Porsche 911 Buyer's Guide: Every Generation From Original to 992

Chris Perkins
·39 min read
Photo credit: Porsche
Photo credit: Porsche

From Road & Track

Overview

The Porsche 911 isn't just a sports car—it's the sports car. In an ever-changing automotive world, it's a remarkable constant, still powered by a rear-mounted flat-six nearly 60 years after production began in 1964. The 911 began as an air-cooled evolution of the Porsche 356—itself a descendant of Ferdinand Porsche’s first Volkswagen—evolving with the decades while sticking close to the original design. And for its entire existence, the 911 has been a fixture at the world's race tracks.

Over eight generations, the 911 has been a sports-car benchmark. And with countless variants, there's a 911 for just about every buyer. Whether you want to cruise the Pacific Coast Highway or run laps at the Nurburgring, a 911 is up to the task. It's a predictable choice in the sports car market for good reason. And while the shape has hardly changed, the 911 has undergone numerous updates big and small over the decades.

The Original (1964-1973)

Photo credit: Porsche
Photo credit: Porsche

By the late Fifties, Porsche knew that its first sports car, the four-cylinder 356, was growing old. The brand needed a new model with improved performance and comfort, and at the 1963 Frankfurt Motor Show, that successor arrived. The Porsche 901 maintained the 356's rear-engine, 2+2 layout, but brought sleek bodywork, McPherson strut rear suspension, a five-speed gearbox, and most importantly, a new overhead cam air-cooled flat-six to replace the old pushrod flat-four.

Porsche began building the 901 in 1964, though only about 60 cars were completed before Peugeot threatened legal action, claiming a right to all three-digit car model names with a zero in the middle. Hence, the new Porsche became known as the 911. Early cars were powered by a 2.0-liter flat-six offering 130 horsepower and 129 lb-ft of torque, connected to a dogleg five-speed transmission.

As 356 production ended in 1965, Porsche introduced the 912, a bargain model 911 with the 356SC’s four-cylinder and fewer luxury items. 1967 was an even bigger year for the model with the introduction of the hotter 911 S—with 160-hp and 131 lb-ft from a 2.0-liter flat-six, plus iconic Fuchs alloy wheels—as well as the open-top Targa model. The following year saw the addition of the entry-level 911 T (replacing the 912), the luxurious 911 L, wider wheels, and the option of a semi-automatic Sportomatic transmission.

In 1969, Porsche evolved the 911 further, stretching the wheelbase for improved handling and stability and widening the wheels further. The aluminum crankcase was replaced with a new magnesium unit, saving 22 lbs, and fuel injection was added to high-end models. The 911 L was replaced by the 911 E, which sat between the base-model T and high-performance S.

For 1970, engine capacity grew from 2.0 to 2.2 liters, increasing again to 2.4 liters in 1972. The dogleg 901 gearbox was replaced by the updated 915 unit with a conventional five-speed shift pattern, but this gearbox is often criticized for its vague shift action.

Photo credit: Porsche
Photo credit: Porsche

Ten years after the 911's introduction, the Carrera RS 2.7 was launched in 1974 as a homologation special. Essentially a lightened 911 S with wider fenders to accommodate 15x7 wheels and a bigger 2.7-liter 210-hp flat-six, the RS introduced the now-iconic “Carrera” door decals and ducktail spoiler. It’s the pinnacle of early 911s, and with fewer than 1600 built, it’s highly valued by collectors.

Today, early 911s are quite valuable as they're the rarest and purest of the breed. Don't expect to find a good one for under $50,000. High-performance models like the S and Carrera RS command the most money, though even a good E can easily climb into the $100,000 range. And don't overlook the T. It may be the least powerful, but like all other early 911s, it's quite tunable. There's not a bad one in the bunch, so find the best example that fits your needs and budget.

  • The 911 immediately found favor with racers. The first homologation special was the ultra-light 1967 911 R. Only 24 were made.

  • Porsche tried some strange things to calm the early 911’s rear-engine dynamics. The factory briefly fit lead ballasts behind the front bumpers, and 1972 models had an oil tank in the right front fender, all in the name of better weight distribution.

  • Early 911s are among the most valuable and collectible models, but modifications are not necessarily frowned upon in the market.

  • The lighter 912, once thought of as undesirable, has a fierce following today.

G-Series (1974-1989)

Photo credit: Porsche
Photo credit: Porsche

With new safety and emissions regulations kicking in, the 911 got its biggest update yet for the 1974 model year. The most notable change was visual, with the introduction of impact-absorbing bumpers to satisfy U.S. regulatory demands. Those bumpers also necessitated a shorter, flatter hood—911s built before 1974 have come to be known as "longhood" models in Porsche circles.

The engine grew to 2.7 liters and gained Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, and the model range was tweaked with a new base model, the 911 2.7, sitting below the midrange 911 S and the top-spec 911 Carrera. 1974 also saw Porsche constructing 109 examples of the 911 Carrera RS 3.0, a homologation special that’s immensely sought after today (50 of which were RSR race cars).

