The Evolution of the Porsche 928

An 18-year production run

The Porsche 928 was produced from 1977 through 1995 and went largely unchanged over its 18-year production run. The biggest changes were improvements made to the power- and drivetrains, tweaks to the suspension, rearrangement of options and packaging, and mostly cosmetic adjustments aside from minor body additions to improve aerodynamics.

1978 -1982: 928

The original Porsche 928 is most easily recognized by the absence of a rear spoiler, which gives the car a sleeker look as the trunk sits flush with the body. Additionally, the 928’s original signature Lamborghini-like five-hole wheels came standard from the factory. Power came from Porsche’s first-ever eight-cylinder engine, a 4.5-liter Bosch fuel-injected V-8 that offered 219 hp for the U.S..

In 1980, the U.S. 928 received the larger 4.7-liter V-8, which made 229 hp. Europe saw the addition of the 928 S, which also received standard front and rear spoilers to improve aerodynamics and larger brakes.

Engineers also increased the engine’s displacement to 4.7-liters, bumping power up to around 300 hp for Europe and 229 hp for the U.S. The name was changed to 928 S in Europe, but America didn’t get the updated S until 1983.

In 1981, Porsche introduced the U.S.-only Competition Package.

1983-1986: 928 S

As mentioned above, although the 928 S launched in Europe in 1980, it didn’t reach the U.S. until 1983.

In addition to the bigger engine, the 928 S was the first to receive large platter wheels. Its front and rear spoilers were polyurethane and colored matte black, and side panel moldings on the doors were added along with turn signal side indicators.

By 1985, the V-8 received another update. For the first time, the V-8 received a four-valve-per-cylinder valvetrain, nudging power to 288 hp. The North American market received the updated 48-valve V-8 first and was later available elsewhere in following years.

1987-1991: 928 S4

The 928 S4 featured a 48-valve, 5.0-liter V-8 good for 316 horsepower in all markets. The engine sported new pistons, a new cylinder head with more aggressive camshafts and larger valves, and a 10.0:1 compression ratio.

Cosmetically, the 928 S4 received rounder and budging turn signals, auxiliary lights, and foglight assemblies to modernize the front end. At the back, the taillights departed from the original four-chambered appearance to a single wraparound lens design integrated into the rear bumper. The taillights also sit flush with the bodywork, rather than being concave.

In February of 1989, Porsche introduced a sportier variant called the 928 GT. It featured a dogleg manual gearbox, a 330-hp version of the 5.0L V-8, a more aggressive suspension, and special seven-spoke Club Sport wheels.

1992-1995: 928 GTS

Only 407 928 GTS examples made it to North America between model years 1993 and 1995. It separates itself from other 928s with flared rear wheel arches to accommodate larger wheels and a wider track. The largest wheels in all of the 928’s history came equipped at 17” in five-spoke “Cup” design. The V-8’s last hurrah involved increasing the displacement to 5.4-liters to make 350 hp. It’s also told apart from other late 928s with body color-matching front and rear spoilers, a twin-pipe exhaust exit, and a signature full wraparound red light bar.

If you’re in the market…

Let’s get this out of the way first: just because you bought a Porsche 928 for the same price as a used Honda Civic, doesn’t mean that you’ll be paying Honda prices for parts and labor. It’s sometimes said that if Porsche maintenance costs don’t break you, you’re ready for a Ferrari. Plan on at least a few eye-popping moments at the parts counter.

As with most other second-hand vehicles however, you should always try to find the best example you can. If you have the confidence to wrench on your own, you can save a lot of money throughout your ownership. Plus, it’ll give you another excuse to get off the couch on the weekends. And thanks to the Internet Age, the web is filled with plenty of information about servicing 928s.

Here’s a quick list of to look out for:

  • Timing belt and water pump service

The V8 in the Porsche 928 utilizes a rubber timing belt rather than a chain and as that belt ages, it becomes more brittle and susceptible to breakage. Belts should be replaced every five to seven years or every 60,000 miles, whatever comes first. However, popular Porsche enthusiast forum, Rennlist, reports specialist shops recommend a more conservative mileage limit for the timing belt at 45,000-mile intervals instead. Be sure to check the timing belt tensioner and the water pump at the same time, this is an ideal time to replace both since the belt must be removed anyway. Is the front of the engine oily and dirty? You may want to consider new seals as well, while you’re in there. You’ll be hearing the words “while you’re in there,” quite a lot, by the way.

  • Wheel alignment

The 928 can be finicky when it comes to alignment and it’s recommended to seek out a shop with 928 experience when the job needs doing. By now, every 928 built will be due for new suspension bushings, a big job that requires a large press and plenty of time.

  • Air conditioning

As with most cars from this period, they used the outlawed R12 refrigerant. Because non-eco-friendly R12 is no longer used and the cost to upgrade the system to accept R134a refrigerant can be costly, many cars will have non-operable HVAC systems.

  • Power steering leaks

Power steering racks and hoses often leak. If the latter is all that’s needed, parts and labor are not too expensive. If the rack needs to be replaced, that’s a much more involved job – budget accordingly. Various stop-leak products may work for a short time, but replacement will be mandatory at some point.

  • Rust, and body panel fitment and paint 

Rust is not a common issue on 928s because of the car’s extensive use of aluminum. Steel is used throughout the 928’s construction, but it’s all galvanized. In Porsche-land, the rumor is, if you see a 928 with extensive rust, run far away since that implies something really bad happened to it in the past. Paint issues, as expected will mostly be age related though with proper care, factory paint should last decades.

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