The most authentic Porsche experience can be had in a 944?

By J.G. Pasterjak
Sep 3, 2023 | Porsche, 944, Porsche 944 | Posted in Features | From the May 2023 issue | Never miss an article

Photography Credit: J.G. Pasterjak

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We lived through the ’80s and ’90s and spent a lot of time with the era’s greatest hits–drove them, raced them, even knew them when they still had that new car smell. We fondly remember shopping for Kamei air dams, Hella lamps and 14-inch tires.

But were the cars of those times really that rad? 

We wondered that ourselves, so we ditched the rose-colored glasses for a few to take a look back. Were they all winners, or did a few duds get released? Let’s slip on some Vans, break out the vinyl and take a trip back in time.

This week, we're looking back at the Porsche 944.

[Is the Porsche 944 the best rad-era race car?]

The Porsche 19851/2 944 I owned is definitely on my “one that got away” list, as are most of the cars I owned in the 1990s and early 2000s. Although 944 prices are climbing rapidly, good deals are still out there today, too, but the window is closing rapidly.

Early 944s come in two basic flavors: 1983-’85 and 19851/2 and up. I vastly preferred the later interior–truthfully, it’s one of the most ergonomically sound cars I’ve ever driven–but I’ve spoken to plenty of folks who fit better in the early cars. 

[First-time Porsche buyer's guide: 5 models perfect for scratching that itch]

Regardless of age, 944s were mechanically similar throughout their run, and they’re generally robust cars when it comes to hard parts, although there are fickle bits. The 2.5-liter engines are understressed–producing just 147 horsepower from all that displacement isn’t exactly demanding–but all the front-motor accessories have fairly tight maintenance schedules by modern standards. And the timing belt that needs to be replaced every 60,000 miles or less also needs to be tensioned perfectly, lest it fail prematurely and take the whole engine with it. Also, be prepared to get nickel-and-dimed as you would with any 1980s German car. 

Hopefully this doesn’t scare you away, because the 944 is an extremely rewarding driving experience–even though it had a reputation as the “budget” Porsche back in the day. It may not have been able to run with the 911 of the day (although in Turbo trim it certainly could), but the behind-the-wheel experience was, and remains, pure Porsche.

Verdict: The window is closing if you want one. Not a fast car, but extremely satisfying.

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preach (dudeist priest)
preach (dudeist priest) GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
5/4/23 10:48 a.m.

07k swap one and have fun. With a glorious sound.

Javelin GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/4/23 1:20 p.m.

I recommend buying a high mileage one and then driving it cross country. 

nlevine GRM+ Memberand Reader
5/4/23 3:01 p.m.

I'm kind of partial to the 924S. Basically an early 944 in a slim-fitting suit...

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/5/23 9:18 a.m.

In reply to nlevine :

924S is pretty cool. Good or bad, you get the earlier interior and a bit of a sleeper. 

Appleseed MegaDork
5/5/23 9:20 a.m.

Wouldn't the most authentic Porsche experience be in a Volkswagen Beetle?

docwyte PowerDork
5/5/23 9:44 a.m.

I've had two 944 turbos.  Good cars but I'm not sure they're worth the entry price now.  Regular 944's are just too underpowered up here at altitude to really be fun.

nlevine GRM+ Memberand Reader
5/6/23 3:50 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

...and you can fit 2 baritone saxophones in the back of one...

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/6/23 4:51 p.m.
nlevine said:

I'm kind of partial to the 924S. Basically an early 944 in a slim-fitting suit...

I am partial to the last of the 924s with Porsche transmissions, only because I dig having a dogleg first gear.


I note that Jerry now has a 951, and may want to see it in person.  Only have ever driven/rode in non turbo 944s. (or the 924S, which as you note...) 


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