There have been some brilliant drivers’ cars out of Porsche headquarters over the years, but the fact is that more buyers are shifting away from manual-transmission models.
Porsche wanted to generate some desire for a manual model by releasing the Porsche 911 R, the first version in the current-generation range to be fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox (all manual 911 models had instead been fitted with a seven-speed stick).
The reactions – from those lucky enough to drive the car – were chorus-like in their praise for the slinky six-gear trans. And at the recent 2016 Paris motor show a question was raised of Michael Steiner, Porsche executive board member for research and development, as to whether the six-gang getriebe could return to a regular 911 model.
“Technically it is possible to have a six-speed manual gearbox. There are good reasons to have such a car, emotional wise and driver enjoyment and things like that,” he said.
“On the other hand if you look to the next cars we have in the more normal model line, or a more conventional model line, year-by-year more and more customers are buying PDK,” Steiner asserted.
“Within the next years there will be definitely room for manual gearboxes and we will have at least derivatives with manual gearboxes. But the general trend, also for car guys who would like to go on the racetrack, is shifting more and more in the direction of PDK.
“From my point of view, it shouldn’t be the last,” he said of the 911 R’s six-speed ‘box.
There is hot speculation that the new-generation 911 GT3 will be offered with a six-speed manual for purist buyers. But what other application could a six-speed be used across the Porsche portfolio?
Well, there’s plenty of talk of hybrid models, so how about a manual hybrid? It has been done before, after all – the Honda CR-Z came with a superb six-speed manual alternative.
“Technically it could be, but there is at least one big disadvantage. If you have a manual gearbox, you lose a lot of regeneration potential and also boosting potential as you have always not the knowledge what will be the next step by the driver.
“So if you are on the brakes before cornering it should know when downshifting takes place, otherwise you have to take away all regeneration to mismatch not with backshifting… if you have an automatic gearbox, the control unit is in control, and this can very well interfere with the planning of electric and mechanical braking,” he said.
“Acceleration-wise, that would be easier, as there is at least not too much planning, you just to put in and out of the electric engine to add torque and power. On the brakes side I think that will be really, really difficult and you lose a lot of the advantage,” he said.
“Usually you would choose a manual gearbox to save some weight, and then have a lot of weight that has happened again,” he said of the additional battery weight of hybrid models.
“Technically yes, it could be. But from our point of view it doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Steiner said.