Caught in the classifieds: 1991 Porsche 944
People often say that once you buy your first Porsche, youíll never go back to owning anything else ever again. Having been fortunate enough to drive a 997-gen base Carrera 911, I can certainly attest to that. Although I canít afford to own one yet, Iím looking at other alternatives to keep me interested while I work my way up to a 911.
One of the most overlooked and undervalued Porsches is, in my opinion, the humble 944. It didnít get a ton of love when it first came out, and itís not being given the recognition it deserves today. People are so obsessed with 911s that other Porsches like 944s or 928s sit and linger on the sidelines, waiting for their time in the spotlight.
The more you look at used 944s, the more you realize just how amazing they are. Luckily for us, theyíre still not collector items and can be had for a reasonable amount of money. In this weekís ďCaught In The ClassifiedsĒ section, Iím giving the 944 some much-deserved recognition. This particular example has less than 100,000 miles on the clock, and it can be yours for a shade under £13,000.
As big of a fan of the 911 as I am, I can recognize a great-looking car when I see one, even if it isnít everyoneís beloved rear-engined sports car. Much like the 911, the 944 is an evolutionary design of its predecessor, the 924. Unlike the 924 though, Porsche ironed out a lot of the edges and gave the 944 a much sleeker and smoother body. Being a strictly two-door coupe, the 944 is as elegant and sleek as youíd expect a sports car to be. I know a lot of people consider the 944 to be a GT car, but I think thatís incorrect and false, for reasons Iíll explain below.
Design-wise, most people seem to love how 944s look. Itís a car that doesnít turn a lot of heads nowadays, simply because non-petrolheads donít know what it is. Those in the know give you a nod, usually accompanied by a Ďthumbs upí. Itís a car that seems to resonate with car enthusiasts, especially older generations who love how nostalgic it looks.
Most young people arenít excited by classic cars, but everyone seems to appreciate the 944. Pop-up headlights seem to be a particular crowd-pleaser, and it also doesnít hurt that the 944ís rear hatch looks mega-cool. I like the fact that Porsche gave the 944 a smoother rear-end compared to the 924. It makes the car appear slimmer and a lot more modern.
Stepping inside a 944, youíd be hard-pressed to tell most examples are now nearly 30 years old. Donít get me wrong, itís missing a ton of modern features or any sort of tech, but in terms of build quality and materials, itís right up there with some modern cars. Thereís a sense of quality thatís simply not present in most cars built in the 1990s and even the early 2000s. It feels solid and robust, like it was built to withstand decades of abuse and wear and tear.
The dashboard isnít cracked, the centre console doesnít squeak or rattle, and even the 30-year-old leather seats are in great condition given how much use theyíve seen. The cabin is particularly roomy too, making the 944 a genuine 2+2 coupe. The rear seats in a Porsche 911 are next to useless, but the ones in the 944 are relatively practical, even by todayís standards.
The driving position is remarkable too. The seat goes low enough to give you a real sense of connection with the car, and everything is exactly where youíd expect it to be. The gear stick is in the correct location and the steering wheel feels perfectly positioned too. Itís a bit too large by todayís standards, but given the fact that this car has a slower steering ratio compared to modern Porsches, it feels perfectly adequate.
Engine and Performance
The 944 was available in a few different trim levels with several different engine options, but this particular example is the S2, the most powerful non-turbo variant. Its 3.0-litre straight-four produces 208 horsepower and 206 lb-ft of torque at 4,100 rpm. Power is sent to the rear wheels through a five-speed manual transaxle. A transaxle is an entire housing unit consisting of a transmission, a differential and an axle. Because itís neatly packaged together, it can be positioned at the rear to offset the weight of the engine at the front.
This gives the 944 a nearly perfect 50/50 weight distribution, resulting in a chassis thatís extremely neutral and predictable. I said in the beginning that I think the 944 is more of a sports car than it is a GT car, and this is the reason why. Driving a 944, you get a real sense of occasion. Itís thrilling and interesting, and it rewards you the harder you push it. Ultimately, it wonít set any speed records, but it isnít a soft GT car in the way it handles.
The fact that itís a manual and you have to work for it makes the experience that much sweeter. In a modern world full of PDKs and DCTs, rowing your gears using an old-school five-speed gearbox is a real joy. The 944 is the ideal car to learn how to heal-and-toe and left-foot-brake on. Throttle response is amazing because itís a naturally-aspirated engine, and the clutch feels perfectly judged. The only real letdown are the brakes, which arenít as effective as modern Porsche units. That being said, they still stop the car better than youíd expect them to, especially compared to most modern economy cars.
Model: Porsche 944
Trim: S2 Coupe
Why buy one
I honestly donít know what else youíd have for under £15,000 if youíre in the market for a Porsche or even an old classic. The 944 is a car which will appreciate in the next few decades, so nowís the time to invest in one if you canít afford an old 911. Buying a Porsche 944 just to make a profit on it in the future is a bit of a waste if you ask me though, because the car is mind-blowingly good to drive, so it would be a shame to let it sit in a garage and hibernate.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10