As I posted earlier, my top choices for my next car are tied between a new S3 and a used 997 (2005-2008) Porsche 911 Carrera. I’ve had the chance to check out a few used 997s that I’ve been photographing for my friend’s dealership, Bright Motorcars, that specializes in Porsches. The S3 and 997 are very different cars, but both give me that awesome feeling inside of being stoked to (potentially) own and drive one…and if you hear me out, it’s not as crazy of a comparison as it initially sounds. For purposes of this review, I’ll be talking specifically about the base model, which plenty of lightly-used examples can be found in the US for mid $30k range that feature a six speed manual transmission and typically under 50k miles.
We’ll start with the most important part, the 997 undid all of the “ugly” of the 996 exterior and brought back the circular headlights that remind you of the super-desirable 993 body style. This design may be over 10 years old now, but it doesn’t look it. Honestly the new 991s don’t look THAT different than the 997, at least to the untrained eye. Regardless, it’s a great looking car, that much is indisputable.
The inside is nice too, and light years ahead of the previous generation. You won’t find any super fancy technology, but basics like navigation, Bose speakers, and bluetooth aren’t that hard to come by (or retrofit). Most importantly, the car was available with three pedals and a six speed gearbox. I still firmly believe a 6 speed manual can make any car more fun to drive, to the point where I’d rather have less horsepower and a manual than the opposite.
The 997 Carrera has about 325 hp stock (355 if you find a Carrera S) and is pretty light. It can do 0-60 in about 4.5 seconds, which is nearly the same as a stock S3 despite the S3 having more power. So you can see, the S3 and the 997 aren’t totally unreasonable to compare – both are about as quick. The S3 has quattro whereas the Porsche is RWD and lighter, so the Porsche is probably the better track car whereas the S3 is far more versatile.
Both cars need very little in terms of aesthetic modifications or interior changes. If I were to get a 997, some coilovers, exhaust, tune, short-shifter, and wheels would probably be on the agenda. If I got a S3, I’d probably leave stock for a little while other than a tune, then eventually some wheels and lowering springs. Another complicating factor is that the S3 can be leased, whereas I’d need to buy the 997…but the good news is that the 997 has already seen the bulk of its depreciation, so I could sell in a few years if my wife and I were to have kids or some other grown-up reason like that.
Ultimately, the S3 has four doors and is more practical, whereas the 997 is lighter and available in a 6 speed manual. The 997 also happens to be cheaper, but it’s also a 10 year old car with no warranty and relatively more expensive maintenance, so that’s a gamble there. Decisions, decisions…