The Porsche 944 was the iconic sports car of the 1980s, first hitting the streets in 1982 and eventually being retired in 1991. It was built on the same platform as its predecessor, the Porsche 924. The 944 was due to receive a makeover in 1991, but the technological advances were used on its successor instead, the Porsche 968.
The sports car was available in both coupe and cabriolet models and drew much of its inspirational design from the Carrera GT. It had a smooth, sleek appearance, inset rising headlights, narrow grille, and a swept-back roofline onto a curved boot.
The first real changes were brought about in 1985 when the interior was redesigned, which included a new dashboard and new style alloy wheels, although you could still have the older Fuchs alloys as they were available as an option.
Minor changes continued through the 1980s, with ABS and airbags added in 1987 and engine updates in 1989, but the body shape remained pretty much unaltered. The 944 Turbo was added to the collection in 1985, then the 944 S ‘Super’ rolled off the tracks in 1987 with the 944 S2 coming along in 1989. All were performance-enhanced machines built for speed, with more powerful engines and sports package options.
The only real body shape change came with the 944 Turbo Cabriolet when the rooflines and the boot modelling were altered to accommodate the canopy.
Porsche fitted the 944 with the option of 3 engine types, with the choice of either a naturally aspirated or turbodiesel unit. These were available in the 2.5L, 2.7L, and 3.30L during the car’s lifetime. The only one available, up until 1987, was the 2.0L, and it delivered 112kW of power. The big advance in speed came with the 3.0L turbo engines that were fitted after 1988, as these could put out up to 186kW of power. The transmissions on offer were the shaky 3-speed automatic and the much more responsive 5-speed manual.
Performance figures for the early Porsche gave it an acceleration rate from 0-100km/h in 8.3 seconds and a factory claimed top speed of 210km/h. There are, however, those around who attest to it easily reaching 220km/h.
The 944 was built at a time when engineering provided the main forms of car performance, not the electronic gadgetry of today. The chassis provided a very stable platform and the rear transaxle nicely balanced out the weight of the engine, giving it a predictable, assured road holding.
The standard equipment level for the 1982 Porsche 944 included flared wheel arches, cookie cutter alloys, electric windows, sunroof, heated mirrors, heated rear window, and an electric release tailgate. The more expensive trim levels had powered steering, air-conditioning, and leather upholstery, while the options packages allowed for headlight washers, lower rear valance, and box sills.
The 1986 model added the rear spoiler as a standard feature and the new-style teledial alloy wheels. With the release of the turbo edition in 1989, these came equipped with a 10-speaker audio system, 16-inch Design 90 wheels, LSD transmission, and sumptuous sports seats.
The pre-1986 models came with fabric or leather seat coverings, which were manually operated, but after this date, they all changed to electric seat adjusters. The dash was also the same as the old 924 model but received a makeover after 1986.
In the sports car sector, Porsche is synonymous with fast, stylish cars. The 944 is a little controversial due to its use of a front-mounted engine instead of the normal rear format. This deviation from the Porsche ethos has led to some dismissing the model. During its time, the 944 was pitted against the Nissan 200SX, BMW 635 CSi, and Alfa Romeo GTV6.
The Porsche 944 is a classic sports car that is still available at a good price these days. It is German-built, so it is a reliable and durable car; however, make sure to check the service history, as even a Porsche will suffer with problems if not looked after properly or if it has been in the hands of racers.
Overall, its value has held up; despite purists deriding its pedigree, the 944 is still a popular model to pick up if you are looking to buy a classic Porsche. The 944 is a labour of love and not made for family outings, but driving down the street in one will definitely turn heads.