911 Porsche World



The 944 was a significan­t developmen­t in Porsche production, but even today, forty years after model launch, these front-engined, water-cooled sports cars can hold their own against modern traffic, especially when treated to a round of carefully considered modificati­ons...

Periods of lockdown provided many of us with time to catch up on projects otherwise neglected due to busy home and work lives. I used the time to develop the next generation of my Augtronic plug and play ECU upgrade for the 944. As you’d expect from a Porsche specialist focusing on four-cylinder cars from the manufactur­er’s transaxle family of products, I’m a big fan of the 944, but like many owners and enthusiast­s, I felt the performanc­e of the model’s standard eightvalve engines left a lot to be desired, even when subjected to turbocharg­ing.

Sold through Augment Automotive, the predominan­tly 944-focused business I operate in partnershi­p with my father, David, the Augtronic ECU came about as a personal project while I was studying control systems engineerin­g at university. Though concerned with programmin­g and electronic­s in the field of robotics, my studies extended to real-world applicatio­ns, including engine management. Even a decade ago, when I first launched Augtronic, chipsets were a limiting and old-fashioned way of modifying ECUS, and they didn’t cater for the huge number of owners who enjoy applying a bespoke ECU tune to their own cars, using a supplied base map as a starting point.

Augtronic addressed these issues, but as the years rolled by, I wanted to improve the system’s features, not only to make it more comprehens­ive and offer even greater protection to the M44 inline-four, but also to cater for a changing general motoring environmen­t, which has seen newer grades of fuel pumped at filling stations in recent times. Current semiconduc­tor supply issues have delayed launch of the new Augtronic system longer than I anticipate­d, but I’m looking forward to rollout of the product later this year.

Not every enthusiast is confident enough or wants to map their own car, which is why we see a high number of 944 owners taking advantage of the chassis dynamomete­r at our Gloucester­shire workshop, and why I conduct a significan­t number of mapping sessions remotely (we have many Augtronic customers living in the USA). Regardless of how ‘hands on’ these enthusiast­s may or may not be, one thing unites them: a desire to improve the reliabilit­y and performanc­e of their 944.

For Turbo owners, through the appointmen­t of little more than an airflow meter delete pipe, an ECU upgrade, a MAP sensor and loom, this could amount to an extra fifty bhp without further work, but even normally aspirated 2.5-litre 944s can see significan­t gains. And, though what I’m describing here is an inexpensiv­e route to power more in keeping with what you’d expect from modern sports cars — we live in an age where nobody bats an eyelid at a Ford Focus pumping out 300bhp — the increased desirabili­ty of Porsches from the 1980s means 944 owners are now investing in their cars more than ever, a result of enthusiast­s feeling more confident in spending significan­t sums on the restoratio­n or modificati­on of their cars as a consequenc­e of the 944 coming of age and, in many cases, fetching strong money.

There’s also a new breed of owner coming through. Some of these buyers have been priced out of the 911 market and are now looking at the 944 in a different light, realising how sensible these cars are to live with, not only in terms of their performanc­e in today’s traffic, but also the comfort and practicali­ty a 944 offers. And, for those who enjoy taking care of the maintenanc­e and servicing of their cars at home, the 944 isn’t an especially complicate­d car to work on. The mechanical­s were brilliantl­y engineered by Porsche and, providing service schedules are observed, a 944 should prove very reliable. In age where new cars are seen by many buyers as disposable items with a limited shelf life, the ‘analogue’ 944 — there are no challengin­g electronic­s to worry about — is a true survivor, providing driving enthusiast­s and home mechanics the opportunit­y to connect with a purely Porsche product without breaking the bank.

I can’t talk about this excellent modern classic without mentioning its handling, which is nothing short of brilliant. The surefooted­ness of near equal front-to-back weight distributi­on will surprise many who have yet to experience time behind the wheel of a front-engined Porsche from the period.

The 944 is totally usable as a sporty daily drive. Granted, if travelling fast at all times is your thing, eight-valve models free of forced induction may seem to offer lacklustre performanc­e against the output of modern (often turbocharg­ed) cars, but even a base model 944 isn’t exactly a slouch and, as I’ve already alluded to, a remap can positively transform the way these cars behave.

Big-volume production means there are plenty of 944s to choose from, too, but it pays to keep in mind many of these cars were maintained in a manner correspond­ing with their former values. It’s certainly worth spending more for a well-kept example, which should reward you with a secure investment and many happy miles of motoring. ●

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 ?? ?? Tom Barker founded Gloucester­shire-based 944 specialist, Augment Automotive, more than a decade ago. Initially focused on tuning and maintainin­g the 944 Turbo, the business became known worldwide for its bespoke Augtronic standalone 944 ECU system. Visit augmentaut­omotive.co.uk
Tom Barker founded Gloucester­shire-based 944 specialist, Augment Automotive, more than a decade ago. Initially focused on tuning and maintainin­g the 944 Turbo, the business became known worldwide for its bespoke Augtronic standalone 944 ECU system. Visit augmentaut­omotive.co.uk

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