Porsche Dual-Clutch Transmission Is Becoming Even More Popular
Why more and more Porsche customers are choosing a dual-clutch transmission instead of a manual.
The uproar was considerable. Back in 1967, when Porsche first offered the 911 with a semiautomatic Sportomatic transmission, it wasn’t just dyed-in-the-wool brand purists who were dismayed; the trade press was equally skeptical. Even reserved Porsche fans registered their consternation. The omission of the clutch pedal was intended to enhance the car’s comfort. Comfort? In a sports car? And on top of that, two seconds slower from 0 to 100 kmh than with manual? As if all that wasn’t enough, it also had a higher fuel consumption. Needless to say, the Sportomatic package was not a rousing sales success.
Fast-forward half a century. By now there’s little sign of the initial backlash against the alleged mismatch between sportiness and automatic technology—and that’s down to the Porsche dual-clutch transmission (PDK). Initial trials with the new technology starting in 1980 culminated in a signal achievement in 1986.
In the PDK, the gears are distributed between two separate clutches—hence the name. The odd gears and reverse are connected to clutch I, while the even gears are connected to clutch II. The technology enables fully automatic gear changes without traction interruption. Similar to a manual shifter, the individual gears are selected using shift forks; in the PDK system, it’s done through computer-aided electrohydraulics. The result is a synthesis of manual and automatic shifting. Efficiency, dynamics, and comfort are an unrivaled combination in the PDK.
For all its day-to-day usability, the PDK system was initially used exclusively in the world of motorsports after its introduction in 1983. This transmission type offers a significant advantage, particularly in combination with turbo engines: unlike with a manual transmission, drivers can keep their foot on the gas during gear changes, and the charge pressure of the turbo is retained. Traction interruption? Not a bit of it.
It was some time before series production began, however. The control electronics first had to go through a number of development stages. Above all, the new technology needed to grow out of its habit of jarring gear changes.
Starting in 2008, Porsche offered an optional PDK in the 911 Carrera and the 911 Carrera S.
The breakthrough came a year later with the world premiere of the Panamera model range. In 2009 the four-door sport sedan became the first Porsche with a standard seven-speed PDK—the PDK I—installed in several variants. Since 2016 the new Panamera has been offered exclusively with the eight-speed PDK II. And the PDK in the new 911 features eight speeds as well. Indeed, unlike in 1967, the trend among Porsche drivers is increasingly toward automated transmissions.