Depending on which Porsche you are looking at there are a few different transmission options. There are 3 primary transmission options: manual, PDK, and Tiptronic S. Each of these transmissions is configured in a few different ways ranging from 6-speed, to 7 and 8-speed configurations.
Porsche’s PDK transmission is an upgrade option for the 911 Carrera, and 718 Cayman and Boxster models. It comes standard on the new Macan and Panamera models, whereas the Cayenne receives the Tiptronic S transmission.
On the 911 & 718 Porsche models, upgrading to the PDK transmission replaces either a 6-speed or 7-speed manual transmission with a 7-speed or 8-speed PDK. This guide is going to cover the differences between Porsche’s PDK vs manual transmission, the pros and cons of each, and give our opinion on which transmission is better.
What is Porsche PDK Transmission?
PDK stands for Porsche Doppelkupplung, which is essentially a fancy way of saying dual-clutch. PDK is an automatic dual-clutch (DTC) transmission. It functions pretty similarly to all of the other DCT, or dual clutch transmissions, that you’ll find on the market today.
As the name suggests, dual clutch transmissions use two clutches instead of the single clutch you will find in traditional automatic or manual transmissions. One clutch covers all of the odd gears and reverse, while the second clutch covers all of the even gears. Because there are two clutches alternating gears, PDK transmissions can shift almost instantaneously without the loss of momentum like you get in automatic or manual transmissions.
PDK transmissions actually operate more similarly to a manual transmission than they do an automatic. They also offer paddle shifters for manual gear control and have some cool technology like rev matching which allows you to shift with very little loss of power or momentum.
Porsche PDK vs Manual Transmission
The obvious difference between PDK and a manual transmission is that PDK is still an automatic transmission. You don’t have a clutch pedal and as much control over the gears as you do with a manual. While PDK does allow you to control gears via paddle shifters, the transmission will still shift for you when you hit the redline, put your foot on the floor, or are decelerating quickly.
Outside of being in control of the transmission, the biggest difference is shift speed. Manuals used to be the transmission of choice for performance back in the day. This was because automatic transmissions were so slow at shifting that you could manually shift faster than them. And they offered more control for racing and track applications.
Nowadays, PDK and dual clutch transmissions are significantly faster than manual transmissions. Even normal automatics with one clutch are faster today. However, the simultaneous shifting you get with a PDK transmission leads to quicker acceleration and faster 0-60 times. Additionally, the technology of transmissions today allows you to control the PDK transmission almost as if it were a manual, without having to deal with the clutch pedal or sluggish shifts and power loss during shifts.
PDK Transmission Pro’s
- Quicker shifts than both manual and single-clutch automatic transmissions
- Faster acceleration and 0-60 times
- Less weight
- Launch control
- Rev matching
- Ability to control it similar to a manual with paddle shifters
The biggest benefit to the PDK transmission compared to the manual is shift speed and acceleration. On a 911 Carrera S, Porsche claims a 4.0s 0-60mph time for a manual transmission with the sport chrono package. The PDK transmission with the same sport chrono package logs a 3.3s 0-60. On the Cayman S models the difference is a bit less at 0.2 seconds, but this is still a huge difference in acceleration.
The reason the PDK is so much is faster is because of the dual clutch configuration, rev matching, and launch control. Some Porsche dealers and sites claim that the PDK gives you better fuel consumption. However, Porsche specs show that manual transmissions actually get about 1mpg better than the PDK. Albeit, the difference isn’t really a reason to choose one over the other.
PDK Transmission Con’s
- PDK transmissions have been problematic in the past
- You don’t have as much control as a manual
- You lose some of the Porsche driving experience (in my opinion)
- It’s not as strong as the manual transmission
The PDK transmission is so refined and smooth that you do lose a bit of what I consider the Porsche driving experience. It is faster and more practical for the majority of buyers, but there is just something about a manual transmission in a Porsche despite them being slower.
One downside worth noting is that PDK transmissions are more problematic than manuals. 992 Carrera’s suffer from frequent PDK fluid leaks, and there have been a number of other PDK related issues over the years. These are sophisticated transmissions and therefore it’s understandable they tend to be more problematic. This isn’t a reason to not get a PDK, just keep in mind these things are expensive to repair and replace.
Porsche Manual Transmission Pro’s and Con’s
The pro’s and con’s of the manual transmission are about the opposites of the PDK transmission.
- Transmission is more reliable and can handle more power
- Gives you a more traditional driving experience
- More control over the gears
- Significantly slower than the PDK transmission
Manual transmissions can hold more power than PDK transmissions. This isn’t really a big deal unless you are modding your Porsche. PDK transmissions will wear and tear more quickly when modded compared to the manuals.
Yes, the manual transmission is slower. And the 0.7 second difference in 0-60mph on the Carrera S is the difference with a professional driver. You and me probably shift a manual slower than a professional driver, so the difference can possibly be even more than that, unfortunately.
At the sacrifice of acceleration is control. Manual transmissions give you more control. Yes, the PDK has paddle shifters. But the transmission still shifts for you when it needs to.
Porsche PDK vs Manual: Which is Better?
Better is a subjective term. When it comes to acceleration and performance, the PDK transmission is the clear winner. While manuals were the traditional way to go for racing and tracking, there is a reason the GT4 RS only comes with the PDK and also why the PDK is the standard option for the GT3.
But whether you should get the PDK over the manual depends on your preferences. If you purely care about speed and acceleration, get the PDK. If you prefer a more raw driving experience where you have complete control over the car, then manual is the way to go. Another consideration is the cost. On some Porsche’s the PDK is standard, and on some it can be upgraded for free. However, on Cayman and Boxster options as an example, the PDK is a $3,200 upgrade.
Additionally, on the Carrera S, the PDK is a free upgrade, however, it does not come with the Sport Chrono package. The 7-speed manual does come with Sport Chrono which saves you $2,800 in additional upgrades.
Overall, the PDK is better for performance and tends to be a more desirable option for owners. Manual Porsche’s are still a great choice for the classic enthusiast who wants the engaging Porsche driving experience.
PDK vs Manual Summary
Porsche’s Doppelkupplung (PDK) transmission is an automatic, dual clutch transmission. PDK comes standard on Panamera and Macan vehicles and is offered either as standard or an upgrade on various 911 Carrera and 718 Cayman/Boxster models. There are two different transmissions: a 7-speed PDK and an 8-speed PDK. On Porsche’s where the PDK is an upgrade, it is offered instead of a 6-speed or 7-speed manual transmission.
The dual clutch, automatic nature of the PDK make it significantly quicker than the manual transmission option. 0-60 times are anywhere from 0.2 seconds to 0.7 seconds faster with the PDK compared to a manual Porsche. It also offers rev matching and launch control which help improve its acceleration. It also has paddle shifters to provide additional control over the car.
What you do lose with the PDK though is the more traditional and engaging Porsche driving experience. The PDK transmission is so smooth and refined that it is almost too practical and takes away from what I consider the roots of what a Porsche is. However, PDK is overwhelmingly more popular than their manual counterparts as consumers prefer the more practical nature and improved acceleration and performance.
Growing up driving a manual, I’m not sure I could ever get an automatic Porsche, but the PDK sure is impressive. The only sort-of downside is that the PDK transmission has had issues in the past and automatic transmissions generally wear down a lot more quickly than manuals (that are driven properly).
John Hamilton says
Very helpful and well presented summary of facts and opinion