March 18, 2005 By Kevin C. Limjoco

PORSCHE 928 S4

Bavarian Muscle

Back in the ‘80s, the large round piercing headlight beams of Porsche 928 S4 which look like the eyes of a Mantis ready to pounce on its prey struck fear into every driver who looked up to his rearview mirror on both the Autostrada and the Autobahn. That anxiety was genuine.

Fast forward 16 years later to a muggy afternoon shoot at the scenic Ayala Hillside Estates with a 1989 Porsche 928 S4. The GT still demands respect on the road. It‘s big, wide, long, and angry. This green demon still thrills where it counts most, behind the wheel at speed. Many Porsche 911 fans still aren’t fond of the front engine V8 928, they feel it detracts from the purity of Porsche. I beg to differ. The 928 is by no means a replacement or substitution for a 911, it wasn’t intended to be from the drawing board nor will it ever be. However, it’s pure Porsche because of what it can do, in that it’s a sensational grand sportscar. Its overall exterior design is still contemporary and powerful, the interior on the other hand has seen its better days many years ago. All that displaced pity vanishes as soon as you hear and feel the deep rumble from the all-aluminum alloy Reynolds –type 390 crystal silicon DOHC 32valve 5.0 liter hemispherical V-8 engine! This particular 928 has the aftermarket rear muffler bypass system which saves about 20 lbs. and adds a real 10bhp to the wheels.

You have to hear this car roar, it sounds like an American muscle car now with a twist of Teutonic refinement. Helping the big V8 to breathe after over 110,000 kilometers on the electronic odometer is a huge single-piece K&N panel air filter. This too helps create the cacophony that is intoxicating in its own right which beckons you to step on the gas as often as possible to continue to hear and feel all that 316bhp might!

What many folks don’t realize is the amount of effort and technology that went into the 928 throughout its successful production run, the Porsche 928 embodies practically all of an enthusiast’s desires. The 928 is the least common seen Porsche on our streets. There are several reasons for this; most of them make sense for a change. Until the enlightened new tax laws, bringing a 928 into the Philippines was a very expensive exercise of indulgence. Coupled with the perception that the ultimate Porsche could only be a 911, buyers skipped the 928 thinking that they were undesirable or less coveted. Skeptics felt a proper Porsche should be driven from the rear via a rear-engine rather than driven by the traditional front-engine/rear-drive layout. The FR layout was accepted more in the 924,944 and 968 simply because they were dramatically less expensive than a 911, to enjoy the satisfaction of being a Porsche owner. Remember the Boxter did not exist then to bridge the gap. Lastly, buyers felt that the 928 was much too big and thirsty for our roads. Honestly, they would be right, as that general presumption was embraced by most markets except the US and Germany, hence the inevitable death of the series in 1996, a year before the PGA Cars officially began servicing and selling Porsche in March 7, 1997.

Why? Because the 928 is easily one of the most underappreciated and underrated cars ever. The 928 is gone not because it was a deficient car, but rather because of timing and marketing. I wouldn’t call 19 years of series life a failure. The 928 did succeed in offering consumers a proper GT that stole sales from the Mercedes SL and even in the end, from the BMW 850i. However, dwindling world sales prompted Porsche to sadly pull the plug. If the 928 was sold now, I am confident that it would still be a winner. Let’s just absorb some of the facts for the moment. The 928 when first sold in 1977, offering a 3-speed automatic and a 5-speed manual, 4.5-liter 16V EFI V8, 220 hp / 245 lb. ft. torque engine, a 230 km/h top speed, and 0-100 km/h time of 7.5 seconds, hardly inadequate and very Porsche. In 1983 an ‘S’ version was offered with a 4.7- 300 hp and had 263 lb. ft. of torque. This gave the 928 the capability to hit 250 km/h and ran 0-100 km/h in 6.6 seconds. There were both visual and mechanical enhancements to back the moniker to differentiate the variants.

