2023 Porsche 911 Sport Classic Review: Retro done right
It’s always a little awkward to talk about money first, but we really need to address the pricing of the 2023 Porsche 911 Sport Classic. It’s $282,810. For that you could buy two 911 Carreras and still have $50,710 left over. Or a 911 Carrera and a Taycan, with $53,410 still available to invest in retirement. Or even the more powerful, faster 911 Turbo S, on which this car shares its engine; it costs $232,050, leaving you $50,760 in mad money.
So why is this most expensive of 911s, the Sport Classic, worth the big bucks?
Two reasons. One, it’s a truly excellent version of an already great car. And two, Porsche has this magic wand called “limited edition” that it waves over a model, instantly drumming up a wealthy audience practically begging to take their cash. The 911 Sport Classic is a limited edition numbering just 1250 examples worldwide. The last Sport Classic, a 997-generation model sold for 2010, consisted of 250 copies. It wasn’t offered in the U.S., but this one is. Those 250 are genuine collector’s items today. There’s no reason to think this 992-generation Sport Classic won’t be, too.
It’s not just about exclusivity. This car is perfectly executed, inside and out, and the formula points to solid, old-school fun: a manual transmission and rear-wheel drive.
The exterior of our test car Sport Gray Metallic, a subtle, unthreatening shade for such a racy car. A big 911 Carrera RS 2.7-inspired ducktail spoiler hangs out back, above a 3.7-liter twin-turbo boxer flat-six with a potent 543 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque. That output makes the Sport Classic the most powerful Porsche engine you can get with a manual transmission, just 29 horses shy of the all-wheel-drive, dual-clutch-auto only Turbo S. Porsche claims a 0-to-60 mph time of 3.9 seconds, which seems very conservative. Peak torque is available from 2000 to 6000 rpm, and third and fourth gear pretty much work for everything outside of committed corner-carving.
So where to find some corners? Our test of the 911 Sport Classic started out slow, as in Atlanta traffic slow. After visiting Porsche’s U.S. headquarters and the Experience Center’s expanded track, we were hungry for some winding roads to stretch the 911’s legs.
On the last-minute recommendation of a local, I headed to Dawsonville, Georgia, about 90 minutes northwest of downtown Atlanta. It’s home of the famous Dawsonville Pool Room, which is now a restaurant with just a single pool table (and good hamburgers) but still the unofficial headquarters of former NASCAR champ Bill Elliott, Dawsonville’s proudest son. The old-fashioned siren mounted on the Pool Room sounded whenever Elliott won, and still does for his son Chase, also a former champion in the NASCAR Cup series and a Dawsonville resident.
The Sport Classic performed well enough in the stop-and-go traffic. The clutch is light and linear, but the footwell is a bit narrow; if your loafers are size 14 or up, driving barefoot might seem tempting. I say that because this car was a guided missile on the slightly banked curves and smooth pavement surrounding Dawsonville. Power is so linear it feels like it comes from a non-turbo powerplant; the seven-speed transmission, however, with rev matching when you select the Sport + setting, is seamless but a little vague-feeling when it comes to gear selection. The car has various performance settings, including Wet (for foul weather), Normal, Sport, Sport +, and Individual (used for programming your own parameters). We kept it in Sport + except when in the stop-and-go stuff; it’s where the car seemed happiest.
Braking is nothing short of race car-like, with ceramic-coated, cross-drilled rotors and ten-piston calipers up front and four-pistons in the rear. The suspension is perfectly suited to the car’s temperament, and aiding with grip are fat Pirelli P Zero tires, 255/35 ZR20s up front, 315/30 ZR21s out back. They’re mounted on handsome five-spoke, center-lug alloy wheels.
Instruments and controls are intuitive and familiar-seeming. You just get in, twist the fob-shaped ignition switch left of the steering wheel and go, never confused or desperate to reach for the owner’s manual. Front seats are fine; the rear seats are vestigial, as in the case of every 911 today, but the car is impressive enough that someone may actually volunteer to ride back there. Upholstery on our test car was tan leather with traditional black-and-white pepita-pattern fabric. Despite a $4000 Burmester sound system that can replace the standard Bose, the flat-six plays sweeter music.
As for that sticker, it starts at $272,300, and ended up, with about $8000 in options and a delivery fee of $1450, at the aforementioned $282,810. That also included a $1000 gas guzzler tax, though the 911 isn’t exceptionally thirsty for what it is; the EPA rating is 15 mpg city, 21 highway, 17 overall.
On our way back to Atlanta we pass through downtown Dawsonville, where a police officer is directing traffic. He looked bored, stone-faced. Then he saw the Porsche. His faced brightened, he smiled and waved.
Even big money doesn’t always buy that kind of reaction. Were it him behind the wheel, he would not have been disappointed, either.
2023 Porsche 911 Sport Classic
Price: $272,300 / $282,810 (base / as tested)
Highs: Magical engine, confident handling, charming retro styling. A special edition in an under-the-radar color.
Lows: Modest trunk space. Rear seats suitable primarily for packages and groceries. Profoundly pricey, even for a 911.
Takeaway: Packing the 911 Turbo’s engine with a manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive, the Sport Classic is a parts-shelf special that feels special, indeed.