By Leonard Kucinski
Morning Call
February 18, 1989

It has been said money can't buy everything. Lots of it, though, can certainly buy a fine car. Case in point: the Porsche 928 S4, the flagship of the Porsche line and, at more than $75,000 a pop, a car not likely to be encountered at every intersection.

The 928 is for those who have arrived and aren't ashamed to flaunt it. Here's a car whose price brings out the true meaning of the phrase ''sticker shock.'' The insurance payments alone can buy and maintain a decent automobile. But who cares about all these mundane matters? Certainly not those who can afford the 928.

For those not familiar with the Porsche lineup, the 928 (test car supplied by Knopf Automotive, 3104 Lehigh St., Allentown) is a rear-drive hatchback
coupe with a V-8 engine up front. (The 911 is the ''old'' Porsche with an air- cooled flat six mounted in the rear, and the less expensive 944 is a rear- drive with four-cylinder engine up front.) It is a blend of outstanding performance and creature comforts. But for this kind of money you should expect them.

Since it is a true sports car, it is not a large car. For its class, though, it isn't small and is far from a lightweight. Basic dimensions bear this out: wheelbase, 98.4 inches; length, 178.1 inches; width, 72.3 inches; height, 50.5 inches, and curb weight of 3,507 pounds. It is a four-passenger car with a volume index of 82 cubic feet (74 interior, 8 cargo), which puts it in the mini-compact category (less than 85 cubic feet).

Attesting that it is truly a sports car is also its looks. Although not exactly fresh off the drawing board (Porsche likes to stick to a good thing), the aerodynamic design is graceful and powerful. Softly rounded lines are the main design theme. One of the strongest points is the pop-up headlights, which are unlike anything else. Exterior features to help the driver include fog lights (integrated in the front air dam), headlight washers, heavy duty windshield washer nozzles and a rear window wiper.

Depending on where one is sitting, interior room is excellent or tolerable. The driver and front seat passenger have all kinds of room and conveniences. There's power this, power that; a Blaupunkt's Reno AM/FM digital stereo cassette with 10 speakers and 6-channel, 160-watt amplifier system; a driver information and diagnostic system reporting on 21 different items, and an onboard computer with information on fuel consumption, driving range, outside temperature and average speed.

Rear seat passengers are placed in two sort of S-shaped seats flanking the drive shaft tunnel. The seats are comfortable, though somewhat difficult to
get to for those but the very agile. However, it is difficult to imagine that anyone would turn down a ride in the back of a 928 S4 because conditions are a little crowded. And as an extra incentive, there is a separate control for the rear air conditioning.

For all of its power and performance (which we will get to quickly), the 928 is not really a difficult car to drive. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so, its easy going nature has been criticized by some of the so-called driving experts of enthusiast magazines. Why, I really don't know. Perhaps they are afraid they aren't the only ones to be able to drive them. The rear engine 911 can be tricky but the 928 (especially if equipped with a four-speed automatic such as the test car) makes it seem easy.

In other words, a person who really doesn't care that much about driving but does want to be seen in a 928, won't have any problems. That is, of course, if he/she knows his/her limitations and doesn't try to get creative. On the other hand, it has all the characteristics desired by the real damn- the-torpedoes, full-speed ahead driving enthusiast. If you have the ability, the 928 has more than enough capability.

The suspension on this world-class car is obviously sophisticated. Up front are independent unequal length A-arms, double-acting shock absorbers,
stabilizer bar and negative steering roll radius, while the rear has an independent Weissach suspension system with upper links, lower A-arms, self- stabilizing toe characteristics and a stabilizer bar. Steering is by power- assisted rack-and-pinion which will go from lock-to-lock in three turns.

For stopping, there are four-piston, fixed-caliper ventilated disc brakes with ABS (anti-lock brake system). And keeping everything on the road are
ultra high performance tires measuring 225/50 ZR 16 in front and 245/45 ZR 16 in the rear. They are mounted on forged alloy wheels seven inches wide in front and eight in the rear.

As impressive as all this stuff is, the engine could be more so. It is a double-overhead cam, 32-valve V-8 displacing 302.5 cubic inches (five liter) and producing 316 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 317 foot pounds torque at 3,000 rpm. It's mean but surprisingly docile at the lower end.

Just because power is on tap doesn't mean every horse has to be used all the time. Light accelerator pressure will take the 928 off the line sweetly and smoothly without a hint of what's ahead. Moderate pressure gets one into fast traffic safely, quickly. And if you tromp it, make sure you have a clear road, a clear head and a clear purpose. And it certainly wouldn't hurt to have a good radar detector.

Without tricks, without manually shifting the automatic and without line-locking, but by just placing the selector in drive and feeding the gas, the test car went from 0-60 in less than seven seconds. No fuss, no bother, no trauma. The 928 has a very high top speed but it is sort of doubtful if there's enough room around to reach it. Porsche claims the automatic version will go 165 miles per hour.

Fuel mileage for the test car averaged 11 miles per gallon for city driving and 17 mpg over the highway. Not exactly an economy car but if one can
afford the 928, one can certainly afford the gas. Premium unleaded should be used. But as a safety measure to the engine, there are two electronic
knock sensors which prevent damage if gasoline with a rating lower than that recommended is inadvertently used.

Full price on the test car, including a destination charge and Guzzler Tax, came to $75,960. The list of standard equipment was as long as that of the
arm of the law, which it might not be a bad idea to keep an eye out for when driving this car.

The 928 S4 is covered by a two-year bumper-to-bumper vehicle warranty with unlimited mileage and a transferable, 10-year limited rust perforation


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