The Porsche 928 (1977-1995)
In this weeks look into cars of the past we here at Crown Classic Auto are going to be looking at the car that almost replaced the 911.
The Porsche 928 was the company’s first production car with a V-8 engine and the only coupe powered by a front-mounted V-8 as of today. Developed in the 1970s as a replacement of the 911, the 928 was eventually sold alongside the rear-engine sports car. Production lasted from 1977 until 1995.
Porsche’s only luxury grand tourer up to date, the 928 was sold in various configurations. In addition to the base model, Porsche offered an S variant and later on changed the badge to the 928 S4. Club Sport (CS) and GT versions followed while the final four model years saw the 928 sold as a GTS only. While it wasn’t as popular as the 911, the 928 developed a following, and it’s now considered a classic.
The idea was to design a car that would be the best possible combination of a sports coupe and a luxury sedan
Already a successful automaker by the late 1960s, Porsche began to consider adding a luxury grand tourer to the lineup. At the same time, the Germans were concerned that the 911 was reaching the limits of its potential. This, paired with slumping sales and fears that the U.S. would ban rear-engined cars due to concerns over safety problems with the Chevrolet Corvair prompted Ferdinand Porsche to push for the development of a brand-new model.
The idea was to design a car that would be the best possible combination of a sports coupe and a luxury sedan. Porsche also believed that a grand tourer would have wider appeal than the 911, a car that felt cramped and spartan inside the cabin and was difficult to drive due to its rear-engine, RWD layout. Originally, German engineers considered a mid-engined configuration for the 928.
The 928 debuted at the 1977 Geneva Motor. Sales began later that year as a 1978 model
However, this layout was eventually dismissed as it would have sparked the same emissions and noise control issues the company already had with the 911. Additionally, Porsche concluded that having the engine, transmission, and exhaust cramped behind the seats would not allow enough room for rear-seat passengers.
The 928 debuted at the 1977 Geneva Motor. Sales began later that year as a 1978 model. Production ended in 1995 without a direct successor. Although it was the first front-engined Porsche with a V-8, the 928 wasn’t the only car from the German firm with this layout. In 1976, Porsche launched the 924, which had a similar layout but used a four-cylinder mill. The 924 was considered a successor to the 914 and was followed by the 944 in 1982. In 1992, it was replaced with the 968, the company’s last front-engined coupe.
Porsche 928 Exterior
Layout-wise, the 928 is a standard grand tourer with a really long nose, and the doors placed further back.
The 928 looks unlike any other sports car the German firm had introduced until 1977. Sure, the front-engined layout wasn’t new, the 924 arrived a year before, but the 928 was longer and sleeker, and also looked decidedly more aggressive. Needless to say, it also looked modern compared to the 911, which was starting to show its age despite the somewhat significant update from 1975.
Layout-wise, the 928 is a standard grand tourer with a really long nose and the doors placed further back. However, while GTs from Ferrari and Aston Martin had conventional decklids, the 928 had none, with the rear window extending all the way to the rear fascia. The quarter windows are also big and ran the entire length of the rear fenders. Access to the trunk is made through a large hatchback instead of a traditional trunk lid.
While the 911 had kept the organic design introduced in the 1960s, the 928 was penned with a dash of wedge styling.
While the 911 had kept the organic design introduced in the 1960s, the 928 was penned with a dash of wedge styling, which had been very popular in the 1970s. The sharp and narrow nose had big headlamps on each side, while the lower section lacked a traditional spoiler. The pop-up headlamps were a bit unusual too. While most vehicles had them hidden under the hood, the 928’s were mounted on the outside and oriented upward when not in use. Once activated, they popped forward.
The engine hood and the side panels were rather clean, with the belt line a bit wider than the rest of the car. Thanks to the big, slanted quarter windows, the lack of a decklid, and the "phone dial" wheels, the profile looked quite exotic. The rear end was equally unusual, with big taillights carved deep into the body. The clean fascia featured big "Porsche" lettering, while the license place was placed below. The first edition had no spoiler or rear bumper.
The GTS trim added new features in 1992, including flared rear fenders and "Cup-style" mirror caps
Although it remained relatively unchanged for 18 years, Porsche made a few improvements. In 1980, the S model arrived with front and rear spoilers. A small, optional wing also became available the same year. In 1987, Porsche redesigned the front and rear bumper light assemblies that were narrower. The taillights were also revised without the original outlets into the body and a red light bar was added between them. The GTS trim added new feature in 1992, including flared rear fenders and "Cup-style" mirror caps.
