With a history dating back to 1896, the air-cooled engine was the go-to engine design for much of the mid-to-late 90s. Unlike water-cooled engines that were closed circuit and carried liquid coolant throughout the system, air-cooled engines released any heat generated into the air. It was also the go-to design for many sports vehicles — including many Porsche models like the iconic 911 — because of its low design and center-of-gravity. This helped provide a sportier look and a dynamic driving feel, which was crucial for Porsche vehicles.

This was the go-to engine design for Porsche manufacturers up until 1998, when the Porsche 911 996 model was introduced, as this was the first model that came with the water-cooled engine, a standard in today’s industry. But why did Porsche move away from the air-cooled engine? What exactly made it inferior to its successor?


Probably the biggest reason why Porsche moved away from the air-cooled engine is that they needed to meet performance demands that the system could no longer provide. Porsche wanted to meet tougher emission standards set by the EPA as well as match and exceed the performance benefits competitors were seeing in their vehicle models. Air-cooled engines couldn’t match the horsepower and performance longevity that water-cooled engines could provide, even though they provided a sleeker feel, so Porsche had to do what was needed to keep up with the industry.


So with all the performance benefits a water-cooled engine can provide, why do many vehicle enthusiasts still want an air-cooled engine? A lot of it comes down to the driveability that drivers get, as well as the sound it creates. When driving an air-cooled engine, drivers can take on corners a lot faster due to its lighter weight, hear the iconic sounds it creates, and appreciate the simple design. It’s also a lot easier to maintain due to fewer parts being in it. For those looking to experience the nostalgia of the air-cooled engine while keeping some of the modern performance benefits, enthusiasts agree that the Porsche 911 993 is the best vehicle for this, although it can be difficult to get your hands on it.

If your air or water-cooled Porsche ever needs service, know that the Autohaus team in Royal Oak, MI, has the knowledge and experience to provide the auto care your car needs.