Sometimes it’s okay not to follow the crowd
Since the 996 continues to see low values when compared to previous series 911s, it serves as a great entry point for people who are interested in owning a Porsche. Especially, since it offers so much performance, reliability, and what are considered modern amenities like cold air conditioning and airbags. Even as proven permanent fixes have finally come along for the intermediate shaft bearing, the unknowing public will continue to keep values depressed. That’s good news for those interested in owning an undervalued 911. However, to the uninitiated whose initial investment was “affordable,” maintenance and parts costs could be a surprising wake up call. Even an oil change can run into the hundreds of dollars.
As active Porsche Club of America members, we want new owners to experience their 996s to the fullest and know the importance of good maintenance. My job as an advocate is to promote the ownership and membership of this series car. PCA wants more members and I want more 996 owners to become members of PCA. Being a PCA member enhances the ownership experience and exposes new owners to a whole new world.
One of the questions I get from new 996 owners is having to balance certain upgrades or maintenance versus the car’s value. I’m biased on this subject as a third-time Porsche owner, I am one of those who sees all expenses as an investment into the joy of ownership. I also appreciate a new owner’s concern when the discussion goes to an $80 part that requires an $800 engine removal to gain access!
Fortunately, some expenses can be mitigated through smart shopping and investigating alternatives to name brands. I’m not referring to alternatives to OEM products as those are tested, true and warranted, but other available parts such as performance items where there may be multiple buying options. For example, I’ve owned all three top tire brands with my 911. Two have been great and one set was noisy and wore quickly. My rear tires typically last about 10,000 miles, some owners may find replacing top-tier brand tires prohibitively expensive.
In this section, I will provide reviews about products that may fly in the face of prevailing opinions and attitudes, just like the revolution in design that Haam Lagaay and Pinky Lai originally penned, I intend to go against the established grain. I will never endorse any brand, but will provide options to our readers.
The first product I’m going to review are coilovers, as these are frequently discussed at gatherings and on the internet. Until know I have no experience with coilovers in my own car, but have driven others’ 911s with coilovers. Since I’ve owned my car, I have been running stock OEM coils and Bilsteins Sport shocks. An excellent combination. My only issue was the size of the gap between the fender and tire. It always seemed too large.
Over the past couple of years, I have received numerous requests for coilover recommendations, and like many I confess have stated what everyone else recommends, regardless of whether I or they have experience using them or not. From what I’ve read on the internet and witnessed many coilover recommendations seem to be based on other’s experiences or feelings. And when the discussion shifts to track or DE use the recommendations seem to revert back to the premium brands. That’s really problematic for those of us interested in learning about a product and gaining meaning from users’ experience. I did a search on the internet and found numerous requests for alternate coilover recommendations for the 996 only to end in “spend the extra dollars and buy XX brand or you’ll be sorry.” Or the non-name brands “rust, fall apart, blow out on the streets,” etc., but few if any threads actually speak about personal experiences.
I don’t want to disparage the brand names as those have a long established history with 911 owners, I am interested only in identifying cost-effective alternatives that provide most if not all of the benefits of using the brand products.
In the interest of facts and science and the spirit of identifying lower cost high-quality alternatives for 996 owners, I decided to purchase and have installed an alternate brand of coilovers that are about $800 less than the name brands and highly regarded in the import world. Add about 6-8 hours of labor for installation and like the other top brands the total becomes a serious investment.
I purchased a set of D2 Racing RS Series coilovers from D2Racing in North Carolina. They were shipped from North Carolina. I then took them to Vertex Auto to have them installed. Full disclosure, I use Vertex as my service dealer for all maintenance and repairs on my 996. A couple of the reasons I take my car to Vertex is they have are one of the aftermarket manufacturers of the permanent fix for the intermediate shaft bearing and the rear main seal leak. Kudos to them for supporting our 996s. The other reason I take my car to them is because their technicians spend much of their time rebuilding 996 engines. These guys are real experts at what they do.
Wayne is the service manager and an expert on the mechanics of the 996. He supervised and allowed me to view the installation so I can become more familiar with coilovers and specifically to be able to write about them. Lots of time was spent getting the height and dampening adjustments dialed in. When they were done I was informed that the job would be complete after a few days of driving to allow the coilovers to settle. After that it would be readjustment and a four point alignment.
As an observer the installation seemed pretty straightforward and most of the work up front was in preparation to remove the strut. Much care was taken to assure the top plate bolts did not do any damage to the paint.
