Cars & Bids Bargain of the Week: 2003 996 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S

‘Porsche 911’ and ‘affordable car’ might seem like antonyms at first glance. But while new 911s are indeed expensive, used ones are sometimes cheaper than many expect. And the 996 Porsche tends to be the usual ‘inexpensive 911’ suspect. However, just because it’s not expensive doesn’t mean it’s any less of a fun sports car. And the 2003 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S currently listed on Cars & Bids is a particular 996 highpoint.

Apart from the Turbo and GT3, the 2002-2005 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S “is probably the most desirable 996,” Road & Track says

The rear 3/4 view of a silver 2002 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S at sunset
2002 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S rear 3/4 | Porsche
2002-2005 996 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S
Engine3.6-liter naturally-aspirated flat-six
Horsepower320 hp
Torque273 lb-ft
TransmissionsSix-speed manual
Five-speed automatic
Curb weight3395 lbs
0-60 mph time5.3 seconds (official)
4.6 seconds (Car and Driver)

Fans often name the supercar-speedy Turbo and the sharpened GT3 as the most desirable 996 Porsche 911 models. Not just for performance reasons, mind you, but because their engines don’t have any potentially-troubling IMS bearings. However, in terms of everyday usability, enjoyment, and affordability, they weren’t necessarily the 911 “sweet spot,” Road & Track argues. Much like the modern GTS trim, that honor belongs to the trim right below the Turbo. And for the 996 Porsche 911, that was the 2002-2004 911 Carrera 4S.

As is the case today, the ‘4’ in the 996 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S’s name indicates that it has AWD. It’s not the first AWD production 911, nor is it the first AWD 996-gen model; a 996 Carrera 4 launched in 1999. However, the ‘C4S,’ as it’s often called, improved on the earlier trim in several ways.

Firstly, in 2002 Porsche gave all 911 Carreras, including the 4S, a bigger engine. So, instead of 296 hp, the C4S has 320 hp. Secondly, the 996 911 Carrera 4S has the same wide bodywork as the Turbo. And while it doesn’t have the Turbo’s wing or its turbocharged engine, the C4S does have an electronic spoiler. Also, underneath the Turbo bodywork, it rides on the Turbo’s sportier suspension and its wider wheels and tires. It has the Turbo’s larger brakes, too, Car and Driver notes, and 0.4”-lower ride height than the standard Carrera.

As a result, not only does the 996 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S grip better than the RWD Carrera, especially on snowy roads, but it handles better, too. Plus, it wraps the 996’s “delightful” transmission and strong engine in a more stylish package, Car and Driver says. In short, it’s a win-win all around.

There’s a 2003 911 C4S up for auction on Cars & Bids

A silver 2003 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S parked by a winding road
2003 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S | Cars & Bids

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While the 996 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S has extra performance features over the other Carreras, it’s still a luxury car. And the 2003 example currently listed on Cars & Bids comes with some suitably premium features.

From the factory, this 2003 C4S has a power-operated sunroof, Bose audio system, heated front seats, and automatic climate control. It also has extended leather upholstery and carbon-fiber/aluminum trim around the shifter and hand brake. And it has stainless-steel tailpipes, aluminum instrument faces, and a rear wiper.

In addition, this 996 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S has a few modifications. Arguably the most important is the LN Engineering IMS bearing upgrade, which was installed in 2016 along with a new clutch and rear main seal. This C4S also has a 997-gen 911 shift bracket, aFe Power Pro Dry S performance air filter, Carnewall 200-cell sport catalytic converters, and tinted windows.

The black-leather-upholstered front seats and dashboard of a 2003 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S
2003 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S front interior | Cars & Bids

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Cosmetically, this car’s only flaws are some paint chips, scratches, and interior blemishes. However, the seller notes that the sunroof only opens after you push the ‘close’ button twice, likely due to a failing control module. Also, its HVAC fan squeaks when its middle-speed settings. And it has roughly 122,000 miles on the clock.

But this 996 Porsche 911 does have an extensive service history. After acquiring it, the seller replaced the battery and starter motor and flushed the brake fluid and coolant. They flushed the brake fluid again in 2020 during the 120,000-mile inspection; they installed a new air filter in 2020, too. And they recently refinished the rear wheels, installed new tires, and changed the oil and filter.

A 996 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S like this might not be a bargain for much longer

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As of this writing, this 2003 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S is listed at $22,996 with two days left in the auction. That’s below-average for a 996 C4S in its condition. A fair-to-good manual C4S typically costs $27K-$40K, Hagerty says. And as of this writing, the cheapest manual C4S with similar mileage on Autotrader costs just under $30K.

While buying a used 996 Porsche 911 can be worrying due to the potential IMS issue, that’s been resolved on this car. So has the rear main seal, aka the rear crankshaft seal, which needs replacement as the miles pile on, R&T explains. And looking through the service records, it seems that the seller has already replaced many of the other high-mileage maintenance items. Basically, apart from a minor electrical gremlin and a squeaky fan, this C4S should be solid.

So, if you’ve wanted to get into 911 ownership on a Boxster-level budget, this 996 Carrera 4S might be your ticket in.

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