The super-GT Porsche 928 has long maintained a low profile in the market. Is that about to change?
‘More thought has gone into the design and creation of the dramatic 4.5-litre Porsche 928 V8 luxury sports coupé than perhaps any other car ever made.’ You wouldn’t know it from the words of this 1977 ad that accompanied the debut of the 928, but a few years earlier Porsche had been in a bit of pickle, even close to panic perhaps.
The 924 was already positioned at the entry level but the management lived in daily fear that sales of the anachronistic 911 could fall off the cliff any day. As early as 1971 there were plans for a more luxurious GT to broaden the company’s reach and possibly even usurp the 911 altogether. That’s why they put so much effort into the 928.
Today, the beneficiaries of this anxiety attack are a secret sect of quietly assured Porsche pragmatists who, in near-anonymity, appreciate the prodigious, easy-going prowess of the 928. Clearly this is no Porsche for purists who prefer to risk the onset of a bowel disorder by demonstrating their advanced handling skills every time they clamber into the sphincter-tightening 911.
Perhaps those are some of the reasons why, today, the 928 remains so undervalued and underappreciated by the world at large. After all, what we’re talking about here is what, in 1978, became the first sports car to win the European Car of the Year award, beating the BMW 7-series (and, er, the Ford Granada).
Under its radical-looking body, the 928 featured an alloy 4.5-litre V8 with a transaxle at the rear, and was not only beautifully put together, but magnificently engineered, with clever passive rear-wheel steering to help contain sudden mid-corner deceleration.
Initially, however, the super-smooth fuel-injected V8 produced only 240bhp, delivering 0-60mph in 7.2 seconds and topping out at just 140mph. Not exactly supercar territory. Jaguar’s XJ-S and Aston’s V8 were considerably faster, as was the 911 Turbo.
Meanwhile the 2+2 accommodation offered barely more rear passenger space than the 911. So why was it European Car of the Year? Well, as one mag noted: ‘It’s not what the car does, but the way it does it.’ Handling was truly excellent, the rack-and-pinion power steering reckoned among the very best. Reviews were filled with words like ‘relaxed’, ‘docile’, ‘effortless’. How un-911.
With the 928S of 1979 the engine grew to 4.7 litres to deliver 152mph; and with 1986’s restyled S4 the 928 possessed a 320bhp 5.0-litre for a sub-6sec 0-60mph time and max around 165mph. Now the easy-going 928 was nibbling at supercar territory, yet all the while with Mercedes-style refinement and build quality and un-Ferrari-like reliability.
But the 928 was about to become something else again, a hardcore Porsche. The manual-only GT had stiffer suspension and more oomph, and in a final flourish the 5.4-litre 340bhp 1992-95 GTS peaked at 175mph. Touching supercar territory.
Ultimately, the 928 didn’t kill the 911 or re-define the brand, but owners of those that are left of the 37,000 built (80% of them are automatics) are generally free from bowel disorders and a lot more relaxed than those with low-rent English or Italian hardware with eight or more spark plugs.
Read our full buying guide, and browse the Porsche 928s for sale here
At £19,499 in 1978 the 928 was well over twice the cost of the 924 and almost a third more than any 911 (except the Turbo, which came in at £26,249). That pitched it at £4000 less than a Maserati Bora or V8 Aston: the Ferrari 512BB was £28,750, the 308GT4 £15,250, while Jaguar’s XJ-S cost a mere £15,149. Dare I even mention the Chevrolet Corvette at just £11,362. Hardly car-for-car comparable with the 928, but nevertheless about as close as you can get.
In 1989, with only a couple more years of S4 production, the showroom price was £54,212. A decade and 85,000 miles later that 1989 S4 was in the trade at £15,950. That’s straightforward luxury car depreciation dynamics. As for earlier models, with prices towards the bottom of the J-curve, they offered a cheap bit of flash, as long as you could afford to run them. In 1999, £9450 was an exceptional auction price for an exceptional 1979 28,000-mile 928. Ordinary early iterations were commonly half that and less.
At auction, the 928 and 928S routinely fall in the £5000-10,000 range; a 1979 car, with a full specialist restoration in 2012, went this year for £6325. However, this is an emerging market, with wide variations in pricing and quality: two very superior 1980 928s are currently in the trade at £24,000 and £25,000. Recently a rare manual 1995, 96,000-mile GTS made £12,880 at auction, while current trade prices range from £17,995 to £47,000 for a 1993 56,200-miler.
Words: Dave Selby/Octane magazine