Porsche 944 Was Lemonade Made With Volkswagen Lemons

This week’s selection, the Porsche 944, has quite a history. In short, there was a time when Volkswagen and Porsche partnered to develop a sports car. Both parties would sell it, as it is usual in badge engineering, until Volkswagen broke the deal to keep the project to itself. Shortly later, it chose to cancel it altogether. Of course Porsche would never passively let all that happen.

The car model we selected this time is a 1985 Porsche 944, once again listed on Bring a Trailer. The overall condition is quite good, including most original documents, a clean Carfax report, and all items properly working. However, it had a “parking lot incident” in 1987 which required some repairs. The car is currently available at US$ 20,000, with the auction ending tomorrow.

What is the Porsche 944 history?

We can say it is “part two” of a series. That VW-Porsche conundrum ended up with the latter developing a different car for itself, the 924. In short, it was Porsche’s entry-level car, which was continuously upgraded over the years. The 924 spawned a track version in 1981, the GTP LeMans, and the street-legal car arrived in the next year. Named 944, it used Porsche’s brand new, inline-four 2.5L engine.

Beige 1985 Porsche 944 Turbo
The Porsche 944 Turbo had more aerodynamic bumpers (source: WheelsAge)

Old and new model had a peaceful life at dealers because they were affordable and refined counterparts. The auctioned car brings the first updates made to the 944: some of them were hi-fi sound system, some mechanical changes to reduce noise and vibration, better alternator, larger fuel tank, and new wheels – Porsche replaced the “cookie cutter” design by the one nicknamed “phone dial”.

Bigger changes would appear later. The Turbo version appeared in 1986 making 217 hp and using several changes to be faster and more aerodynamic. A transmission change and the S upgrade would come later, the latter available for regular and Turbo. In 1989, the 944 entered the S2 phase with deeper changes and a cabriolet body for the first time – final assembly was assigned to ASC in Germany.

1987 Porsche 944 S
With the S version, the Porsche 944 received many technical improvements (source: WheelsAge)

What is the best year for Porsche 944?

Since the company was making it better year after year, we can say it is 1991, the final one. By that time, engineers were developing an S3 generation but realized that it would have enough changes to deserve a new name. In 1992, the model actually made room for the 968, which was on sale for four years. The table below compiles Porsche 944 specs of the most important versions.

9441982-19882.5L I4161 hp102,477
94419892.7L I4163 hp10,593
944 S1987-19892.5L I4187 hp12,936
944 S21989-19913.0L I4208 hp14,071
944 S2 Cabriolet1989-19913.0L I4208 hp5,656
944 Turbo1985-19882.5L I4 Turbo217 hp18,532
944 Turbo S19882.5L I4 Turbo247 hp1,635
944 Turbo (S2)1989-19912.5L I4 Turbo247 hp6,292
Tech specs of the Porsche 944 throughout its production run (source: Wikipedia)

We must note that the US-spec car had lower power in the beginning: 143 hp from 1982 to 1985, and 147 hp from 1985 to 1987. Those production figures include occasional units of race editions as well as some prototypes which did not go on sale. In 1983, 20 units were tuned by Callaway in the US, with the addition of a small turbocharger and a general engine tune up to reach 284 hp.

The S2 phase brought many improvements for the Porsche 944 in 1989 (source: WheelsAge)

Key points of Porsche 944 interior

Whether you are bidding on an auction or dealing directly with the seller, buying a used car requires a lot of attention. It is important to understand the car’s characteristics and learn some of its history in order to figure what issues it may have. Here, this article is going to show you some technical details that will help you identify when a unit of this car is in good condition.

Porsche 944 engine

Over the nine years of its production run, this model had three engines. The initial 2.5L was available with both natural aspiration and turbocharger; there was a 2.7L for one production year; and there was a 3.0L for the S2 version. They all use four inline cylinders.

Four-cylinder engine of a 1983 Porsche 944 (source: WheelsAge)

Porsche 944 seats

The first update, which happened in 1985, gave the 944 heated and powered seats. Later, the 1987 model in North-American specification became the first production car in the world to offer side airbags for both driver and front passenger as standard. There were several color schemes available.

Dashboard of the 1987 Porsche 944 Turbo (source: WheelsAge)
Schematic drawing of the Porsche 944 Turbo (source: WheelsAge)

Porsche 944 turbo kit

The very first 944 Turbo used a turbocharged and intercooled version of the standard 2.5L engine good for 217 hp. It had new forged pistons and a ceramic port liner to preserve the exhaust gas’ temperature.

The Turbo Cabriolet was the rarest version (source: WheelsAge)

Porsche 944 weight

In general, this model weighs around 2,600 lb. A very interesting feature is that such weight is distributed in the near-perfect ratio of 50/50 between axles. It was a great solution to the excessive oversteer found on early 911 units, which was caused by its rear-biased weight.

Porsche 944 wheels

Early units were equipped with a five-spoke wheel design commonly nicknamed “cookie cutter”. However, Porsche eventually replaced them with another five-spoke style that became more popular – and earned the nickname of “phone dial”. Fuchs wheels were an optional item for most of its life span, whether with 15 or 16 inches.

1989 Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet
The Porsche 944 Cabriolet was only produced in the S2 phase (source: WheelsAge)

Frequently asked questions

Are Porsche 944 expensive to maintain?

According to YourMechanic, you can expect to spend $595 per year on maintenance. Unfortunately, some components are very expensive: a control arm assembly, for example, may reach $4,000.

Are Porsche 944 going up in value?

Lately, we can observe a trend of car enthusiasts moving to cars of the 1980s and 1990s when it comes to classics. The 944 is an interesting example of that because it is not a mainstream car. So yes, we can expect its prices to go up.

Can you LS swap a Porsche 944?

Yes, but that is hardly advisable. Even the smallest LS engine is around 100 lb heavier than the 944’s original four-cylinder units. That harms its weight distribution and makes it more likely to oversteer. Besides, you might need to reinforce all the adjacent parts and to get a new, stronger transmission.

How fast is a Porsche 944?

Car and Driver tested the Turbo S in 1988. The car went from 0 to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and covered the quarter mile in 13.9 seconds at 101 mph. Porsche states that its top speed is of 162 mph.

How many Porsche 944 were made?

Over 172,000 units throughout all its variations. The exact figure is not clear because there is scarce information especially on the first years. Besides that, they consider some units produced as prototypes, without intention to go on sale.

How much horsepower does a Porsche 944 Turbo have?

The first version made 217 hp and was produced from 1985 to 1988. Then, the S2 update took it to 247 hp from 1988 until the end of production, in 1991.

What engine is in a Porsche 944?

Over nine years of production, the car had a 2.5L in both naturally-aspirated and turbocharged versions, a 2.7L, and a 3.0L engine. All of them had four inline cylinders.

Where is the DME relay on a Porsche 944?

According to 944Time, you will find it in a specific location inside the fuse box. In case you need to replace it in your Porsche 944, it is relatively easy to buy a spare one.

Author Profile

Danillo Almeida has explored his passion for cars in two distinct ways. The first one is his graduation course in Mechanical Engineering, which will hopefully lead to a job position in the field. The other one is expressing his knowledge and opinions on the matter through writing. Almeida has already contributed to blogs, stores, and websites in general writing automotive content in many formats.