As we sat close, the burrito artist gave the 2023 Porsche 911 Sport Classic a short, two-word review. “Nice spec,” he said, pointing to the big truck we had backed into the center parking spot. The editor in our heads thought that words like “awesome,” “wicked,” or even “bitchin'” would have fit the car’s vintage vibe better. He had no idea how right he was.
It makes me think of the 2010 911 Sport Classic and earlier models. With the same gray paint, an indented hood from the air-cooled era, Fuchs-inspired wheels, and chunky Porsche Turbo tires and fenders, but without air intakes ruining their flanks, this new car has the same ghostly skunk stripes, double-bubble roof, and ducktail spoiler style as the 997 special.
The Turbo has a 3.7-liter flat-six engine that is twin-turbocharged and gives it power. From the Turbo S, you can get adaptive springs, rear-axle steering, and active anti-roll bars. Rear-wheel drive and a manual transmission make it a classic Turbo. This was a popular 911 Turbo mix that went away when the 993 Turbo came out almost 30 years ago. The software had to be remapped because of this setup, so the highest power dropped from 572 horses to 543 horses. On the other hand, because it weighs 199 pounds less, the Sport Classic has a slightly better pounds-to-power ratio than the Turbo.
That makes this the most powerful Porsche 911 with a manual transmission that you can buy right now. The Sport Classic has Porsche’s seven-speed transmission instead of the six-speed GT3 transmission we love. This makes us want to golf clap loudly. These two automatics can’t handle as much torque as Porsche’s PDK, and the big rear tires have to do it all by themselves, so the torque remap is stricter. The Sport Classic has 442 pound-feet of torque, which is 111 pound-feet less than the Turbo but still 22 pound-feet more than the GTS.
This helps explain a lot about how the car performs on the track, where these facts and a 3500rpm rev limit when the car is stationary make it hard to get the right launch. Porsche said it would take 3.8 seconds to get to 60 mph, but our time is two-tenths faster. The Turbo, on the other hand, needs only 2.4 seconds with all-wheel drive and PDK. An important point is missed, though, since a rear-drive manual will never rule the drag strip. The Sport Classic is more about twisting roads, having fun, and being involved as a driver. In this area, the Sport Classic really shines.
The Sport Classic is stubborn when it comes to turning in. Its front tires have an unexpectedly high amount of grip, which can make the circle tighter even when you think you’ve gone too far. This Porsche feels light, like it doesn’t have much mass in the front, which lets the front end skip happily into turns. The normal Turbo size Pirelli P Zero PZ4 tires got stuck at 1.07 g’s on the skidpad. When you trail the brakes in deep, the balance stays the same as you go around a turn. It’s clear that this is a rear-drive machine when you roll on the gas at exit and the revs rise. The rear end never hints at walking you tail-first into the guardrail, though. When the next corner comes up quickly, the huge carbon-ceramic brakes bring the car down safely, and the process starts all over again.
It has almost perfect feel and feedback, thanks to the well-bolstered seats, well-placed pedals, and properly shaped steering wheel. The only part of the seven-speed that needs more polish is the shift action, which feels a bit rubbery. A seventh gear that is too high for speeds below those of an autobahn also seems unnecessary.
When we zoom out, we like how the saddle-brown leather and heritage Pepita houndstooth design look inside. And Porsche should keep this cockpit’s tech balance in mind. It takes the best parts of the Taycan’s curved instrument panel and center touchscreen and puts them together with a big tachometer, normal air vents, and easy-to-use switches.