bluetooth dongles or crappy radio reception. I don’t have to pull over to take a phone call or take my eyes off the road to look at my phone for directions. Best of all, rather than make my car less valuable with a hacked-up wiring harness and dash, this system should increase the car’s value, and if the car’s next owner wants to return to the original radio, I still have that for them.
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