Only 4,424 944 S2s were imported to the U.S. Of those S2s, there were a few hundred more Cabriolets than coupes, despite the Cabriolet being offered for only two years (1990–91). They also seem to come up for sale more often than coupes. All S2s came with a five-speed manual transmission, and in its three-year run, only detail changes were made.
The heart of the S2 is its engine: At three liters, and breathing through a DOHC 16-valve cylinder head, the normally-aspirated four makes 208 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. The newfound power was accompanied by the 944 Turbo’s distinctive, aerodynamic bodywork, including the front bumper and the rear underbody spoiler, both of which dropped the drag coefficient from .35 to .33 compared to the 944.
The S2’s throttle response is instantaneous, and the car accelerates nearly as quickly as the 944 Turbo. Fittingly, the S2’s handling is as precise as its power band, thanks to suspension borrowed from the Turbo. As a cruise vehicle, the S2 also performs admirably.
Well-maintained 944 S2s are robust machines and should run reliably past 200,000 miles — in some cases much farther — just by completing scheduled maintenance. But maintenance costs can quickly add up. Owners must replace the timing and balance-shaft belts and rollers and the water pump every 30,000–45,000 miles, which costs around $2,000 and should be done simultaneously. When buying a 944 S2, if there’s no documentation of a recent belt and water-pump service, assume they need to be replaced and factor this into the purchase price.
Also look out for worn motor mounts, a leaky power-steering pump and radiator, and a broken rear-hatch window. Replacing the clutch is costly. It requires removing the rear-mounted transmission and then disconnecting the torque tube to access the front-mounted clutch. The job usually runs about $2,000 total.
When it was introduced in 1989, the 944 S2 was expensive, especially when compared to its cheaper Japanese competitors, or even a used 944 Turbo. Today, shoppers shouldn’t count on the S2 to gain much value over time, but the cost to purchase one now is in line with its high quality, well-rounded performance, and good handling and practicality — all of which contribute to its steady value and great potential to be a daily driver.
The 968 is the best daily driver of the 924/944/968 model range and is most closely related to the 944 S2. In the past decade, nice 968s usually cost at least $12,000, but after the economic recession of 2008-09, $10,000 now seems to be the price floor for cars in good condition.
The 968 uses the same 3.0-liter engine as the 944 S2 but with the addition of 28 hp, courtesy of Porsche’s first application of VarioCam, a variable valve-timing system that enhances the engine’s power curve. A new six-speed manual gearbox was standard, and a four-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission was optional. But for those mechanical updates and some exterior styling changes, the 968 could just as easily be called the “944 S3.” The maintenance schedule is nearly the same as on any normally-aspirated 944, and 968s can suffer the same problems, too.
Basically a 944 S2 on steroids, the 968, which came in either coupe or Cabriolet body styles, can be an extremely enjoyable Porsche for the commute or a back road. If you require an automatic transmission, there is no better four-cylinder, front-engined Porsche than a Tiptronic-equipped 968.