Aren't half-round birthdays the most suitable occasion for moderate honesty? The 928 turns 45 this year. And for four and a half decades it has had to justify being much better than the old 911 that everyone so heroizes. Yes, maybe the 928 isn't Porsche's biggest star in the 1970s. But certainly ours today in Hockenheim - as "the old man in the test".
Do we really want to see our heroes win or rather see their opponents fail? Why do we forgive imperfections so easily, but never great talent? When does it begin, the beginning of that end when reckoning will be done? And can one imagine Charles, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, of Rothesay and of Edinburgh, a happy man? Oh, how thoughts flow in those small, short hours before the new day, when the sky stretches in one long, timeless moment from deep black, broken only by the high beams of the pop-up headlights, to shadowy grey, soon to be the first , sallow bright red of the morning roams.
If it starts when the darkness is even closer to yesterday than today in the flickering neon light of the underground car park, then, friends, yes, then we're on the road again with a hero of the past. A trip with an "old in the test" is always a journey into an ambiguous history: because the years that we think back to are still ahead of the car as the future.
That could fail
It is March 17, 1977 when the 47th Geneva Motor Show begins. The most important innovation is the 928, the "big sports car for the 1980s" - no, they rarely have anything smaller at Porsche. But it is also a completely newly developed car full of technology never seen before by Porsche: at the front a water-cooled engine and the clutch, connected by a shaft rotating at engine speed in a hollow tube to the gearbox, which is located in front of the rear axle. Stop-stop-stop-stop-stop, Seb, say now, and what about the 924? Yes, friends, it has that too – but the gearbox is behind the rear axle. Above all, Porsche starts the development of the transaxle concept for the 928. They just push the 924 in between and adopt the newly designed layout. And instead of the two-liter four-cylinder in-line engine, the ancestry of which is always succinctly reduced to the VW LT, the 928 is powered by a V8.
By 1995 it would still have 5.4 litres, 32 valves and 350 hp. But the engine starts with an aluminum block and cylinder head, wedge-shaped combustion chambers, forged crankshaft and sintered connecting rods with two valves, four and a half liters displacement and 240 hp. That's exactly 20 hp less than the 930, the turbo, 911 drivers eagerly calculate. On the one hand, this proves how reliable you are when adding and subtracting in the three-digit number range.And on the other hand, that they misunderstood the 928 from the start: as an attack on their – of course heroic – sports car driving.
Because even though the 928 is supposed to replace the 911 in the medium term (which, as we all know, it doesn't quite succeed), it can only expand the program upwards for the time being. For new customers, writes our brilliant former editor-in-chief Klaus Westrup in the first test, who are not only wealthy but also spoiled and for whom a 911 is "too loud, too hard or too demanding". That sounds pejorative in male driver circles, but it is true Porsche's goal. Yes, in the press kit for the 928 they even swear to its "good nature in the border area". good nature? Pah, as if a Porsche Nineteen driver would ever need benevolent good nature!
It is the result of the highest level of engineering. It gives the Gran Turismo an aluminum chassis at the front with double wishbones and a negative scrub radius for greater stability when braking on surfaces with different levels of grip on the left and right. The rear wheels are guided by the Weissach axle – a construction made up of an upper transverse and lower diagonal link core with an integrated control rocker. This keeps the wheel position constant during load changes and thus compensates for the stability-reducing change in toe-in that occurs during load changes. (Aren't those instructive details – delivered with fatherly severity and impressive gestures – that make you come across as a cool superdad at your pubescent daughter's birthday party?) The big Porsche is also so carefully constructed in other respects that detail optimizations enough to keep it modern over 18 years, six versions (928, 928 S, 928 S4, 928 S4 Clubsport, 928 GT, 928 GTS) and 62,410 copies.
So if the truth were something you could expect of other people, even 911 drivers, you would have to confront them with the fact that a 928 is superior to a 911 of the same age in ... well: actually in everything. Especially since it lacks the inventive and ingenious tinkering that characterizes the 911 and, against all odds, keeps saving its concept for the near future.
The 928 still has 14 years of its own future ahead of it when it celebrates 50 years of Porsche as a special model. With such a 1981 anniversary Porsche - Meteor metallic outside, wine-red stripes with F. Porsche embroidery inside - we now arrive at our regular gas station in Hockenheim. In the early morning light that is so beguiling that Hans jostle to take pictures. The popular screenplay elements "baguette toppings discussion with the junior boss" (Otto) and "unsuccessful flattery with the senior boss" (Seb) are therefore omitted today.
As in his last years
Instead we rush over to the Motodrom. Then as always: Weigh the car, wire the measuring equipment and out on the track.And, oh, it's part of the magic of these "old people in the test" that we take even the most boring of all measurements with breathless curiosity: the speedometer deviation. Because even then the 928 proves that a car of its stature has just as little need for exaggerations as it does for noise-related riots, as the phone measurements show.
But this program warms up the car properly for the acceleration test, which we tackle at the very north-eastern tip of the route from the exit zone of the hairpin bend. So concentration, high revs, clutch snaps and ... And then we want to mention at this point how much the original version of the 928 is always clamored for, its V8 is a smug and comfortable engine that lacks the right bite. What. For. A. Nonsense!
When the clutch snaps shut, it starts with an abysmal force, seamless elasticity and an urgency that is still smooth at high revs, as can only emerge from the depth of 4474 cm³ displacement. If someone complains that six seven for zero hundred isn't that great, let him first get it accelerated himself in a 911. Especially in one with a cumbersome 915 transmission, whose sluggish long travels there until the switch to the G50 (for model year 1987, in case you want to keep your daughter's teenage friends under your spell even longer) are hailed as a driving challenge. This is by no means inferior to that of the 928 transmission, which has always been criticized for this.
Well, step on the brake pedal to measure the deceleration. You think it's just so-so. Tststst, if you want to turn back to page 22? There you can see what slows down the 911 Turbo. Which is where we want to end the comparison and begin the reconciliation. Because of course you will find just as many values in which a 911 towers over a 928. But this eternal rivalry over which is the truer Porsche always ignores one thing: that the difference between eleven and twenty-eight in terms of their overall grandiosity is much smaller than that between a Porsche and any other car. So: every Porsche is a true Porsche.
Because only a Porsche drives like a Porsche, which the 928 proves in the slalom. In doing so, he adds a variation to the Porschiness, which nevertheless retains the most important thing: the perfectly integrated seating position and the hasty, feedback-ready smoothness of the steering. With the 928, this is supported right from the start by a speed-dependent servo function, which makes handling the heavy car lighter without losing any of the precision and feedback. The handling of the Gran Turismo thus acquires an equally outstanding but different kind of brilliance. With the finely balanced weight distribution and the top-class chassis construction, it simply feels perfectly balanced.understeer? There is not any. So not at all. Instead, the 928 starts neutral, stays neutral at high speeds, and even at high speeds. Only at the top of the upper edge of the border area does he press gently with the rear. But it is precisely this small nudge and its counter-swing that gives the 928 the right momentum around the next pylon and the next and the next and so on and so forth. In doing so, he demonstrates amazing speed and dexterity, but never loses his confidence – with which he manages to handle with exhilarating sovereignty.
So we are still so elated when we measure the interior and then drive off to measure consumption that neither the scarcity of one nor the generosity of the other could lessen our enthusiasm for the 928. After all, it takes us home, pleasantly comfortable on the freeway, extremely entertaining on country roads and always at a generous pace. Perhaps we can agree on the matter of the failed succession of 928: that he is not the uncrowned king, but the eternal, fine prince.