This past week, we’ve been blessed with bright sunny weather in Oregon. I’ve taken advantage of this by taking the SCM 1991 S4 928 auto out for a couple of runs from downtown Portland to Astoria on the Oregon coast and back.

Every exotic car speaks its own language. It dares you to understand it on its terms rather than overlaying your own experiences with other cars.

I’ve driven hundreds of cars, and the 928 speaks a dialect all of its own.

While Porsche has built many variations on its sports car theme, the preponderance of them have been air-cooled and rear-engined.

This front-engine V8 model, built from 1977-1995, stood alone in the Porsche catalog until the Cayenne was introduced in the US in 2003.

When I first slid behind the wheel, it was clear I was not in a 911. The car has a heavy, solid feel to it, more so than its air-cooled brethren.

When you twist the key, the resultant rumble reminds you of a small-block Chevy in a Corvette with a tuned exhaust system. The sound of the 5-liter V-8 is not reminiscent of a 911 flat-six. Not in any way.

From the moment I pulled onto the highway, it was clear that I was in a car that had its own lineage and language. The sensory information it offered was just different than any other Porsche or really, any other car.

It took a little while to get comfortable with the odd mix of analog and digital information displays. The 928 was created at a strange time, when the dreams of the electronic engineers outstripped the ability of the technicians.

I drove all three of my large-displacement GT cars on the same day. The 1971 Jaguar V12 is a pure analog car, festooned with switches and gauges. The 2004 AMG SL55 is a digital machine, with readouts and touchscreens to guide you along the way.

The 928 is neither. While it has a few digital screens, for miles-per-gallon and distance covered, its climate control could have been inspired by a Toyota Corolla, with sliding switches and arrows pointing every which way.

The car begins to hit its stride at 70 mph. The suspension, which seemed rock hard on city streets, smooths out. You can feel the car begin to lope along. With just over 300 hp, this is not a supercar. Instead, it is a high-performance GT car designed to cover hundreds of miles a day.

I haven’t challenged the car yet, and I may never. Its forte is gentle curves marked at 50 mph that you can swoop through at 80.

Granted, if I were driving one of my 1.6L four-cylinder Alfas on the same roads at the same speeds, I would feel like my hair was on fire and my skinny tires would be holding on for dear life. And while I was aiming for the apex, I would know that our 928 could simply drive around the car, on the outside, without causing anyone’s heart to skip a beat.

I’ve got more miles to put on the 928, a lot more in fact. I want to learn more of its vocabulary, and the strange and exotic phrases it uses.

Of the many Porsches I’ve driven, this one stands out as something special. It may have been a flawed model during its era if measured by sales. But at 30 years of age, it reveals itself to have a unique approach to high-speed motoring, one that needs to be experienced to be understood.

19 comments

  1. Keith.
    Having owned a 1986 928, It was one of the fastest cars I have ever owned. After several months of ownership, what bothered me the most was how “heavy” the doors were to open and close and their width getting in and out …I replaced it soon after with a 911…..saved my wrist and back !! …. you should do the same !

  2. They are marvellous things, and as you say speak their own langauge – one that you come to trust as they are (mostly) totally planted. I don’t generally like autos but in the 928 it makes sense – just stick it in D, floor it and watch it bang off the rev limiter all the way to 155…

  3. These cars are just now being appreciated, and on my short list. They were a technical you’re de force, and I recall every designer at Chrysler drooling over the design – in fact they had a huge blo-up of the 928 hanging over their studio desks!

  4. Keith: I’ve owned 3 of these over the years.. a ’79, an ’82 S, and an 82 Euro spec S.. they are indeed great GT cars. comfortable, high speed cruisers; I always thought it odd that the Porsche purists spurned these cars.. my how times have changed!

  5. Great to see the 928 out on the road. It provides the perfect solution to your dilemma of “Cheese or fish and chips?”, which is a loop trip and both! That beast will gobble up the miles just as quick as you can gobble up the goods. Enjoy the car and the food (two of my favorites as well)!

  6. First time I’ve ever seen a 928 with
    It’s A-H Sprite Bug Eye headlights
    Popped open. Interior view was interesting too. Thnx.🏁

  7. I hope you enjoy your 928. I had a 1979 928 for several years, until I needed another car that would fit an infant seat. I thoroughly enjoyed driving it. But you had to be careful. On a winding, empty road one day, going full tilt through curves, the 928 oversteered and snapped into a spin, scaring the heck out of me. Luckily, no cars were around and I just let it go until it stopped, facing the wrong way. I learned to respect it. It was a beautiful car, with strong torque and great comfort, good for loping along at high speeds. And that V-8 rumble was fantastic. Still miss that car, and sometimes toy with buying another one. I replaced it with a VR-6 VW Corrado, which was a nice car in its own way. But it wasn’t a Porsche.

  8. I own a 1979 Porsche 928. What amazes me about this car is how contemporary it feels when I drive it. If drives like a modern car. It’s got an excellent ride and I eat up highway miles in complete comfort. I could argue that when the 928 was introduced it was the most advanced car you could by and probably the best GT you could buy in the last quarter of the 20th Century. There is an excellent book out by Brian Long on the history of the 928. This car was Porsche’s moon shot and they spared no expense in it’s development. If you don’t have one in your collection get one while you can. If you maintain the car the 928 is totally reliable.

