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Second Opinion by Jason Dawe (Sunday Times 22-09-02)
When you think of a Porsche the chances are you imagine a 911. It is the benchmark against which all others are measured. But if you want a used Porsche and have a budget of 15 grand, don't go for one.
That sort of money would buy a 911 that's at least 12 years old and has covered 100,000 miles plus. It will also be old-fashioned to drive compared with Porsche's latest offerings. No, if you want a brilliant Porsche for 15 grand then buy a 968.
Some purists snub the 968, accusing its four-cylinder engine of being somehow "un-Porsche". The same people suggest that its short showroom life is further evidence of an unsuccessful and unloved car.
They are talking complete rubbish. The 3 litre motor does not raise the pulse in the same way as a 911's flat six but it produces an honest 240bhp plus a healthy dollop of torque. The 968 is also one of the finest handling front-engine cars in the world. Its weight distribution, partly due to its rear-mounted gearbox, is virtually perfect. Marry this to a near faultless driving position and you have a magnificent driver's car.
Second-hand, the choice is between coupé and cabriolet, with its electric roof. The coupés came in three guises. The standard 968 is the most luxurious. As with the cabriolet you can expect air conditioning, leather trim and electric windows, plus electric mirrors and seat adjustment.
The 968 Club Sport is a stripped-out racer with few creature comforts, making it a superb track car. But think hard before you buy: the front seats cannot be adjusted for height or recline and there isn't even a rear seat for kids. This car may be too raw to be a realistic proposition.
The 968 Sport sits neatly between the two. Seats can be adjusted and you will even get a sunroof. Buyers also had an options list so you may find one with such luxuries as air con and leather. The Sport strikes a wonderful balance between driving dynamics and comfort, making it much sought after second-hand.
So, coupé or a cabriolet? The coupé is more rigid and will ultimately perform better but if you are a cruiser not a racer you're unlikely to notice. Next choose the gearbox. The six-speed manual is one of the best, the four-speed tiptronic is not. The auto is just acceptable if you insist, otherwise go for the manual.
Look for oil leaks; 968s weep a little oil and it is nothing to worry about, but big puddles mean you could be facing a nasty bill. They are also prone to power steering pump failure and any loud groans going from lock to lock may indicate a new pump is needed.
Don't be deterred by high mileages, as engines and gearboxes are durable if regularly serviced. And for any remaining doubters, in June 2001 a friend bought a used 968 Sport, a 94 L with 62,000 miles and full Porsche history. He used it almost daily, adding 11,000 miles, and has just sold the car privately for £250 more than he paid.
Values: Porsche 968
Mileage 40,000 60,000 80,000
Add about £1,000 for cabriolet. Club Sports are about £500 less than equivalent coupés. Add £500 for tiptronic (auto box) Source: Estimates based on Cap confidential Black Book prices.'Trade' is what a dealer would pay to buy your car
Engine type 3 litre straight four
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