Porsche 944 / 944 Turbo
Price When New (1985): $25,550 / $33,255
Expect to Pay: ~$8,300-$36,000 (good condition)
Model Years: 1982-1991
Engine: 2.5-Liter inline-four, 2.7-Liter inline-four / 2.5-Liter Tubro inline-four
Horsepower: 147 / 247
Weight: 2,932 lbs / 3,122 lbs

Before the mid-engined 718 Cayman and Boxster established themselves as Stuttgart’s entry-level benchmark, their predecessors made do with a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive setup and even with that, left some massive shoes to fill. From 1976-1995, the 924, 944, and 968 progressively got better performance-wise, but when design and the current going price are factored in, the 944 is a perfect balance, the Goldilocks option of the three.

Despite working with a front-engine architecture, Porsche built the 944 with a near perfect 50/50 weight balance. Between the 147 horsepower of the base model and the 247 hp output of the turbo, the chassis was never overpowered. Rounding corners, it’s poised and predictable and lauded as one of Porsche’s best-handling cars, on top of being one of its best-selling, ever.

If you want to look for a modern sports car to go head-to-head with, the Mazda MX-5 is an excellent place to start. It’s that good. While other ’80s-sports cars were trying to kill its drivers with massive power curves and no electronic aides mixed with short wheelbases (namely Porsches own 911 Turbo), the 944 kept an even keel, was easily controllable and enjoyable to almost everyone.

A total of 56,921 standard 944s, 13,982 Turbo models, and over 14,000 944 “S” variants made it to US shores, so the entry-level Porsche isn’t exactly a rare find. And seeing as how they’re relatively ubiquitous, it’s easy to come across one in absolute disrepair sitting right next to another in mint-condition, on the same site. However, when a Porsche is described as “mint-condition,” shelling out heaps of cash tends to comes soon after — not the 944. A pristine 944 can run from below $10,000 to just below $40,000 for a turbo, but considering they’re known for classic Porsche performance and handling (and what a 718 cayman goes for today), these are absolute bargains and an easy way to be part of the Porsche party.

CarGurus: 1988 944 Coupe, w/ 60,282 miles$13,995
KBB: 1985 944 Coupe, w/ 49,769 miles$9,900
eBay Motors: 1986 944 Turbo, w/ 43,150 miles$23,395
KBB: 1986 944 Turbo, w/ 85,975 miles$24,900