Of course, Porsche added numerous wheel designs throughout the years, as well as various exotic colors. In 1995 for instance, Porsche offered the 928 GTS in the iconic Iris Blue and Amazon Green.
Porsche 928 Interior
Although it was designed to compete with rival offerings from the GT market, the 928’s interior remained decidedly sporty
While the modern 911 can be labeled as a premium sports car when it comes to materials and features, the first-gen coupe was rather spartan by comparison. Sure, Porsche offered leather upholstery and a few interesting options, but the 911 was far from fancy. The 928 arrived to fix just that, and it did so with features usually found in Ferraris and Aston Martins, plus a few novelties.
Although it was designed to compete with rival offerings from the GT market, the 928’s interior remained decidedly sporty. The tall center console and the sloping center stack separated the driver and passenger compartment just like in full-fledged supercars. The dashboard was smooth and simple, but the big instrument cluster mounted on top gave the interior a race-inspired vibe. The larger, central speedometer and rev counter is flanked by oil pressure and fuel/coolant gauges, which in turn are flanked by buttons on each side.
A particularly interesting feature was the tilt-adjustable steering wheel that moved the instrument cluster with it
A particularly interesting feature was the tilt-adjustable steering wheel that moved the instrument cluster with it to provide good gauge visibility at all times. While this is a common feature nowadays, only a handful of vehicles had it back in the day. And Ferrari and Lamborghini weren’t among them! Other unusual features for the era included an air-conditioned glove box and back-seat sun visors.
The seats were quite sporty and provided plenty of lateral support for a GT. Cloth upholstery was standard, but Porsche offered leather as an option. Although it wasn’t particularly popular back in the day, the "checkerboard" seating surfaces and door panel inserts are highly collectible now. The leather trim was on the seats later expanded to include the door panels and the headliner. The options list included an electric sliding sunroof too.
In the back, the traditional bench was ditched in favor of individual bucket seats. But despite the GT layout, these weren’t exactly comfortable for adults. They offered more space than the 911, but the 928 fell behind some of the competition in terms of rear-seat legroom. As on previous Porsches, the backrests could be tilted down for extra cargo space. With a proper trunk in the back, this was a massive advantage for the 928 compared to the 911.
Despite the grand tourer layout, the rear seats weren't exactly comfortable for adults
Each door panel had large pockets concealed beneath the armrests that could be pulled in four inches for enhanced support during spirited driving.
The list of standard features was quite rich and included a vacuum-operated central locking system, power windows, cruise control, a rear-window wiper and electric defroster, electric and remote-adjustable and heated door mirrors, and a four-speaker stereo radio and cassette player.
Much like the exterior, the cabin was updated many times until 1995. In 1985, Porsche added restyled front seats, revised door panels with stereo speakers, and a shorter gear lever. In 1989, the Germans introduced a digital screen for the dashboard, while 1990 saw the introduction of a tire pressure monitoring system and dual airbags as standard. Cars built for the 1991 model year had a new shift knob with leather booth and a check engine warning light. Finally, Porsche added a pollen filter for the 1994 model year.
Porsche 928 Drivetrain
Porsche eventually settled for a 4.5-liter V-8 that produced 237 horsepower
Porsche wanted a large-displacement V-8 engine to power the 928, but it took a few years until the company settled for the production unit. The first prototypes were built with a 5.0-liter unit rated at nearly 300 horsepower, but Porsche also considered a 4.6-liter V-10 at the request of Ferdinand Piech. This unit was based on Audi’s five-cylinder engine, which in turn was a derivative of the Volkswagen Golf powerplant, but this option was eventually rejected by the company’s board, mostly because it wanted Porsche to maintain some separation from Volkswagen. The two brands have collaborated in the past, with the Porsche 914 and 912E co-developed with VW and the 924 built with many Audi components at the Neckarsulm factory.
Porsche eventually settled for a 4.5-liter V-8 that produced 237 horsepower, which they considered to have a proper balance of performance and fuel economy. The engine had a single overhead camshaft design and was paired to a transaxle to help achieve a 50/50 front/rear weight distribution. Transmission choices included a five-speed manual and a Mercedes-Benz-derived, three-speed (later upgraded to four speeds) automatic. While the European model came with 237 horsepower, the U.S. version was rated at only 219 horses due to emissions regulations.
The 928 was also fitted with the Weissach Axle, a rear-wheel steering system that helped increase stability
The 928 was also fitted with the Weissach Axle, a rear-wheel steering system that helped increase stability while braking during a turn. This feature has become mainstream on modern sports cars, but it was quite rare in the late 1970s.
