2023 Porsche 911 Sport Classic Pairs the Turbo Engine with Rear-Wheel Drive and a Manual
Porsche has long been expert at putting new variants into even the tiniest of niches, a smorgasbord strategy that creates a plethora of possibilities. With the current 911, the range runs from the basic Carrera to the S and the GTS and on to the twin pinnacles of the motorsports-inspired GT3 and the supercar-baiting Turbo S. Throw in cabriolet and Targa variants, and the ability to select either rear- or all-wheel drive and manual or PDK dual-clutch transmissions on much of the range, and you have a bewildering array of choices—and that’s before considering the options list that’s longer and more financially punishing than the German tax code. You could spend days with the online configurator without ever finding the perfect solution.
The new Sport Classic, then, could be a perfect shortcut for those who are rich in cash but short on time to make such tricky decisions, or who want to make some otherwise impossible combinations. In essence it is a rear-drive version of the normally all-wheel-drive Turbo, one that also comes with a standard-fit seven-speed manual gearbox in place of the PDK that is mandatory in the Turbo, plus pretty much a full set of ticked option boxes. You’ll notice it also has a ducktail spoiler.
This is because the Sport Classic is one of Porsche’s Heritage Design limited-run models, which take inspiration from different eras of the company’s history. In the Sport Classic’s case, that era is the late ’60s and early ’70s, with the fixed wing clearly referencing the famous ducktail worn by the 1973 911 Carrera RS 2.7. Other retro design touches in the new car include Fuchs-style alloy wheels, checked cloth inserts on the seats and the door panels, and gold badging. The red in the Porsche logos is the more orange shade the company used back when sex was safe and racing was dangerous.
The Sport Classic might look (slightly) like an RS 2.7, but it doesn’t drive like one. That’s unsurprising given that the new car weighs over 60 percent more than its famous predecessor and has two-and-a-half times more power. It’s also because the 2023 Sport Classic’s dynamic character feels close to the 911 Turbo on which it’s based. Power and torque have been reduced slightly due to the limitations of the manual gearbox—the SC’s 543 horsepower and 442 pound-feet representing reductions of 29 horsepower and 111 pound-feet, respectively, but the character of the 3.7-liter flat-six remains intact, with little lag and huge midrange muscle.
The Sport Classic might be the most powerful 992-generation 911 to be offered with a manual gearbox, but beyond novelty, the stick shift really isn’t a significant highlight. There are two reasons for this: The first is that as a product of the regular 911 clan rather than the Motorsport line, the SC uses the seven-speed gearbox, which has less precise shift action than the GT3’s scalpel-sharp six-speeder and the complexity of four planes.
The gearbox handles direct shifts between consecutive ratios cleanly and features a rev-matching function to smooth downshifts. But we sometimes found ourselves lost when trying to skip intermediate gears or move across planes, often ending up in fifth when looking for third, or even seventh when aiming for fifth.
The second issue isn’t down to the gearbox, rather the flatness of the engine’s torque delivery, which delivers its peak all the way from 2000 to 6000 rpm. Thus, there really isn’t much difference in urge between any of the higher ratios when traveling quickly. Part of the joy of choosing the right gear comes from the risk of being in the wrong gear, but given the breadth of the Sport Classic’s muscle, that’s not much of a risk.
The same muscle also makes this car effortlessly quick. The Sport Classic might be slower than the Turbo, but it is still capable of summoning huge speed in small distances, a point it proved on a derestricted stretch of autobahn near Stuttgart. Clumps of slower-moving traffic in the passing lane slowed the 911 to what felt like a crawl of 75 mph or so, but as soon as these blockages cleared the car projected itself back to twice that or even more without any sense of strain. The Sport Classic feels more relaxed at 150 mph than most cars do at 100.
Off the autobahn, the Sport Classic still felt very Turbo-esque. This car gets most of the 911’s optional dynamic features as standard, including rear-wheel steering, a torque-vectoring differential, the PDCC active anti-roll system, and PCCB carbon-ceramic brakes. The loss of a driven front axle hasn’t dramatically altered its handling demeanor, and there’s no shortage of traction on smooth, dry asphalt, even when launching hard from intersections or when applying big power in tight turns. Yet there was little sense of the chassis waking up under the lateral loadings that can be generated on road at quasi-responsible speeds thanks to this abundance of grip.
As in all 911s, the Sport Classic’s cornering line can be easily and instinctively tightened (or widened) through weight transfer using small gas-pedal adjustments, and it can be hustled at huge speeds down a twisting road without undue drama. In that regard, it is as impressive as the car it’s based on, but anyone expecting the adrenaline-spiking thrills that old rear-drive 911 Turbos delivered is not going to find them here.
Neither does this car feel like an obvious successor to the 997-generation Sport Classic that went on sale in 2009, a limited-to-250 special edition based on the contemporary Carrera S and with a slightly enhanced version of that car’s naturally aspirated engine. It might sound heretical to say so, but we came away from our drive in this new Sport Classic thinking that the current GT3’s less powerful naturally aspirated 4.0-liter engine and snappier gearbox would have better suited this car, especially given that it draws its inspiration from the era before the 911 Turbo was born.
Sport Classic buyers will encounter another long-established Porsche tradition, that of charging big for a limited-edition model. Although it is slower and less powerful than the 911 Turbo and has half the driven wheels, the Sport Classic carries a sizable premium with an MSRP of $273,750. That represents an upcharge of nearly $100,000 over the standard Turbo coupe and $65,000 over the mighty Turbo S. That is a serious chunk of change by any standard, although one the company obviously reckons is justified by the rarity of a model that will be restricted to 1250 cars across all global markets.
Let’s face it, if anyone can sell the concept of paying more to end up with less, it’s Porsche.
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