To Shift Or Not To Shift

2014 Porsche 991 GT3

Controversy isn’t rare when it comes to the automotive industry.  There’s not a manufacturer on earth that hasn’t made something that, to put it nicely, didn’t quite stick.  However, I think it’s fair to say that we’ve not seen such a controversial topic as Porsche’s new 991 GT3 for quite some time.

Now if you’ve for some reason had your head fully submerged in a pit of mud, let me explain why this new GT3 is so controversial.  Recently, Porsche has been equipping it’s freshest sports cars with the company’s own PDK gearbox.  Along with the new electric power steering, Porsche’s latest creations have received quite an earful of complaints from nostalgic Porsche fanboys concerning the paddle-shifters located behind the shining steering wheels.  And when Porsche came out and said that the new GT3 would also be equipped with the PDK twin-clutch gearbox, the automotive world’s close followers erupted into an immense amount of complaints about the car.

Even after evo magazine released an almost twenty minute long interview with Porsche GT3 head Andreas Preuninger, and other online magazines also did their best to convince the growing population of groaning car enthusiasts that the car could still be great, many still remained unconvinced (keeping in mind that no one’s actually driven the car yet).

However, the new GT3 is not alone.  It seems that the conversion of manual ‘box cars to semi-automatic, paddle-shifting machines is a growing trend in the realm of sports cars.  Car after car, more and more companies are pressing on and equipping drivers with the flappy paddles as standard, and sometimes, it is the only option.  So, taking this into careful consideration, what can be said about the future of the sports car?  Where will manual ‘box cars be within the next two decades?  Where will paddle-shifting cars be within the next twenty years?  It’s a growing concern among many, and they’re all dying to find the answer.

Porsche PDK Paddle Shifters

To answer all these questions, one question needs to raised: why do so many car enthusiasts want a car with a stick-shift?  Well for me, the stick-shift provides a distinct connection with the car.  As a youngster, watching my father running through the gears in his Saab 900S was much more exciting than riding around in the family’s Chevy.  To further solidify my philosophy that a manual ‘box was more rewarding than the automatic, all I needed was a glance at pops’ ear-to-ear grin.

However, manufacturers can’t seem to rid themselves of the everlasting addiction they all share.  Manufacturers have long prided themselves over using their mechanical skills to construct their own engineering masterpieces.  While still keeping the driver in control of when they want to shift up and down, manufacturers constantly work to make their paddle-shifting transmissions shift faster and more efficiency to get the best performance out of the car.  It’s almost like they’re thinking why put the driver in control of, for example, heel-toeing in order to rev match when you can simply have a computer sort it all out.

In terms of getting the optimum performance the car is capable of providing, this is an exceptional idea.  However, many enthusiasts I know will argue that it’s not always the mechanical performance that the car provides, but instead the feeling you get looking back on what you accomplished.  In their minds, it’s not that paddle-shifters are dull and boring, it’s just that stick-shifts are more rewarding and exciting.

2013 Porsche Cayman

Back to the issue at hand, however.  Where will the sports car be within the next two decades?  Well, at the rate we’re going now, the future for manual ‘box sports cars looks limited.  While it’s inevitable that we will have great sports cars fixed with a manual transmission and sports cars will continue to offer the manual as an option (take the new M3 as an example), the majority of sports cars in the next twenty years will probably come with the easier-to-operate paddle-shifting mechanism.

It shouldn’t be all bad though, some manufacturers might follow the footsteps of the 991 GT3 and offer a more user-friendly flappy paddle gearbox that allows certain pulls on the paddles to do things usually done with a clutch pedal.  Keep in mind though, we are currently living in an incredible era of fun, affordable sports cars, and even if they only come with flappy paddles behind the steering wheel, sports cars have nowhere to go but up in the next two decades.  However, if you still find yourself remaining unconvinced, the used and classic car market is currently booming with triple-pedal cars.

-Brad

3 thoughts on “To Shift Or Not To Shift”

  1. Hi!

    How about transmission reliability? Is the PDK (or any dual-clutch transmission for that matter) tough enough to handle the engine torque, not to mention the stress and rigors of daily driving? How about the electronics?

    I don’t have a Porsche, but I did have a Mitsubishi Mirage with a 4-speed Invecs-2 auto tranny, and it was one of the most fun to use when in manual mode. Sure, it reacted quite idiotically when driven in heavy city traffic, but who needs a super transmission when the car is standing still? My Mirage could use another gear or two, but outright performance was blistering.

    After driving that car, I simply said to myself that I am NEVER driving a manual car ever again, especially in city traffic.

    But I still like manual cars. That’s the problem. I guess it will all depend on the package.

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    1. It’s about the tangible connection to the car. Simply picking a gear is nowhere near the same thing as driving a manual transmission. An auto, or semi-auto car has transmission computers that figure out most of the shifting…. even when you’re in manual mode. In a car with a manual transmission, it is your brain that controls how the car shifts. Not just what gear, but when, and how the shift takes place. There is an art to operating a manual that you don’t get with an auto, a connection between man and machine, per-say.

      Automated manual transmissions sit in like a halfway point between manuals and autos, in terms of mechanical connection with the car. You can feel the clutch engaging in a DCT, and it feels far more solid, less spongy, than a trans with a torque converter. With an auto, you are literally just pressing a button.

      Thats great if you think your Mitsu was a good time, but go try some other cars and you will start to see the differences.

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      1. That’s the funny thing, because I find other automatics to be rather dull (like those that you find on the Toyota Camry) but I certainly miss driving a manual car.

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