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[NEWS] Porsche 911 Sport Classic 2023 UK first drive

Porsche 911 Sport Classic 2023 UK first drive

porsche 911 sport classic 2023 01 cornering front

Turbo-based special, just 1250 of which will be made, pays tribute to iconic ’70s racer

You might well wonder why any of us should get particularly excited about the new Porsche 911 Sport Classic, driven here in the UK for the first time.

This is yet another limited-edition (and sold out) supercar that costs a fortune and, even in the narrow context of the 992-generation 911, doesn't actually debut anything fresh beyond some admittedly delicious details. A whiff of style-over-substance emanates from the 1250-off Sport Classic, even if it does look oil-spill slick.

Its core elements are well known. The body is 911 Turbo specification, hence the Christina Hendricks hips. So is the engine, although for this application Porsche has detuned its twin-turbo 3.8-litre flat six from 572 to 542bhp, 110lb ft of torque also being lost in the process. At this point, it’s worth remembering the Sport Classic costs a full 718 Boxster more than the epic Turbo, at £214k.

Porsche 911 Sport Classic

The manual ’box and suspension are also familiar, and if you spent enough on a Carrera S, you could get close to recreating the offbeat cabin, down to the lovely open-pore wood dash trim. Note, though, that the green-hued tacho referencing the phosphorus of the original 1964 911 is unique – and plain beautiful.

Note also that this car, despite the asking price, isn’t a creation of Porsche’s GT division. That’s why it doesn’t get the double-wishboned front axle from perhaps the only other 911 that matches the Sport Classic for specialness, the GT3, nor that car’s heavenly 9000rpm 4.0-litre flat six. It’s instead a product of Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur, which has always been openly concerned more about matters of style.

Porsche 911 Sport Classic 2023 UK first drive

All of which means it comes as a surprise to discover that not only is the Sport Classic overflowing with its own authentic dynamic character but also that it’s possibly the most rewarding road-centric car the 992 generation has yet yielded. Think of it as a 911 Turbo crossed with a RWD Carrera GTS, only with better ride quality than either and an exquisitely well judged level of real-world shove. Few if any sports cars this rarified are so approachable, exploitable and enjoyable in everyday use.

The reason the Sport Classic feels so sweet on the road stems from Porsche's removing of the front driveshafts from the Turbo donor chassis. The result of this isn’t just on-demand oversteer (which the Sport Classic will absolutely do, although with 315-section rear Pirellis, it isn’t permanently primed for mischief, there being enormous traction on offer). Less weight at the front means it can run a lower spring rate, and at the same time, that substantial engine from the Turbo isn’t exactly light – or weedy.

This combination of a delicate nose and a sledgehammer rear gives the Sport Classic something of an old-fashioned 911 handling balance, only with levels of control and finesse that are bang up to date.

It’s the car’s gait that’s truly brilliant, though. That softness at the leading axle makes it so plush seemingly on any road you point it down, and while it doesn’t exhibit the GT3’s whipcrack turn-in, those who do properly use their Sport Classic should welcome the trade-off. Body control is still outstanding, though – strict but never severe and with a butteryness on corrugated roads that reminds one of the old 911 GT3, before it went He-Man.

Porsche 911 Sport Classic 2023 UK first drive

Of course, there’s no GT-division firecracker in the boot, but the 3.8-litre Turbo unit does fizz with induction roar at the top end in a way the Carrera’s 3.0-litre motor doesn’t. The modest but noticeable turbo lag can in this age also be chalked up as a character-enhancing asset.

Pushing against 1570kg, a peak of 443lb ft (a neutered figure to protect the gearbox) also feels just right on the road: not so much that you’re afraid to pin the accelerator in second but enough to rotate the Sport Classic through bends with a little weight transfer on the way in. This engine simply makes you work less hard than the GT3 one and the handling, when you really get stuck into it, is super-forgiving and almost ridiculously malleable.

Less lovable (but only slightly) is the gearbox. The action is well sprung and the overdrive is excellent for touring, but more of an analogue sensation – of linkages shifting – would set things off, because the steering and pedals are very intuitive and engaging (although there’s auto-blip, if you want it). As ever with the 911, tyre roar is also considerable, although the Sport Classic is a church compared with the GT3 Touring.

Porsche 911 Sport Classic 2023 UK first drive

As for the styling, well, it’s all there to see. The cartoonishly big Fuchs alloy wheels, the gold lettering, the houndstooth upholstery, the Carrera 2.7 RS-esque ducktail (with a ram-air intake at the base making up for sealing the Turbo’s signature arch intakes).

Whether you love this car's looks or consider it chintzy overkill, it’s underwritten by an old-school swagger that becomes apparent only once you’ve slid behind the wheel, which is what makes the Sport Classic unexpectedly covetable. It doesn’t do much that a judiciously specified Carrera S wouldn’t do but has a X-factor, both dynamically and aesthetically.

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