1991 Porsche 944
Porsche has done a terrific job transforming the muscular 944 from a hatchback to a convertible. I get picky and completely unforgiving of even the smallest faults when testing expensive cars. When a car carries a $50,000 price tag, flaws are inexcusable. No excuses are needed with the Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet. It is a superb sports car that is well-built, fully loaded, nicely styled and brutally fast. Whether it is worth $52,000 and change is a personal decision. But after driving the test car for a week and logging more than 500 miles, I am convinced of this: The 944 S2 Cabriolet does not disappoint in any area. ENGINE, PERFORMANCE Under the S2's hood is the biggest four-cylinder engine you can buy in an automobile. It's a 3.0-liter, 183-cubic-inch monster that has enough torque to yank a tree stump out by the roots. Automakers traditionally haven't made four-cylinder engines much bigger than 2.5 liters because they usually run rough. Adding two cylinders tends to smooth things out. However, Porsche engineers have found a way to rid the big four-cylinder of most of its vibration. They developed a twin counter-rotating balance shaft system that runs at twice the speed of the crankshaft. It does the trick, though the engine idles a bit rough. The 944 is slightly flat from the start, but when the 208-horsepower engine reaches about 3,700 rpm, the power comes on fast and furious all the way to the 6,500 rpm red line. Porsche says the car has reached a top speed of 149 mph on a test track. That seems believable, though at the risk of donating more than a week's pay to the state treasury, I opted to take Porsche's word on the claimed top speed. Fuel economy averaged 18 miles per gallon in the city using the air conditioner; 24 mpg on the highway. The five-speed manual transmission shifted smoothly, but the stubby, leather-wrapped shifter was a bit on the heavy side. However, it did underscore the solid feel of the car. STEERING, HANDLING Porsche has made its reputation by building sports cars and nothing else. The 944's wide stance and 16-inch tires combined with industrial-strength brakes and a sophisticated suspension system give the car its sporting pedigree. I contend that sports cars combined with experienced, conscientious drivers make for the safest driving experience possible. The 944 seems to thrive on lightning-fast reactions. Not only will it steer clear of trouble in an emergency, it will also stop quickly to avoid it. Brakes are fitted with an anti-lock system and consist of four-wheel ventilated discs with four pistons in each caliper. The ABS system is programmed to engage a little too soon for my taste, but that could be a result of the Pirelli tires, which, I discovered, don't have enough traction on sandy roads or on wet pavement. The car's handling seemed neutral. In fact, Porsche says the weight distribution is a perfect 50/50 front to rear. One of the 944's traits is that under hard acceleration the rear end tends to squat slightly. Other than that, the 944 is a superbly balanced machine. FIT, FINISH, CONTROLS Let's start at the top, or more specifically, with the top. It is not a snap to raise and lower. With practice, the power top can be lowered in about two minutes and the tonneau cover installed in another five. Raising the top and latching it shut, however, takes a bit of patience and good hand and eye coordination. In any case, the top is engineered to fit tightly. At highway speeds there is no noise or wind leaks. Visibility is not as good as it could be because there are no quarter windows in the top - just one long window in the rear. The blind sports on each side tend may to make you one feel a bit claustrophobic. The two rear seats virtually are unusable. It is conceivable that one child or small adult could sit sideways. The front seats sported numerous power adjustments and were extremely firm. It's redundant to say that the gauges and controls were nicely done - attention to detail in this area is what helped earn Porsche its esteemed reputation among sports car fanatics. The car featured power windows, locks, and mirrors and a built-in alarm system. The air conditioner was excellent. One of the things that convinces me that the 944 S2 Cabriolet offers good value for the money is the fact that it comes standard with a driver and passenger side air bag. In fact, Porsche is the only manufacturer to offer driver and passenger air bags in its entire line of vehicles.
|Richard Truett||Orlando Sentinel||July 11, 1991|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||May 27, 1991|
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