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Porsche 944 portrait

February 17, 2022 / By Richard Lindhorst
Porsche 944 portrait

The Porsche 944 was Porsche’s second model with a water-cooled in-line four-cylinder engine at the front and transmission at the rear, i.e. in transaxle design. It directly followed the success story of the Porsche 924. The 2+2 seater sports car was launched in 1981 and was built at Audi in Neckarsulm until 1991. Only the very last models rolled off the production line in Zuffenhausen. It was available as a coupe and from 1989 to 1991 as a convertible as well. With over 160,000 vehicles built, the 944 was the best-selling Porsche sports car of all time until it was outsold by the Porsche 996.


Development

At the beginning of the 1980s, the Porsche 944 was supposed to close the gap between the entry-level 924 and the 911 SC, or 928. Although the 924 Turbo was an extremely potent model for its time, the 2-liter four-cylinder engine with DNA from the Volkswagen Group was not charismatic enough for die-hard Porsche fans. After all, it was originally designed for the bland Audi 100. Commercially, however, it was a great success. So in that respect, the Porsche 944 had big shoes to fill. At the time of its presentation in the fall of 1981, 110,000 units of the 924 had already been sold.

Like the 924, the Porsche 944 is based on a transaxle platform, i.e. engine at the front and transmission at the rear. This design ensures a very balanced weight distribution. Unlike the Porsche 911 G-model, which was sometimes difficult to drive at the limit, this balance made the 944 way easier to drive quickly. This friendly characteristics, coupled with good interior space, plenty of trunk space and low fuel consumption made it a real everyday sports car. The Porsche 944 was a great success, especially in the USA. It is still one of the most sought-after Porsche models there today. It was often cited as the “best handling car” of its day, for example by Car & Driver.

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Porsche 944/I (1982 – 1984)

The Porsche 944 was to be given an independent, genuine Porsche powerplant. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with two balancing shafts shares many basic dimensions with the 928’s V8. The 8-valve engine produced 163 hp at 5,800 rpm from a displacement of 2,479 cc. Due to the high compression ratio of 10.6 : 1, it offered extraordinarily good fuel economy for a sports car in addition to the appealing performance. An average fuel consumption of more than 25 mpg (US) was easy to achiev. The 944 was available with either a 5-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission.

Not only the engine was to become more muscular, but also the body. The Porsche 944 therefore grew noticeably in width compared with the 924. An additional 50 mm brought it to a total width of 1,735 mm. Despite the resulting larger frontal area, drag changed only marginally. The body had a remarkable cw value of 0.35. To reduce production costs, the Porsche 944 also adopted some body parts from the 924. The hood, headlights, roof, doors, glass tailgate, rear end and taillights were shared. In an official image film, the 944 was described as an exterior synthesis of the 924 and 928.

The Porsche 944 shares quite a few parts with the 924

In the interior, however, the Porsche 944/I could hardly hide its kinship to the 924. Although the instruments have silver bezels and the color scheme of the dials has also changed, the arrangement is absolutely identical to the 924. Instrument cluster, speedometer, tachometer, oil pressure gauge, clock, voltmeter, in other words a total of six round instruments complete the overall picture in the Porsche 944/I. On vehicles with air conditioning, the voltmeter is omitted in favor of the air con regulator.

On the chassis side, there was independent suspension with MacPherson struts and a 20 mm anti roll bar at the front and independent suspension with semi trailing arms and a torsion bar spring at the rear. This basic design is common to all 944s. The brakes were a simple floating caliper setup with internally ventilated brake discs at front and rear. ABS was not yet available for the 944/I. Power steering was not available until the 1983 model year, as was the standard electrically adjustable and heated passenger-side exterior mirror.


Porsche 944/II (1985 – 1991)

After more than 60,000 Porsche 944/I had been sold in three years, a major overhaul was due for the 1985 model year. The interior was completely redesigned. Gone were the days of the 70’s style individual gauges. A big instrument cluster now housed four instruments. The dashboard also accommodated the modern, new air-conditioning control panel and a digital stopwatch. The door panels and center console were also significantly refreshed. One of the biggest criticisms of the first series has also been eliminated. There, the steering column was positioned too low for tall drivers. Thanks to the 12 millimeter raised mounting, there was significantly more legroom at the thighs.

The exterior changes to the Porsche 944/II are less obvious. For example, the radio antenna was integrated into the windshield. As a result, both fenders look more plain. Porsche also adapted the doors. From model year 1985 onwards, all production models received sturdy guard rails in the doors. This increased passive safety in the event of a side impact. The enlargement of the fuel tank to 80 liters also enabled ranges of over 500 miles without stopping. In the engine bay, the Porsche 944/II received only minor revisions. Porsche installed a more powerful alternator (115 instead of the previous 90 A) and prepared all engines for catalytic converters. Porsche also installed aluminum wishbones on the front axle.