Another huge change came in 1975 with the introduction of the first 911 Turbo. Also known as the 930, the Turbo had a 3.0-liter single-turbo flat-six making 245 horsepower, with wheels, tires and fenders all wider than the Carrera RS. Early examples were badged "Turbo Carrera,” though the name was soon simplified to Turbo. This was the first year for the “tea tray spoiler,” devised to fit the additional equipment in the engine bay. The Turbo used brakes from the Le Mans-winning 917 race car, but strangely, it only offered a four-speed gearbox (all previous 911s and 912s were five-speeds).

In an age of emissions-strangled sports cars, the 911 Turbo was a revelation—though the car’s tendency towards lift-off oversteer, combined with copious turbo lag, gave the 930 a hairy reputation and the nickname “widowmaker.” Early 911 Turbo values have exploded over the last few years, especially for early examples, so don't expect to find one cheap.

The 912 made a brief comeback in 1976. Filling the gap left by the discontinuation of the small, affordable 914, the 1976 912 E used that model’s 2.0-liter, Volkswagen-designed flat-four engine. Only 2092 examples were built, with the model being replaced by the front-engine 924 as Porsche’s entry-level sports car late in 1976. With just 95 horsepower on tap, the 912 E’s rarity doesn’t necessarily translate to desirability, though the one-year model has its fans. Also in 1976, the Carrera’s engine grew from 2.7 to 3.0 liters.

In the Seventies, Porsche executives believed that the company's future lay in front-engine cars, so development focused on the 924 and 928. Still, the 911 got significant updates in 1978. A new base model, the SC, sported a 3.0-liter engine, while the Turbo got a larger 3.3-liter engine and an intercooler. Both cars got a new aluminum crankcase, a big improvement over the troublesome magnesium units. The 180-hp SC was a return to form for the 911 compared to its underpowered, unreliable 2.7-liter predecessors. Euro-market power grew to 188 hp in 1980, then 204 hp in 1981, though U.S. cars never saw these increases thanks to stricter emissions regulations.

Photo credit: Porsche
Photo credit: Porsche

The 3.3-liter 911 Turbo, with 265 hp in the U.S. and 300 hp in Europe, was one of the fastest cars in the world at the time. The model was withdrawn from the U.S. market in 1980 due to tightening emissions regulations, and with Porsche’s resources focused on the 924, 944 and 928, the 911 languished. The company planned to quietly discontinue its rear-engine sports car, but in 1981, American Peter Schutz was appointed president and CEO, and saving the 911 was one of his very first acts. At his insistence, the 911 Cabriolet arrived in 1982, the first true drop-top 911 variant.

For 1984, the SC was replaced by the Carrera, with a 3.2-liter flat-six making 207 horsepower and more luxury options. While you still couldn't buy a new 911 Turbo in the U.S., Porsche offered a "Turbo look" package on the Carrera Coupe and Cabriolet, with wider fenders, wheels and tires. Power increased to 217 hp in 1986, and in 1987, the old 915 transmission was replaced by the much-improved Getrag G50 five-speed, with a hydraulic clutch instead of the old cable-operated design.

Porsche brought the mostly-unchanged Turbo back to the U.S. for the 1986 model year, adding Targa and Cabriolet variants, though the latter is quite rare. The Turbo's old four-speed transmission was replaced by the G50 five-speed for 1989, and five-speed Turbos command a premium on the market today.

Today, it’s hard to find a “cheap” G-series—pretty much any vintage 911 is valuable, and when one generation of 911 hits stratospheric prices, the next generation starts to gain interest. Early G-series cars with the magnesium-crankcase 2.7-liter engine can be tricky to work on, and later aluminum-crankcase models are preferred for highly-tuned builds. The SC and Carrera 3.2 are both excellent usable classics—the former is lithe and pared-back, while the latter is muscular and modern. Cars with the updated G50 gearbox are the most desirable of this lot, commanding a significant premium over 915-equipped models, though with just three model years produced, G50 cars are somewhat uncommon.

Any Turbo will be more expensive than a naturally aspirated G-series, but stay away from poorly-modified examples. You can get big power out of a 930, and many did, sometimes cutting corners when these cars were cheap.

  • Porsche started galvanizing the 911’s body panels in 1976. Rust can still be a problem, especially on cars with old crash repairs.

  • Peter Schutz kicked off development of the legendary 959 as a moonshot Group B rally car and a platform to bring advanced technology to the 911. The results were spectacular—twin turbos, 450 hp, driver-adjustable suspension and all-wheel drive—but the project nearly bankrupted Porsche.

  • If you can find one, the lightweight Clubsport is the best of the Carrera 3.2s. On paper, it’s not much different from the base car, but a blueprinted engine and lots of weight reduction make it a divine driver.

