The 964 was the first major evolution of the nine-eleven, leaving behind many of the drawbacks and problems of the first body of the model, to evolve technologically in a major way, while retaining much of the original DNA of the legendary Porsche model.
It abandoned the use of torsion bars as an elastic element and switched to coil springs. The steel monocoque was reinforced, its dimensions were modified and it gained rust protection. It also saw the arrival of two electronic players, in the form of ABS and power steering.
But the biggest difference in the whole affair was the addition of the all-wheel drive system as an option, under the name Carrera 4. But today our buying advice is going to focus on the Carrera 2, for one reason: it's purer and closer to the "911" driving experience, it's cheaper, and it gives fewer reliability issues.
Opting for the Carrera 2 over the Carrera 4 will give you a purer, livelier, more economical and reliable car, but also more difficult in the wet.
The 964, aesthetically speaking, was a step up from the "conventional" 911, which at that time was already looking a bit "old and outdated". Interestingly, a few decades later we find that nine-then buyers prefer a classic Carrera 3.2 to the 964.
But the reality is that "it's a better buy" in most cases a 964, as the step forward in technology and safety can't be put aside.
But back to the design of the car. In the front end we still find some "very vertical" headlights, in its last installation before the 993 began to tilt and evolve them. The lateral shape of the bodywork was still quite flat, and a very pure side view, with no visible aerodynamic additions, nor extremely marked hips. The ass seemed "fallen" and the cabin forward and with the windshield very vertical, in the purest 911 style.
Behind the rear "monofaro" highlighted the rear, with a strip that joined both rear optical groups evolved and more rounded than in previous Carrera, and that would become a fashion design of the early nineties that we would see applied to cars of all types and conditions, even as parts of "Norauto".
On the rear engine hood was hidden a retractable spoiler, which was activated with speed, but had a button in the passenger compartment to activate it manually (for pimping in city traffic, of course).
The interior was also a winner. The vertical and simple dashboard was maintained, with its multiple clocks behind a steering wheel of enormous proportions (it's a Porsche, after all), but the seats evolved and supported the body better (although they still lacked "petals").
It's a two-plus-two, but the seats in the back are "joke seats", and no one in their right mind will want to sit there for more than five minutes. You have to consider them for what they are: an extra space to leave suitcases and other objects that don't fit in the front trunk.
The positive thing about the interior, and it's something that cars like the 911/996 failed to offer, is that the interior ages in exemplary fashion. The plastics may feel exposed to the sun, but the fittings and materials maintain their composure, despite being talking about a car with decades on top of it.
And how does it move?
You put the key in and turn the ignition, placed on the left, as in any good Porsche. The engine sound is one of Porsche's best naturally aspirated boxers, hands down. It has that deep but not at all coarse gurgle.
The pedals are stiff, but give a "positive" feel, and allow you to manage them well. The clutch goes down as you play with the five-speed G50 box to insert first gear. The travel isn't exactly short, but the feel of the inserted gear is metallic and precise.
Driving it around town and at low speeds is easy, but it requires a bodybuilder's left leg, because of the heavy clutch. The forward vision is great, with very vertical A-pillars that don't get in the way at all, and a very compact body that fits anywhere. It's a versatile car, and it demonstrates the 911's best attribute: you can drive it to work or to the shops, and you won't feel "out of place". Rain is a problem (wipers aren't like they are now...).
When you go to look for the tickle, the first thing that strikes you is the feeling of punch of the engine. On paper it offers 250 horsepower, but it's the torque figure that stands out, as it's an engine with a lot of mid and low range, far from being a "red-zone finder". This allows you to play well with mid-corner acceleration, recovery, overtaking?
At 1,375 kilos for this two-wheel drive version, it's not a featherweight, but the car feels light, and at 5.5 kilos per horsepower it still doesn't feel out of place performance-wise when pitted against more powerful machinery (the aforementioned BRZ, at the start of the article, goes up to 6.5 kilos per horsepower).
You'll have to get used to its peculiar character when cornering. In this two-wheel drive version, its most positive and remarkable point is its traction capacity, thanks to its weight distribution and its rear-mounted engine. Its power steering clearly handles the wheels better than the very heavy steering of the Carrera 3.2 that precedes it, and allows us to play better with the car. Despite being hydraulically assisted, the steering also transmits a lot, and allows us to calculate the amount of grip available, or control the drifts when the asphalt is broken. Of course, you have to trust the car, because this 964, especially in this rear-wheel drive version, still lifts the nose a lot, and the steering wheel gets lighter because of it, giving you strange sensations of "controlled levitation". It's psychological, and part of the original Porsche DNA.
Faced with slower corners, we find very powerful brakes, but also very dosable, supported by an ABS that simplifies things. You can get into the brakes in corners, but you'll find yourself with a nose drag very soon. It's a car tuned in such a way that you'll only unhinge the nose on corner entry. A safety measure designed to give the driver calm and reassurance.
