‘Water, water every-where, and far more trouble than you’d think…’ I bet back in 1797 Coleridge did not expect his epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner to be bastardised in this way, but it’s an apt summary of what Porsche faced when it unveiled the 996 variant of the 911.
For over 30 years two things were certain of a 911: its engine was slung out the back, and said engine was cooled by air. Come 1997 and the arrival of the 996 – the fifth and most major evolution of Porsche’s flagship to date – only one of those facts remained: the engine was still at the back. Porsche took a huge backlash, accused of trampling on its heritage and cheapening its image. All because the 996 had liquid pumping around its flat-six to cool it instead.
There was reason for Porsche’s direction, and while the 996 divided opinion it spawned Porsche’s ultimate models of 911 with the GT3s and GT2s that still top the ranges today.