autoevolution
Car video reviews:
 
Porsche 944: The 924’s Highly Successful Brother
Porsche had a big problem by the late 1970s, caused by dwindling sales of the air-cooled 911. The peeps at Volkswagen helped the sports car outfit develop the 914, a midship affair that was eventually succeeded by the front-engined 924. Although it was commercially viable, the water-cooled 924 was criticized for its rather simple design, spartan cockpit, and VW/Audi engine. This predicament had to be addressed, which brings us to the 944 that served as the stopgap between the 924 and 911.

Porsche 944: The 924’s Highly Successful Brother

1983 Porsche 9441983 Porsche 9441983 Porsche 9441983 Porsche 9441983 Porsche 9441983 Porsche 9441983 Porsche 9441983 Porsche 9441983 Porsche 9441983 Porsche 9441983 Porsche 9441983 Porsche 9441983 Porsche 9441983 Porsche 9441983 Porsche 9441983 Porsche 9441983 Porsche 9441983 Porsche 9441983 Porsche 9441983 Porsche 9441983 Porsche 9441989 Porsche 944 S21989 Porsche 944 S21989 Porsche 944 S21989 Porsche 944 S21989 Porsche 944 S21989 Porsche 944 S21989 Porsche 944 S21989 Porsche 944 S21989 Porsche 944 S21989 Porsche 944 S21989 Porsche 944 S21989 Porsche 944 S21989 Porsche 944 S21989 Porsche 944 S21989 Porsche 944 S21989 Porsche 944 S21989 Porsche 944 S21989 Porsche 944 S21989 Porsche 944 S21989 Porsche 944 S21991 Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet1991 Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet1991 Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet1991 Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet1991 Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet1991 Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet1991 Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet1991 Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet1991 Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet1991 Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet1991 Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet1991 Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet1991 Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet1991 Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet1991 Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet1991 Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet1991 Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet1991 Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet1991 Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet1991 Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet1991 Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet
Presented as a prototype at Le Mans in 1981, the 944 launched the following year to critical acclaim from the motoring press and boos from air-cooled purists. For starters, Porsche developed a 2.5-liter I4 derived from the 5.0-liter V8 of the 928. Although some may be tempted to believe that Porsche hacked the latter in half, very few parts are interchangeable. In other words, the German automaker did not choose the easy route to create a four-cylinder lump that outshines the VW/Audi 2.0L engine of the 924.

Slanted to keep the hood low, the free-breathing lump uses a pair of counter-rotating balance shafts, licensed from Mitsubishi. Although it may not seem like much, Porsche wanted this engineering solution for improved smoothness. The German automaker even advertised the smoothness of a straight-six powerplant, which is a bit of a stretch considering that I6s are inherently balanced whereas the secondary forces of I4s are not balanced.

Gifted with unitary construction, the 944 originally produced 161 horsepower (163 ps) in Europe and 143 horsepower in the United States. The U.S. specification would be later upgraded to 147 ponies. For a car that weighs under 1.2 tons, torque isn’t shabby at 151 lb-ft (205 Nm).

Essentially a 924 with more suck-squeeze-bang-blow credentials, the 944 can reach 60 miles per hour (97 kilometers per hour) in a little more than eight seconds. Porsche claimed 130 miles per hour (210 kilometers per hour), but still, these numbers don’t matter as much as weight distribution. 50.7 percent up front and 49.3 out back help with the handling, the most important attribute of a true sports car in the view of many enthusiasts.

More practical than the rear-engined 911, the 944 features bulging wheel arches inspired by the 924 Carrera GT and more striking contours. The glass rear lid is complemented by a black spoiler that only adds to the sportiness of the car. It’s not only for show, though. The 0.35 drag coefficient is better than a 924, and the turbocharged version is more aerodynamic at 0.33.

However, the first incarnation of the 944 wasn’t particularly nice on the inside. By the middle of 1985, Porsche ditched the 924-sourced cockpit for a cleaner design with fancier trim and a relocated handbrake. An upgrade that’s often ignored comes in the guise of driver comfort. The 944 originally had a low-ish steering wheel that made taller drivers brush their thighs against it. Concomitantly with the arrival of the 944 Turbo, the front-engined sports car had its steering column repositioned a little higher.

Including the later Turbo S and Turbo SE, the force-fed option totals just over 25,000 units. Rated 217 horsepower (220 ps) and 243 pound-feet (330 Nm) at 3,500 revolutions per minute, the turbocharged twins were developed from the onset for unleaded gasoline. The turbo is pushing out 10.9 psi (0.75 bar) of boost, but we’re just scratching the surface here.

In addition to the said turbo, the 944 Turbo is rocking forged alloy pistons, a larger fuel tank and radiator, an external oil cooler, a bigger capacity alternator, and a taller final drive. Another strong point of the 944 Turbo is the way it accelerates, marginally better than the 3.2-liter 911 Carrera.

Come 1986 for the 1987 model year, the best year of this fellow, the 944 family welcomed the S model that ditched the SOHC two-valve-per-cylinder head in favor of a DOHC layout and four valves per cylinder. A higher-performing evolution of the 944, the Super also benefits from better engine management, dual knock sensors, an automatically adjusting timing belt tensioner, a magnesium alloy valve cover, the rear-wheel brake circuit regulator of the 944 Turbo, and a transaxle with optimized gear ratios.

Equipped with 911-inspired MacPherson struts at the front and semi-trailing arms in the rear, the 944 received a 2.7-liter engine with a Siamese cylinder arrangement, called as such because all the cylinders are joined together with no coolant passing between them. Together with a different cylinder head that incorporated larger valves, power didn’t increase all that much. But on the other hand, torque improved to 225 Nm (166 pound-feet).

Still fitted with a single overhead camshaft and two valves per cylinder, the 944 2.7 was joined by the 944 S2 later that year. Not only did it receive a 3.0-liter engine, but its 208-hp powerplant flaunts double overhead cams and four valves per cylinder like the 944 S. As for the 944 Turbo, renamed 944 Turbo S that year, Porsche quoted a very respectable 247 horsepower.

Offered in both coupe and convertible flavors, the 944 came with either a five-speed manual or a three-speed automatic. Discontinued in 1991 in favor of the 968 that we’ve previously covered in great detail, the 944 is the most successful member of the 924 lineage, totaling 171,000 sales.

 
 
 
 
 

Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories