Porsche 928 – perfect balance

The Porsche 928 is a luxury grand tourer that was produced by Porsche AG of Germany from 1978 to 1995.

Originally intended to replace the company’s flagship 911 model, the 928 combined the power, poise, and handling of a sports car with the refinement, comfort, and equipment of a luxury sedan. Here’s a deeper look at this wonderful GT car.

red 1982 Porsche 928

The 1977 Porsche 928 was an all-new design. Instead of placing the engine in front of the rear wheels as on the Ferrari, or behind them as on the 911, Porsche decided to put the big V8 at the front of the 928 and the heavy transaxle containing clutch, gearbox, and differential at the other end, weighing down the driven rear wheels.

The two masses were connected by a long steel tube containing the engine driveshaft, rather like a weightlifter’s dumbbell.

The result was one of the best-balanced sports coupes you could drive. I had two of these, a manual, then an automatic, and the latter gearbox suited the 928 much better.

Unlike the Ferrari 308 the concentration of masses at either end of the car made the polar inertia high, so it felt less likely to suddenly swap ends.

This gave the 928 good directional stability, as I was about to find out. The big V8 performed even better than an American muscle car’s V8 as it was properly made out of aluminium alloy and had (eventually) four camshafts and 32 valves.

The 928 also had a cunning rear axle which steered the rear wheels inwards under heavy braking in a corner. This avoided the heart-in-mouth feeling you had in the Porsche 911 if you braked hard on a downhill corner in the rain.  

The whole car was clothed in a curvy body with a useful hatchback and minimal rear seats. It was voted 1978 European Car of the Year.

Coming out of an Alpine tunnel in the 928 at speed one winter’s night I hit a long stretch of ice. The car began gliding along with no steering, no brakes and no grip.

The high polar inertia kept it going straight though, and I looked for friction at the other end. The car kept tracking straight and when we hit the dry tarmac I was lucky enough to regain control.

I am reasonably sure I would not have survived the incident in either of the other two cars: we would have been spinning like an ice skater.

Sadly the 928 was never appreciated by the market, possibly because it looked a bit like a Dover sole. Intended to replace the ageing Porsche 911, it was pensioned off in 1992 and the older rear-engined car outlives it still.

front view of red 1982 Porsche 928

How Many Were Made?

Over the course of its 17-year production run, Porsche built approximately 61,000 928s. This pales in comparison to the 911, of which over 1 million have been produced. But the 928 enjoyed a respectable run given its higher price.

Most were built between 1978 and 1986, with production winding down sharply after the late ’80s. The figure of 61,000 units sold makes the 928 one of the lower-volume Porsche models, but it still carved out its niche during the ’70s and ’80s.

What Makes It Special?

When it debuted for the 1978 model year, the Porsche 928 was radically different to anything the company had built before. It featured a front-mounted, water-cooled V8 engine in place of the rear-mounted, air-cooled flat-six that powered the 911.

The body was aerodynamic and contemporary, with a low, sloping hood and pop-up headlights. At the time, it represented Porsche’s attempt to move upmarket into the luxury grand touring segment.

In addition to the revolutionary design, the 928 also boasted robust performance from its 4.5L or 5.0L V8 engines.

It was praised for its near 50/50 balanced weight distribution and low centre of gravity, which gave it sports car-like handling despite the larger proportions.

The combination of power, polished handling, luxury, and innovative technology is what made the 928 stand out from its contemporaries in the late ’70s through the ’80s.

It stretched Porsche’s capabilities beyond purist sports cars and previewed the company’s evolution into a broader performance brand.

side view of red Porsche 928

Who Designed the Porsche 928?

The Porsche 928 traces its origins to work initiated in the early 1970s by Ferdinand Piëch, Porsche’s head engineer at the time and grandson of founder Ferdinand Porsche.

He spearheaded the company’s efforts to produce a new flagship model to supersede the 911.

Porsche designers Wolfgang Möbius and Anatole Lapine are credited with creating the 928’s distinctive shape and style, while Robert Fachler is acknowledged as the engineer responsible for the chassis and suspension design.

The result was a responsive grand tourer that balanced sporting reflexes with luxurious comfort, affording Porsche greater freedom to craft a more holistic driving experience.

