1986 Porsche 944 Turbo

As if to answer speculation about the return of a turbocharged model a rung below the 911 Turbo in its lineup, Porsche released the 944 Turbo for 1986. Aside from the blower and correspondingly lower compression (8.0:1), its engine was basically stock, but it packed a healthy new wallop: in U.S. trim at the maximum 10.9-psi, 217 horsepower (SAE net) at 5,800 rpm and 243 pounds/feet of torque at 3,500 rpm. It’s worth mentioning that American-market engines were now nearly identical with Europe’s, reflecting Porsche’s “one spec, one performance level” policy.

Porsche 944 Turbo
The Porsche 944 Turbo had 217 horsepower to the regular 944's 147.

Per longer-standing policy, the 944 Turbo was no halfway job. For example, new ceramic inserts in the exhaust ports kept gases hotter to provide more energy for the turbo and faster catalytic converter warmup for minimal emissions. The turbo itself (again from KKK) was not only water-cooled for efficiency but gained a small electric purnp that circulated coolant through it after engine shutoff, thus avoiding oil coking of the turbo center bearing and possible damage. A boost-limiting bypass valve still supplemented the wastegate, but the DME electronics could now vary boost with rpm, providing more at low crank speeds where it’s safe, less at higher speeds. DME also now controlled ignition timing in response to signals from engine sensors of incipient knock (detonation), a traditional problem in turbomotors.

Porsche 944 Turbo engine
The Porsche 944 Turbo turbocharged the 944's 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine.

Like newer 911s, the 944 Turbo had wider rear wheels and tires: 16
´ 8 and 225/50VR16, versus 16 ´ 7 and 205/55VR16s in front. Brakes were fortified with light-alloy four-piston calipers, and spring/shock rates were adjusted to suit the higher engine performance. Outside were distinctive five-hole “telephone dial” type wheels similar to the 928’s, a revised nose with wide cooling slots and reprofiled bumper/spoiler, rear underbody pan (to smooth air exiting from beneath, again for better high-speed stability), and a more prominent rear spoiler. Cd was now 0.33, a useful if not startling reduction.

With all this, the Turbo had to cost more than the normal 944, and it did: initially $29,500 minimum. That was quite a “sticker shock,’’ but Porsche eased the pain somewhat by throwing in 928-style seats with electric front and rear height adjusters, plus headlight washers and more uptown cabin trim. Options now included a power sunroof ($695).

The Turbo didn’t overwhelm magazine types as much as the original 944, perhaps because it cost so much more and wasn’t as easy to drive. Car and Driver, for instance, lauded acceleration and top speed but noted that “the Turbo feels more muscle-bound than powerful” at lower velocities. “Unless you punish either the tires or the clutch by starting hard enough to keep the turbo on the boil, the [car] feels sluggish off the line; flooring the throttle after normal clutch engagement produces little response for at least a second. And in top [fifth] gear, the Turbo requires 14.7 seconds to accelerate from 30 to 50 mph, versus 12.0 for the standard car.”

Nevertheless, C/D judged the 944 Turbo as “not only fast but well rounded...very competitive with the 911 Carrera and 928S. [While it] makes its driver work harder to generate the straight-line performance that the others produce effortlessly...the Turbo delivers much of the 928S’s comfort and refinement for about $20,000 less. And it demands less skill to drive quickly than the slightly more expensive Carrera.”

Porsche 944 Turbo
The 944 sported "telephone dial" wheels and rear tires wider than the fronts.

Check out the complete story of Porsche cars, including these fabulous models:

Porsche 356

Porsche 911

Porsche 914

Porsche 924, 944, 968

Porsche 928

Porsche 959

Porsche Boxster

Porsche Cayenne

Porsche Cayman

For Porsche prices and reviews from the auto editors of Consumer Guide, see: