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ROAD TEST – PORSCHE 944

ROAD TEST – PORSCHE 944

Posted by Matt Bell on 30th October 2018

Chris Stacey test drives and reviews the 1989 Porsche 944 Lux…

Let’s begin by dismissing the thought that a 944 isn’t a proper Porsche, as from its launch in 1982, the Porsche 944 has been in the shadow of the 911. While it’s true the rear-engined 911 is a top-performer and one of the longest-running sports car lines in the world, that doesn’t mean any other Porsche product is unworthy of the name.

The choice of a four cylinder engine for such an upmarket car may seem odd but this configuration plus its all-alloy construction saved weight and space. Equipped with balancer shafts, it’s as smooth as a six but of course still has a four-pot exhaust note. With a relatively light but large capacity engine at the front, Porsche chose to place the five-speed gearbox at the rear, giving the 944 near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution. At a stroke, their designers had banished the 911’s main flaw, its rear-biased weight distribution and tail-happy handling. Now the 944 starts to make sense! Add a range of engines in capacities of 2.5, 2.7 and 3 litre, with eight or sixteen valves plus a turbo option kicking out almost 250 horsepower, there is a 944 to suit every driver’s taste. The 944 turbo’s 0-60 time of 5.5 seconds almost matches the acceleration of a contemporary 911 turbo, and the 944 has the better road manners. The Porsche 944 is a sports car that can stand entirely on its own merits.

It’s also a completely practical proposition. The 944 is as mechanically robust as any German car and not expensive to service, though it’s essential to have annual oil changes regardless of mileage, to protect the Alusil cylinder bores. The stylish interior was taken from the 924 and with rear seats that fold flat plus a large tailgate, the 944 can be a useful load carrier when necessary. The body was galvanised during production, which should give excellent corrosion protection unless subjected to poor quality accident repairs in the past.

This 1989 944 uses the 2.7 litre eight-valve engine and comes with full service history, three previous owners on the registration document and just over 89,000 miles on the clock. Finished in Champagne metallic gold with a beige cloth interior and standing on factory-option Porsche turbo alloy wheels, the first appearance is extremely smart. Close inspection shows no serious blemishes though there are a few minor marks to the bodywork. These simply serve to confirm the genuine nature of this almost 30 year old car, which clearly hasn’t been subjected to a quick blow-over paint job for sale. So far so good. The alloy wheels are clean and free from kerb damage, all shod with Goodyear tyres showing plenty of remaining tread depth. The wheel arches and underside are clean and free from corrosion.

The engine bay looks tidy, without any signs of fluid leaks. Inside, this Porsche is almost immaculate. The seats are covered in ribbed beige fabric and are completely free from stains, tears or signs of wear, as are the pale-coloured carpets. It’s no exaggeration to say this cabin is virtually as new. Settling into the sculpted driver’s seat is a pleasure; turning the ignition key shows all warning lights are present and correct before the engine starts easily.

On the road

On the move, the 944 pulls strongly with a muted four cylinder growl from the smooth-as-silk engine. The gears change precisely and smoothly as the car accelerates strongly. The suspension feels fresh, without unexpected thumps or rattles; the steering is pleasantly weighted and free from play. The brakes are effective, pulling the car up straight and true. This Porsche drives beautifully, exactly as expected of a relatively low mileage, well-maintained example.

Verdict

The 944 is a brilliant entry point into Porsche ownership with low mileage examples like this all sitting under £12,000. Prices have risen relentlessly over the last five years as classic buyers have started to see past the ‘poor man’s 911’ myth. This is clearly a fine example, offered at an appropriate price considering its undoubted quality.

While the 8-valve 2.7 litre Lux model may not be the top specification, don’t be put off by that, as in the real world it’s still decently quick, and easier to live with than a turbo. With just three previous owners and a complete service history, the sub-90,000 mileage suggests there’s a lot of life left in the car. 944 prices will only continue to climb, so now is the time to buy.

Tech spec:
Engine: 2,680cc Straight 4
Power: 165bhp
Top Speed: 141mph
0-60mph: 7.5secs
Economy: 24.0mpg
Gearbox: 5-speed manual