10K Friday Performance Edition: M3 v. 944 Turbo v. CLK500 v. S4 v. GTi

Well, I hope this will stir some interest, as I think this is a bit of an interesting comparison. What level of performance can you buy for $10,000 (give or take) these days? Surprisingly, there are a lot of options – and those options vary pretty seriously in their execution and packages; there’s a wagon and a sports car, two sedan-based coupes and a hatchback. Engines range from a 2 liter turbo to a V8, with a bit of everything in between. Yet, what appears to be a very strange comparison linked only by price is revealed to be much closer when you look at performance figures:

E36 M3: 240 hp, 0-60 6.0 seconds, 3,200 lbs
944 Turbo: 220 hp, 0-60 5.9 seconds, 2,900 lbs
CLK500: 302 hp, 0-60 5.7 seconds, 3,800 lbs
S4 Avant: 250 hp, 0-60 5.6 seconds, 3,700 lbs
GTi: 200 hp, 0-60 6.6 seconds, 3,200 lbs

The range is much closer than you’d expect – especially when you consider that these figures could easily be equaled in margin of error, driver skill and reaction time. In the twisties, the lower powered cars like the GTi catch up to the higher power CLK and S4. All are, in one way or another, practical choices. Some are destined (or already) classics, while others will likely fade away. So what would be your choice? Let’s start with an M3 we’ve already seen:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1999 BMW M3 on eBay

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1989 Porsche 944S2

Although the appeal of the budget speed of the 944 Turbo is certainly large, the actual driving experience around town can sometime be a bit lacking and the expense of 25 year old turbocharged technology can be a turnoff. Luckily, Porsche offered its own solution with the 944S2. Well covered on these pages, the S2 offers early Turbo levels of performance from its 3.0 16V motor, with no turbo lag. I’ve said it was perhaps the best all-arounder Porsche has ever built, and I think overall that’s a realistic look at the S2; if all-out speed wasn’t your goal, the S2 offers practicality, lower ownership costs and enough power to take advantage of one of the best handling chassis ever made. Take a look at this 1989 example:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Porsche 944S2 on eBay

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1989 Porsche 944 Turbo

While yesterday I hinted that the E46 M3 might be the next 944 Turbo, let’s not forget that the original 944 Turbo is still alive and kicking. While generally speaking the 1988 Silver Rose Turbo S cars seem to be the most valuable of the street cars, the 1989 Turbos came in “S” specification, complete with the M030 suspension, more power and those special wheels. I’m lucky enough to have spent a fair amount of time in one of these; my father bought a 1989 just like this, but with white sport seats. It’s an amazing car, capable of effortless acceleration, swallowing huge trips in a single gulp, and yet gets good mileage and is comfortable. It’s one of those strange “fish story” cars; it just shouldn’t be as good as it is, and yet it is still largely overlooked as a performance value. While clean examples of the performance bargains in the 1980s and 1990s have steadily been on the rise, the 944 Turbo remains attainable. Today’s 1989 example is one of the better ones:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Porsche 944 Turbo on eBay

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Forgotten 44s – 1987 Porsche 944S and 1989 Porsche 944 2.7

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If you want a water-cooled, front engined Porsche collectable, there are several bulletproof standbys to look at. There’s of course the always popular 944 Turbo and Turbo S, a performance bargain that’s sure not to last much longer. Then there’s the curvy 968 and it’s lesser appreciated brother, the 944 S2. Enthusiasts in the know love them and seek out clean examples that challenge and exceed Turbo pricing. Those on a budget or less interested in the box-flared 44s look towards the short production 924S – a hidden gem of affordable Porsche ownership. Heck, even the lowly 924 Turbo has a cult following, as do the niche models like the 924 Carrera GT and GTS. But for your hard-earned money, there are two very rare models that 944 enthusiasts seem to forget. These models are slightly more affordable than their more-sought after brethren, but as the market climbs it may just be these lesser known models that appreciate more. These models are the 1987-1988 944 S 16V and the 1989 only 944 2.7. Today there are two clean examples, one of each model, on Ebay. Let’s start with the 16 Ventiler:

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Year: 1987
Model: 944 S
Engine: 2.5 liter inline-4
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 96,664 mi
Price: $8,990 Buy It Now

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Porsche 944 S on eBay

RARE FIND! 1987 Porsche 944 S with only 96K orginal miles. With only 2 previous owners in the last 26 years this car comes with a long list of service records that date back to the original owner, Engine was rebuilt few years ago from previous owner, we just recently serviced this Porsche with New A/C Compresser, New battery, New Windshield, New brakes, New Power Steering pump, New Fuel Filter, New Fuel Pump, New Plugs, Wire and Caps, New Transmission Seals, New Gasket Seals, New Axles Seals and much more! This Porsche is a beauty and a rare find.

This 1987 Porsche 944 S comes with a clean CarFax and AutoCheck Report. We offer Nationwide Shipping as well. For more pics and information, please visit us at www.AutoByDesigns.com

Despite being at an Ebay dealer, this car appears to have records to trace it’s maintenance history. The white over grey is a great combination in my mind. With the special “S” alloys, these cars stand a little apart from the regular 944 look, though they miss the Turbo-look body kit of the S2. Some might not like that, but the earlier look of the 944s is a tad bit lighter if not as clean. The 16V motor was a treat, and received a host of upgrades over the standard 944 – magnesium engine bits, different transmission, brakes, computers, suspension and a 190hp set these cars apart and slotted them nicely between the 944/924S and 944 Turbo. With only about 3300 1987 Ss and 8000 overall imported to the U.S., they’re not quite as rare as the later S2s but more rare than the Turbo or 944. Looking for something a little less common, then? How about this 1989 944 2.7:

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The 1989 944 was the last of the breed. While the Turbo and S2 would carry over for a bit longer until the launch of the 968, the last of the 8Vs received a few upgrades as it’s swan song. Chief among these was the bump in displacement to 2.7 liters, a net of only a few horsepower over the 2.5 but a jump in torque that made the 2.7 more fun to enjoy than the earlier cars heading out of corners. Guards Red over black is a standby with 1980s Porsches, so perhaps this one floats your boat:

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Year: 1989
Model: 944
Engine: 2.7 liter inline-4
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 133,000 mi
Price: $8,995 Buy It Now

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Porsche 944 on eBay

1989 Porsche 944 NA. Guards Red with black leather interior, 5 spd, sunroof, cold a/c, am/fm cassette. The car has been well maintained and I have of the maintaince records since I bought it in 2007and also from the previous owner. There is over 10 years of documented maintenance history. Engine runs strong and clean. Paint is in good condition. all lines clean and straight. Car is driven daily to work and appointments. Serious inquiries only. (954) 214-4560.

Like the S, this car seems like a good deal with records available. Either way, for a pinch under $9,000 you can jump into a lower mile, maintained classic Porsche. They’re cheaper to run than their flat-6 and V8 counterparts, and while neither is as exciting as the Turbo or S2 models both will surely give you smiles down the road. If it were my money, I’d sport for the 944S and enjoy a few trips to redline, plus I like the stealthy white/grey color combo. There are countless “special versions” of the water cooled front engine Porsches, but these both are great drivers that you could hold onto and will likely appreciate – both in value and in driving experience!

Which would you choose?

-Carter