Part of the decline in Porsche 928 production was due to an abbreviated model year in which both the GT and S4 were virtual reruns. But Porsche jumped the ’93 season in the spring of ’92 by releasing a pair of more potent replacements called the 928 GTS.
The letter S implied a more-powerful Porsche, and the GTS was. Stretching stroke from 79.9 to 85.9 mm (3.11 to 3.43 inches) upped total capacity to an even 5,400cc (329 cid). Bolstered by even tighter 10.4:1 compression, horsepower swelled to 345 horsepower achieved at a usefully lower 5,700 rpm. Torque rose, too, to 369 pounds/feet, but the peak was now 4,250 rpm for both models -- a lofty 1,250 rpm above the previous year’s automatic S4. Less noticed but still appreciated were a stronger clutch, a crankshaft with eight main bearings instead of six, lighter con rods and pistons newly forged instead of cast, and slightly softer shock absorbers for reduced ride harshness.
The Porsche 928 GTS, new for 1993, was the most-powerful-ever 928 model.
Appearance was modestly updated for the Porsche 928 GTS. The rear wing was reshaped and newly available in either black or body color, smoother 959-type door mirrors appeared, and the tri-color taillights were linked by a half-height red reflector. More subtle changes included a 2.7-inch wider rear track and a two-inch broadening of the rear flanks to accommodate wider 255/40ZR tires on new five-spoke 17-inch wheels like those of the latest 911 Turbo; front rubber also widened, to 225/45ZR17. (Respective rim widths were 7.5 and 9 inches.) The bigger wheels allowed larger front brakes designed to cope with the extra power; Porsche specified the beefy 12.7-inch rotors of the 911 Turbo. Rear-disc diameter remained 11.77 inches, and hefty four-piston calipers continued at each wheel.
For all that, Car and Driver’s test of the manual GTS showed little change from previous GT results. The 0-60 dash actually took 0.1-second longer at 5.3 seconds, as did the standing quarter-mile (13.8) -- but then, Porsche only claimed 5.5 for the manual model and 5.6 with automatic.
Zuffenhausen quoted a top speed of 171 mph, versus C/D’s reported 169 for the previous GT.
But none of this really mattered, for C/D seemed about the only U.S. magazine that cared to test a 928GTS on home soil. Perhaps that’s because the V-8 Porsche was by now such a negligible part of the American scene. Indeed, calendar ’93 sales were just 121 units. The ’94 total was even Lower: a paltry 84.
Still, Joe Rusz needed no persuading to try the GTS for a “First Drive” report in Road & Track’s July 1992 issue. Though a loyal 911 fan -- and longtime 911 owner -- he remained impressed with the 928 but bemoaned its evident fate. “This may be your last chance to own one of the world’s finest Gran Turismos,” he intoned. “Also, one of the most underrated. And unappreciated. . . . That the 928 hasn’t caught the public’s fancy may be due to the popularity of the 911 Carrera, which continues to be Zuffenhausen’s best-selling road car. Also the oldest. The 928 . . . has been with us for a mere 15 years. Perhaps some designs take a bit longer to catch on.”
Rusz was being kind. The fact was that by the early Nineties, and for all its splendid abilities, the 928 had lost much of its old sales magic -- and, of course, it wasn’t a “volume” car to begin with. Higher prices for the GTS iteration only made things worse: nearly $81,000 on its U.S. debut, rising to $82,260 by model-year ’95.
With all this, no one was greatly surprised when the 928 departed during 1995. Many found it tough to say goodbye, but the posh V-8 coupe had simply outlived its usefulness. So had the front-four 968. After its recent near-death experience, Porsche knew it could no longer afford to build three totally different cars. Near-term survival demanded slimming down and becoming truly cost-efficient -- fast. Dropping the two front-engine models was an expedient start down that road.
New CEO Wendelin Wiedeking had already mapped out the rest of the journey. Step one was to refocus on the breadwinning 911. Step two was a new, lower-priced car, the mid-engine Boxster, that would share many 911 components, thus further trimming Porsche’s total manufacturing costs and complexity. It was a good plan, and it worked superbly. By the early 21st century, Porsche was not only enjoying record sales and earnings, it was the most profitable automaker in the world.
Of course, as we know now, much of that success stemmed from the third step on Wiedeking’s recovery route, the controversial decision to enter the truck world with the 2002 Cayenne SUV.
Still, it’s not unreasonable to suppose that the Cayenne’s V-8 powertrains benefitted from lessons learned with the 928. And Porsche was hardly finished with grand luxe flyers. In fact, the company recovered so strongly by 2006 that it could venture a “new 928,” announced that year as the 2009 Panamera. Contemporary buyer tastes dictated a four-door design -- Porsche’s first “sedan.” But in every other way, the Panamera shaped up as a worthy successor to the 928: handsome, V-8 powerful, sports-car agile, luxurious, meticulously engineered, beautifully crafted, packed with purposeful state-of-the-art technology -- in short, a Porsche through and through.
As, indeed, the 928 always was, despite its many breaks with tradition. Its engineering pedigree was certainly never in doubt. But with the passage of time and the perspective it brings, the car itself is being appreciated anew. Collectors have begun snapping them up, an acknowledgement that the 928 was a trailblazer not just for Zuffenhausen but for an entire breed of fast, roadable luxury touring machines. Add in a good long 18-year run, and you have a proud legacy for the ages. It may be gone, but the 928, like all Porsches, will never be forgotten.
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The great Porsche 928 GTS was a fitting finale for Porsche's grand-touring coupe.
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