964 (1989-1994)

Photo credit: Porsche
Photo credit: Porsche

A quarter-century into the model’s production run, the 911 finally got its first comprehensive update. The 964-generation car got a new 3.6-liter flat-six engine and new coil-spring rear suspension to replace the old torsion bars. Power steering, ABS, and an active rear spoiler were also available on the 911 for the first time. Only one model was available for the 1989 model year: the Carrera 4, the first production 911 with all-wheel drive. While the 959 had all-wheel drive, the 964’s wheelspin-sensing system was evolved from an earlier setup, that found in the specially-build 911 that won the 1984 Paris-Dakar rally. The first Carrera 4 sent 69 percent of its torque to the rear

In 1990, the rear-drive Carrera 2 arrived, as did a new automatic gearbox with manual shifting capability. Named Tiptronic, the torque-converter transmission allowed manual gear selection via toggle-switches on the steering wheel or a dedicated gate on the console shifter, state of the art at the time. The following year saw the return of the Turbo, powered by a version of the old 3.3-liter flat-six from the 930. The cost of the money-losing 959, combined with a worldwide recession, meant Porsche didn’t have the resources to develop a new turbocharged engine. The reworked 930 powerplant made an impressive 320 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque; when the turbocharged version of the new 3.6-liter engine finally arrived in 1993, it offered an astonishing 360 horsepower.

Photo credit: Porsche
Photo credit: Porsche

Porsche built a lightweight Carrera RS in 1992 and a more powerful RS 3.8 in 1993, but these weren’t imported to North America. To appease enthusiasts and club racers in the U.S., Porsche developed the RS America for 1993. Essentially a 964 Carrera 2 minus the air conditioning, radio, and sunroof (though all could be optioned back in), the RS America had manual steering and minimal sound deadening. It did, however, come with stiffer suspension and an optional limited-slip differential. At the time, the RS America was the cheapest variant of the 964 and a hard sell for Porsche dealers, but now it's among the most sought-after cars of this generation. You won't find many for under $75,000 today, and good examples will easily fetch $100,000.

Today, the biggest reliability concerns among 964-generation cars are with early examples. Porsche didn’t use head gaskets on the 3.6-liter engine until 1991, and pre-gasket engines can show some oil leaks around the heads. Otherwise, the 964 is relatively stout.

For a long time, 964-generation cars were a relative bargain among 911s, but as with all air-cooled Porsches, prices are on the rise. The 964 still represents a considerable step forward in comfort and capability over the G-series, coupled with classic 911 style and sound.

  • The 964 marked the end of the line for the traditional lift-off Targa roof. Most buyers favored the cloth-top Cabriolet, making Targas rare.

  • For 1992, Porsche built 250 examples of the America Roadster, an homage to the ultra-light 356 America with wide bodywork and wheels from the Turbo and a rear-seat delete. The next year brought the Speedster, with a manual soft-top and a cut-down windshield.

993 (1994-1998)

Photo credit: Porsche
Photo credit: Porsche

Porsche was in a bad way in the early Nineties. The global economy was in recession. Porsche hadn’t launched an all-new car since the 928 came along in 1978, and the automaker was hard up for cash. In spite of all that, Porsche wowed the world with a new masterpiece: the 993-generation 911. Sleek new bodywork, an all-aluminum chassis with a new multilink rear suspension and increased track width, and a six-speed gearbox brought the 911 right up to date. The air-cooled M64 3.6-liter engine was carried over from the 964, here making 272 horsepower and 243 lb-ft of torque. All in all, the 993 was a huge step forward for the 911.

The first 993s were all rear-drive Carrera 2s. The Carrera 4 arrived in 1995 with a totally new all-wheel drive system that fixed the understeer prevalent in the 964 Carrera 4 and brought substantial weight and cost savings. For 1996, a new Targa arrived, eschewing the lift-off top for a large slide-back glass panel. Only offered in rear-drive form, the new Targa was an interesting curiosity at the very least. That same year, Porsche introduced a new variable-length intake system called Varioram, which brought the M64 engine’s output up to 282 horsepower and broadened its torque curve.

But the big news for 1996 was the new 911 Turbo. The 3.6-liter engine got twin turbochargers—one for each bank of cylinders, rather than two operating in sequence as with the 959. The result was a ferocious 408 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque, sent to all four wheels by an upgraded version of the Carrera 4’s all-wheel drive system. The 911 Turbo was no longer a widowmaker—it was an all-weather supercar.

Photo credit: Porsche
Photo credit: Porsche

The Turbo got wider bodywork, a new whale-tail rear spoiler, and the first iteration of the now-iconic "turbo twist" wheels, here measuring 18 inches. Around the same time, Porsche brought out the Carrera 4S, sporting Turbo fender flares but minus the rear wing. A rear-drive Carrera S came for 1997, though production was very limited. Also in 1997, Porsche built 345 examples of the Turbo S, with bigger turbos making 450 horsepower (424 in the U.S.).

The 993 generation was rather short-lived, but it spawned a handful of homologation specials. First was the spectacular GT2 of 1995, essentially a rear-drive 911 Turbo with even bigger fender flares. Just 200 were built in order to meet eligibility requirements for the BPR Global GT Series. If you find one today, expect to pay $500,000 at least. There was also the Carrera RS 3.8, made for Japanese GT3 regulations. Just over 1000 were built, and none were officially sold in the U.S., though it’s eligible for import now.