Porsche revised the engine for the 1980 model year (1983 in the U.S.) when the updated 928 S was launched. Displacement increased to 4.7 liters, while power jumped to 297 horsepower. This version also used Bosch fuel injection and electronic ignition. In the U.S., the 928 S was equipped with smaller valves, milder camshafts, smaller diameter intake manifolds, and additional equipment that reduced emissions. These add-ons limited output to 234 horsepower. European models were upgraded to 306 horsepower for the 1984 model year.
North American customers gained an updated car for 1985 when Porsche replaced the 4.7-liter unit with a revised 5.0-liter V-8. Fitted with four valves per cylinder and a different compression ratio, it delivered 288 horsepower, which made it less powerful than its European 4.7-liter counterpart.
The 928 became more powerful when the S4 version was introduced for the 1987 model year. The 5.0-liter V-8 was available on all markets with a single-disc clutch in manual transmission cars and a larger torque converted in the automatic variants. Output increased to 316 horsepower. This model was joined by a Club Sport version which was some 220 pounds lighter than the S4. Also, the Germans introduced the SE to bridge the gap between the two in the U.K. Fitted with new pistons, cams, and ECU software; the SE was believed to be slightly more powerful than the S4, although this was never confirmed by the company.
Porsche upgraded the engine one last time in 1992 when the 928 GTS replaced both the S4 and GT models
The 928 continued with 316 horsepower until 1991, but 1989 saw the introduction of a slightly more powerful GT model, rated at 326 horsepower. Porsche also made various upgrades to the drivetrain, adding revised pistons, thicker cylinder head casting, improved cooling systems for the cylinder heads, and computer controlled locking differential.
Porsche upgraded the engine one last time in 1992 when the 928 GTS replaced both the S4 and GT models. Displacement increased from 5.0 to 5.4 liters due to a larger crankshaft stroke. Porsche also revised the camshafts for improved fuel economy and added larger brakes. The manual gearbox now featured a differential driven oil pump and a front-mounted oil cooler. Output jumped from 326 to a whopping 345 horsepower in all markets. These specs remained unchanged until production ended in 1995, but Porsche continued to make small updates to the drivetrain.
How fast was the 928? In its original configuration, it needed 7.6 seconds to hit 62 mph from a standing start. The 928 S completed the sprint in 6.7 clicks, while the lighter CS model needed 5.7 seconds. Finally, the GTS version sprinted to 62 mph in 5.6 seconds. Top speed increased from 145 mph at launch to 170 mph in the mid-1990s.
In all, 61,056 examples were built from 1978 to 1995
Although it was received with great enthusiasm, the 928 was a slow seller. The grand tourer was more expensive than the 911 in base trim, and front-engined design kept many Porsche purists away. In all, 61,056 examples were built from 1978 to 1995, most of which were the original 928 S model, assembled in 17,669 units. The S4 version was made in 15,682 examples, while the S2 left the factory in 14,347 units. Porsche also built 8,315 928 S models, 2,904 GTS versions, and 2,078 GT variants. The 928 SE and CS are the rarest, with only 42 and 19 units built, respectively.
Pricing for the 928 varies greatly depending on model year and condition. Early cars are usually more affordable with prices starting from around $8,000 for examples that need restoration. Later models, which are more powerful and feature better trim, usually start from below $20,000. But these cars also need work, so be prepared to spend more on parts. Mint-condition examples are definitely more expensive, with prices between $45,000 to $58,000. The higher performance GTS is the most expensive of the bunch, with perfect examples with low mileages selling for more than $100,000.
Porsche 928 Competition
BMW M6 / BMW 8 Series
Ferrari 400 / Ferrari 456
The 928 is mostly known as the car that almost replaced the iconic 911 and as a rather weird vehicle in the company’s lineup. But it’s far more than that. While it wasn’t as popular as the 911 and not as powerful as competitors from Ferrari, it was the fastest naturally aspirated production vehicle in the world in the early 1980s, when it went past the 170-mph mark at the Bonneville Salt Flats. It made extensive use of aluminum and galvanized steel, setting a new trend on the market, and marked Porsche’s entry on the premium market. More importantly, it was the first mainstream car to use a rear-wheel steering system, a feature that’s becoming increasingly popular in the 21st century. The good news is that the 928 is not overly expensive for a classic grand tourer.
by C. Florea, on August 23, 2018
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