1988 Porsche 944 2.5 8v from North America
As close to automotive perfection as humans can get
Ring and pinion failed at 85,000 miles, possibly due to hitting large pothole under hard acceleration. Replaced transaxle with factory-rebuilt unit.
Water pump failed at 90k miles; better to replace the water pump at every 2nd timing / balance shaft belt change, or 60k miles, since it's readily accessible then.
Clutch replaced at 80k miles, replaced with spring-center clutch; still lots of life good at 156k.
Lower control arms replaced at 70k due to worn ball joints.
Starter intermittent failure at 90k miles, the car's third starter. Found previous owner was using second-rate rebuilds. Replacement with quality Bosch starter took maybe 15 minutes and has lasted 12+ years and 65k miles. Don't scrimp on parts is the lesson here.
Gas struts for the hood and rear hatch have been replaced twice, about the same failure rate as the units in our Honda, so that seems about right.
Bad A/C sensor caused it to start freezing up. Took to Porsche dealer, who evacuated the system, replaced the sensor and recharged the system, all at no charge. This was in 1992, when the car was 14 years old and had over 100,000 miles on it.
Fuel pressure regulator failed at 130k miles. Limped home, troubleshooting via online instructions took just a few minutes. Factory replacement unit was inexpensive, took maybe 20 minutes to install.
This car is a joy to drive. I've owned dozens of cars, but this one is a rare keeper I'll hold onto forever.
Car magazines still say the 944 is one of the best-handling cars ever built, but you can't know how right they are until you've driven one for a while.
It's the perfect size, has exceptional space utilization (it's very big inside and fits tall drivers well), is very, very easy to drive, handles long trips or short errands equally well. The turning radius is very tight, so it's easy to maneuver. Most of all, it looks and drives like nothing else out there.
Compared to more modern cars, the 944 might be considered a bit underpowered, but I find it has more than enough, and then some, for around town. Out on the highway, the gearing lets you cruise at very high speeds, often without realizing it. There is a sweet spot where the car becomes completely silent, which I believe was designed for autobahn cruising, since that happens at around 105-110mph. When the car becomes silent and relaxed and just goes down the road like an arrow, you'd better snap back to U.S. speed limit reality but quick, because that means you're doing at least 100mph and the cops really don't really care for any of your explanations at that point.
The car is exceptionally well engineered, well built, and has never given any grief in all the years I've owned it. We regularly jump in and drive 300-400 miles without hesitation.
At 23 years old, and nearing 160,000 miles, there is no rust, no squeaks and no rattles, the paint is very good, and everything is still attached like it should be, inside and out. The rear hatch glass is starting to de-laminate at the frame, which I understand requires an experienced glass shop to re-seal properly.
The full leather interior has held up exceptionally well, no cracks or discoloration, no parts falling off or twisted or misshapen. The leather gets regular attention to cleaning and feeding. The carpets are also in great shape, although we're on our second or third set of floor mats.
Maintenance is critical... keep up with all the regular maintenance and it's absolutely dirt cheap to run a 944. Believe it or not, the 944 is cheaper to run (and insure, year-round) than our Mazda3 or our Honda Accord. But... neglect the maintenance and one thing will cause another to go bad, and before you know it, the domino effect will have maintenance issues eating you and your wallet for lunch.
Also, we use the car almost every day. When you let these cars sit, they cause lots of headaches. Use them regularly, and there are very few issues.
Regular parts (brake pads, rotors, spark plugs, oil filters, etc.) are readily available and inexpensive.
Everything, even the most idiotic and weird parts, are still available from the dealer 23 years later. Or online, if you prefer.
One downside to the car's age is that performance tires are becoming difficult to find in the stock 15" sizes. For the past few years, I've been running 17" wheels, which means the tire sidewalls are shorter and the ride is somewhat rougher, but the availability of tires is better and the look of the car on 17's is a lot more modern.
Mileage is pretty good... 30 or so on the highway at around 70mph, 32mpg at 75mph, but that's pushing it ticket-wise. Mileage drops very quickly when you add weight and/or start pushing 80mph or more. Around town, it gets around 20 if you don't get too excited with the accelerator.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 14th December, 2010