With the Turbo came the top model of the Porsche 944 lineup in 1985

Porsche also introduced a new model in 1985. Internally, it was called Porsche 951, but its official name was 944 Turbo. From the outside, it can be recognized by the integrated lights in the redesigned front apron. This had an air intake above the license plate holder. At the rear, there was a new diffuser. These measures brought about a reduction in the cw value to 0.33. Another distinguishing feature are the four-piston fixed caliper brakes all around. Not visible are the suspension changes. A firmer chassis with beefed-up anti roll bars at the front (24 mm) and from then on rear (18 mm) in combination with power steering as standard tamed the Turbo.

The engine of the 944’s new top model received a KKK turbocharger. Porsche lowered the compression ratio of the otherwise pretty similiar basic engine to 8.0 : 1 in favor of turbocharging. These measures enabled the Porsche 944 Turbo to achieve 220 hp. That was enough for a top speed of 152 mph. Acceleration from 0 to 62 mph in 6.3 seconds was also impressive.

944 S, ABS and Airbags followed in 1987. A year later, the Turbo S came along

Two years after the introduction of the 944/II, Porsche launched the 944 S for the 1987 model year. The body and equipment were still identical to the base model. Under the hood, however, there was a lot of news. The 2.5-liter engine received the cylinder head from the 928 S4 with four-valves per cylinder and dual overhead camshafts. The camshaft drive itself was reinforced. Morover, Porsche modified the exhaust system, oil pan and fuel injection as well. By simultaneously raising the compression ratio to 10.9 : 1, the 944 S produced a maximum of 190 hp at 6,000 rpm. Available exclusively as a 5-speed manual, the sixteen-valve 944 S cracked 62 mph in 7.9 seconds and reached 142 mph.

Porsche 944 S engine bay
The 2,5 Liter 16V engine in the 944 S with its rev happy nature made 190 hp © Bastien Bochmann

Further innovations in the series were found in the interior. From now on, the options list included fully electric seats and airbags. Dual airbags were standard on the U.S. Turbo, and optional on the 944 and 944 S. Incidentally, this made Porsche the first European manufacturer to offer a vehicle with standard airbags in the USA. ABS, like a sports suspension, was available on all models as an optional extra. Vehicles with ABS, however, were no longer available with Fuchs rims due to necessary adjustments to the steering geometry. Instead, the 16″ telephone rims of the Porsche 928 S were added to the range.

The Turbo S engine was very similar to the 944 Turbo Cup’s

In 1988, the transaxle sports car received an even sharper version, the Porsche 944 Turbo S. This featured a power unit derived directly from the 944 Turbo Cup with 250 hp at 6,000 rpm. A reinforced clutch and a 40% limited slip differential came as standard. At the same time, it received the brake system with ABS one-to-one from the Porsche 928 S4. With a top speed of 161 mph and a 0 – 62 mph time of 5.9 seconds, the extremely rare top 944, of which only 1,635 were built, reached performance levels that were actually reserved for the 911. It was only available in the 1988 model year and cost 99,800 DM. Most (reportedly 1,000) examples had the color Silver Rose.

1989, with the Porsche 944 S2, a cabrio was finally availabe

After countless technical revisions to the 944, Porsche presented the largest mass produced 4-cylinder petrol engine in the 944 S2 for the 1989 model year. 3 liters of displacement and 211 hp were the result. There was also ABS as standard. Everything was packed into the slick Turbo body. The 944 S2 thus replaced the 944 S. And as a first, Porsche finally offered a cabriolet on the 944 S2 basis. Before 1989 there was no Transaxle cab at all from Zuffenhausen. To make them, bodies of the Porsche 944 S2 Coupe were delivered to the American Sunroof Company. There, the roof was cut off and a second floor was welded in.

At the same time, the base model received an upgraded 2.7-liter engine with 165 hp. However, this was only on offer for one year. From 1990 onwards, only the Porsche 944 S2, Turbo and Turbo S were available. Just a year later in 1991, the Porsche 944’s production. Being Porsche, they of course came up with something special for its farewell. In a special series, limited to 528 pieces, Porrsche offered a 944 Turbo Cabrio. After a total of 163,303 Porsche 944s had been produced, the end came. The last models were produced in Zuffenhausen starting in May. The contract with Audi for 944 production in Neckarsulm ended in April 1991.