Issues related to the installation. As you might expect, when installing parts onto to your 996 one expects a smooth and fluid installation process. Ill-fitting parts can really lead to frustration and hours of extra labor. There was only one issue with the installation and that was a bracket that holds a brake sensor line. Not a big deal, but it took away from the smoothness of installation event. I contacted the US distributor to resize the bracket.
As mentioned above, I purchased the entry level D2 Racing RS Series to provide 996 owners with possible alternatives to the established names. D2 Racing is a manufacturer of coilovers and other racing products located in Taiwan. The RS Series I installed are made in their factory which is TUV/ISO 9000 and WORLD /ARTC certified. They hold two patents for coilovers and make different series coilovers specific to Track Racing, Rally Gravel, Rally Asphalt, Rally Snow, 0-400 Drag racing, and drifting. Additionally, I was not satisfied with the look of spring only installation drops. In my opinion they do not go far enough aesthetically. They do for daily drivers, but mine is not one of them.
On to the fit. Once the height was adjusted, Wayne and I took the car for a “spirited” drive and let me say that the improvement in the ride quality and feel was dramatic. The coilovers transformed the 996. And the lowered look took it to another level. I have never had so many thumbs ups, honks and positive comments in the two weeks after installation than in the past two years. The coilover look seems to repurpose the car visually.
Let me tell you a little bit about my March of 1998 built 996 as it relates to the coilovers. The car has 108,000 miles with a rebuilt motor and permanent IMSB upgrade. The engine has 15,000 miles since the rebuild three years ago. It has numerous performance upgrades including H&R sway bars, polyurethane bushings throughout the front and rear suspension, a lightened flywheel (noise and all), roll bar, front and rear strut bars and high-flow catalysts with stock mufflers. The battery was moved forward to the trunk and I run on 18 inch wheels.
What I liked about the D2 Racing coilovers was height adjustments did not affect the compression of the springs. In other words, height adjustments are done with the body of the and that leaves the full travel of the spring intact. That’s an important benefit to have when lowering a 996. The rears can be done easily by just removing the wheels and spinning the body of the shock in the direction that raises or lowers the car. The fronts are not as easy as they need to be separated from the wheel carrier. Not an issue but it adds time to the task. After a few days of settling (and they did) a recheck of height and measurements, a four-wheel alignment was conducted.
Aesthetics. This was my biggest disappointment. It was disappointing because I always thought the stock height of the 996 was good looking and optimized. However, once the car was lowered, I received more thumbs up, honks and comments from strangers ans Instagram than in the past 3 years. The height from the coilovers completely transformed the look of the car aesthetically. For me it’s now the perfect height. Especially when I compare the before and after pictures.
Ride. Compared to the OEM spring and Bilstein shock combination that most of have on our 996s, the coilovers ride is completely different. In addition to the coilovers providing a stiffer ride quality, it stiffened up the feel of the steering wheel. I’m not referring to the steering wheel being more difficult to turn with more resistance, I’m referring to the quality of firmness and a lack of vibration at higher speeds. It gives the sensation that the front end weighs more. It felt like a new set of high-speed balanced tires were installed on the car. That was a big plus. The steering wheel now transmits a confidence in the car that was not there before.
There was less bounce during take-off and a general feeling of the car being more planted to the road and having a new agility that was not as prominent before. Things like taking high-speed corners do not have the caution or peril they did with the previous shock / spring combination, and this is where your money goes to. That agility also transmits to a sense that the 996 is ready to respond to what you ask it to do. And it did. Accelerating and taking corners with confidence is what we expect from our 911s, and the coilovers amp up that experience through a feeling or sensation that you are a better driver and the car is better at what it does, but more important is that the car’s handling actually is better rather than the feeling being confined to just a feeling.
Practicality. Since my car is not my daily driver, I don’t need to worry as much about road hazards or speed bumps. However, if it were my daily driver I would adjust the height a bit higher. Would I recommend coilovers for those who use their 996s as daily drivers? YES, it transforms the Porsche experience. Make sure however you get a set of coilovers like the ones reviewed here where the damping can be adjusted to meet your needs and reduce some of the harshness that may turn daily drivers off. Initial impressions about these coilovers for the 996 are great. A month in and I’m even more impressed with how much more control I have while driving at highway speeds. Coilovers definitely increase the experience and bring out the best the car has to offer.
As a service to our readers I will be doing continuous follow up on how these coilovers hold up to use.
Before and After: