A substantial part of the 968’s appeal concerns its styling. For what is, in essence, a heavily re-worked 944, the 968’s colour-coded tail-lights and aggressive 928-alike exposed pop-up headlights give it a startling resemblance to its V8-engined GT big brother.
For something that delivers not far short of minor supercar performance and handling, the 968’s build quality is outstanding, too. Doors, even on the Club Sport, close with a comforting dull thud, and interior trim and minor controls and switchgear feel like they’ll last forever.
They’re mechanically tough, too, with the few weak areas (gearbox bearings, camshaft chain drives) coverable on a reasonable budget if you buy wisely, and adhere strictly to recommended service and repair intervals.
These are practical and while the transaxle means the boot is shallow, only the CS lacks rear seats.
Which should you choose? The standard 968 is a GT car and the Club Sport much more hardcore and driver-focused. The Cabrio is more of a cruiser.
It’s instantly clear that all 968s were designed specifically as proper sportscars from the moment you settle into the driver’s seat. The steering wheel is just about perfect in terms of size and weight and the position of the short-throw stubby gearlever is similarly spot-on. The minor controls have often been likened to boiled sweets scattered across the dashboard at random, but everything feels engineered not merely constructed.
All 968s use the same 3.0-litre engine and rack and pinion power-assisted steering, but the lighter Club Sport feels the most alive and has genuinely electric responses thanks to its higher power-to-weight ratio (180bhp per ton compared to the standard car’s 169bhp per ton).
And yet, 240bhp in something that, even in its most opulent guise, weighs only a smidgeon over 1400kg is always going to feel seriously quick. Factor in super-responsive steering, old fashioned rear drive and a front-rear weight distribution that’s not far off 50:50, and you’re left with a car whose heart and sould is pure sportscar. You’ll love it!
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
1 It’s almost unheard of to find any 1990s-era Porsche suffering from body corrosion; all 968s were galvanized at the factory, so even untreated stone-chips on that low-slung bonnet shouldn’t fester. Evidence of rust, then – even now that the cars are well out of their 10-year anti-corrosion warranty period – is almost certainly going to be as a result of heavy accident damage that’s been repaired inexpertly using pattern parts. Given that these cars are popular with the trackday fraternity, such damage is likely to have been substantial, too. Having said that (and rather curiously) one known 968 rot-spot is around the windscreen – leaking rubbers can instigate bubbling around the entire screen.
Owners also need to be aware that the galvanize acts as a sacrificial membrane, so as 968s age, they will corrode in the same places as older 924/944 siblings: sills, arches and battery tray.
2 The 2990cc engine is modified from the preceding 944 S2’s engine, and was therefore at the very peak of its extensive development by the time of the 968’s launch. Major problem are rare, then, although anything less than utter turbine smoothness indicates potentially expensive problems with the balancer shafts. Also watch the VarioCam system, which is controlled by Bosch’s proven Motronic engine management system. Its intentions are all good – chiefly to maximize fuel efficiency and reduce emissions from the twin-cam engine, but it also improved torque slightly – but if the chain drive that runs between the camshafts stretches – or worse, breaks – then you could be looking at a repair bill comfortably in excess of £1000. Evidence that the camshafts, tensioners and guides have been replaced every 75,000 miles or so (and the chain drive every 30,000 miles), is a big selling point.
3 Both of the available transmissions – a six-speed manual and a four-speed Tiptronic automatic with clutchless manual override – are bank-vault tough. Slop indicates that the dual-mass flywheel hasn’t long to live. More seriously – and more expensive to rectify – the manual gearbox’s bearings are susceptible to over-adjustment, and excessive wear will make its presence known by a loud noise accompanied by drivetrain judder both under load and power lift-off. Replacement is possible, but it’s a gearbox-out job, and therefore hugely expensive – bank on at least £800.
4 The 968’s suspension comprises front wishbones and MacPherson struts allied to gas-filled dampers, plus semi-trailing arms and torsion bars out back. Anti-roll bars are fitted front and rear. None of these components has a particular Achilles Heel, although the enthusiastic driving style that these cars encourage will inevitably accelerate wear to bushes, wishbones and balljoints, with a resultant feeling of sloppiness in driving feel. On Club Sports specced up with the optional M030 Sport Pack, adjustable Koni dampers set to their hardest setting suggest extensive track use, since the pack also comprises stiffer springs and roll-bars, and the CS warranted a 20mm lower ride height as standard anyway.
5 Brakes are similarly robust on these cars, although don’t be surprised to find that the brake calipers require a complete re-build every 18-24 months – corrosion eventually causes the plates that hold the pads in position to lift.
6 The 968’s interior is impressively hard-wearing. Aftermarket racing seats should start alarm bells ringing, but the Club Sport’s fiberglass Recaro seats are as comfortable as they are supportive. Standard chairs were available as a no-cost option but they added 17kg. Dashboards can be prone to splitting.
Think ‘classic Porsche’, and everyone tends to think 911, but when was the last time you saw a 968? This must be due in part to the car’s relatively short life (just four years in total for right-hand drive models), but we suspect still more people dismiss it as being little more than a short-lived, warmed-over 944 S2.
And that’s a pity, because the 968 is a truly great car in its own right. The standard 944 may be more GT than GTI, but the Sport and Club Sport offer grown-up Porsche performance and driver involvement way beyond the budget spent.
Cars that have been cherished are proven to be mighty reliable, build quality is exceptional, and there’s even a degree of practicality. Replaced by the less macho Boxster in 1995, the 968 is one of the classic car world’s best-kept secrets. Don’t let on.