 

In 1987, the gorgeous S4 was born, its engine grew again, now to 5.0 liters but now sported a 32V DOHC head that boosted power even more to 316 bhp and torque rose to 317 lb. ft. The S4 further refined its shape and also sported upgraded Brembo brakes and larger wheels. The last of the series began in 1992 as the incredible GTS. The GTS’s engine grew to 5.4-liters and had 345 Hp and 369 lb. ft. torque under control. It hit 0-100 km/h in 5.7 seconds and its top speed was 275 km/h! Throughout its evolution, the 928 kept improving itself aesthetically as well as its capability in all aspects that include comfort, sound systems, aerodynamics, handling, and safety. The 2+2 functionality was real. Only Ferrari’s 465 GT/S has been able to effectively replicate this until the turn of the century. The 928 was never tiresome to drive only thrilling in a reserved way. I have driven a couple of this beast before and pine to own one in the future.

The 928 S4 redlines at 6200rpm but the ECU will allow you to reach a governed 6800rpm. Most of the torque, about 300 lb. ft. hovers between 2750 to 4500 rpm, which makes the car very tractable and effortless to drive even in congested traffic conditions. Even back in the ‘80s the 928 S4 already utilized a variable tuned intake system that allowed better breathing at higher engine speeds. Like the current Chevrolet Corvette C6, the Porsche 928 S4’s transmission is mounted in the rear to achieve the 51/49% front/rear weight distribution for optimal handling and stability. Not many folks know this but the 4-speed automatic transmission was made by Mercedes-Benz. The all-wheel independent suspension used a Weissach rear axle to optimize rear toe during cornering for passive rear-wheel steering assist. Our test unit had the optional LSD (limited-slip differential) with 40% locking control.

To help shed some weight, Porsche used aluminum for the hood, doors, and front fenders, hatch, and roof are double-dipped galvanized steel. In 1987, Porsche proclaimed the 928 S4 as the fastest production car available, and immediately proved it with racecar driver AL Holbert capturing two FIA speed records for the flying kilometer and flying mile at Bonneville Salt Flats at 276 km/h in a stock 5-speed manual!

On Sept. 10, 2000, Marc Thomas of Devek Performance Products exceeded 336 km/h at the Pony Express II in Nevada. Although modified, his 1988 ‘white car’ is a daily driver, runs on pump 91 octane fuel, and was driven to the event and back home to greater San Francisco, California!

In Manila, this 928 S4 is a real joy to drive. The new Carrera Cup leather sport steering wheel not only looks great but feels magnificent. The car uses Porsche Carrera 2 mixed wheels, 17” x 7.5” in the front with 225/45/ZR17, and 17” x 9” in the rear shod with 265/40/ZR17 Dunlop Formula FM901 tires. All that massive forward motion needs to be regulated, that task is effectively carried out by a full painted red Brembo brake system assisted with ABS: 12”

vented/cross-drilled rotors pinched by aluminum 4-pot calipers for the front and rear 11.8” vented/cross-drilled rotors pinched also by aluminum 4-pot calipers. The car is heavy at 3660 lbs. and you do feel the heft at low speeds even if the steering is a power-assisted rack and pinion. But once you’re barreling along at over 80 km/h even at a sustained 240 km/h, the old 928 S4 is still a very planted and stable high-speed weapon against boredom.

With care and attention, you can resurrect a 928, preferably the S4 variant at least, like the example on our pages, and you would have a devastatingly entertaining car that you would be proud to own and drive every day. You would have the pride of ownership, and if you have honed your driving skills through one of our awesome local driving schools, you would easily keep up with even the current breed of supercars. They are extremely comfortable, forgiving, and safe. Handling was set up more for cross country touring at high speed rather than a mountain carving or for weekend track sessions; however, you could drive the car spiritedly on your daily commute and still keep up on the twisties with some effort. Ultimately the 928 is a beautiful car that was ahead of its time. It will soon be regarded as a classic sports car for the earlier models. Forgotten by most, but for those in the know, it’s one hell of a car.

 

 

 

Specifications

Engine

Engine V8, 4948cc, dohc 32v
Max Power (bhp @ rpm) 316 bhp @ 6000rpm
Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm) 317 lb ft @ 3000rpm

Performance

Top Speed 265 km/h (165 mph)
0-100 km/h | 0-62 mph 6.3 sec.
© C! 2003-2022. All Rights Reserved. Designed by