If you've idly perused 911 listings on Bring a Trailer or elsewhere, you probably know that 993 prices are super strong right now. There's a good reason: The car is excellent. The 993 is the pinnacle of the air-cooled 911, and even though the earliest examples will turn 27 years old this year, they're still modern, usable cars with no major weak points. Even the rare Targa has unique appeal, and the Turbo is quick even by today’s standards.

Though the 993 was a masterpiece, it wasn't a particularly strong seller: fewer than 68,000 were made. Worse still for Porsche, this generation of the 911 wasn't terribly profitable. As the 993 generation drew to a close, Porsche had to radically rethink how it built sports cars.

  • Porsche built the outrageous 911 GT1 for endurance racing in 1996. While it shared lights and some front suspension components with the 993 road car, it was more closely related to the 962 Group C racer.

  • The rarest 993 has to be the Speedster, with just two examples built: One for original 911 designer Butzi Porsche, and one for comedian Jerry Seinfeld.

996 (1998-2004)

Photo credit: Porsche
Photo credit: Porsche

Two huge influences shaped the 996-generation 911. Facing an existential crisis, Porsche hired consultants from Toyota, who recommended radical ways of streamlining engineering and manufacturing. Simultaneously, it became clear that Porsche couldn’t keep adapting its Sixties-derived 911 platform and air-cooled engine to meet the needs of the 21st century.

The answer was an all-new 911, plus a more affordable mid-engine model, the Boxster, both powered by a newly-designed water-cooled flat-six engine, the M96. When the 996-generation 911 debuted in 1997, it shared numerous parts—including virtually everything from the A-pillar forward—with the Boxster that had been introduced a year before. The new 911 was more roomy, yet lighter and safer, with more power and a better-honed chassis than the 993. The base Carrera made 296 horsepower from a 3.4-liter flat-six, paired with either a new six-speed manual or a five-speed Tiptronic automatic. A year later, a new Carrera 4 arrived, using a variant of the 993’s all-wheel drive system.

The 996 was a huge departure for Porsche—the first total clean-sheet redesign in the history of the 911. Some brand enthusiasts balked at the changes, but strong 996 sales, coupled with the success of the Boxster, helped Porsche come back from the brink of financial ruin.

But the 996 is not without faults. You may be familiar with the dreaded “IMS bearing failure.” The M96, like its air-cooled predecessors, drives its camshafts off an intermediate shaft (or “IMS”) that sits parallel to the crankshaft. The IMS bearing used in the M96 was supposed to be lifetime-lubricated, but the bearing can overheat and fail, which can damage the IMS and potentially throw off cam timing enough to cause valves and pistons to collide. The only way to fix an IMS failure is to do a full engine teardown.

That bit of information is enough to steer some buyers away from the 996 completely, but the risk is sometimes overblown. IMS failures are most common on 996s built between 2000 and 2004, though issues can happen in earlier cars. The good news is, Porsche specialists have gotten very good at detecting IMS bearing problems and replacing suspect bearings, and companies like LN Engineering offer upgraded bearings with improved lubrication. Most shops charge around $2000 to replace the IMS bearing on an M96 engine (provided there hasn’t already been a catastrophic failure), and since the fix involves dropping the transmission, it makes sense to couple the bearing replacement with a clutch job. Many Porsches have already had their IMS bearings upgraded, and LN Engineering has a searchable database of cars fitted with its upgraded bearings. Some Porsche mechanics maintain that IMS bearing failure risk is lower on regularly-driven cars that have had frequent oil changes, but evidence of a bearing upgrade will bring huge piece of mind when you’re shopping for 996-generation Porsches. (If you want to avoid this problem entirely, shop for a Turbo, GT2, or GT3, all of which used a different IMS bearing design.)

The first-ever 911 GT3 arrived in 1998 as a homologation special for various 911 race cars. The GT3 had the Carrera's optional Aerokit bodywork, fixed-back front seats, and no rear seat. It used a naturally aspirated version of the Le Mans-winning 911 GT1 engine, which itself can trace its roots all the way back to the 935 race car of the Seventies. Fans call this the "Mezger" engine after Hans Mezger, the late Porsche engine guru who designed the original air-cooled flat-six and its racing derivatives.

Photo credit: Porsche
Photo credit: Porsche

Porsche didn't export the 996 GT3 to the U.S., and though it's a lovely car, besides the engine, it's not radically different from a Carrera. We did, however, get the Turbo, which arrived in 2000 with a 420-hp version of the 3.6-liter GT3 engine, along with all-wheel drive, unique headlights not shared with the Boxster, and wider fenders. Like its 993 predecessor, the 996 Turbo is extremely quick and no harder to live with than a regular Carrera 4. More challenging is the 911 GT2, introduced in 2001, which was essentially a rear-drive Turbo with more horsepower and a reputation for tricky handling.

