Porsche 928 Retrospective – Among Porsche’s most iconic sports car models, the rear-engine air-cooled 911 garners endless worship as a triumph of focused driving engagement persevering through decades of production. However, Porsche itself once envisioned a very different halo coupe succeeding the 911 before finances and fortunes changed course. Developed at the height of the 1970s supercar era introducing advanced technology to exclusivity, the Porsche 928 debuted in 1978 and aimed no less than assuming the crown as Porsche’s premier Grand Tourer thanks to its silky-smooth V8 power, supple chassis, and cutting-edge cabin comfort. This piece revisits the genesis, brief reign, and ultimate fall of Weissach’s forgotten front-engine hero.
Porsche 928 Retrospective – A Clean Sheet Tourer To Succeed the 911
As tighter emissions regulations and safety needs loomed large by the mid-1970s, Porsche management foresaw an opportunity to launch a clean sheet V8 flagship coupe packing their latest engineering know-how. Officially introduced at the 1977 Geneva Auto Show before entering production in 1978. Porsche’s most expensive and advanced offering debuted in the form of the aluminum-intensive. Water-cooled 928 packing a 4.5L SOHC V8 producing over 240 horsepower. The potent motor channeled through a standard 5-speed manual with available 3-speed auto to the rear transaxle ACL derived from Porsche’s LeMans prototypes. Meanwhile, four-wheel independent suspension. Anti-lock disc brakes and an early Weissach rear transaxle aimed the 928 squarely at premium 2+2 Grand Tourers benchmarked against the Mercedes SL rather than the beloved yet aging rear-engine 911.
Driving the Future – GT Performance Par Excellence
The 928 garnered nearly universal acclaim from the press applauding its refined road manners and excellent cruising ability. Testers noted strong acceleration from the torque-laden, free-revving all-alloy V8 enabling 0-60 runs below 7 seconds accompanied by a sonorous exhaust note. Optimized balance tuning of the chassis and suspension endowed the heavyweight Porsche with impressive grip and poise. Light precise steering and effective brakes brought a deft dynamic touch even at high speeds. The supple long-distance ride comfort proven over Alpine tours showcased Porsche’s expertise gained from decades of crafting winning endurance racers. Critics confirmed Porsche succeeded in creating a legitimate grand touring alternative to the 911 if not an outright replacement.
The Times Overtake the Porsche 928 Retrospective
Despite winning 1978’s coveted European Car of the Year award plus overwhelming critical endorsement. The 928 failed to gain mass appeal from traditional 911 buyers or conquest sales from target competitors. Base pricing touching $30,000 made embracing the costlier, softer Porsche over more racy Italian offerings difficult. And many private buyers balked paying extra for unproven technology and divergent style. Sales flagged through the 1980s and early 90s against sexy contemporaries like Ferrari’s Testarossa or Lamborghini’s Countach.
In an attempt to sustain relevance and volumes, Porsche introduced several variations including the hotter 928S boasting 32-valve cylinder heads. Upgraded brakes and wider rear tires to accentuate sporting capability over boulevard cruising. Evolution continued for 1986 with the muscular 928 S4 packing a meatier 5.0L V8 making over 300 horsepower mated to a new Tiptronic auto-manual transmission. And the handsome 928 GTS arrived for the final 1993 model year sending 345 hp rearward. Yet despite 14 increasingly polished variations over nearly 20 years, Porsche sold scarcely over 61,000 total units. Flat demand signaled the front-engine coupe failed to assume the 911’s mantle even as that icon prospered thanks to Porsche preserving its rear-engine formula.
The 928’s Lasting Imprint on Porsche’s Future
The ambitious yet ill-fated 928 endured barely half as long in production as the air-cooled 911 it once aimed to replace. But its advanced engineering and dynamic talents didn’t disappear fully. Rather it’s aluminum construction. High-tech cam timing and mirrors previewed innovations seen in subsequent Boxster and Cayman mid-engine models finding greater commercial success. The 1992 928 GTS extensively previewed Cayenne SUV underpinnings on the way to that controversial yet profitable modern Porsche segment.
While largely forgotten by casual Porsche fans. The once-promising now overlooked GT retains a cult following who recognize the 928’s impressive long-legged merits and important place securing an unconventional German sports car maker’s future survival. The 928 proved Porsche could look beyond proven paths without losing sight of its soul and heart. Thanks to the memory of the 928, no direction remains off limits as Porsche navigates new future frontiers.