When the 996 Turbo was released back in 2000, it wasn't yet constrained by nannyism. Its analog steering and relatively simplistic safety systems kept the driver squarely involved in the driving experience. For those reasons, it was still an intimidating vehicle that fills its drivers with some old-fashioned fear.
Not only did it have the old-fashioned handling traits of the 911, but it blended those with modern-day engine performance. A relentless shove from 2,000 rpm to its redline of 7,250 rpm made it one of the first non-supercars to break the 200-mph barrier. It was relatively comforting, but an aluminum-based diet helped bring its weight down to a respectable 3,476.5 pounds.
The 996 Turbo represented a long stride forward in terms of design. With a water-cooled motor equipped with variable valve timing, it was also a more efficient vehicle—and one which could straddle the fence between analog sports car and tech-heavy GT machine. In this safer day and age, that blend of characters is a hard thing to find.
Being a rolling snapshot of a transitional period is a reason why enthusiasts are willing to spend $45,000 for a decent example in this day and age. Some worry about the potential financial ruin an engine failure could bring, and with good reason. We've seen cooling lines detach during quick lapping via Hoovies Garage, and that is not a cheap fix.
However, some people simply can't catch a break. For the majority of owners, a nicely maintained 996 Turbo won't be a constant headache. A pinned set of cooling lines can keep the robust Mezger motor from giving off even a worrying cough. Though a twenty-year-old Turbo could keep a man of middling means up at night, most won't have to sweat—they'll have a special snapshot of a simpler, purer time.
As for the supposed roll, vague communication, and lack of torsional rigidity, take it all with a grain of salt. A twenty-year-old car, at the very least, ought to have a new set of bushings to sharpen the driving experience. With the right set of coilovers, an alignment, and stiffer connection points in the suspension, the 996 Turbo is still a scalpel.