Front-engined Porsches get a bad wrap for being something of a mixed bag; the 924 being fitted with a VW van engine, the 928 being more complicated and mechanically temperamental than a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier and the 968 being so obscure that barely anyone knows it existed. However, the 944 was by far the best of the breed in terms of marrying performance and reliability; hence becoming a cult classic and a true symbol of the 1980’s.
Gaining legendary status for its handling, acceleration, precise and refined engines and oodles of style, the car is often likened to the Ferrari Testarossa in terms of it being a work of crafted beauty; only far more reliable and much easier to obtain. 30 years later and such is the following for this car that thousands remain on the road, cared for by groups of devoted enthusiasts who truly appreciate this Teutonic gem.
However, the Porsche 944, for all its glory, was not immune to faults. While being far more reliable than the top-of-the-range 928 due to its simplicity, the car was still quite a fragile thing when you get down to brass taxes. Filled to the brim with sensitive driving gear and engine components, the 944, when it did break, broke spectacularly and could easily leave one seriously out of pocket.
The most notable dilemma one could face with the 944 was on the sportier 944S 16V, which suffered from very delicate valve gear and complicated belt and chain-drive for the camshafts. These were the most prone to failure if not maintained frequently and properly, as damage to these major components could be easily incurred and expensive to fix.
However, on a more positive note, the 944, considering its age, matures very well compared to other cars of its type; on the condition that it’s well cared for. The sheer number of 944’s left on the road means that spare parts are easy to come by, including body panels, engine parts and other mechanical items such as replacement suspension components, brakes and electrics.
Most of all though, when it comes to choosing a 944, despite how cheap it may come and how good it may look, prudence is by far the order of the day.
Because these cars are so cheap on the second-hand market, many people bought these up as budget sports cars and drove them to within an inch of their lives. The result is a surprisingly high number of bangers still roaming the streets; only days away from a simply hideous breakdown. Consider also the person you’re buying it from as they may have been a little too exuberant with their 944; likely thinking that the Porsche’s legendary handling would get them out of any scrape. These cars were put together with unrivalled precision, therefore any notable gaps or misaligned panels could be the sign of a botched, post-accident repair.
Perhaps the most superficial problem one may face with regard to the 944 comes down to image.
The mid-range 944 and the lowly 924 are not exactly held in high esteem among the Porsche community as they were mass-produced cars to try and provide customers with a cheaper alternative to the 928 and a novice’s 911. During its production life, the 911 was the coveted original, while the 928 and later 968 were seen as the pinnacles of Porsche’s innovation and technological prowess. Compared to the 928, the lower-end 924 and 944 screamed of someone who didn’t have the money for the top-range 928 and thus had to make do with second-best. On top of that, many deride the front-engine Porsche models as cars for people who aren’t ‘man’ enough to drive the scary and unpredictable 911 and its insane handling (or lack thereof). Even today, front-engine Porsche’s are seen as a car for someone who fears that owning a 911 would immediately put them in a ditch; taillights first.
However, don’t let the Porsche aficionados put you off as the 944 and, to an extent, the 924 are no less sports cars than the 911 or 928. The 944 will deliver for you the power and precision engineering one would expect from a German high-performance sports car. It truly is the perfect budget supercar, being cheaper than a Ferrari 348 but with twice the performance and credibility.
It falls down to #18 today due to its potential reliability issues, but if you look hard enough and find examples slightly up the price ladder from the slew of bangers that are as cheap as chips, you’re more than likely to find an absolute minter which will give you all the fun you’d expect from a car that can easily hit 150mph! 😀
- Comfort – 4/10 – Sports car suspension keeps this one low, but internal refinements are a touch better than most
- Practicality – 5/10 – Useful rear hatch makes it especially practical for a car of its class, but rear seats are a joke
- Reliability – 8/10 – Of the Front-engine Porsche models, this was by far the most sturdy
- Speed – 8/10 – It can do 150mph
- Handling – 8/10 – Will happily hold most corners, but won’t get you out of all scrapes
- Looks – 10/10 – *Drools!*
- Equipment – 7/10 – Comes with a fair number of features, but it’s still a sports car so speed was truly its selling point
- Price – 7/10 – Among the cheapest Porsches you can buy
- Value – 5/10 – Can make a pretty penny, but I don’t see values going up too much for at least a few years. 928’s and 968’s are where the value’s really at.
- Total – 62/90 – The iconic 80’s sports car you always promised yourself, but the reality may be a little more uncomfortable than you imagined.