Specifications & production numbers

Due to the continuous development program of the Porsche 944, there are sometimes considerable deviations of the same model between the individual model years. The presentation here is separated into 944 Coupe in its basic version and 944 S, S2, Turbo, Turbo S and the associated convertible variants.

Specifications of the Porsche 944

944/I Coupe944/II Coupe non-cat944/II Coupe with cat944/II Coupe with cat Kat944/II Coupe (2,7)
model year:1982 - 19841985 - 19871986 - 198719881989
engine:N/A inline 4-cylinder
M44/01 [M44/03]
N/A inline 4-cylinder
M44/05 [M44/06]
N/A inline 4-cylinder
M44/07 [M44/08]
N/A inline 4-cylinder
M44/09 [M44/10]
N/A inline 4-cylinder
M44/11 [M44/12]
capacity:2,479 cm³2,479 cm³2,479 cm³2,479 cm³2,681 cm³
bore x stroke:100,0 × 78,9 mm100,0 × 78,9 mm100,0 × 78,9 mm100,0 × 78,9 mm104,0 × 78,9 mm
power:120 kW (163 PS)
at 5,800 rpm
120 kW (163 PS)
at 5,800 rpm
110 kW (150 PS)
at 5,800 rpm
118 kW (160 PS)
at 5,800 rpm
121 kW (165 PS)
at 5,800 rpm
torque:205 Nm
at 3,000 rpm
205 Nm
at 3,000 rpm
195 Nm
at 3,000 rpm
210 Nm
at 4,500 rpm
225 Nm
at 4,200 rpm
compression ratio:10,6 : 110,6 : 19,7 : 110,2 : 110,9 : 1
valvetrain:single overhead
camshaft (SOHC)
single overhead
camshaft (SOHC)
single overhead
camshaft (SOHC)
single overhead
camshaft (SOHC)
single overhead
camshaft (SOHC)
fuel injection:Bosch L-Jetronic
with Digital Motor
Electronics (DME)
Bosch L-Jetronic
with Digital Motor
Electronics (DME)
Bosch L-Jetronic
with Digital Motor
Electronics (DME)
Bosch L-Jetronic
with Digital Motor
Electronics (DME)
Bosch L-Jetronic
with Digital Motor
Electronics (DME)
ignition:contactless single
ignition
contactless single
ignition
contactless single
ignition
contactless single
ignition
contactless single
ignition
cooling:water coolingwater coolingwater coolingwater coolingwater cooling
gearbox:5-speed manual
gearbox 016J
or 3-speed automatic
gearbox 087M
5-speed manual
gearbox 016J
or 3-speed automatic
gearbox 087M
5-speed manual
gearbox 016J
or 3-speed automatic
gearbox 087M
5-speed manual
gearbox 016J
or 3-speed automatic
gearbox 087M
5-speed manual
gearbox 016J
or 3-speed automatic
gearbox 087M
drive:rear wheel driverear wheel driverear wheel driverear wheel driverear wheel drive
brakes:ventilated disc brakes
(282,5 mm front, 289 mm rear),
floating calipers
ventilated disc brakes
(282,5 mm front, 289 mm rear),
floating calipers
ventilated disc brakes
(282,5 mm front, 289 mm rear),
floating calipers
ventilated disc brakes
(282,5 mm front, 289 mm rear),
floating calipers
ventilated disc brakes
(282,5 mm front, 289 mm rear),
floating calipers
front suspension:MacPherson struts,
wishbones, anti roll bar
MacPherson struts,
wishbones, anti roll bar
MacPherson struts,
wishbones, anti roll bar
MacPherson struts,
wishbones, anti roll bar
MacPherson struts,
wishbones, anti roll bar
rear suspenion:semi-trailing armssemi-trailing armssemi-trailing armssemi-trailing armssemi-trailing arms
front spring setup:coil springscoil springscoil springscoil springscoil springs
rear spring setup:torsion bar springs,
telescopic shock absorbers
torsion bar springs,
telescopic shock absorbers
torsion bar springs,
telescopic shock absorbers
torsion bar springs,
telescopic shock absorbers
torsion bar springs,
telescopic shock absorbers
track width:1477/1451 mm1477/1451 mm1477/1451 mm1477/1451 mm1477/1451 mm
wheelbase:2400 mm2400 mm2400 mm2400 mm2400 mm
wheels:7J x 15 or
7J x 15 / 8J x 15 or
7J x 16
7J x 15 or
7J x 15 / 8J x 15 or
7J x 16
7J x 15 or
7J x 16
7J x 15 or
7J x 16
7J x 15 or
7J x 16
tyres:185/70 VR 15 or
215/60 VR 15 or
205/55 VR 16
185/70 VR 15 or
215/60 VR 15 or
205/55 VR 16
195/65 VR 15 or
205/60 VR 15 or
205/55 VR 16
195/65 VR 15 or
205/60 VR 15 or
205/55 VR 16
195/65 VR 15 or
205/60 VR 15 or
205/55 VR 16
dimensions l x w x h:4200 × 1735 × 1275 mm4200 × 1735 × 1275 mm4200 × 1735 × 1275 mm4200 × 1735 × 1275 mm4200 × 1735 × 1275 mm
kurb weight:1,180 kg [1,210 kg]1,210 kg1,210 kg
(from 1987: 1,240 kg)
1,260 kg1,290 kg
top speed:137 mph137 mph130 mph135 mph [133 mph]137 mph [135 mph]
accleration 0 - 62 mph:8.4 s [9.6 s]8.4 s [9.6 s]8.5 s [10.0 s]8.4 s [9.6 s]8.2 s [9.4 s]
production numbers:65,48641,174*41,174*5,8404,426
The values in square brackets [ ] stand for the automatic version.
*) The production numbers of the 944/II from 1985-1987 were not recorded separately between cat/non-cat.


