Increased sales of Porsche's 928 model during the mid-1980s prompted executives to consider adding another large, sporty touring vehicle to the lineup, this time a 4-door that could serve as a more practical but equally powerful and exciting alternative to the 928. Porsche engineer Dr. Ulrich Bez was put in charge of the project and given instructions that the vehicle should be luxurious and comfortable but offer a sporting nature superior to that attained by large saloon cars from Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
Bez designed a new front-engine, rear-drive platform with a wheelbase of 2,826 mm (111.3 in) and power coming from a new 80-degree, water cooled V8 engine with a power output of around 300 PS (220 kW; 300 hp). Some discrepancy has arisen as to the engine displacement, which is reported as being between 3.6 and 4.2 litres.
The prototype made from Bez's technical designs was styled by Harm Lagaay, a design which influenced later models and that held many similarities to the 911, despite the difference in engine placement. Specific design influences to later Porsche models include the control-arm suspension and 959-esque headlamps which would later be used on the 993 as well as the overall shape and tail-light design which were adapted for the 996 generation 911.
After Ulrich Bez left Porsche in September 1991, the project lost momentum. The severe slump in 928 sales made executives re-think the viability of the idea, and low overall profits during the 1989 to 1991 model years meant the model would be far more risky for the company to build than had been anticipated during development. In January 1992, development was halted completely. Although Porsche officials initially claimed that the only prototype was destroyed, they now contend that it remains in storage. A rear-view photograph of the prototype (silver color, 17 inch Cup II wheels, unregistered licence plate BB-PW 989) is published in the German classic car magazine Motor Klassik. Autoweek also reported the existence of the prototype.
The Porsche Panamera, launched in 2009, can be considered the successor to the 989 project.
- Ludvigsen, Karl (2003). Porsche: Excellence Was Expected (second edition). Bentley Publishers. ISBN 0-8376-0235-1.
- Kable, Greg, and Bob Gritzinger (2005). "Panamera Flagship Gets Go-Ahead". Autoweek, August 6, 2005.