1989 Porsche 944S2 ROW

Although the United States is one of the most important market for its sales, the 944S2 is a case where a majority of the cars sold were “Rest of World” examples. Total S2 production was 19,945 units, and of those about 6,036 came to North America. When you compare that to the 944 Turbo, 25,107 were built with 14,235 sold in the United States alone. Typically, the European versions of the 80s cars we look at had more power, but that was not the case for the S2. The M44.41 was a world engine, meaning it was only available with catalyst and rated at 207 horsepower (211 according to Porsche, although that’s the motor’s PS rating rather than HP). So what did a “ROW” 944S2 get you? Well, the shorter and lighter rear bumper treatment for one, side indicators just ahead of the rub strips, and in front you got integrated dual fog lights/driving lights rather than the fog/dummy setup on U.S. cars. In the case of this particular ’89, you also got the option for a really neat Studio cloth interior:

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1990 Porsche 944S2 Cabriolet

Like the Volkswagen Cabrio, the 944S2 Cabriolet isn’t a car that gets a lot of press on these pages. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the makings of a classic. Like the Cabrio, it sold in small numbers in the tight times of the early 1990s; Porsche claims it sold only 2,386 in the United States. And it has a potent power plant in the revised 3.0 16V inline-4; pushing 207 horsepower and 208 lb.ft of torque, it was nearly as potent as the first generation Turbo without the inherent lag or accompanying bills. Yet it shared the same perfect weight balance with the rear-mounted transaxle, Turbo brakes and larger roll bars along with the integrated Turbo-look nose and tail. The S2 also received the new “Design 90” wheels that helped to bring it in line with late 928S4 and 964 models.

However, the 944S2 Cabriolet has always been overshadowed. First, for the sporting drivers out there, most will be seeking the clean lines of the S2 Coupe. Then there is always the more popular 911 Cabriolet, but it’s real competition is the later 968 Cabriolet. With more power, revised looks and a 6-speed manual, those late 968s are by most accounts the ones to get. But to me, that means that a clean 944S2 is a better value while offering you most of the experience of the VarioCam. Let’s consider this beautiful LM3U Velvet Red Metallic example:

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Double Take – Both Baltic: 1989 Porsche 944S2

I’ve been ignoring the 944. It’s not that I have changed my opinion, or no longer love the thorn-in-Porsche-purists collective sides. But after spending plenty of time telling everyone what an incredible value the 924/44/68 series are for a while, I just capitulated that the market was unwilling to lift these well-built sports cars to a level which they deserve to be. Or, at the very least, I really felt like they should be on level footing with models that were their contemporaries; the Turbo, for example, which still regularly trades well below Quattro and M3 prices despite superior performance.

Yet while my attention swayed, some light has been shed on the model. As insane prices continue to reign in Munich and the Quattro has begun to rise precipitously over the past year, what was once a sure-bet value has commenced rapid appreciation – at least, in some cases. The high-water mark recent was just set with a 66,000 mile Grand Prix White 968 Coupe which sold for $36,250. That’s big money for the big four-cylinder. While not every single example is going to similarly take off, the writing may be on the wall.

So today I’ve got two 944S2 models to consider. Down on power (211 v. 237 with VarioCam) and a gear from the later model, they’ve always played second-fiddle to the Turbo S/89 Turbo models and the updated 968. Both are presented in the neat color of Baltic Blue Metallic. One is pristine, and one’s more of a project. Which is the one to grab?

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1989 Porsche 944S2

The Porsche 944S2 took the twin-cam out which had debuted in the short-lived 944S for the 1987 model year to the next level. Bumped from 2.5 liters out to 3.0, the new motor crested 200 horsepower, producing nearly as much twist as the standard 944 Turbo had only a few years before but with no turbo lag. Beefed up too were the looks, which mimicked the Turbo’s design with smoothly integrated bumpers, brake ducts and fog lights as well as a rear diffuser. Wheels looked visually like the Club Sport, but were a different offset. The new “Design 90” style was also seen on the 928 and 911 model and became the signature Porsche look for a half decade. Though many point to the 968 as the ultimate development of the transaxle 4-cylinder, the 944S2 offers most of that package with the chunkier looks of the 951. Few come to market looking as nice as this example does:

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1990 Porsche 944S2 Cabriolet

I can remember vividly when the Porsche 944 Cabriolet first debuted. As a young child, I would eagerly await those car magazines arriving by post each month, giving me the opportunity to set eyes on concepts, spy shots, prototypes and all the newest models. When the first images of the 944 Cabriolet appeared, I felt like something was missing. The proportions somehow didn’t seem right, as I had been used to seeing this transaxle Porsche design in fixed roof form for years. The folding roof and rounded off rear end seemed a world apart. However, I think time has been kind to this design and it’s a very unique model that appeared at the dawn of a decade that would bring about some of the most drastic changes in Porsche history. This 944 Cabriolet for sale in California has a mere 12,000 miles on the clock and while the Linen Gray Metallic isn’t necessarily suited to this sports car, it doesn’t offend either, looking sharp sitting on those Gullideckel alloys.