For 2002, all 911 Carrera models received a 3.6-liter version of the M96 engine making 320 hp, a light facelift with those new Turbo headlights, and some interior tweaks. Porsche also brought back the Targa, using the sliding-glass-panel design seen on the 993. Once again, it was a bit of a niche model. More relevant to enthusiasts was the Carrera 4S, which mated the 3.6-liter naturally aspirated M96 with the wide bodywork of the Turbo, minus the wing. Today, the C4S is probably the most desirable 996 Carrera model. An upgrade package for the Turbo, codenamed X50, also arrived in 2002, boosting output to 450 hp. Eventually, this morphed into the limited-run Turbo S of 2005, which added carbon-ceramic brakes.

After the rest of the lineup was updated, the GT3 got some big changes in 2003, including a bump to 375 hp—likely underrated—and unique aero and chassis components. In Walter Rohrl's hands, this “996.2” GT3 became the first road car to lap the Nurburgring in under 8 minutes. It was also the first GT3 officially exported to the U.S., and we're thankful, because it's an absolute gem. Porsche also made a lightweight, stripped-out GT3 RS, a tribute to the old Carrera RS, though unfortunately, the only way to get one in the U.S. is via NHTSA's Show and Display exemption.

Photo credit: Porsche
Photo credit: Porsche

For the most part, the 996 Carrera is a very solid car. It's also the most affordable generation of the 911, thanks to the controversial looks, Boxster parts-sharing, huge production numbers, and the reputation damage of the IMS bearing issues. A 996 with a documented IMS bearing upgrade can be a great way into 911 ownership at a relative bargain. It’s not just a cheap 911, it’s a great driver’s car.

Similarly, a 996 Turbo is often the most affordable forced-induction 911 you’ll find, though prices have begun to rise in the past few years. Still, a good 996 Turbo will cost far less than a 993 Turbo while offering better performance and usability. Prices remain high on the 996 GT3, especially the rare GT3 RS, and GT2s are extremely sought after by collectors. The keen driver’s choice is probably a facelifted GT3 or GT3 RS.

  • The 996 was the first 911 with traction control. Called Porsche Stability Management (PSM), the system was standard on the Carrera 4 and Turbo and optional on rear-drive Carreras. PSM was not available on the GT2 or GT3.

  • Of course, there were special editions. The Millennium Edition for 2000 was based on the Carrera 4 and had purple bodywork. The 40 Jahre of 2004 celebrated four decades of 911.

  • As air-cooled 911 prices have skyrocketed, interest in 996-generation cars has grown, but prices have stayed largely within reach.

997 (2004-2011)

Photo credit: Porsche
Photo credit: Porsche

A comprehensive reworking of the 996, this new generation of the 911 carried over the M96 engine, but got a new transmission, all-new bodywork, a wider stance, an improved interior, optional adaptive dampers, and spawned a slew of new sub-models and variants—starting with the Carrera S, which had a 3.8-liter flat-six making 355 horsepower in place of the base car's 3.6-liter, 325-hp unit.

This is where electronic chassis controls starting playing a big role in the 911 lineup. Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), optional on Carrera models and standard on the Carrera S, brought adaptive dampers offering soft and firm settings. The 997 also got an updated PSM system, optional sports exhaust, and the first iteration of the Sport Chrono package, which includes an analog clock/stopwatch on the dashboard and a new Sport driving mode with more aggressive throttle and chassis settings.

The 997 marked the beginning of a strategy Porsche continues to use today, offering an ever-expanding variety of models for just about every conceivable use case. The move boosted sales, and profits, almost immediately. For the 997 generation, the 911 was available in base Carrera or Carrera 4 (either coupe or Cabriolet), or uprated Carrera S or 4S (again, coupe or Cabriolet). Targa 4 and 4S arrived in 2007 (no more rear-drive Targa), as did the new Turbo, with a revised version of the 996 Turbo's 3.6-liter flat-six using variable-vane turbos to make 480 hp with improved throttle response.

The first 997 GT3 arrived shortly after the Turbo, with a 415-hp version of the naturally aspirated Mezger 3.6-liter flat-six and an enormous rear wing. Not long after came the GT3 RS, lighter than the GT3 despite wearing wider Carrera 4 bodywork and an even bigger wing. The GT2 made its return in late 2007, with chassis hardware from the GT3 and an upgraded 3.6-liter turbo flat-six. It was the first 911 to cross the 500-hp barrier, sending 530 hp to the rear wheels. The 997 GT2 was much more finely honed than its 996 sibling, though hardcore enthusiasts still seem to prefer the naturally aspirated GT3.

For 2009, Porsche updated the 997, making what’s known as the 997.2. While the visual differences are subtle, modifications under the sheet metal were extensive. The highlight is a new family of direct-injection engines, dubbed 9A1, still displacing 3.6 liters in base models and 3.8 liters in S models. The Tiptronic gearbox was retired, too, replaced by Porsche’s revolutionary PDK seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Photo credit: Porsche
Photo credit: Porsche

Also in 2009, the Turbo was updated with a 500-hp 3.8-liter version of the old Mezger engine and a PDK gearbox available as an option. A year later, the Turbo S arrived with 530 horsepower and only one gearbox—PDK. That same year, Porsche rolled out three GT models. The GT3 and GT3 RS got a new 3.8-liter version of the famous naturally aspirated Mezger and a host of chassis and aero changes; the GT2 RS was the first 911 to surpass the 600-hp mark, with a 620-hp twin-turbo 3.6-liter.

