Love it or hate it, the 996 is an undeniably good value nowadays. With the more common models, the price point allows young enthusiasts to join the proud family of 911 owners. The GT range and more tech-heavy examples still command considerable money, and that's for good reason. At the top of the 996 totem pole are the GT3 and GT2, and those two continue to impress the most discerning drivers. The first of which is a bonafide homologation special—particularly the torquier 996.2 GT3. Take that GT recipe, add a pair of turbos and a little more rearward bias, and the resulting GT2 is still renowned as one of the most exhilarating—read: fearsome—machines to leave Stuttgart in recent years. So, with so much variety in the 996 lineup, maybe a little more research is required before the entire generation is condemned.
The 996 came from semi-pedestrian C2s to Mezger-powered Turbos, cabriolets with two- and four-wheel drive, a variety of bodyshapes, distinctive and divisive lights, and wings of varying sizes. In watching the following primer, you'll acquire a strong foundation on most of the members of this generation. With any luck, you might just develop a fondness for the redheaded stepchild of this illustrious family.
The criticism aimed at those broken-egg headlights shouldn't dissuade a curious collector from trying a lightweight 996.1 C2—anyone looking for speed can certainly find some with this 2,900-lb joy. Those come in for as little as $15,000 these days. For those willing to spend three times that money, the frighteningly fast Turbo offers all-weather performance, greater reliability from its stout Mezger motor, and nearly 200 miles per hour.
Use this as a introduction to the generation. Further research is required if one wants to avoid some of the hangups associated with these cars—even the famously resilient Turbos have issues with their coolant lines. The plague of IMS bearings keeps others from participating in the party at all, but that's a mistake. With some research, a modest maintenance fund, and the right eye, one can enjoy a surprising amount of rear-engined relief for a forgivable fee.