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The Top 10 Best Porsche 944 Performance Upgrades

If you own a Porsche 944, whether naturally aspirated or turbocharged, then you already know how much fun it is to drive. However, like any vehicle, there’s always room for improvement. Whether you’re looking to increase horsepower, improve handling, or simply enhance the overall driving experience, plenty of upgrades are available for your Porsche 944 and 944 Turbo. In this article, we’ll look at the top 10 best Porsche 944, and 944 Turbo upgrades for increased performance ranked in order of their ease of installation, starting with the simplest.

1. Wheel and Tire Upgrades

Tires

Arguably, one of the easiest ways to increase performance is swapping out your tires for a more performance-oriented tire which will help increase traction and cornering ability. Performance tires with sticky compounds and aggressive tread patterns can improve grip and handling. Some great tire options for the 944 are the Continental Extreme Contact DWS 06 Plus or the Indy Firehawk 500, and for extreme performance, the Hankook Ventus R-S4 which are great tires for the track.

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Hankook Great Catch Rebate, Get Up to $80 Back

Wheels

Lightweight wheels can reduce unsprung weight, which can improve handling and acceleration. When it comes to wheels, the factory-forged Clubsports are a great lightweight option. These came factory on the ’88 944 Turbo S and the ’89 944 Turbo, so they are only suitable for late offset cars. Be careful not to mistake them for the heavier early D90s, which look similar. Here’s a visual comparison of the Clubsport vs D90 wheels. If you’re looking for a wheel geared towards track racing, then the Jongbloed Racing Series 500 is worth considering. The JRW series 500 wheel is available in both early and late offset.

When shopping for wheels for your 944, it’s important to note that there are two distinct versions to look out for: the early offset, found on ’86 and earlier 944s, and the late offset, found on ’87 and later 944s. Late offset wheels can be used on an early offset car, but you’ll need to use spacers. However, most early offset wheels won’t fit a late offset car, as they’ll stick out too far past the fenders. Another thing to pay attention to is the larger brakes on the later 944 Turbos – most 15″ wheels will not clear the larger brake calipers on the ’88 944 Turbo S and ’89 944 Turbo without first modifying the calipers.

2. Brake Upgrades

Upgrading the brakes on your Porsche 944 can significantly improve the car’s stopping power, making it not only safer, but more competitive on the track.

Brake Pads

The easiest way to increase your braking performance is to install high-performance pads. High-performance pads are designed to provide more stopping power and better durability in high-stress situation such as on the track than standard pads. They also generate less brake dust, which will help keep your wheels cleaner. Thanks to the design of the Porsche 944 brake calipers, swapping out the brake pads is a breeze. Some great choices for high-performance brake pads include Hawk High Performance Street brake pads, Hawk HP Plus Sport Pads, or go all out with the Hawk DTC-60 Track Only Pads.

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Brake Rotors

Another great brake upgrade option for the Porsche 944 is to replace the stock brake rotors with slotted or drilled rotors. Slotted or drilled rotors offer better cooling and are less prone to warping than standard rotors. They also provide better grip and stopping power. Watch out for the cheaper brands that offer slotted or drilled rotors though as they tend to crack after a few heat cycles. Great options for high-performance slotted or drilled rotors include the R1 Concepts eLINE Drilled and Slotted, R1 Concepts Black Zinc Diamond Slotted, and the R1 Concepts eLINE Black Zinc Diamond Drilled & Slotted.

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Brake Lines

In addition to upgrading the pads and rotors, you may also want to consider upgrading the brake lines. Stock brake lines can become brittle over time, which can lead to decreased braking performance. Upgrading to stainless steel braided brake lines can improve the pedal feel and reduce the risk of brake line failure. SafeBrake makes a great, complete stainless line kit for the 944, they can be found here: ’81-’87 Porsche 944 naturally aspirated, ’86-’91 Porsche 944 Turbo & S2.