Porsche retired the 997 in 2012, but not before building some seriously special run-out-the-clock models. The Carrera GTS revived the name of a Sixties race car and collected all the optional sport equipment, plus an upgraded 3.8-liter 408-hp flat-six, in a 911 with the wide fenders and centerlock wheels from the Turbo S. Rear-drive only to begin with, Porsche quickly began offering a Carrera 4 GTS after some European markets demanded it. There was also a new Speedster, of which just 356 units were built.

But the ultimate 997 was the GT3 RS 4.0, which put the 500-hp 4.0-liter Mezger engine from the contemporary 911 race car in a chassis with GT2 RS components and more aero. Only 600 were built, and now they're among the most valuable water-cooled 911s out there.

Prices for 997.2s have remained high, in part because fewer were made than the pre-facelift 997.1. Plus, the updated model is excellent, with reliable, durable engines, great looks, and a smaller, more old-school feel than the generation that replaced it, the 991. As the engine is a modified carryover from the 996, it’s possible for 997.1 Carreras and Targas to have IMS bearing issues, though the incidence rate seems to be much lower. That’s a good thing, because replacing the bearing is a much more involved job on a 997 than it is on a 996. Another problem area is scoring of the cylinder bores on 3.8-liter 997s. A Porsche mechanic can detect this problem with a borescope. Thankfully, later 997.2 models are not at risk for IMS bearing failure, as the 9A1 engine did away with the intermediate shaft entirely. These engines have proven to be quite durable, and are still used in all turbocharged 911s produced today.

All in all, the 997 series is an excellent choice for a modern, daily-drivable car with classic Porsche feel. And while the GT3s are all-time greats, a base 997.1 Carrera with a manual will be more than satisfying.

  • The 997.2 was the last generation that offered a manual transmission on Turbo models.

  • You didn't have to buy a GTS to get 408 hp in your Carrera—the optional “Powerkit” brought that output to any 997 Carrera S, though few buyers selected it.

991 (2012-2019)

Photo credit: Porsche
Photo credit: Porsche

The third all-new model in 911 history was nearly as radical as the 996. An all-new, mostly aluminum body and platform added length and width, allowing Porsche to move the engine slightly forward in the chassis for better balance. Porsche also ditched the hydraulic steering in favor of electric assist, and the standard transmission became a seven-speed manual that shared internals with the PDK automatic.

Making its debut in 2011 for the 2012 model year, the 991 initially arrived in rear-drive Carrera and Carrera S form, with the AWD, widebody Carrera 4 and 4S arriving a year later. The idea was to create a 911 that had even friendlier handling than the 997 while bolstering the car's GT credentials, losing weight, and maintaining the ineffable quality that has defined the 911 throughout its history.

The 9A1 engine was carried over from the 997, but the base model shrank by 200 cc to become a 3.4 liter. S engines stayed at 3.8 liters, and both had more power than before. There was more new chassis tech, too, including Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) and active anti-roll bars that could change roll stiffness depending on the driving scenario.

Naturally, the Turbos came next, with Porsche now making the Turbo S a standard part of the lineup instead of a limited-run special. It had even wider bodywork than the Carrera 4, but for the first time, the Turbo was automatic only. PDK and all-wheel drive helped the Turbo S blast from 0-60 in mid-2-second times with ruthless efficiency.

A new GT3 arrived in early 2013. Gone was the much-loved Mezger engine; in its place was a 9000-rpm, 3.8-liter, 475-hp version of the 9A1, available only with PDK. This was also the first 911 with rear-wheel steering. It was a very different GT3 than previous iterations, and its launch was marred by reports of engine fires on early-build cars, which forced Porsche to recall 785 examples and replace their engines.

Porsche was relentless in updating the 991, making the Carrera GTS a regular part of the lineup in early 2014. As before, the GTS was essentially a Carrera S with a bit more power plus the sport options you wanted, all in one smartly-priced package. Later that year, the Targa returned with a new automatic roof mechanism and styling that paid tribute to the original. Offered in Targa 4, 4S and 4 GTS forms, this was the heaviest iteration of the 991, though possibly the most charming.

Photo credit: Porsche
Photo credit: Porsche

The last two models from the first run of the 991 were spectacular. In 2015, the GT3 RS arrived sporting a 500-hp 4.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-six and some truly outrageous aerodynamic accouterments. Then, perhaps in response to criticism of the PDK-only GT3, Porsche rolled out the 911 R, an homage to the ultra-rare 1967 original. It paired the GT3 RS engine with a new six-speed manual in a sleek body with none of the GT3’s aero baubles. It was the lightest of the 991s, and it sold out almost immediately.

