04 September 2023
Road Tripping: Day Out With The Porsche 911 Sport Classic

The Porsche 911 Sport Classic is one of those cars that just works. It’s absolutely perfect.

It was just another day at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. I’ve flown in to cover the event and was given the esteemed opportunity to take out the Porsche 911 GTS, thanks to the folks at Porsche Singapore. 

Test drive over, I was buzzing with excitement. I mean, when else are you offered a chance to take a Porsche out on some stunning B-roads? And that was when I laid eyes on the Sport Classic, sitting pretty on the driveway.

The Sport Classic is a model that was launched where I’m from (Singapore). However, because it is a limited edition model, there was never going to be a test drive unit offered for us. With each costing a cool SGD$1.5 million too, it’s not hard to see why.

Transfixed by it, I gingerly went over to the Porsche rep to shoot my shot “Can I have a go in it?”

I think what the gentleman replied was somewhere along the lines of “Yes, of course you can. Go for it.” But, all I could think of at the time was “Hot damm.”

So, gear loaded in, driving position locked, and I was immediately on cloud nine.

On to the star of the show. Porsche, you see, has this knack for throwing curveballs at us when we least expect it. Remember when they insisted they’d never grace a GT3 with a manual gearbox, only to do just that? Or how about the time they brought back the six-cylinder engine for the Cayman and Boxster? Precisely. But even with Porsche’s penchant for surprises, this one caught us off guard.

So, what exactly is ‘this’? Well, it’s a limited-edition 911, packing 542bhp under its hood, flaunting a widebody design, a twin-turbo flat-six, rear-wheel drive, and the holy grail – a manual gearbox. Yes, you heard right, three pedals and a stick shift. It’s like 542 horses with a touch of old-school charm, dressed in a retro-inspired ensemble, complete with cheeky racing stickers slapped on the sides, just for good measure.

Hold on a sec, 911 Sport Classic? Rings a bell, doesn’t it?

Now, if you’re more into TikTok dances than Porsche history, that bell might be as silent as a mime’s whisper. But if it’s chiming in your head, kudos to you, you’re either a die-hard Porsche enthusiast or a true-blue petrolhead.

The Sport Classic (SC) was a bit of an anomaly. Launched back in 2009, it was Porsche’s way of taking their then-modern 911 (the 997.2) and dressing it up in iconic garb from its illustrious past.

They threw in a 1972 Carrera 2.7 RS-style ducktail spoiler, some Fuchs-style wheels, a wider body, fresh interior trim, a coat of grey paint, and sprinkled in a bunch of other hidden nods to Porsche’s heritage. All of this, mind you, came at a huge premium, which was more than twice the price of a standard 997 Carrera S and significantly higher than the 911 Turbo of that era.

It left some scratching their heads, but as they say, hindsight is a beautiful thing. The original Sport Classic now stands as a harbinger of the retro craze that’s swept the automotive world. It was a mixed bag, a quirky throwback 911 (with those peculiar clear rear lights) before the whole retro and restomod movement took off.

Today, those original SCs are rarer than hen’s toenail clippings, with only 250 ever made – that’s four times scarcer than a Porsche 918 and five times more elusive than Ferrari F40s. As you can imagine, those who snagged one are now grinning ear to ear, as their cars have turned into veritable treasures.

So, is the new one just a reheated version of the same recipe? Well, kind of. While the first Sport Classic was based on a standard 911, the new iteration shares a lot of its DNA with the bigger, faster 911 Turbo.

Like the OG 997 Sport Classic, the new 992 offers something no other 992 can boast of: a wider body, rear-wheel drive, and that cherished manual gearbox. You couldn’t spec a regular 992 Turbo with the manual setup too, gatekeeping this transmission as a ‘limited edition’ run. Cheeky buggers.

But here’s the twist – while the original Sport Classic rocked a C4S body, the new one struts its stuff in Turbo attire, which means it’s a whopping 50mm broader than your run-of-the-mill Carrera or Carrera 4. And let me tell you, it wears those hips like a runway model in Milan. 

Without the Turbo’s bulky intakes chiselled into its sides, the bodywork looks even more expansive, adorned with massive 20-/21-inch centre-lock wheels and some seriously chunky 315/30 rear tires, giving it that proper aggressive stance.

Now, unlike its predecessor, which received a 23bhp power boost to reach 408bhp, the 992 Sport Classic takes a different route. To ensure that the manual gearbox doesn’t burst into flames from all the low-end turbo torque, they’ve dialled down the 3.7-litre engine’s output from 572bhp to 542bhp. Since the Turbo’s front driveshafts are out of the picture, the 992 SC shaves off a cool 70kg (1,570kg) compared to a Turbo, evening out the power-to-weight ratio.

