OPINION. Porsche and the return of the manual gearbox

Following our first taste of the new Porsche 911 Turbo on home turf (full story HERE), our man thinks back to his run in the model and why it got him thinking about the resurgence of manual gearboxes.

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I’ve just woken up in a strange hotel room in Johannesburg, totally disoriented with my surroundings. Once I’ve figured out where I am, it immediately dawns on me that I’ve slept through my alarm and am now very late for the start of the first international drive of the new Porsche 911Turbo (and you can check out our first drive in the Middle East HERE). By the time I get downstairs all the flagship 911’s have been nabbed by more alert journalists than yours truly and I’m left with a relatively lowly Carrera 4 for the road route ahead. I needn’t have been disappointed though. While the Carrera 4 is the least powerful four-wheel drive 911 on sale today, gleefully the car I have just gotten into is equipped with three pedals and a manual gearbox.

You’d be forgiven for having forgotten that manual performance cars still exist, such has been the extent of the exodus away from them over the last decade or so. My experience over the next few hours is a stark reminder of why their near extinction is such a crying shame. It’s my first taste of the all-new turbocharged engines that are now in the back of all 911s and while I’m blown away by how well hidden the forced induction is, I’m even more impressed with just how good the gearbox is. Despite the dwindling number of customers interested in swapping cogs themselves Porsche has clearly continued to invest in their seven-speed manual gearbox, and it shows as this is easily the best manual pot I’ve ever stirred. I do eventually get behind the wheel of the Turbo S, and while the performance is as staggering as you’d expect, the allure of the purer driving experience is hard to resist.

When Porsche announced that the 911 GT3 would only be built with a PDK transmission, like many I felt they had forsaken driver involvement and gone chasing lap times and performance numbers instead. Then they went and surprised us by building the car no one thought they ever would in the shape of the acclaimed – and manual – Cayman GT4, and now it seems they are back at it again with the Carrera R. Basically a manual GT3 with less grip and more power, it appears Stuttgart has twigged that there is a strong appetite out there for cars that are less about shaving tenths of a second off and more about an immersive driving experience. And it appears they aren’t the only ones, as according to Horacio Pagani the number-one demand his customers have is for a Huayra with a manual gearbox, and apparently he is going to build one. Could this be the start of a manual gearbox renaissance? Probably not, but at least there are signs for those of us that love changing gears ourselves that we haven’t been totally forgotten.

You can check out more of our Opinion pieces HERE and more Porsche articles HERE

Porsche  991.2 Turbo
Engine: Flat-six, twin-turbo, 3800cc
Power: 533bhp @ 6400rpm
Torque: 710Nm (524lb ft) @ 2250–4000 rpm
Transmission:  Seven-speed PDK dual clutch automatic, all-wheel drive
Front suspension:  MacPherson, cylindrical coil springs with internal dampers, electromechanical power steering, optional front axle lift system
Rear suspension: Multi-link, cylindrical coil springs with coaxial internal dampers, active rear-wheel steering
Brakes:  Ventilated, 380 x 34mm (front), 380 x 30mm (rear)
Wheels: 9 J x 20in (front), 11.5 J x 20in (rear)
Tyres: 245/35 ZR20 (front), 305/30 ZR20 (rear)
Weight (kerb): 1595kg
Power-to-weight: 334bhp/ton
0-100kph: 3.0secs
Top speed: 320kph
Basic price:  $159,000

Categories: Opinion


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