Good For Naturally Aspirated 944s
Good for 944 Turbos and S2 Models

Overall, upgrading the brakes on your Porsche 944 can be a worthwhile investment. It can improve your 944s stopping power, making it safer and more enjoyable to drive. With the many brake upgrade options available for the 944, it’s easy to find a combination that works best for your driving style and needs. If you’re unsure which upgrades are right for you, consider consulting with a professional mechanic.

3. Suspension Upgrades

Third on our list is the suspension system. Upgrading the suspension can dramatically improve the 944s handling, cornering abilities, and overall performance.

Coilovers

One of the best ways to upgrade your Porsche 944’s suspension system is by installing coilovers, which allow you to easily adjust the ride height and stiffness. Two great options on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of cost are: the KW Variant 3 coil-over, which is a track-tested performance setup suitable for street, track and autocross use. The other option is to ‘build’ your own coilover setup, which can be significantly cheaper but will require some manual labor on your part. We explain how to build your own coilover setup in more detail here in our extensive Alternative Porsche 944 Parts List.

If you want to take your suspension a step further, you can choose a coilover system that not only allows you to adjust the ride height and stiffness but also gives you the ability to adjust the damping and camber. One such option is the KW V3 Clubsport coilover kit which was specifically designed for the Nordschleife using track-purpose tires like the Hankook Ventus RS 4 as mentioned above. The KW V3 Clubsports coilover kit meets all needs for the road and track guaranteeing excellent handling, best performance, unmatched agility, and competitive lap times.

KW Clubsports Coilover Kit 35271810
KW Clubsport Coilover Kit

If you’re looking for a relatively easy upgrade that will give an incredible performance gain, upgrading to an adjustable suspension system such as coilovers will allow you to fine-tune the suspension to your preferences and driving conditions. This will give you significant control over how your car handles and performs on and off the track, resulting in better lap times and a more enjoyable driving experience.

Strut Brace

Adding a strut brace to a Porsche 944 can significantly improve handling, stability, and steering response by stiffening the strut towers. This prevents unwanted movement that could otherwise introduce positive camber, resulting in poor handling.

KLA Industries makes a strut tower brace that not only is effective and looks good but is also easily removed quickly when you need to work under the hood.

KLA porsche 944 and porsche 944 turbo strut brace
KLA Porsche 944 Strut Brace

4. Exhaust System Upgrades

Upgrading exhaust system components on your Porsche 944 can yield several significant benefits, enhancing both performance and acoustics, which will improve the overall driving experience while also shedding some weight in the process.

Lindsey Racing and Fabspeed both offer great options that can produce over an additional 30hp and 30 ft. lbs of torque on Turbo models. Let’s dive into some notable upgrades:

Exhaust Pipe

Increasing the size of the factory exhaust piping on the 944 and 944 Turbo will enhance exhaust flow, potentially boosting horsepower by over 30 additional horsepower on a 944 Turbo. There are dozens of options available for the 944 and 944 turbo, here are some of the most common options.

Good for Porsche 944 NA
Good for Porsche 944 Turbo
Best for Porsche 944 Turbo

High Flow Cat

The catalytic converter is generally the most restrictive component in the exhaust system. Upgrading your vehicle’s catalytic converter can significantly boost performance. By swapping out the stock converter for a high-flow aftermarket one, you reduce exhaust flow restriction. This means gases can escape more smoothly, easing backpressure and letting the engine breathe better. The result? More horsepower and torque.

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Exhaust Headers

By replacing the stock exhaust headers with aftermarket options designed for improved exhaust flow, you can effectively reduce backpressure in the exhaust system. This reduction in backpressure allows the engine to expel exhaust gases more efficiently, leading to increased horsepower and torque. Additionally, aftermarket exhaust headers are often constructed from high-quality materials such as stainless steel, which not only improves durability but also reduces weight compared to stock components.

Porsche 944 NA
Porsche 944 Turbo

5. Intake System Upgrades

An upgraded intake system allows more air into the engine, improving combustion efficiency. This boosts horsepower, torque, and throttle response. With better airflow and optimized fuel mixture, the engine operates more efficiently, resulting in increased performance and a more enjoyable driving experience.

Several intake system upgrades are available for the Porsche 944, including performance air filters, cold air intake kits, and aftermarket intake manifolds. Brands like K&N, Fabspeed, and Hayward Performance offer various options designed to enhance airflow and improve engine performance.

Air Filter

The easiest upgrade in the intake system is upgrading the air filter to something less restrictive while still filtering out damaging dust and debris – Ensure you keep up on the regular oiling maintenance to catch the fine debris before it enters your engine.

Good for Porsche 944 NA
Good for Porsche 944 Turbo

Intake Manifold

Adding an intake manifold to the Porsche 944 Turbo can notably increase performance. Replacing the stock manifold with an aftermarket option optimizes airflow efficiency, leading to improved combustion. This upgrade boosts horsepower and torque output, improving acceleration and overall responsiveness. With increased airflow and optimized fuel mixture, the engine operates more efficiently, unlocking extra ponies. Sorry NA guys, there are no intake manifolds available for the naturally aspirated 944 but there is an alternative below, under throttle bodies.

Speed Force Racing Porsche 944 Turbo Intake Manifold
Hayward Performance Porsche 944 Turbo Intake Manifold

Throttle Body

Throttle body upgrades for the Porsche 944 enhance performance by allowing increased airflow into the engine. Upgrading to a larger diameter throttle body or a performance-designed option optimizes airflow efficiency, improving throttle response and overall engine performance. Throttle body spacers and porting/polishing further enhance airflow for added power.

While throttle body upgrades alone may not yield significant benefits, they become crucial when combined with a full exhaust system, MAF kits (options below under Engine Management), larger displacement, bigger turbos, street or race cams, etc. These upgrades collectively remove airflow restrictions, enhancing overall engine performance.

Good for NA Porsche 944
Good for NA and Turbo Models

6. Engine Management System Upgrades


Engine management system upgrades for the Porsche 944 optimize fuel delivery, ignition timing, and airflow, boosting performance significantly. They enable precise tuning for increased horsepower, torque, and fuel efficiency throughout the full powerband. These upgrades also enhance throttle response and power delivery, ensuring a smoother and more exhilarating driving experience whether on the track or the open road.

Performance Chips

A quick and dirty way to add some extra power to your Porsche 944 is to swap out the old DME chip, and if you have a 944 Turbo, the KLR chip, to a modified chip which is optimized for fuel delivery and ignition timing. Lindsey Racing offers off-the-shelf chips at an affordable price, to accomplish just this for all Porsche 944s. However, it’s important to note that this method is outdated as they do not take into account every modification you’ve made, leaving efficiency and power on the table. That’s were the modern engine management systems below come in to play.

LR lindsey racing porsche 944 chip upgrades 1
Lindsey Racing Porsche 944 ECU Chip Upgrades

Plug and Play EMS

If you’re interested in unlocking custom tuning capabilities without the hassle of installing new sensors, there are several plug-and-play EMS upgrade options available for the Porsche 944, including:
VEMS – keep in mind there are many reports of limited support
Haltech – plug and play by Speedforce Racing
F9tech is plug and play but tuning abilities are still in the works as of Feb 2024
– MAF Tune for the Turbo and NA which requires a bit more installation but nothing too serious.

Full Standalone

If you’re all about having total control over your Porsche 944’s performance, you might want to consider microsquirt/megasquirt. Keep in mind, going this route means you’ll need a custom wiring harness and new sensors. Luckily, there’s a huge community of enthusiasts ready to lend a hand with tuning and offer online support if you decide to take on the tuning yourself. Check out Doug’s thread on Rennlist for some firsthand insight—he’s a 944 enthusiast who documented his whole journey converting his 944 Turbo to megasquirt.

7. Turbocharger Upgrades

One of the best ways to significantly increase horsepower in your Porsche 944 is to either upgrade or add a turbocharger to your Porsche 944. The difference between a naturally aspirated (NA) 944 and a 944 Turbo is substantial, thanks to the addition of the turbocharger and all the other upgrades Porsche implemented to turn it into a 944 Turbo. See the image below for a visualization of Porsche’s upgrades to the Turbo model 944.

