Porsche 944 at Le Mans | Source: Porsche

Sleek Design & Precise Performance: A History of the Porsche 944

When the words ‘classic Porsche’ is uttered it’s generally the number 911 that first comes to mind. However, the ‘944’ is often understated. With iconic design, precision performance, seating for four and boot space, the Porsche 944 is one of the best 80s-built sports cars ever made. Produced from 1982 to 1991, the 944 was the most successful sports car in the German manufacturer’s history until the Porsche Boxster. Here’s a look at the history of the car and a couple of the best Porsche 944 models to ever come out of the German factory.

Brief History of Porsche 944

A debut doesn’t get much more exciting than Le Mans. As the replacement to the 924, the Porsche 944 was first launched at the 24 Hours Le Mans race in 1981. The racing spec car featured a new 2.5L four-cylinder engine created from splitting a V8 in half. Hitting the market in 1982, the sportscar produced 163hp for the European market and 143hp in the US.

Although the original engine used in the racing car was de-tuned for road-going production, the car still went from 0-100km/h in less than 9 seconds and up to 254.1 km/hr on a test run. The impressive speed was only topped by its precision around the bends. The near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution, thanks to the rear-mounted gearbox and differential transaxle, meant corners were handled efficiently.

1985 heralded turbo time for the Porsche 944. Significantly improving the base model 944’s performance, the new turbocharged engine produced 220hp. This added power reduced its 0-100km/h time to 5.9 seconds, about a 3-second improvement on the standard car. Other additions to cope with the newfound power included; oil cooler, transmission cooler, stiffer suspension, new brakes and ABS.

In 1988 the 944 Turbo got an S upgrade – a larger turbocharger and heavier duty clutch and transmission. The engine now produced 247hp improving 0-100km/h of 5.5 seconds and a top speed was stated by Porsche to be 261km/h. The Porsche 944 Turbo S was the fastest four-cylinder production car of the time.

The final version of the 944 Turbo, was the Cabriolet – a 944 Turbo S with a special cabriolet body made by the American Sunroof Company. While the convertible was popular in Europe, the model was never imported into the United States.

Other models include the 1987 Porsche 944 S – a non-turbo version that, performance-wise sat between the standard 944 and the turbo versions. 0-100km/hr was accomplished in 6.5 seconds and the top speed was 232km/h. The upgraded 944 S2 came two years later in 1989. The 3.0L version was slightly slower to 100km/h at 6.8 seconds but with a top speed of 240km/hr.

1992 Porsche 944 Turbo Cabriolet

Released in  February 1992, this model combined the Turbo S engine with and a cabriolet body. Porsche only manufactured 625 cars for this model, out of which only 100 were built in rare right-hand drive for the UK, South Africa, Japan, and Australia markets. It’s estimated on 87 survive to this day. A well looked after model with a fully stamped service booklet and a detailed list of restoration parts, sold for A$58,650 at Bonhams auction in 2017.

1988 Porsche 944 Turbo Cup

The highly tuned 944 produced for the Porsche-only races, were hand-built in Porsche’s Weissach facility from sunroof-delete coupes. With a slew of upgrades, the 944 Turbo Cup cars accelerated from 0-100km/h in around 4.4 seconds and had a top speed of nearly 275km/h. A beautiful Alpine White example reported being the 10th model of only 39 built for the Rothmans Cup program, sold for A$121,870 at an RM Sotheby auction in 2021.

If you’re more interested in what Porsche is doing in the modern era, have a look at the electric Porsche Taycan.

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