Following tradition, Porsche gave the 911 a significant mid-cycle update in late 2015. All 991.2-generation Carrera models use a 3.0-liter twin-turbo flat-six, a change aimed at improving fuel economy that also brought more power and torque. Mild styling updates, subtle chassis tweaks and improved shift action on the seven-speed manual rounded out the changes. Turbo and Turbo S models each got a 40-hp bump, and Porsche added the Carrera T, a stripped-out enthusiast version of the standard rear-drive Carrera, named after a late-Sixties base-model 911.

The GT department continued its hit parade with a new GT3 in 2017, powered by a heavily revised naturally aspirated 4.0-liter flat-six making 500 hp and, praise be, connected to a manual transmission. For the first time, Porsche offered a wingless version, the GT3 Touring, functionally similar to the previous 911 R. The 991.2 GT3 RS wore slightly different bodywork, with a slightly hotter version of the GT3 engine.

Next came the GT2 RS, with a 700-hp version of the Turbo's 3.8-liter paired with PDK and tons of downforce-generating aero. For a time it was the fastest production car around the Nurburgring as well as a host of U.S. tracks. It was also the most expensive 911 ever, with a base price beyond $300,000. Porsche closed the book on the 991 with a new Speedster, based on the GT3 and sporting a revised version of the naturally aspirated 4.0-liter with independent throttle bodies. Production was limited to 1948 units.

Photo credit: Porsche
Photo credit: Porsche

While the 991 is undoubtedly a 911, it offers a very different driving experience from its predecessors. The comfort-oriented 991 variants focused more on grand touring, while the GT special editions were for hardcore enthusiasts. The 991 generation is still relatively new, so prices remain high, and the more collectible variants have held their value exceedingly well. It’s still possible to find clean, low-mile 991s under Porsche’s Certified Pre-Owned program. Early 991 Carreras are beloved as the last naturally aspirated models, while later turbocharged Carreras offer impressive performance.

  • The 911 celebrated its 50th birthday during the 991 generation. Porsche made 1963 examples of the gorgeous 911 50 to mark the occasion, each with Fuchs-style wheels and other old-school touches.

  • The one-millionth 911 built was a 991, a Carrera S painted Irish green.

  • The 991 was the most popular 911 generation yet, with nearly 220,000 sold.

992 (2020 and on)

Photo credit: Porsche
Photo credit: Porsche

The 992 is to the 991 as the 997 is to the 996—basically, a heavy update of the preceding generation, sharing the same underpinnings but sporting restyled bodywork, revised engines, and an all new interior. Today’s 911 is more luxurious than ever, but it’s still one of the finest sports cars on the market.

All 992 Carreras now use the widebody fenders that were previously exclusive to the Carrera 4, and all 911s now have staggered wheels. The 9A2 engine is a modified version of the previous 9A1, with more power across the board. All 992-generation 911s get the eight-speed PDK transmission standard, but S models are available with a revised version of the old seven-speed manual.

The Turbo arrived in 2020 with 580 hp, rising to 640 hp in the Turbo S. The Targa also made a return, sporting an updated version of the roof mechanism from the 991.

The 992 story is still being written. We expect a GT3 in the coming months, with GTS models to follow.

Collectability

There are tons of valuable 911s, and interest in air-cooled models in particular is at an all-time high. Early cars are quite expensive, and even the once-unloved 912 can push past $50,000. Any rare, racy model is worth a good chunk of change, as is any Turbo in clean original condition. Just be on the lookout for rust, as 911 bodies weren't fully galvanized until the mid-Seventies. Magnesium crankcase cars can present their own problems, too.

Among Seventies models, SCs are generally less valuable than the slightly more refined Carrera 3.2. Most buyers pay a big premium for 1987-1989 cars with the G50 gearbox. Of this generation, a Turbo with the G50 gearbox is the most desirable model, followed closely by the Clubsport.

For a long time, 964s were the black sheep among air-cooled Porsches, but they’ve had a real renaissance lately. The RS America, once the ugly duckling of Porsche showrooms, commands huge money today, as does the rare Turbo 3.6.

993s are generally the most expensive air-cooled cars (save for pre-’74 “longhood” models), as they offer great refinement mixed with old-school charm. Top of the market is the extremely rare 993 Turbo S, followed closely by the non-S Turbo. For driving enjoyment, there isn't really a bad 993.

In general, expect to pay more for a 911 with a manual transmission, and have a Porsche specialist perform a pre-purchase inspection on any car you’re interested in buying. Well-maintained 911s can rack up tons of miles reliably, and smartly-modified examples can sometimes even command a premium over stockers. As with any vintage car purchase, beware basket cases, shoddy mods, or questionably-repaired wrecks.

Among the 996 generation, there are deals to be had, though the special models, the GT2s, GT3s and GT3 RSes, are climbing in value, as are the Turbos. Be wary of IMS issues, but don’t fear a 996 with a documented IMS bearing upgrade. It’s a similar story with newer generations—GT-series cars command a big premium, and the ultra-limited-edition models like the 911 R sell for huge bucks.

The Ones to Get

  • Early 911s are beloved, and each evolution has something special to offer. Aim for a good, clean example that’s been well maintained.

