The Porsche 944 is cool again
A Porsche that doesn't look like a Porsche with a four-cylinder mounted upfront? What could possibly go wrong?
Porscheists always seem to have problems with the affordable sports cars that come out of Stuttgart. The 912 and 914 are slowly getting the recognition they were supposed to get since their beginning however they were underappreciated for a long time. But then came the 924, the people's Porsche. The two-door coupé with a four-cylinder engine mounted up front was conjointly developed with Volkswagen, and is still struggling to gather some love. Is it because of its poor performance? non-Porsche looks? There are some hotter versions like the Turbo or the Carrera GT that are definitely more desirable and hopefully, someday even the base versions will have a more "positive" image.
In 1982, Porsche tried to make things right by updating its entry-level sports car. The name is 944 and its job is to make the cheap Porsche look and sound more dignitary of its badge among the true enthusiasts. Unlike the 924, the 944 was very well received by the public and Stuttgart saw over 113'000 of these cars come out of the factory between 1982 and 1989. A true success. The reason may have been that the 944 had a more jacked-up design with its fender flares, and a more powerful 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine that was engineered from scratch by Porsche. But that's not it.
The 944 was fundamentally different from its predecessor, and it was a better car to put it simply. The car now had a 50/50 weight distribution that meant better driving dynamics, four-wheel disc brakes, and suspension that came from the 924 Turbo. The affordable Porsche was now finally a pretty good sports car.
For a very long time, the 944 was considered the ultimate bargain Porsche. More recently, the prices have risen across all markets, but you will still be able to find a clean one at a reasonable price (around £12K). If you're in the market for a 944, I would not wait too long to get it. Again, the once entry-level Porsche is now a classic and we all have seen what happens with classic Porsches. Talking about classic, let's talk about the looks. For a long time, I used to dislike the transaxle cars that came out of Zuffenhausen, and that's because they did not really look like... Porsches. However, the only reference back then was the 911. Putting this on the side, you start realizing that these designs are immensely cool. The 944 has this distinctive '80s design that inspired other carmakers like Mazda with the RX-7. You've got the iconic pop-up headlights, the old-school interior, and a body shape that we do not see on any modern sports car. The proportions are perfect and when you look at the profile, it's not hard to realize that there is a 50/50 weight distribution. The 944 was meant for daily driving and it offers practicalities that the 911 does not. For example, the trunk is vast and even though there is no luggage space at the front like the 911, you can put much more stuff in a 944 than in any Porsche of the period.
This practicality continues inside with a very airy cabin. The seats are typical Porsche of the era and I feel that they are positioned a bit higher than in the 911 to facilitate access. Half leather, half fabric, there were also the optional Pascha seats in velour that were psychedelically cool. The rest of the inside is pretty standard and reminds us of simpler times where you did not have too many controls and you focused only on the driving. And about the driving. Well, it's super fun and louder than expected! I was expecting the four-cylinder to be a bit dull but it was surprisingly responsive, picked up speed quite easily, and made a very nice noise. Obviously, it's no race car, and the model we tried out "only" had 160 horsepower. However, the 944 proves that you don't need a thousand horsepower to have fun. If you're looking for something a bit more powerful, go for the 944 Turbo and its 220 horsepower.
I did not really know what to expect of the Porsche 944. It has never been a dream car for me and it probably never will. Not because I do not like it, but because all I want is the 911. And that's why the 944 has been overlooked for so many years. Because people constantly compare it to the 911. But the more time I spent around it, the more I understood why its current owner purchased it. It's all about this vibe of going back to the '80s with a car that looks and drives fantastic. All of that in a package that does not cost too much to acquire and maintain. If you're asking me if the Porsche 944 is cool again, I'll simply reply that it has always been.
I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Daniel Zizka for giving me the opportunity to review and shoot this car. He is one talented car photographer and you should totally check his Instagram account: www.instagram.com/danielzizka/
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