Porsche 968 CS Car Reviews | NRMA Motoring & Services

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Porsche 968

Porsche 968

CS Car Review

Author: NRMA Motoring Date: 31 October 1993

For most motoring enthusiasts, just the mention of the name Porsche conjures up images of glamorous looks and pure driving pleasure. The subject of this test – the 968 Club Sport – goes well beyond expectations in the way it drives and though the shape is not new, it’s still a very purposeful-looking design.

Performance, handling and braking are the key credentials for any genuine sports car and the 968 CS scores highly on all three. Even more commendable is the fact that the 968 CS gets its tremendous performance from a highly efficient non-turbo four-cylinder engine that’s amazingly tractable and not at all heavy on fuel.

The 968 CS’s levels of handling and roadholding are such that the respected English car magazine Autocar/Motor, recently placed it first in its annual handling evaluation of the world’s top exotics, hot hatches and specialised sports cars.

Backing up the hot performance and racecar-like handling is one of the most powerful and effective braking systems I’ve experienced in 15 years of new car testing.

But be warned, the 968 CS’s dedication to providing ultimate levels of performance and handling means making some sacrifices in other areas, namely comfort and convenience.

To get the desired levels of handling, the 968 CS has its suspension screwed up tight and the ride (particularly at lower speeds around town) is on the uncomfortable side of firm.

Besides plenty of power, low mass is what you need for maximum performance and so the 968 CS tosses out some ballast that slows its somewhat heavier stablemate – things like the radio, power windows and mirrors, central locking, and the back seat!

At $119,900, the manual-only 968 CS is the cheapest model in the Porsche range. The normal 968 coupe is $139,900 (m) or $146,900 for the automatic. Prices for the 968 Cabriolet are $154,900 (m) and $161,900 (a).

The current top-priced Porsche in Australia is the 911 Turbo coupe at $295,000.

Features and equipment

Just as BMW may lay claim to having arguably the world’s best production V8 engines in its 5 and 7-series cars, Porsche could well make a similar claim for its 3.0 litre four-cylinder engine in the 968 CS. With double overhead camshafts, 16 valves and VarioCam variable valve timing, this engine puts out a fairly amazing 176 kW of power and 305 Nm of torque. Porsche claims these are the highest figures for any normally-aspirated (non-turbo) four-cylinder production engine in the world.

Power is delivered through a superb six-speed manual gearbox that’s mounted at the rear in conjunction with the limited slip differential to achieve an ideal mass distribution front-to-rear.

Braking is through four massive ventilated and cross-drilled discs, with 4-piston aluminium calipers, forced air cooling and ABS anti-locking as standard. Suspension is all-independent, with struts up front and torsion bars and semi-trailing arms at the rear.

The cockpit of the 968 CS has plenty of blanking plugs where the controls for things like electric mirrors, power windows, central locking and a radio are usually found. What you do get are things important to performance and handling such as ABS anti-lock brakes, a limited slip differential, massive wheels and tyres and a pair of body-hugging Kevlar racing seats. One concession to making life a little bit easier is power steering but the makers have been careful not to make it too light in order to retain road feel as good as a manual-steer car.

Body and finish

Basically, the 968 is a rounder version of the old 944 shape, and so it retains a strong Porsche identity without really standing out as a new model. The 968 CS sits lower to the ground than the standard 968 and has a rear spoiler to help keep it glued to the road.

Overall standards of finish looked very good on the test car, though I think there are other European and Japanese cars that do a better job with panel fit. Interior trim quality looked good, though the impression is more one of practicality than luxury.

Porsche backs up its manufacturing standards with a two year/unlimited kilometre mechanical warranty, a three year paint warranty and a 10 year anti-corrosion warranty. The body is fully galvanised and hot zinc dipped. Extensive underbody sealing, cavity wax protection and plastic inner front guards also play their part in extending the life of the body.

Comfort and space

Once you get ensconced in the form-hugging, racing-style Kevlar seats, they’re actually quite comfortable. There’s absolutely no chance of sliding about as these are seats you sit in, rather than on. Getting in and out of the car could represent a problem for less agile people as you have to lift yourself over the high side bolsters.