  • Among G-Series cars, the Carrera 3.2 makes an excellent all-rounder, though there are deals to be found in the SC world. Coupes are more valuable than Targas and Cabriolets.

  • Collectors love Turbos, especially the early 3.0-liter cars and the rare five-speed 1989 models. Since Turbo Cabriolets and Targas are rare, they command a premium.

  • One of the best 964s is probably a basic, manual Carrera 2, though the Turbos have appeal too. RS models are worth a ton right now.

  • You really can't go wrong with a 993, though the Turbo is a true masterpiece. It's the closest thing to a 959 without the price tag.

  • In the 996 generation, collectors only look at the GT cars, leaving drivers free to pick from affordable Carreras and not-too-pricey Turbos. A great way into the 911 world.

  • Same deal for the 997 and 991 generations, just add a bit more money across the board. If you can find, and afford, a 997 GT3 RS, especially a 4.0, buy it.

Notable Issues

  • Early cars are very susceptible to rust, especially if they've been crashed and repaired.

  • Most air-cooled 911 engines leak a little oil. They're fairly durable, if expensive, to maintain. Aluminum-crankcase cars are the easiest to own.

  • IMS bearing failure isn’t the guaranteed disaster you may have heard it to be, but do some careful research before buying a susceptible car. By now, most of the affected models that are still running and driving have had the upgraded bearing installed.

Specs

Critical Reception

"We tested the car very early in its career and we found some imperfections which undoubtedly will be eliminated as production gets underway and experience is accumulated. With its 6-cyl engine and with solid, high-quality construction, the 911 will always be a comparatively expensive car. But because the basic qualities are far above average, it undoubtedly rates in the top class among modern GT cars."
-Road & Track, March 1965: 911 (Base Model)

"Mostly it’s the engine's state of tune. The power has been moved up the rpm scale as well as up, and there’s so little punch at low revs and off the boost that the initial reaction was disappointment: Porsche had played a shabby trick, removed the power and tried to con the public by leaving the whale-tail and bulging fenders. Wrong. Keep the pedal down until boost comes on and the impression is one of profound respect. . . for drivers whocan drive this car to its limit."
-Road & Track, January 1986: 911 Turbo 3.3

"Porsches have always been fast (even the earliest 91 Is topped 140 mph). But with 250 bhp on tap, the Carrera 4 is the fastest normally aspirated production 911 ever built. Unlimbered, the 964 will do more than 160 mph, which puts it in the same league as the 911 Turbo and 928 (Zuffenhausen’s former supercars). The Carrera 4 is super too, in more ways than its brethren. It’s still the quintessential driver’s car, but with the spirit and manners of a thoroughbred (not a wild stallion). It’s the best 911 yet."
-Road & Track, 1990 Porsche Special: 964 Carrera 4

"In most situations, the balance is nearly neutral, with sheer grip and unflappable composure being the overriding sensations. Never before has 400 horsepower been more easily or efficiently channeled to the ground."
-Road & Track, July 1995: 993 Turbo

"Let’s get down to driving, and a very bold pronouncement. Namely, the 1999 911 Carrera is the best Porsche built to date. Crank up the engine (yes, the ignition key is still on the left), slip 'er into gear and hang on. When 296 German ponies reach full gallop, you’ve got a tiger by the tail. A tiger that drives like a pussycat."
-Road & Track, Sports and GTs 1999 Road Test Annual: 996 Carrera

"Late night Autobahn hours are open season for high-speed runs if you can find a good stretch—and we have. Here is where the extra downforce and stability from the new front canards and rear-wing endplates shine. Even as we approach redline in 6th gear, the 4.0 can be driven with fingertips (though not recommended), 260 km/h…280 km/h…300km/h…323 km/h (200 mph)! And just like that, I’m hooked again. Perhaps the digital speedometer is little off—Porsche says the top speed of the car is 193, on a flat road. But even that doesn’t matter. This is the 4.0 and it’s perfect."
-Road & Track, October 2011: 997 GT3 RS 4.0

"Pressed through the 14 unfamiliar corners of the Circuito de Gaudix in Granada, Spain, the GT3's big grip is apparent, but the more we settle in and the faster we go, the more we can appreciate the stability and ease with which the GT3 moves near its limit. It's easy to imagine you're Hurley Haywood lapping for hours on end, clipping off consistent laps for the duration of a tank of fuel. That ease translates to the canyon roads that carve into Spain's Sierra Nevada Mountains. Among the Andalusian cyclists and Seat drivers, the stability and grip are lifesavers, but even at public-road speeds the buzzing feedback and magical flat-six keep the GT3 entertaining, it's made even more so by the manual gearbox."
-Road & Track, May 2017: 991.2 GT3

"The 992 is undeniably more capable, comfortable, versatile. It’s a car on 21-inch wheels that rides like a Bentley. It’s a masterclass interior, crammed inside a car that just sings during tidy, triple-digit drifts. It’s a riot on track, and a float tank during commutes. For most modern customers, that’s probably perfect."
-Road & Track, January 2019: 992 Carrera S

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