Porsche buyers keeping the manual gearbox alive


The manual transmission might be dying across most new-car segments, but Porsche buyers – high-end ones, at least – continue to show a penchant for three pedals and a gear stick.

Buyers of high-end Porsche sports cars continue to buck the trend of declining demand for manual transmissions – and the German sports car maker is happy to oblige.

Look through the monthly sales figures, and you’d be forgiven for thinking the days of the manual gearbox are already well and truly numbered – particularly as the increasingly electrified and autonomous future of motoring approaches.

Even traditional sports cars, where a manual was long the preferred option, have either killed off the manual entirely, or seen buyers move to slick-shifting automatics, like Porsche’s PDK unit.

Only about five per cent of new passenger cars sold in Australia last year featured a manual transmission – and even in lightweight, affordable sports cars like the Mazda MX-5 and Subaru BRZ, the split between automatic and manual increasingly edges towards the auto.

Despite that trend, Porsche buyers continue to over-represent in terms of their desire for the purity of a manual gearbox.

“Both 911 GT3 and six-cylinder variants of the 718 are roughly 50 percent in terms of orders,” Chris Jordan, head of Public Relations for Porsche Australia, told Drive.

Drive’s launch review of the 911 GTS – which included some time behind the wheel of a seven-speed manual version – is coming soon, and that model attracts plenty of interest from buyers wanting to change gears for themselves.

“911 GTS orders are around 20 percent for the manual,’ Jordan said. The 911 GTS coupe is the only new-generation ‘992’ 911 without a GT badge that can be had with three pedals.

Interestingly, despite strong demand for a manual 718 with the six-cylinder engine, the four-cylinder remains an automatic stronghold.

“Four-cylinder models of the 718 are around five percent manual,” Jordan said. “This is a similar figure to the proportion of orders for manual when it was offered on the 911 Carrera and 911 Carrera S in the 991.2 generation.”

Muddying the waters for Porsche fans is the quality and precision of the brand’s dual-clutch automatic (PDK) transmission, which is faster in every circumstance than any regular driver is likely to be using a manual – including, in Drive’s testing, on a racetrack.

“The latest PDK technology is extremely capable in all settings, including high-performance circuit driving,” Jordan said.

“But, those who love an engaging experience on a touring type drive, love the feeling of driving with a manual transmission. This is true of Porsche sports cars old and new.”

Trent Nikolic

Trent Nikolic has been road testing and writing about cars for almost 20 years. He’s been at CarAdvice/Drive since 2014 and has been a motoring editor at the NRMA, Overlander 4WD Magazine, Hot4s and Auto Salon Magazine.

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