Sounds appetizing, doesn’t it? And is this still a limited edition? Absolutely, but this time, they’ve upped the ante, with 1,250 units slated for global production. So, you’re more likely to spot one of these on the streets than you were the 997. Given how 911 Turbo S prices have shot through the roof and are trading at similar figures on the second-hand market, expect these to follow suit.

Oh, and you can pick from five other colours instead of just grey. While the chalk does look mesmerising, I do have a soft spot for the dark blue.

And might I add, it’s quite the looker, isn’t it? With those distinctive gold letterings (real gold, mind you) and meticulously executed details (check out those ’60s-style woven floor mats), it’s a lot more refined than its predecessor.

Porsche has certainly learned a thing or two over the last 15 years, especially about what customers desire in a retro-inspired car. This project is fully in-house, the second of four ‘collector’s items’ from Porsche’s ‘Heritage Design strategy.’

Porsche’s regular styling team collaborated with their bespoke ‘Exclusive Manufaktur’ team to reimagine four iconic 911 models from the 1950s through to the 1980s. The first of these was the 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition in 2020, nodding to the 1950s and 1960s, while the Sport Classic takes us back to the ’60s and ’70s. What the third and fourth models will be is anybody’s guess, but we’re definitely intrigued.

So, what’s new in the ride department? Well, the bonnet, the double-bubble roof, and that iconic ducktail are all crafted from carbon and sport hand-painted double stripes. Vintage 1963 Porsche badges adorn various parts, there are fresh wheel designs, and the interior – oh, the interior – it’s a symphony in black nappa and cognac leather. It’s juxtaposed against a dash featuring open-pored wood embedded with gold emblems and the iconic Pepita houndstooth pattern (black and white diamond pattern with slanting stripes) in the doors and seats.

But what’s it like when you hit the road, you ask? Absolutely fabulous. Now, I know what you’re thinking – here comes the part about the manual gearbox, right? Well, bear with me, because this car truly demonstrates the magic of a manual transmission. The seven-speed stick transforms how you interact with that turbocharged flat-six engine, and it’s nothing short of delightful. It’s like playing a musical instrument, teasing out unique sounds and sensations. It’s a car that can be driven at various paces and loves every moment of it.

And although it has a manual gearbox, it’s as easy to drive on the curvy B-roads as any other car. That’s the beauty of the 911 ethos; you can just hop in and get on with it, no faffing about and no anxiety each time you rock up to a minuscule pothole.

I’m not that old if I’m completely honest, but I do have an affinity for retro items, and this cabin sets the stage beautifully, like a swanky members’ club. The seats are luxuriously comfortable (though perhaps a bit high), and in front of you, there’s a gleaming analogue rev counter with white hands and dayglow green markings – a nod to the old 356.

Flanking it, you’ve got two seven-inch digital displays that strike a perfect balance between classic and modern.

And then, there’s this little rotary knob at five o’clock on the wheel that lets you switch between driving modes. Fire up the engine, and the car purrs with a light clutch and effortlessly precise steering. Unlike a PDK transmission, which eagerly races up the gears, this seven-speed stick leaves the gear changes in your hands. You get to decide whether you want to chase those revs in a lower gear or ride the torque in the higher ones.

But is it any good on the road, you ask? Indeed, it’s tailor-made for the road and doesn’t clamour for a racetrack to show off its prowess. The electronically assisted steering and damping (borrowed from the 911 Turbo and 911 GTS) work together beautifully, smoothing out most road imperfections while offering crisp feedback unhampered by all-wheel drive. Even with a standard sports exhaust, the engine’s roar is muted from the rear, yet it’s deceptively and wickedly fast.

Now, let’s talk numbers – not that the Sport Classic is all about figures, but they’re worth noting. It’s plenty fast, boasting 542bhp and 602Nm of torque kicking in at 2,000rpm. This translates to a century sprint in a brisk 4.1 seconds and a top speed of 315km/h, though it could likely go faster.

You can feel the torque being limited in the first three gears to protect that precious gearbox, so if it were to unleash the full power in one fell swoop, it might even exceed those figures. Plus, it’s all about how skilful your shifting is.

Now, here’s the million-dollar question – will Porsche eventually offer a more accessible version for the masses? Well, it’s a good question. In the past, Porsche has dabbled with limited editions before introducing mass-produced variants. Remember how the original Sport Classic morphed into the GTS variant, or how the 911 R evolved into the GT3 Touring? Who’s to say what the future holds, but we certainly hope for it.

I wasn’t originally supposed to have a go in the Sport Classic, but I’m sure as heck glad I did. If you wanted the purest form of the 911 today, this is it.

A true testament and statement to the brilliance of the 911.

Photo Credits: Sean Loo (@auto.driven

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