Porsche 944 Turbo 951 Factory Upgraded Parts Breakdown
Porsche 944 Turbo Factory Upgraded Parts Breakdown

Turbocharging the Naturally Aspirated Porsche 944

If you’re adding a turbo to a naturally aspirated 944, you have your work cut out for you, but it is completely doable. David Barbarian is currently working on something that should make adding a turbo to an NA 944 much easier; he can usually be found posting in some of the Porsche 944 Facebook groups.

Upgrading the Turbocharger of the Porsche 944 Turbo

If you’re looking to upgrade the turbocharger in your Porsche 944 Turbo, you’ve got plenty of options to choose from, including Evergreen Turbo, Lindsey Racing, Tim’s Turbos, and more. While Lindsey Racing’s “Super Series” options are available, they are considered outdated since they are still using tech from the 90s. Instead, investing in a more modern approach offered by Evergreen and Tim’s Turbos with optimized turbines, upgraded bearings, and advanced balancing will result in quicker spooling, increased power, and longer life, offering better value for your money.

Complimentary Turbo Additions

Before ramping up the boost on your Porsche 944 turbo, it’s a good idea to upgrade your head gasket due to its tendency to blow. A solid option is the Vulcan cut ring head gasket. Although it might come at a slightly higher price compared to other choices, once installed properly, it guarantees durability, providing reassurance against blowouts. Other recommended additions include an upgraded wastegate like the Tial F38 Wastegate, an electronic boost controller (EBC), a wideband gauge, and a boost gauge to ensure optimal functionality.

8. Intercooler Upgrades

The intercooler plays a vital role in ensuring reliable horsepower. It works by cooling the charge air, which not only decreases pressure but also prevents detonation. You’ll want an intercooler that efficiently cools the charge air while keeping the pressure drop to a minimum for optimal performance. The stock Porsche 944 Turbo intercooler does an ok job but there’s a lot to be gained with an intercooler upgrade.

SpeedForce Racing offers 3 intercoolers of varying levels of performance for the Porsche 944 Turbo.

Speed Force Racing Porsche 944 Turbo Stage 1.5 Intercooler
Speed Force Racing Porsche 944 Turbo Stage 1.5 Intercooler

You can also modify your existing cooler by welding on larger end tanks, although there is the argument that the work required isn’t worth it and that you’d be better off upgrading to a larger intercooler.

9. Transmission and Clutch Upgrades

Upgrading the transmission, shift linkage, and clutch on a Porsche 944 Turbo can significantly enhance its performance in several ways. Improving the transmission allows for smoother and quicker gear changes, resulting in improved acceleration and responsiveness. This is particularly noticeable during spirited driving or on the track where precise gear changes are crucial. Additionally, a stronger clutch can handle higher torque levels, enabling the engine to transfer power more efficiently to the wheels without slipping.

Transmission

The existing Porsche 944 transmission is great, especially if you have the limited-slip differential option. If not, you can add an LSD to your existing transmission, options below, or swap out the transmission for one with an LSD already installed. The factory-installed LSD transmission is a great option, although they are becoming more scarce. Another popular upgrade is the 6-speed transmission from the Porsche 968. Both transmissions can be sourced from various places, but expect to pay a premium. Plyhammersparts, Just Joshin Porsche Parts, and 944barn could have them in stock or at least know where you could find one.

Porsche 944 Turbo Transmission
Porsche 944 Turbo Transmission

Limited Slip Differential

Adding a limited-slip differential (LSD) for the Porsche 944 boosts traction, stability, and overall performance by evenly distributing power to the rear wheels. This means smoother acceleration, better handling, better control during hard braking, and more confidence, especially through tricky corners. It also reduces tire wear, making it a must-have upgrade for anyone looking to boost their performance.

