Worn-out engine and suspension, crash damage, service history, damaged interiors
Like the 924 on which it was based, the 944 is a cheap way into Porsche ownership. However, if the 924 is the 'entry-level' Porsche, the 944 is the affordable luxury Porsche, less compromising than a 911, less overblown than a 968, but still embodying all the Porsche performance ethos. Seating four - although those in the back will have to be small - the 944 has its engine at the front and is water-cooled. This means Porsche purists will always sneer that it's not a proper Porsche, but it is, of course, rear-wheel drive and has its transmission mounted behind. More than that, the 944 has a real Porsche engine - most 924s used a VW unit. Many drivers graduate to a 944 from a Nissan 200SX, 300ZX, Toyota Supra or Honda Prelude, as it bridges the gap between more mainstream models and hardcore supercars.
A £1500 944 is going to be very scrappy indeed, but they do exist. As usual, however, the advice is to buy the best you can afford. The 944 Lux, the first model launched, has most of its enhancements on the outside, including alloy wheels, electric windows and mirrors, headlamp washers and low-profile tyres, while leather trim and air-conditioning were popular choices from the options menu. Most, in fact, were specified to the hilt, as buyers went to town with the money saved by not buying a 911 and blew it all on gadgets, comforters and toys.
If out-and-out performance, rather than a Mission Control cabin, is your thing, then the early 944 Lux is not the model to go for - the 944 is a big, heavy car, and the four-cylinder 163 bhp engine has to work hard. The S and S2 have a bit more punch, although the Lux did get a small boost in mid-'88, when it gained four valves per cylinder. For the full-on experience, the Turbo lives up to all expectations; early versions had 225bhp, before 250bhp became standard, and are more than brutal enough to compensate for flagging testosterone levels (the 944 has always been a popular male-menopause purchase). It makes the ideal vehicle to blast down to one's villa on the Costa del Sol or Algarve, or other forever-1980s destinations where it still looks the business. Now that 944s are not that expensive, however, keen drivers are also using them for track days, amateur racing and local hillclimbs.
Porsche 944 Buying Guide
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26 July 2006
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