Porsche PDK vs. Manual Transmission, Ditch the Stick for Performance

With the manual transmission dying off more and more with each model year, it’s hard to root for an automatic. However, some automatic transmissions are just so good that it’s hard to justify a manual transmission. For example, the Porsche PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission. As hard of a pill it is to swallow; there is indeed a reason the fastest Porsche models don’t come with a manual transmission option.

Is loving an automatic a sports car sin?

Porsche 718 Boxster S with PDK Dual Clutch Automatic Transmission in parking garage at night
Porsche 718 Boxster S | Braden Carlson, Motorbiscuit

As a sports car fan, it’s a pretty standard issue to be a fan of a manual transmission. It’s an awesome and engaging experience to be manually rowing through gears. In a past life, a manual transmission was much faster in both a straight line and around a race track, too. However, the slushbox automatic transmissions of yesteryear are long gone. Torque converters no longer reign supreme; in their place, you’ll find actual clutches. Yes! Clutches in an automatic!

According to Beverly Hills Porsche, the Porsche Doppel Kupplungs or PDK (german for double-clutch transmission) has two separate clutch packs that use an electronically controlled valve body to activate the clutches as needed. One clutch controls first, third, fifth, and seventh gears while the other controls the remaining gears. So, alternating which clutch is used makes for extremely rapid gear changes.

In a quest to own a proper Porsche, I recently spent a day test driving a Porsche 718 Boxster S with a PDK automatic transmission. I’ve got my eyes on 718 Porsche Cayman models and wanted to see if I thought I could stomach owning an automatic, being someone of a manual purist. In short, yes. I very easily could.

To say that the PDK transmission shifts quickly is downright insulting. In fact, there’s no real way to put into words just how fast this transmission hammers its way through gears, whether you’re going up or down. Additionally, considering this particular car had the sports exhaust system, quickly flicking the downshift paddle and listening to a perfectly rev-matched instant downshift scream is absolute car enthusiast heaven. It’ll make a Caymans shopper re-consider the Boxster because hearing that exhaust note with the top down is pure bliss.

It hurts to accept, but the PDK is just better.

If you’re after the best performance, you have to ditch the manual

Porsche 718 Boxster S with PDK Dual Clutch Automatic Transmission Interior Driver Wheel
Porsche 718 Boxster S Steering Wheel w/ PDK paddles | Braden Carlson, Motorbiscuit

Technology has simply surpassed the manual transmission. Cars like the Porsche 911 GT3 RS and C8 Corvette ditching automatics altogether. Frankly, that has many manual fans are up in arms. The current 992 GT3 is available with a manual. However, it’s hard to imagine that Porsche would backtrack when the RS model comes out. There is a bit of hope for manual fans, though. The almighty Cayman GT4 RS comes with a manual transmission option. So, you never know what Porsche may do.

Now, taking into consideration that the PDK is the obvious choice for performance figures and driving on the edge, it seems evident that I’ve been converted, right? Wrong.

The PDK is objectively better, and you can’t really argue otherwise. However, if it came down to actually signing the scary big loan paperwork and taking a 718 home, I’d still spring for a manual.

Ultimately, if you’re looking to add a Porsche to your collection and you plan on driving it in extreme manners on race tracks, autocross events, hill climbs, and so on, the PDK is your answer. If you’re all about track times and performance numbers, you can’t beat the PDK.

However, if you want a lovely sports car in its purest form and you can accept that it’s just for weekend cruises through the mountains and to the grocery store, and you couldn’t care less about the gripped-up first-gen Miata that’s annihilating you at autocross, the manual is the play. It’s just a good time.

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