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Porsche 944

Porsche 944 Published: 18th Jan 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Porsche 944
Porsche 944
Porsche 944
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Spawned from a failed Audi project, there’s no doubt the 944 is a proper Porsche

Porsche’s 924 had been a very capable small sports car, but its Audi-derived engine had been the subject of divisive views. Nobody denied the car’s handling prowess, but the engine had to go if the emerging yuppie market was to take it seriously. Porsche developed a four-pot from the 928’s V8, widened the wheelarches, and the new 944 was born. Initially pitched above the 924, it eventually supplanted its smaller sibling as Porsche’s sole four-cylinder coupé option.

Muscular, loud and confident, the 944 epitomised the 1980’s stockbroker culture better than perhaps any other car. But you don’t need to be Gordon Gekko to own one today – and we think they’re well worth a look.

on the move

The 924 always looked a little light on substance – like other Germans of the era (BMW E21, Audi 80 etc) the minimalist approach to its styling meant it looked a little lightweight when compared to outgoing British GTs such as the Triumph Stag. The 944 rectified this – its wide arches giving the car a far more muscular stance than before, and the oh-so-80’s chunky plastic boot spoiler adding to the menacing effect. In a bright colour it looks loud, it looks extrovert, and yet in a sober colour it’s actually rather restrained. All things to all people, and that’s even before you open the door.

Slide in, and you get supportive seats comfortable for people of most dimensions. Early cars shared the 924 dashboard, but later models – dubbed oval-dash – got an iteration rather closer to that of the 911. Well sited dials behind a vertical steering wheel match with the deep centre console to let you know you’re in a car that’s far more about driving than cruising. And while it may feel a touch sparse inside, everything’s of such high quality that it doesn’t seem to matter much. We like the early Pascha trim material – like Dali’s personal chessboard – but leather is more popular for resale and many owners will have had cars retrimmed.

The seats are well-shaped, comfortable and supportive, and we had no trouble finding a good driving position. There’s enough space – alarming for a car so compact – and while the four-cylinder note might be a little off-putting at first, the stubby gear lever (described as phallic in one road test-ed) and the precise way it engages first soon reminds you you’re in a proper sports car. It gains momentum in an impressive way – the Turbos especially are on the dramatic side – and you soon find yourself at the legal limit with little drama. The automatic does rather take the edge off things but you won’t find a more user friendly sub super car anywhere else.

 

Round the corners

The ride’s not as firm as you might expect of a German sports car, either. No, it’s no Jaguar, but it’s compliant enough for the car to feel firmly fun even if road and tyre noise can be a bit disappointing. Yet on the right bend, come on the power at just the right point, the back end will flick out, easily caught by a flick of the steering wheel. And that steering is another revelation – not only is it among the most nicely weighted steering systems of the 1980s, but it responds in such a perfect way that you might think the front wheels are linked to your brain via telepathy. It’s as if you instinctively know precisely how much steering lock to apply right from the word go – it’s a true performance car which flatters its driver, and unlike its rear engined sibling you never really feel afraid of it.

Autocar noted in 1985 that the 944 was oddly more prone to oversteer on left-handed bends than right-handed bends, not a trait we’ve noted in our experience of several examples. It also noted a tendency toward tramlining on uneven surfaces which could perhaps be attributed to the tyres on its test car. Motor Sport tested the Turbo version, and concluded “It feels quite neutral as the lateral forces build up and the amount of grip available is terrific: push it harder and harder and the tail begins to hint at oversteer, but this happens at such high speeds that it would be almost impossible to find a bend on the road long enough to push it that far.” It also commented that the 944 Turbo “manages to feel taut cornering at 100mph without giving the occupants an uncomfortable ride in town” – high praise indeed chassis which we certainly found deserving despite its advancing age.

If you can look past the undeniably yuppie image, the Porsche 944 is one of the best sports cars of the 1980s. While it’s never going to have the same iconic status as the 911, it is nonetheless deserving of true classic status, and we recommend you buy one.

 

Go or no go?

The 944 is one of the sharpest and easiest classics we’ve driven – certainly for regular use. It feels almost cerebral, in the same way that a Mazda MX-5 does – you don’t so much feel like you’re making inputs as guiding it by telekinesis. And while they’re nowhere near as cheap as they used to be, they still represent excellent value when compared to sister cars like the 928 and 968. Not quite suitable for families, they’ll still do while the kids are small. And the best bit is that they’re still going up in value. If you miss out now, they’ll never be this cheap again.

 

Quick spin

PERFORMANCE Brisk – Turbos are mental

CRUISING Road noise apart, pleasant

HANDLING Great balance, grip galore and friendlier than any 911

BRAKES Porsche positive and sharp

EASE OF USE It’s the pragmatic Porsche



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