Technology

Porsche (Sorta) Automates the Manual Transmission

The line between automatic and manual transmissions keeps getting blurred. And Porsche is the latest to confuse the issue.

With transmission technologies improving all the time, it's hard to make the case for a traditional three-pedal manual gearbox. After all, a dual-clutch transmission is objectively better for both performance and fuel economy. As a result, the manual transmission is relegated to a niche category of purists. Even automakers like Ferrari and Lamborghini have been getting away from manual transmissions, but not Porsche. That company is still holding out. At least it was until this latest development.

With the latest evolution of the iconic 911, Porsche was ready to phase out the manual transmission in favor of its more advanced PDK dual-clutch gearbox. But when the marque's faithful purists - the ones already ticked off at Cayenne hybrids and Panamera diesels - caught wind of the idea and raised hell, Porsche turned on its heels and responded with something new: the seven-speed manual. The enthusiasts rejoiced, but how they'll greet this latest development remains to be seen. While releasing the new Carrera 4 and 4S (the all-wheel-drive version of the latest 911), Porsche slipped in the announcement of a new adaptation on the manual transmission.

Part of the Sport Chrono package on the Carrera 4 and 4S (and soon to expand across the 911 range), the new technology automatically blips the throttle on downshifts. Have we lost you? Bear with us: you see, when an experienced driver is downshifting a manual transmission, he (or she, to be fair) will momentarily dab the brake pedal and the gas with one foot while re-engaging the clutch with the other. It's a complicated maneuver that takes some practice to perfect, but once it is, it becomes almost instinctive and part of the stick-shift experience.

It's a technology that is already included in the Nissan 370Z, but while Nissan lets drivers turn off its SynchroRev Match system entirely, Porsche's is automatically enacted in Sport Plus mode. (It is off, however, in Normal and Sport modes.) The system may come as a welcome addition to novices, but then they'd likely sooner go for the automatic option, anyway.

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