Depreciation Station: 2005-'11 Porsche 911 Carrera and Carrera S

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The Porsche 996 ushered in the era of the water-cooled 911. Some say that the follow-up model, known by its 997 internal designation, perfected that technology. Refinement came with a price, of course, as a 997-chassis Porsche Carrera started right around $70,000.

Good news for those seeking a great deal on an equally impressive car: We’ve seen some 997 Carreras fall below the $30,000 mark, with many cars hovering around $35,000.

Like every 911 that came before it, the 997 tells a story of evolution. The 997 looks smaller than its predecessor, but it’s actually a tad longer and wider–meaning more interior space and better handling. Replacing the spare tire with a repair kit increased trunk volume. That larger interior looked and felt more luxe than the previous one, too.

The Carrera’s 3.6-liter, flat-six engine was more or less a carryover item from the 996, but Porsche mated it to an all-new, six-speed transmission. Standard wheel diameter grew from 17 to 18 inches on the Carrera, while the hotter Carrera S came with 19s. The Carrera S also featured a 3.8-liter engine plus other performance upgrades.

Then there was the new nose, which more resembled the ones found on the air-cooled cars as the 911 went back to its trademark round–or roundish–headlights. Finally, the 911 didn’t resemble the downmarket Boxster.

This new 911 performed as expected. A Corvette might have been faster in a straight line, but a 911 was still a 911. Either you got it or you didn’t; even today there is no middle ground.

Porsche continued to offer a 911 for every need. The 997 wasn’t limited to Carrera and Carrera S guises, as it could be ordered in all- or just rear-wheel drive. A convertible and glass-roofed Targa model soon joined the coupe. (The high-performance GT3, GT2 and Turbo models also returned to the 997 platform, but they still cost a couple of bucks.)

Two big changes came for the 2009 Carrera and Carrera S: Porsche’s amazing twin-clutch transmission became an option, and both models received new direct-injected engines. The result was more power and better fuel economy. We’re just starting to see these later 997 Porsches approach the $40,000 mark.

No matter which version of the 997 you choose, you’ll still get a special perk from the factory: All Porsche owners are welcomed by the Porsche Club of America, one of our favorite car groups.


Wayne Dempsey, co-founder of Pelican Parts and author of “101 Projects for Your Porsche 911,” has spent thousands of hours underneath and inside Porsches. He has some tips for current and prospective 997 owners.

These cars are as good and bulletproof as anything Porsche has built over the past several decades. The trouble with improvements and upgrades is that they are all evolutionary, not revolutionary. Porsche did such a good job that there isn’t a lot of room for improvement like you might have seen on some of the earlier cars. All the 997s have a lot of power, excellent brakes and very refined suspension. Off the showroom floor, they leave very little to be desired.

Having said that, one can always install even better brakes, a more customized suspension, and a chip/software for a bit more power and response.

For people who have money burning a hole in their pocket, I typically recommend an aftermarket exhaust. Borla and Fabspeed make excellent products–it really depends on what sound you’re looking for. Unless you’re removing the catalytic converters and turning your 997 into a dedicated track car, there really isn’t that much horsepower to gain from an aftermarket exhaust.

You can attack the one issue these cars are plagued with: weight. Lightening the interior, trunks and suspension can provide much higher performance than expensive horsepower upgrades. Some people like lightweight flywheels, too. However, you have to be careful, as the change in rotating mass on the engine can sometimes cause fuel-injection and check-engine faults.

Investing in some lightweight wheels is typically a good bet. Beware of really thin, low-profile tires, though. They may look cool, but they provide less cushioning and can really change the characteristics of the suspension.

The biggest problem appears to be the intermediate shaft bearing, which also plagued the 996 and Boxster. The 997 uses a much larger bearing for the intermediate shaft, but failures have still been reported. As I wrote in my 996/997 book, there are two things that history has taught us about the IMS bearing: Infrequent oil changes and “easy driving” are not good for it.

The guidelines for buying a 997 are pretty much the same as with any other Porsche. It’s very wise to get a prepurchase inspection and to understand what maintenance may be needed to prep the car for your ownership. The first 997s are about a decade old now, which means a handful of owners have probably deferred maintenance on the car just to save a few bucks.

The best cars are not low-mileage or high-mileage examples, but ones that have been regularly driven and maintained. The usual rules apply: Door dings and curb rash are clear warning signs of an owner who didn’t really take pride in ownership. This usually goes hand in hand with deferred maintenance.

This article is from a past issue of the magazine. Like stories like this? You’ll see every article as soon as it's published, and get access to our full digital archive, by subscribing to Classic Motorsports. Subscribe now.

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russelljones48 New Reader
2/21/19 8:24 a.m.

I'm sorry but I owned 2 996's and loved the cars for the way they drove and handled but this IMS flaw is IMHO unforgiveable for a company with Porsche's ability and reputation.  I had just had the IMS bearing replaced with the very expensive Japanese replacement (work I couldn't do myself and I'm a decent amateur mechanic ).  With a new clutch and bits and pieces the work was about $2500 but I wanted to keep the car since I enjoyed it so much.  Then the water pump grenaded - another common occurance for the 996, then the AC went on the fritz..... ditto.   After sinking about $7k (new tires and reconned wheels) in the car I sold it - only 75k miles and netted about $12k after that expense.  

Don't kid yourself - these cars aren't for the faint of heart or pocketbook.  Parts are obscenely expensive (even from a great place like Pelican) - the alternator I replaced was $1300 list and with the price of a replacement engine the IMS bearing is a must do as well.

Caveat emptor...  read the boards, research the car, have it inspected, and then plan to spend some coin if you're not an experienced Porsche mechanic.  IMHO Porsche is now an "exotic" that requires dealer or equivalent maintenance.  BTW - Porsche does not publish TSB's or the equivalent so the boards are a must if you're a newbie to the Porsche world. 

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