As well as securing you firmly against the considerable G forces the 968 CS is capable of generating when cornering, the seats also provide excellent thigh support with their longer than normal cushions. The main restriction to occupant size would be their ability to match the width of the seats, leg room is good and head room is satisfactory.

However, if racing seats aren’t your style, I believe the less radical seats from the 968 Coupe can be specified.

As mentioned before, the ride is very firm but not really what I’d describe as harsh. The thumping over road jointing strips and lane markers is more due to the ultra low-profile 40-series tyres fitted. The ride gets better the quicker you go and though the suspension is very taut, it copes better with uneven surfaces than Mazda’s RX-7, in my opinion.

Dispensing with the back seat not only saves weight, it also opens up the luggage area. The area isn’t all that deep, but it’s long and wide, with plenty of room for the luggage requirements of two people going away for at least a few days.

Behind the wheel

Porsche 968

The fixed steering wheel (a delightful thick-rimmed leather-bound unit) blocked my view of the two outer dials (battery voltage and temperature) but the instrument panel itself is clear and legible.

Like in most coupes, vision to the rear is a bit restricted when backing or manoeuvring, but the view for general driving is good. The power steering is a welcome help when parking and the 968 has a compact turning circle.

On the road

Despite its blistering outright performance, the 968 CS is incredibly tractable around town. That’s not so surprising when you learn that two-thirds of the engine’s enormous torque (pulling power) is available at just 1000 rpm. A thoroughbred the 968 CS certainly is, but in no way is it cantankerous or difficult to drive in heavy traffic.

That’s not something that can be said of some Italian exotics.

When more performance is called for, the 968 CS accelerates cleanly and the surge of power that comes in around maximum torque speed of 4100 rpm is guaranteed to please the most demanding of enthusiasts. Big four-cylinder engines aren’t renowned for their silky smoothness and there is some coarseness and noise when the engine is revved but it’s not really objectionable, considering the car’s sporty image.

The efficiency of the 968’s engine not only shows up in its performance, but also in fuel consumption. The Club Sport surprised me time and time again during the week-long road testing with its small thirst. It used only 9.3 litres/100 km on highway-type running and 13.3 litres/100 km around town.

The overall figure of 10.6 litres/100 km is highly commendable considering the performance available and way, way better than turbocharged competitors such as the Mazda RX-7 and Nissan 300ZX.

Complementing the engine is the delightful six-speed manual gearbox. The ratios are close together and when you combine that with the engine’s wide torque spread, it’s no wonder the car feels so eager to perform in every gear. With six speeds plus reverse, the change gate is fairly narrow between each gear, but you soon get used to that.

Both the gear change and clutch action feel strong and positive.

Every car has its ultimate handling limits and if you start attacking low speed corners, the combination of high roll stiffness, strong engine torque, limited slip differential and the inertia effect of the rear transaxle can result in a momentary loss of adhesion and oversteer. But having said that, the overall handling balance of the 968 is first class and the general road holding limits are extremely high.

Around a race track, the 968 is very fast and very enjoyable. This enjoyment also extends to open road touring where the 968 is so far below its absolute limits that the margin of safety is way beyond lesser cars.

Porsche brakes are well known for their powerful, progressive performance and the 968 CS is up with the best of them. Pulling up from high speed and repeated heavy use during testing failed to produce any signs of overheating and the car stopped straight in very short distances in emergency braking tests. Also, the brakes don’t require a huge effort to apply.

Summary

As perhaps the closest thing to a road-registered race-car around, the Porsche 968 Club Sport provides a truly memorable driving experience. Other manufacturers put out hot versions of their products as well, but to me, the 968 CS has the unmistaken feel of a thoroughbred in the way its engine, transmission, brakes and chassis come together to provide such an integrated performance package.

However, there are almost always compromises in car design and the 968 CS is no exception. It’s aimed squarely at performance-minded enthusiasts and if you’re not prepared to do without many of the creature comforts usually found in this price range, or put up with some ride discomfort, either look elsewhere, or perhaps opt for the CS’s better-equipped and more expensive stablemate, the 968 Coupe.

By NRMA Motoring, October 1993.

Porsche 968
Porsche 968
Porsche 968
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