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1991 Porsche 944S2

While cars like the Audi Quattro and BMW M3 may have popularized boxy flares with their racing credentials to back it up, in my eyes no one pulled off the muscle-bound economy look better than the Porsche 944. The addition of several inches of width and wider wheels to the 924 chassis meant an entirely new feel that mingled with supercar lines instead of Volkswagen lineage. Simply put, they were the most sensual looking German car in the 1980s, and that got even better late in the run with some subtle aero additions that enhanced and updated the look. The smooth Turbo bumpers and rear diffuser carried over to the S2 model, along with some lovely “Design 90” wheels that were also highlighting the 964 model. As Porsche moved to a full update of the watercooled transaxle cars with the introduction of the 968, the outgoing 944S2 even adopted the new “bridge” spoiler design from the not yet introduced model. Turbo looks without the associated power may have seemed strange for Porsche, but the 944S2 was no slouch in its own right. Powered by the M44.41 3-liter inline-4 that had been enlarged from the double overhead cam 944S motor, the 208 horsepower wasn’t as much as the 968 would sport but was still awfully close to what the original 944 Turbo had produced in power, and with instant torque the S2 was, and still is, a very entertaining drive. Hardly cheap, on paper they were not immediately the smart choice for a sports car buyer in 1990 and 1991, as twin-turbocharged monsters from Japan were all the rage and often less expensive than the $50,000 a 944S2 would cost you. With only around 3,600 imported to the U.S., they’re a bit rare to see but offer great Porsche build quality, performance and even practicality in a very attractive package:

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1990 Porsche 944S2 Cabriolet

For as long as the 944 was in Porsche’s lineup, it’s surprising it took so long for an al fresco version to come about. It wouldn’t be until the end of the 1980s and the 944 was in its twilight years that the 944S2 Cabriolet would appear. A mere 2,402 examples would find their way stateside for those seeking an alternative to the usual air-cooled convertible solution from Porsche. This 944S2 Cabriolet for sale in Florida is approaching 50,000 miles and looks sharp in Dove Blue Metallic.

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To Force or Not to Force? 1987 944 Turbo v. 1989 944 S2

For some time, there has been an ongoing conflict in my head. All of me agrees that the Porsche 944 is a pretty awesome car; great looks, handling and performance in a bargain package with classic Porsche reliability and build quality. But I fight with myself over just which of the Porsche 944s I prefer. Some days, the forced induction Turbo captures my imagination; there’s been a 1989 Turbo in my family now for two decades and it’s a wonderful car. But I have to admit that it’s not been without its problems, and while it’s a cool package it seems almost too predictable as the “go to” “cheap” Porsche. Should it be criticized for being a spectacular performance bargain? That may not be fair, but just like the BMW E30 represents a good balance of performance and practicality, it’s sometimes just too popular for me. What’s the alternative? Well, the 944 has its own answer: the 944S2. Visually, the two are nearly indistinguishable to most non-enthusiasts. But the driving experience is quite different; the M44/51 turbo motor is legendary as a tuning platform and offers typical ’80s lag-prone explosive launches, while the M44/41 big 3.0 16V motor has seemingly effortless torque at your disposal but loves to run up the tach as well. Stand on it in a drag race, and the Turbo will win – nearly a second faster to 60 miles per an hour and 5 m.p.h. faster on the top end. But if you’re a clever S2 driver and catch the Turbo slightly off-guard, you’ll be right with them – and the S2 isn’t about drag racing, it’s about making a better all-around driver. So the S2 is the better choice? Well, perhaps – but then there’s the mystique of the Turbo model. Who doesn’t want to say they own a Porsche Turbo, really? Today I have an example of each – which will be the winner?

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1991 Porsche 944S2

The 1990s was considered a watershed moment for Porsche, for many reasons. True, the company was battling for solvency in an ever demanding marketplace, but some of the most interesting and most sought after models emerged from this decade. The 964 Turbo 3.6, 928GTS and 968 Clubsport are all examples of vehicles that represented the ultimate expression of their breed. True, there would be one more air-cooled 911 Turbo after the 3.6, but this would be the last non all-wheel drive Turbo outside of the limited production GT2 we would see, except for those out of specialist tuning houses.

In addition to the colorful model lineup, the variety of hues themselves that was available was impressive. I’ve never seen a 944S2 in Rubstone Red, but I’ve got to say, it certainly catches your eye. It probably is a bit polarizing for what is normally seen as a more masculine sports car, but in some odd way, it works for me. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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Motorsports Monday: 1990 Porsche 944S2 Firehawk – REVISIT

The 1990 Porsche 944S2 Firehawk series car that I wrote up back in early August is back on eBay, having failed to sell its first time around. The price has been lowered $2,000 this time, but it remains pricey by 944S2 and track car standards at $23,100. That amount does buy you a solid race car platform with an interesting history with the look of a Turbo Cup car, but I’d guess it’s still a bit too expensive for most people’s blood. If it could be had in the mid to high teens I’d think there would be more interested parties.

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The below post originally appeared on our site August 4, 2014:

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