When the semiautomatic Sportomatic transmission was first offered in the 911 back in 1967, the uproar was considerable. The thought of omitting the clutch pedal to enhance the comfort of a sports car seemed absurd. Purists were dismayed. The trade press was sceptical. Porsche enthusiasts voiced their feelings of trepidation.
Half a century later, there has been a paradigm shift in the perception of semi-automatic transmission. By now, it is widely accepted that sportiness and automatic technology are not mutually exclusive, and that’s down to the Porsche dual-clutch transmission (PDK). Starting in 1980, initial trials with this new technology culminated in a milestone achievement in 1986.
Paying tribute to the motorsport heritage of Porsche
It used to be that only a Porsche with manual transmission was considered a true Porsche. This is no longer the case, with the PDK becoming a preferred choice, even amongst purists.
The double-clutch transmission was not a stranger to the Porsche development team prior to the inception of the PDK. In 1979, Porsche produced a study of a future sports car which featured a double clutch (the 995), and in the course of further developing the 956/962 Group C racing car, the team returned to the idea of a manual transmission that didn’t interrupt traction. The power-shifting, electronically controlled spur gear which was tested in 1983 marked the birth of the PDK.
Originally developed for Porsche Motorsports, the first debut of the PDK in this arena was with the 956 in the 1,000-mile race in Imola, before winning the world championship race in Monza with the 962 C in 1986. However, due to the mismatch of demand for comfort in standard-series cars and the electronic and control capacities at the time, this seven-speed, advanced transmission only made its way into the standard-series sports cars with the second generation of the 997 in 2008 when the technology of control electronics grew out of its habit of jarring gear changes.
Unrivalled combination of efficiency, dynamics and comfort
The technology behind the PDK enables fully automatic gear changes without traction interruption. Unlike with a manual transmission, the dual clutch provides barely perceptible shift points with little to no power loss, translating into more speed and much faster lap times, especially in combination with turbo engines. Drivers are able to keep their foot on the gas during gear changes, and the charge pressure of the turbo is retained.
The PDK is essentially two gearboxes in one, each featuring a separate wet clutch where the components are continuously lubricated. In other words, it is the principle of overlaying transmission.
When a particular gear is engaged, the next gear is already being pre-selected in the other gearbox using shift forks through computer-aided electrohydraulics. One clutch opens within milliseconds while the other clutch closes, resulting in a synthesis of manual and automatic shifting illustrated by the barely perceptible gear change.
Efficiency, dynamics and comfort are an unrivalled combination in the PDK.
No compromise to sportiness
While more than three quarters of all delivered Porsche two-door sports car are equipped with a PDK system, the figure runs to 100% for two of its four-door model lines, the Porsche Panamera and Macan, where a manual transmission is no longer offered.
In the Porsche Macan, the PDK has seven gears at its disposal to deliver gearshifts that take place with millisecond precision and no interruption in drive. Top speed is reached in sixth gear while the seventh gear has a long ratio for optimised performance and reduced fuel consumption.
The PDK transmission offers greater comfort and efficiency without compromising sportiness in this compact SUV – a thrilling combination that simply cannot be achieved via a manual transmission.
Discover the world of Porsche today.