  9. “It took a little while to get comfortable with the odd mix of analog and digital information displays. The 928 was created at a strange time, when the dreams of the electronic engineers outstripped the ability of the technicians” How true, it took a while to get used to, but after 153,000 miles on my ’93 GTS I figured it out!

    You can get the “Canadian” relay and turn the driving or fog lights (I don’t remember which) into daytime running lights and avoid running abound with the frog eyes up.

    In the last 50 years I’ve had all variations of Porsches. Front, mid and rear engine. Air cooled and watered cooled. The 928 was our favorite road trip car. The only problem I had as I got well into my 70’s was getting out of it! All the Porsche sports cars are gone from the garage now, waiting for my paint to sample Macan GTS coming in March to ride out old age in.

    BTW, that little “AC” switch shown in one picture cost $400 plus labor to replace. You must buy the whole panel that includes the central locking controls! Nothing is cheap to fix on a 928. Still miss it.

  10. Does your A/C work? I have a 1990 944 S2 with similar dash. To operate the Porsche factory radio would require a code from dealer (I had battery disconnected once), but I have given up on the A/C because I believe the refrigerant is no longer available/legal and would deplete anyway if car not used for a season. (Summer car for me in Wisconsin where it’s cheese only.) I also get a cute touch-operated light on the ignition key, complete with Porsche crest.

  11. Keith, You’ve nailed the 928 mystique, charm, warts and spirit. I owned one, new, back in the day. A manual trans, 86 S version. When new, it was so advanced and many folks deemed it a spaceship. I’d often have both kids and star-struck adults run up to it, pointing and asking a hundred questions. As long as the driver understood what it was, a sports GT, it was a wonderful driver. I sadly sold it, decades ago and now regret that decision, but many other car-wants came along, as they often do. I do find a bit of the 928’s unique old/new driving style, feedback and sense of adventure in my current BMW Z8. So many cars, so little time!

  12. I presently have a 1979 Euro and love it! It is my 5th one in 20 years. While they are not cheap to maintain and parts are getting harder and more expensive to source, they are worth it. Yes they are heavy (my 97’M3 Sedan is over 100lbs lighter), but they definitely lighten up at speed. The fastest I have ever gone in one (or any automobile) was 146MPH in my 1984 928S and it felt totally safe and controllable. I am glad to see them finally start being appreciated for their greatness. I have had 7 aircooleds over the years and they were pricey but affordable for what they are. Unfortunately now the 911s have become too expensive for what I am willing to part with to attain one. Soon the same will happen with 928s.

  13. I’ve owned and driven a 928 fir the past 25 years! Currently have a 1991 GT 5 speed, totally different experience from a 928 automatic. Both great!

  14. Hey Keith great article and glad you are getting some miles in on it. Take the car some more varied terrain like up on Skyline Dr. You’ll find the car has fantastic composure and unlimited grip and rotates nicely around it’s central axis.

  15. It’s nice to see more attention on the 928, which is a very underappreciated classic. Indeed, it’s in a class of its own, and there’s a big difference in the feel that one gets from 928s from different years; as the model progressed, it received more power, weight, and luxury. The early ones drive much differently than the last. Not necessarily worse, just a different character.
    BTW, the there were no 1977 cars. Sure, there were a few constructed in 1977, but they were sold as 1978 models, just as every manufacturer does. I’m not sure why people insist on claiming their early ’78s were ’77 models. The 928 model officially began with the 1978 year.

  16. I have a 1990 S4, in what appears to be the identical paint color. I love driving it. My only suggestion, other than enjoy driving it, is to use the fog lights as your running lights in the daytime. It preserves the clean lines of the car while still letting oncoming traffic know there’s another car on the road.

  17. Welcome to the shark tank Keith! I’m a long time SCM subscriber and a dedicated shark enthusiast. I’ve had 5 of them, and currently have 2 – a beautiful well preserved and well known 78, and a sweet guards red 85. Both 5 speeds, although my other 3 were automatics. No right or wrong answer on the transmission. Great cars, and really starting to gain the following they’ve long deserved. My only purpose for commenting here, besides welcoming you to our pretty close knit and enthusiastic tribe, is to ask about the SCM rating for these cars. I always wonder why it shows our cars as investment grade D from year to year. The numbers made are a fraction of the 911’s made over the same period and even significantly less than the 356, plus the 928 was a Euro COTY at its debut and received amazing praise by the major car magazines. If you see this post, maybe address it over on Rennlist in the 928 forum where there is a new thread on your purchase.

  18. Possibly the most underrated classic on the market at present. Wonderful cars. I have an 89 S4 in Dove Blue.

    As someone else has said, run the ancillary lights with front fogs as your daytime lights – no need to have the headlights up. You can get LED replacements (assuming they are legal your side of the puddle)

    Also, check the thrust bearing play and invest in a Ritech clamp, best £250 (or whatever that is in American groats) you’ll ever spend.

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