The Porsche 944 and Audi Quattro took part in a two-way battle of the German four-seat coupés, some 30 years ago in the pages of sister publication Motor
17 March 2016

An interesting match-up by our sister publication Motor pitted Audi’s four-seat 4x4 against Porsche’s 2+2 tearaway. Could the prestige of the Porsche name and the purity of the £27,547 944 Turbo justify its extra cost compared with the more versatile Quattro, significantly cheaper at £24,204?

There was some common ground: both had single-overhead-camshaft engines, mounted in line, and used intercooler KKK turbochargers to boost power. The Audi’s 2144cc five-cylinder unit had a smaller swept volume than the Porsche’s 2479cc four-pot and ran a lower compression ratio (7.0:1 versus 8.0:1) but offset that with a slightly higher boost pressure (0.8 versus 0.76bar).

The net result was that the Porsche had 20bhp more than the Audi’s 200bhp, but more telling was its 33lb ft superiority over the Audi’s 210lb ft. However, the Audi used shorter gearing to enhance its inherent tractive advantage, as Motor found during its performance tests.

“With scarcely a chirp from its tyres, the Audi blasts up to 30mph in just 1.8sec – equivalent to an average acceleration of 0.75g. The Porsche, with smoking rear tyres, takes half a second longer to reach the same speed, and that on a dry, grippy surface,” wrote Motor.

“But the Quattro’s advantage is shortlived once the Porsche’s wheels have stopped spinning. The 944’s long second gear takes it up to the 60mph yardstick in a cool 5.9sec.

“From there on, it is plain sailing for the 944 Turbo. Its aerodynamic advantage enables it to reach 100mph in a stunning 14.9sec, more than three seconds ahead of the Quattro. And the Porsche goes on to reach a remarkable maximum speed of 157.9mph.”

Motor’s testers found the Quattro “more obviously the turbocharged car with vivid part-throttle response but quite a lot of lag. The Porsche’s throttle response is more akin to that of a normally aspirated engine”.

In terms of handling, the Porsche and Audi possessed “immense abilities but quite different behaviour", said Motor. "The Porsche appeals for all the traditional reasons. Its beautifully weighted steering is alive with feel, its balance is impeccable and its grip immense. And yet within a broad band of neutrality, here is a car that will power oversteer at the limit or when the power is cut.

“The Quattro, on the other hand, feels more detached from its driver, its steering lighter and less communicative. Subjectively, it matches the Porsche’s cornering grip and has a small advantage – a large one on wet roads – when powering out of tight, low-gear corners. The Quattro also differs from the 944 Turbo in its complete insensitivity to the throttle.”

The Porsche won the day, then, although Motor’s testers rated the Audi as “fast by any standards, with a chassis of unparalleled security, excellent brakes and more room than its rivals. As the family man’s supercar capable of startling point-to-point journey times in the worst conditions, it has no equal.

“But the prestige of the Porsche name counts for a lot, and there can be no doubt that the 944 Turbo delivers in spectacular fashion with one of the smoothest turbocharged four-cylinder engines ever built and a chassis that’s as entertaining as it is safe. Given a straight choice, we’d have the Porsche and live with its practical limitations.”

Previous Throwback Thursdays

14 December 1895 - America's first car race

28 December 1895 - Early British car exports

4 November 1978 - Fiat 131 Abarth rally car road test

15 March 1986 - Renault builds a Porsche rival

2 April 1986 - Figuring the MG Metro 6R4 rally car

26 April 1986 - Rover's sleek CCV concept

18 October 1989 - VW's vision of a 21st century Golf

10 March 1979 - A Rover SD1 with a difference

4 September 1996 - The original Porsche Boxster driven

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