Specifications of the Porsche 944 S, S2, Turbo & Turbo S

944 S944 S2944 S2 Cabriolet944 Turbo (951)944 Turbo (951)944 Turbo Cabriolet944 Turbo S (951)
model year:1987 - 19881989 - 19911989 - 19911985 - 19881989 - 199119911988
engine:N/A inline 4-cylinder M44/40N/A inline 4-cylinder
M44/41
N/A inline 4-cylinder
M44/41
4-cylinder
turbocharged engine
M44/51
4-cylinder
turbocharged engine
M44/52
4-cylinder
turbocharged engine
M44/52
4-cylinder
turbocharged engine
M44/52
capacity:2,479 cm³2,990 cm³2,990 cm³2,479 cm³2,479 cm³2,479 cm³2,479 cm³
bore x stroke:100,0 × 78,9 mm104,0 × 88,0 mm104,0 × 88,0 mm100,0 × 78,9 mm100,0 × 78,9 mm100,0 × 78,9 mm100,0 × 78,9 mm
power:140 kW (190 PS)
at 6,000 rpm
155 kW (211 PS)
at 5,800 rpm
155 kW (211 PS)
at 5,800 rpm
162 kW (220 PS)
at 5,800 rpm
184 kW (250 PS)
at 6,000 rpm
184 kW (250 PS)
at 6,000 rpm
184 kW (250 PS)
at 6,000 rpm
torque:230 Nm
at 4,300 rpm
280 Nm
at 4,000 rpm
280 Nm
at 4,000 rpm
330 Nm
at 3,500 rpm
350 Nm
at 4,000 rpm
350 Nm
at 4,000 rpm
350 Nm
at 4,000 rpm
compression ratio:10,9 : 110,9 : 110,9 : 18,0 : 18,0 : 18,0 : 18,0 : 1
valvetrain:dual overhead
camshaft (DOHC)
dual overhead
camshaft (DOHC)
dual overhead
camshaft (DOHC)
dual overhead
camshaft (DOHC)
dual overhead
camshaft (DOHC)
dual overhead
camshaft (DOHC)
dual overhead
camshaft (DOHC)
fuel injection:Bosch L-Jetronic with
Digital Motor Electronics (DME)
Bosch L-Jetronic with
Digital Motor Electronics (DME)
Bosch L-Jetronic with
Digital Motor Electronics (DME)
Bosch L-Jetronic with
Digital Motor Electronics (DME)
Bosch L-Jetronic with
Digital Motor Electronics (DME)
Bosch L-Jetronic with
Digital Motor Electronics (DME)
Bosch L-Jetronic with
Digital Motor Electronics (DME)
ignition:contactless
single ignition
contactless
single ignition
contactless
single ignition
contactless
single ignition
contactless
single ignition
contactless
single ignition
contactless
single ignition
cooling:water coolingwater coolingwater coolingwater coolingwater coolingwater coolingwater cooling
gearbox:5-speed
manual gearbox
5-speed
manual gearbox
5-speed
manual gearbox
5-speed
manual gearbox
5-speed
manual gearbox
5-speed
manual gearbox
5-speed
manual gearbox
drive:rear wheel driverear wheel driverear wheel driverear wheel driverear wheel driverear wheel driverear wheel drive
brakes:ventilated disc brakes
(282,5 mm front, 289 mm rear)
floating calipers
ventilated disc brakes
(298 mm front, 299 mm rear),
4-piston fixed calipers
ventilated disc brakes
(298 mm front, 299 mm rear),
4-piston fixed calipers
ventilated disc brakes
(298 mm front, 299 mm rear),
4-piston fixed calipers
ventilated disc brakes
(304 mm front, 299 mm rear),
4-piston fixed calipers
ventilated disc brakes
(304 mm front, 299 mm rear),
4-piston fixed calipers
ventilated disc brakes
(304 mm front, 299 mm rear),
4-piston fixed calipers
front suspension:MacPherson struts,
wishbones,
anti roll bar
MacPherson struts,
wishbones,
anti roll bar
MacPherson struts,
wishbones,
anti roll bar
MacPherson struts,
wishbones,
anti roll bar
MacPherson struts,
wishbones,
anti roll bar
MacPherson struts,
wishbones,
anti roll bar
MacPherson struts,
wishbones,
anti roll bar
