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Porsche 911 Sport Classic
6/10

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Porsche 911 Sport Classic

Driven January 2010

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Two numbers sum up the best and worst of this Porsche - 250 and 140,049. The former is how many will be built, the latter is the cost of each one. Yep. £140,049.

So it's incredibly exclusive, even for a Porsche - in contrast, 1,270 Carrera GTs were sold - but when it comes down to the finer details, what you have here is a 911 with 23 extra bhp. And £140k for a 911 is a lot of money - it's possible to buy nearly two standard Carrera 2 S's for that.

The Sport Classic is built by Porsche Exclusive, the department that tailors cars to suit more individual tastes. Their catchphrase is ‘Unique yourself' which, aside from the mangled misuse of the English language (shouldn't ‘unique' put you in a class of one, not 250?) also inadvertently highlights one of the problems of Porsche's success over the past two decades, namely the ubiquity of the brand. So what exactly is ‘unique' about the Sport Classic compared with run-of-the-mill Porsche 911s? The most obvious difference is the ducktail rear spoiler, which takes its inspiration from the 1973 Carrera 2.7 RS and has been developed in Porsche's wind tunnel. It looks very cool, and is indeed unique to the SC.

Porsche geeks reading this will note the wide body rear arches. To explain this to everyone else, these are unusual for a rear-wheel-drive Porsche as they're normally seen on the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4. There's also a double-dome roof (taking its cue from the roofline of the Carrera GT), an entirely new (and, yes, exclusive) colour called Sport Classic Grey, new rear light clusters in clear glass, new front lights and new side sills.

Inside, more than a few cows were sacrificed making the Sport Classic. The standard brown leather, which is the only colour available, is liberally spread around the cabin. The Exclusive lot have fitted leather on the air-vent louvres and replaced the cheap-feeling plastic door handles with leather-covered ones - even the key barrel has this finish. Porsche has emphasised the leather dash by adding in a line of stitching at the base of the windscreen. What's impressive is that all this cow hide actually feels like it comes from a posher heffer. It's more supple, smoother, than a normal 911's. There's also a new design of carpet that's got more than a whiff of the 1970s about it.

And of course there are plenty of badges to remind you and your neighbours that you're in an exclusive car - one on the front wing, another on the door sills, yet more on the engine lid and on the seats.

As ever with Porsche, it's a case of evolution not revolution - it's hardly as if you could mistake the lineage. What £140,000 does is ensure that everything has been finessed to the nth degree. The interior is now a great place to sit and some of the less obvious details are lovely. Like the stripes down the middle of the rev counter which match the exterior lines. Or the leather and yarn weave on the seats. Not a single stitch is out of place.

Porsche insists the car isn't ‘retro'. Rubbish. In terms of design it unquestionably is, what with the ducktail rear spoiler and alloys that pay homage to the classic Fuchs-style wheel of the 1970s. In any case, it's all the better for such nods to its heritage, and surely it's the reason it has the word ‘Classic' in its name in the first place?  

We took the car back to Stuttgart from the UK and I lost count of the number of people craning their necks to get a look, with more people recognising it in Germany. It's not showy - it won't have Premiership footballers queuing up. Only Porsche aficionados appreciate what you're driving, so it tends to be a knowing smile rather than a camera phone in your face.

Naturally it still performs brilliantly. Porsche boffins have tweaked the inlet manifold to give an extra 23bhp so power rises to 408bhp, although torque stays the same at 310lb ft. The 0-62mph time drops by a tiny 0.1 seconds to 4.6 seconds so it doesn't feel any quicker than the normal 911. But it's not what you'd call slow, and in the forests around Strasbourg we were only ever using half throttle because otherwise it's easy to go a long way north of sensible speeds. Which on the one hand is fine, because the beauty of a 911 is how alive it feels even at slowish speeds, but on the other is a pain because the brilliantly manic, racing exhaust note doesn't kick in until 6,000rpm. You hit that point every so often in second gear, but by the time you've selected third you'll need to back off a long way short of 6,000rpm.

The Sport Classic has also been lowered by 20mm, so the ride is stiffer than in a normal 911 but not to the point of discomfort. It still feels well-damped and controlled, and you never get that patter that afflicts some other sports cars. One thing to note: at high speed on the autobahns it doesn't feel as stable as the 911 Turbo. It's more susceptible to crosswinds and isn't as planted on the road. Which also created problems in northern France - passing lorries was nerve-jangling as the winds battered the 911.

The Sport Classic is only available with a manual gearbox but ceramic brakes are standard, as is the limited-slip diff. On a normal 911 these are £5,235 and £737 respectively. There you go, standard kit on a Porsche for once. Makes £140k look like a bargain, eh? The brakes are superb - as ever with ceramics, there's no fade at all, but they've got more feel than those on the Ferrari 458. You can really judge the biting point, no matter how cold they are.

As such, this is one of the finest driver's cars on sale. Pin sharp doesn't come close to describing the totally reactive way this thing responds to your every input. There isn't any fluff involved at any stage. Throttle, steering, brakes, gear change - it's all brilliant.

The Sport Classic does feel special. Over 600-odd miles, it really did start to seem worth more than a normal 911. The sum of the changes does add up to a greater car than the parts. But not £70,000 more special. Even so, Porsche has sold every single one of these Sport Classics even before people have driven them, including 32 for the UK which will be right-hookers. So there are obviously enough extravagant people out there. But secretly I was hoping that Porsche owners had more sense than that. I wanted to believe they wouldn't buy into this pricing and marketing sprinkle as much, justified on exclusivity more than engineering. Ultimately, that's the trouble with the Sport Classic. It's a collector's Porsche, an ornament, the automotive equivalent of the train set that stays in the box and is left to accumulate value. Consider this your pension fund.

Piers Ward

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