The 928’s design has stood the test of time, maintaining a sleek, contemporary look even by today’s standards. It also influenced Porsche’s later Panamera four-door saloon.

The Specifications

The original Porsche 928 featured a 4.5L aluminum V8 engine producing 219 horsepower, allowing 0-60 mph acceleration in 7.3 seconds and a top speed of 143 mph.

For the 1980 model year, displacement increased to 4.7L and then 5.0L by 1985, boosting power to over 300 hp. Transmission choices included a three-speed automatic or five-speed manual gearbox.

The front-engine, rear-wheel drive 928 had a kerb weight of 3,216 pounds. It utilized aluminum for the doors, hood, and front fenders in order to save weight. Other specifications included:

  • Wheelbase: 98.4 inches
  • Length: 176.8 inches
  • Width: 70.7 inches
  • Height: 50.7 inches
  • Drag coefficient: 0.36 Cd

By today’s standards, these specs don’t seem extraordinary. But considering when it debuted, the Porsche 928’s combination of potent V8 performance, refined grand touring comfort, and nimble handling made it a unique proposition.

side view of a black Porsche 928

The Engine

As noted, the Porsche 928 was powered by an all-aluminum, 4.5L (4474 cc) V8 engine for its initial model years. This engine used a single overhead cam design with two valves per cylinder.

Horsepower output was 219 h.p at 5,250 rpm with 288 lb-ft of torque. This was a reasonable performance for the late 1970s, enabling 0-60 mph sprints in around 7 seconds.

For 1980, displacement was bumped up to 4.7L (4664 cc). The 928S model arrived in 1986 in the US boasting 5.0L (4974 cc) and 32-valve DOHC cylinder heads, generating 320 hp. The 928 GTS followed after with an even higher 348 h.p output from the 5.0L V8.

Variable intake runners, forged pistons, and a dual-resonance intake system helped optimize the V8’s power delivery across the rev range. These capabilities earned the 928 respect as both a rapid grand tourer and a capable sports coupe.

The Interior

As a true Gran Turismo, the Porsche 928 came generously equipped and trimmed in leather and other upscale materials. The wide hatchback body style afforded easy rear seat access while retaining a coupe-like profile.

Early cars had fairly sparse dashboards, but appointments grew more luxurious as the years went on.

Some distinctive interior features included its traditional Porsche instrument cluster with five round gauges, extensive leather upholstery, and later on, a premium Blaupunkt stereo system.

From a driver’s perspective, the 928 has been praised for providing excellent visibility thanks in part to its low dashboard, thin pillars, and expansive glass area. The front seats are widely regarded as comfortable thanks to their firm, well-bolstered design.

Altogether, the 928’s interior expertly blends luxury with driver-oriented ergonomics.

How Many Are Left?

Given that more than 61,000 Porsche 928s were built over a 17-year period, it’s reasonable to assume a fair number have survived into the modern day.

However, as a relatively complex grand touring coupe, wear and tear have likely claimed quite a few cars. Porsche 928s also suffered from some electrical issues as they aged, making some less attractive for long-term ownership.

According to one registry, it’s estimated that approximately 10,000 to 12,000 Porsche 928s are still on the road today, suggesting roughly 80% have been scrapped, totaled, or are otherwise no longer on the road.

Other estimates suggest maybe 15,000 units remain globally. So while still not an ultra-rare car, they are less common to spot today versus when 928 production ended in the mid-1990s.

Survivors tend to be lovingly maintained by enthusiasts given the car’s inherent appeal.

How Much is a Porsche 928 Worth Today?

For a well-kept Porsche 928 in good drivable condition, pricing averages $15,000-$30,000 depending on factors such as mileage, maintenance history, factory options, and whether it’s one of the more coveted S or GTS models.

The most pristine, low-mileage examples can still fetch upward of $50,000 or more, but that represents the high end.

In general, 928 prices are still reasonably affordable relative to other vintage Porsches like the 911 or Boxster. However, values are trending upward after having been fairly stagnant for a number of years.

As 1980s and 90s-era Porsches grow in collector status, the 928 seems poised for greater appreciation – especially in mint condition and rare variants. For both Porsche enthusiasts and collectors, the 928 represents an attainable slice of the brand’s history.