The Porsche 944 was a two-door sports car available from 1982 to 1991.
Porsche 944 Origins and Background
The origins of the Porsche 944 can be traced way back to the Porsche 914, with the Porsche 924 riding the gap between the two models. The 914, which first debuted in 1969, was Porsche’s joint project with Volkswagen to create an entry-level option for Porsche customers and a high-end sports car for Volkswagen. Porsche ended up selling 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder variants of the 914, but unforeseen costs prevented it from hitting the low price point Porsche desired. As a result, the 914 was phased out and eventually replaced by the 924 in 1976. The Porsche 924 featured a sharp nose front end with a VW/Audi 2.0L inline-4 engine, and was produced in an Audi plant. It eventually became available in higher performance turbocharged models, but the 924 was inching closer to a mid-range model, not the entry-level they were after.
Design and Development
Which is why they turned to develop the Porsche 944. The 944 was in many ways similar to the predecessor 914 and 924 models, with a sharp and more angular front-end design that skipped some of the usual Porsche aesthetics with its large, curved fenders and hard sloping rear end. Instead, the 944 featured a blunt nose that was rectangular in shape and flanked by two pop-up headlights. The passenger cabin was spacious, and the hatchback-style rear end featured a large glass pane allowing for a roomy rear area and plenty of visibility. The 944 took everything to a new level in comparison to the 924. It had closer to a 50/50 weight distribution and still utilized a front-end engine design with a rear-mounted transaxle. It was slightly quicker with improved handling and more luxurious features overall than the 924.
Engine and Performance
The first series of Porsche 944s featured a 2.5L inline-4 engine capable of producing up to 161 horsepower. The variants sold in the United States produced up to 147 horsepower due to the restrictive emissions equipment required, a catalytic converter. In 1985, a more powerful 944 Turbo was introduced. It used the same 2.5L inline-4 engine but was now turbocharged and produced a respectable 217 horsepower. This was improved to 247 horsepower in 1988, and the suspension was upgraded as well, now featuring adjustable Koni shocks and progressive rate springs. The 944 Turbo was the top-of-the-line model, offering a quick 0 to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h) time of just 5.9 seconds. It was also the first to achieve identical performance between the US models with a catalytic converter and those without. The front bumper was integrated for improved aerodynamics. The 944 S was released in 1987, featuring the same 2.5L inline-4 engine but tuned to produce 187 horsepower. In 1989, the 944 S2 came to the market and bumped up to a 3.0L inline-4 engine with 208 horsepower.
Features and Modifications
The first restyling of the 944 took place in 1985, when various mechanical upgrades added to increased reliability and performance, including a larger alternator, new control arms, and a larger fuel tank. Turning to the interior and you’d find upgraded dashboard and door panels, along with optional heated seats and a Porsche high fidelity sound system. More updates were released in 1987. Some were focused on safety elements, including anti-lock brakes and airbags, while other various styling modifications also took place, inside and out. The 1987 944 Turbo was the world’s first production car to come with drive and passenger side air bags as standard equipment. Convertible 944 Cabriolet variants were eventually produced, but proved to cause much difficulty in manufacturing, and therefore were sold in limited quantities. Just 16 made it to the US market in the 944 S2 Cabriolet trim, while a total of 625 944 Turbo Cabriolets were produced.
The End of the Road
As Porsche began to rework the 944 in early 1990, they realized that the design was straying far from what the 944 was and decided to discontinue the line, replacing it with the 968 model instead. The Porsche 944 and all of its variants sold around 170,000 units total over its production span, showing how it did hit the sweet spot for many sports car and Porsche enthusiasts, even though it featured a front-end, water-cooled engine with a style that didn’t resemble many other Porsche models.