Guard Transmission is one of the leading suppliers of limited slip differentials for Porsches, and the Porsche 944 is no exception. They’re LSDs are built to suit for you specific needs, experience, and vehicle. They have a list of dealers on their website where you can find more info.

Guards Porsche 944 LSD
Guard Transmission Porsche 944 LSD

Shift Linkage / Short Shifter

The shifter and shift linkage at the transmission have bushings and other components that wear over time, causing the shifter to feel sloppy and lose precision. Fortunately, Only944.com offers the perfect solution at an affordable price. Their inventory includes a revised shifter assembly, shift linkage arm, and short shifter, all designed to deliver a far superior shifting experience compared to factory shift linkages. These upgrades are highly recommended by many who have experienced the sloppiness of the current shifter and desire a more precise driving experience.

Clutch and Pressure Plate



Upgrading the clutch and pressure plate in a Porsche 944 provides numerous benefits. It enhances performance by offering smoother engagement and more precise control, especially during gear shifts. Most importantly, there are options tailored for various torque levels, ensuring optimal performance. The upgraded clutch and pressure plate also boost durability and reliability, notably at higher torque levels, reducing the risk of slippage or failure.

There are numerous clutch and pressure plate options available. The stock pressure plate for the 944 NA is generally sufficient unless you need to replace it anyhow and/or you’re making serious power. There are numerous clutch discs available to choose from based on power output.

Various porsche 944 clutch discs
Various Porsche 944 NA Clutch Discs

For the Porsche 944 turbo, one highly recommended combo is the KEP stage 1 pressure plate paired with a clutch disk suitable for your power level. A popular choice is the Sach 1878005621 clutch disc, ideal for slightly modified 944 turbos up to around 500hp when combined with the KEP stage 1 pressure plate. If exceeding 500hp, consider upgrading to the KEP stage 2 pressure plate for a firmer feel and increased clamping force.

10. Body and Aero Upgrades

Let’s face it, most body upgrades we make to our cars are primarily for aesthetic purposes unless building a track-purpose vehicle. However, there are still several upgrades you can do to the Porsche 944 that not only look great but perform great as well. American International Racing and GT Racing both offer a variety of aftermarket and factory-looking fiberglass body upgrades for both the NA and Turbo versions of the Porsche 944. Below are some of the most notable options.

Front Splitter

A great addition to the 944 is either a color-matched or satin black front splitter, such as the Club Autosport Lux splitter for the early NA Porsche 944s or the American International Racing front splitter for the 944 Turbo. This helps manage airflow underneath the Porsche 944, reducing lift and increasing downforce. As a result, it improves overall stability and traction, keeping the front of the car firmly planted at higher speeds.

Rear Splitter

The factory-installed 944 Turbo rear splitter not only looks great but also serves a functional purpose by keeping the rear of the car stable at higher speeds. While the factory 944 Turbo rear splitter can be mounted to an NA Porsche 944, it requires drilling a few holes into the body for installation. If you’re having trouble finding a factory rear splitter, both American International Racing and GT-Racing offer fiberglass versions as alternatives.

Blue Porsche 944 turbo rear splitter 1
Porsche 944 Turbo Rear Splitter

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Porsche 944 offers an excellent platform to build upon, with a multitude of options available from various suppliers. By upgrading your suspension, brakes, exhaust system, intake system, engine management, turbocharger, intercooler, transmission and clutch, wheels and tires, and body and aero, you can take your Porsche 944 Turbo to the next level of performance and driving enjoyment.

FAQs

  1. What is the Porsche 944 Turbo? The Porsche 944 Turbo is a high-performance sports car produced by Porsche from 1985 to 1991.
  2. What is the horsepower of a stock Porsche 944 Turbo? The stock Porsche 944 Turbo, produced from 1985 to 1988, had 217 horsepower. The 1988 Porsche 944 Turbo S and 1989 Porsche 944 Turbo saw an increase to 247hp.
  3. How much does it cost to upgrade a Porsche 944 Turbo? The cost of upgrading a Porsche 944 Turbo varies depending on the specific upgrades.

Discover more about the Porsche 944 Turbo here:

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