(first posted 10/15/2015) With more versatile models such as the Cayenne, Panamera, and Macan, I’m sure the number of Porsches serving as daily drivers has increased significantly in recent years. While even new 911s, Boxsters, and Caymans might make suitable daily drivers for some individuals, I’m willing to bet the large majority of 944s still alive and kicking do not see daily use.
First introduced as a 1982 model, the Porsche 944 was more or less an upgraded version of the somewhat derided entry-level 924. In fact, it effectively replaced the 924 as Porsche’s entry-level model in the U.S. from 1982-1986, upon which the 924 briefly return for 1987-1988. Compared to the 924, the 944 received enhancements to its steering, suspension, and brakes, but the big improvement was its new SOHC 2.5L I4.
Essentially chopping the 928’s 4.5L V8 engine in half, this new 2.5L I4 had an identical stroke and slightly larger bore to the V8, resulting in a displacement of slightly more than half the V8’s. With silicon-aluminum alloy block and crossflow aluminum head construction, this new engine featured computer controlled electronic fuel injection and twin counter-weighted balance shafts for reduced vibration.
Output of this 2.5L for U.S.-specification was 143 horsepower and 137 pounds-feet of torque, with a factory reported zero-to-sixty time of 8.3 seconds. European models had a slightly tighter compression ratio allowing for 161 horsepower and 151 pounds-feet of torque. Larger diameter wheels and wider tires were standard for enhanced performance, necessitating slightly wider fenders.
While some may have questioned the 924’s credentials as a “real Porsche”, these power and handling upgrades helped propel the 944 to much higher acclaim than its tamer older sibling. Making Car and Driver’s 10Best List in 1983, 1985, 1985, and 1986 (944 Turbo), the magazine also bestowed the 944 with the tile of “Best Handling Production Car in America” in 1984.
Apart from the aforementioned new wheels and revised fenders, slightly tweaked lower fascias were about all that visually distinguished the 944 from the 924 on the outside. Porsche 944 interiors were initially carryover from the 924, but a significant update mid-way through the 1985 model year, garnering the “1985.5” designation, brought a significant redesign to the 944’s interior.
The new interior featured a completely redesigned instrument panel and door panels, for a far more visually appealing “cockpit” look. North American 944s were typically highly-optioned, including air conditioning, power windows, leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated power seats (new for 1985.5), heated exterior side mirrors, tinted glass, and a sunroof.
1985.5 changes were not just limited to the interior, with several mechanical improvements coming along for the mid-year refresh. Transaxle mounts were improved for less vibration and the fuel tank was enlarged to 21.1 gallons. Additionally, new cast alloy front and rear control arms and semi-trailing arms were added, as was a more powerful alternator.
The 944 was continuously improved over the rest of its life, seeing substantial power increases in the form of the 944 Turbo, 944 S, 944S2, and 944 Turbo S. The latter of these produced a healthy 247 horsepower and 258 pounds-feet of torque, achieving zero-to-sixty in 5.5 seconds and running a quarter mile in only 13.9 seconds at 101 miles per hour.
Retailing for $21,440 in 1985 ($47,486 in 2015), the base Porsche 944 like our featured car offered exceptional performance for a relative bargain by today’s standards. Admittedly, the 944 Turbo S bumped the price up significantly, with MSRP at $47,432 ($105,053 in 2015) for its 1988 introduction. For comparison, the least expensive model in Porsche’s 2015 U.S. lineup is the $52,100 Boxster. Making 265 horsepower with a zero-to-sixty time of 5.5 seconds, raw power is quite similar to the 1988 944 Turbo S.
The value for good condition 944s has more than doubled in the past decade, with excellent condition examples averaging nearly $20,000 (almost its original value, not inflated) as of fall 2015. I’d say this one is pretty excellent, and considering this, it’s a little nerve-wracking seeing it parked in the center of the narrow-space commuter rail parking lot, where my own car has received numerous irritating scratches.