rear suspenion:semi-trailing arms
optional anti roll bar
semi-trailing arms
anti roll bar
semi-trailing arms
anti roll bar
semi-trailing arms
anti roll bar
semi-trailing arms
anti roll bar
semi-trailing arms
anti roll bar
semi-trailing arms
anti roll bar
front spring setup:coil springscoil springscoil springscoil springscoil springscoil springscoil springs
rear spring setup:torsion bar springs,
telescopic shock
absorbers
torsion bar springs,
telescopic shock
absorbers
torsion bar springs,
telescopic shock
absorbers
torsion bar springs,
telescopic shock
absorbers
torsion bar springs,
telescopic shock
absorbers
torsion bar springs,
telescopic shock
absorbers
torsion bar springs,
telescopic shock
absorbers
track width:1477/1451 mm1477/1451 mm1477/1451 mm1477/1451 mm1477/1451 mm1477/1451 mm1477/1442 mm
wheelbase:2400 mm2400 mm2400 mm2400 mm2400 mm2400 mm2400 mm
wheels:7J x 15 or 7J x 167J x 16 / 8J x 167J x 16 / 8J x 167J x 16 / 8J x 167J x 16 / 9J x 16
(from 1990: 7,5J x 16 / 9J x 16)
7J x 16 / 9J x 167J x 16 / 9J x 16
tyres:195/65 VR 15 or
205/60 VR 15 or
205/55 VR 16
205/55 ZR 16 /
225/50 ZR16
205/55 ZR 16 /
225/50 ZR16
205/55 VR 16 /
225/50 VR16
225/50 VR16 /
245/45 VR16
225/50 VR16 /
245/45 VR16
225/50 VR16 /
245/45 VR16
dimensions l x w x h:4200 × 1735 × 1275 mm4230 × 1735 × 1275 mm4230 × 1735 × 1275 mm4230 × 1735 × 1275 mm4230 × 1735 × 1275 mm4230 × 1735 × 1275 mm4230 × 1735 × 1275 mm
kurb weight:1,280 kg1,310 kg
(from 1990: 1,340 kg)
1,340 kg
(from 1990: 1,390 kg)
1,280 kg
(from 1987: 1,350 kg)
1,350 kg
(from 1990: 1,400 kg)
1,400 kg1,400 kg
top speed:142 mph149 mph149 mph152 mph161 mph161 mph161 mph
accleration 0 - 62 mph:7.9 s6.8 s7.1 s6.3 s5.9 s5.9 s5.9 s
production numbers:7,3249,3526,98017,6273,7385281,635


The 944 had a lot of outings in motorsport as well

Even before its launch, Porsche tested the 944 in motorsport. In 1981, the Porsche squad with driver duo Jürgen Barth and Walter Röhrl competed in a Porsche 924 GTP Le Mans at the 24h race of Le Mans. But this was a camouflage name. In fact, it was a Porsche 924 GTP chassis with a turbocharged 2.5 liter engine and 400 hp from the 944. Later, this car also became known as the 944 GTR Le Mans. The camouflaged 944 completed the 24 hours without any technical issues and finished 7th overall with the shortest pit stop time of all cars.

1986 saw the start of Porsche’s first one-make cup with the 944 Turbo Cup

Dieter Glemser was commissioned by Porsche management to establish a Porsche one-make cup. The idea was to bring Porsche motorsport to a broader audience and therefore engage them with Porsche sports cars. A car, very similar to the production model was used. It was designed on the basis of the 944 Turbo. The Cup was held as part of the likewise new Supercup. Although the more exciting Group C cars were represented there, the Porsche 944 Turbo Cup quickly became a favorite among the fans. In four seasons, Joachim Winkelhock triumphed once and Roland Asch three times. In 1990, the 944 Turbo was replaced by the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland based on the 964.

© Header: Porsche AG

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