The dynamics are typical of a 911: you can accelerate very early on corner exit, but the nose requires braking straight on entry if you don't want to understeer.
The trick is to brake straight, and manage the front end grip to aim for the apex. Once the car is in the corner, and on dry tarmac, we can anticipate the acceleration more than with any other car. And you can apply almost all the available torque without fear, because the rear grip is ahead of any other equivalent car. You get the most out of it, and it's very difficult to drift unless you're playing with fire.
Playing with fire? You can drive a 911 by playing with inertia, but only if your last name is Zanini or Rohrl. Once you let the rear end off the throttle, the engine acts like a hammer and wants to complete a 360 degree turn. It's a car that requires practice and confidence in the front end and your counter-steering skills to drive this way.
In the wet things can get more serious if you play with inertia looking to unsettle the rear end. Otherwise, if you stick to the script and track cleanly, you can apply torque early, without too much fear. If you overdo it, if you are abrupt with the right pedal, you can lose the rear, which will require the art of counter-steering, but if you don't go from roll to roll, you can correct it satisfactorily, especially thanks to a steering wheel that "tells" you what to do.
But over and above its dynamics, I'd say it's a car that gives you a lot of driving pleasure. It puts a smile on your face, and every day you ride it you discover a little more how you should drive it, you learn how to control the brakes, how to apply the power at the right moment... And all with that robust Porsche feel, spiced up by the exhaust tone.
The 964 is not known to be reliable to the maximum, something that some ancestors do have behind them. The first thing to check, as with any used car, is that there is no history of accidents to the bodywork. Rust protection is very good, but it doesn't hurt to check fenders, windshield base, engine hood, etcetera. Bad repairs tend to result in rust spots.
The interior is an easy check point: all electronic gadgets must work properly, including the rear automatic spoiler button. If it's jammed or not working it can lead to engine overheating (it breathes through the gap left by the aforementioned spoiler). Inside the cabin you shouldn't hear crickets everywhere...
As for the chassis, brakes are expensive to repair or replace, so make sure they are in good condition (discs not too worn, pads in good condition). A rare tyre wear can mean a bad alignment, or a badly repaired accident.
Shock absorbers must be in good condition, as must the bushes where the suspension arms articulate. Creaking when driving the car may mean that the bushes need to be replaced. Rusty or worn shocks condition the behavior of this car, and can make it something "rebellious", so it is advisable to buy a car with "updated" suspension with new elements, or reserve part of the budget for it.
The engine has a plastic crankcase cover. It is advisable to remove it to check for oil leaks. An engine that spits oil is a problem. These engines tend to have problems with leaks at the crankcase gasket with the block and crankshaft seats. There are also head gasket leakage problems in many cases.
That's why many of these cars end up getting a general overhaul and a rectification. If it has already been done, that's what you gain. Otherwise, or the car is very greedy (cheap) or it will be worth looking at another unit, as a repair with grinding of this type can easily cost € 6,000.
You should also check for problems with the clutch expenditure and flywheel. Replacing them can cost up to 1.300€... I don't need to tell you more, do I?
The gearbox is hard as a rock, but if you have problems with the engagement of any gear or with the synchros, run away in terror (it's not exactly cheap to have to repair it).
If the car passes this check, you can expect to pay between £25,000 and £30,000 for it. It is better to opt for a coupe rather than a targa or convertible, given the problems of water leaks they have. We even advise you to prefer one with a hardtop, which does not have a sunroof for the same reason. It is vital to find a unit with the maintenance book stamped in a reliable workshop, and buying a 964 will always be a lower risk activity if you take it to a specialized workshop before paying for it.
Importing it from Germany is a good option, as long as you have a trustworthy person to help you with the paperwork, if you are not very good at it, and you can trace the history of the vehicle before bringing it to Spain (be wary of imported units without a patent history, as they usually hide complicated pasts).
If you decide to buy it, the first thing you have to be clear about is that maintenance is not cheap, and each revision, doing it in a specialized service (not necessarily official) can easily cost you 600€. Therefore, you have to have an important working capital when you buy a car of this type.
It is a perfect car for everyday use, and it will hardly devalue further, but the important thing is to buy a unit in good condition, and keep a good sack of money for maintenance and eventual failures.
Our advice is to finance less than half of the purchase (10/15.000€ maximum), pay the rest in cash, while keeping a "piggy bank" for contingencies of about 6.000€. And is that having a car of this type is to know that at any time you can get a repair of that price. A Porsche is a Porsche.... Refusing to see these repair and maintenance costs can put you in some trouble later.
The good thing about buying a 964 over a modern coupe is that its most significant devaluation has already happened. No matter how many years go by, putting £25,000 into this car is having a £25,000 asset. It will hardly go below this barrier when we are going to sell it used if we get tired of it. Come on, we will pay its maintenance and usage costs, but we will not lose beyond that figure.Report rescued for Pistonudos, originally published on December 2, 2012.