‘Boo hiss!’, you can hear the purists bashing away at their keyboards ending rants with #SaveTheManuals. I would be lying if I told you that I was not one of the old school folk that insists a real driver’s car should have three pedals down low and a wiggly stick in the middle to be considered a car for the true enthusiast. Porsche learnt this the hard way, you only have to look back at the 991 GT3 that was offered only with a PDK transmission before making a U-turn with the 991.2 GT3 which saw the return of the fantastic 6 speed manual. This generation of GT3 is revered and hailed as possibly being the best and most complete GT3 in history. The 718 Cayman and Boxster GTS 4.0 as well as the 718 GT4 and Spyder were only available with manual gearboxes, until now. The double clutch PDK has been held in the highest regard and known to be the best auto option on the industry.
The pressure is on for Porsche, the Boxster/Cayman GTS 4.0 and GT4/Spyder are phenomenal cars and the premiums and waiting lists pay testament to their credentials. The manual transmission suited the character of the car so well, all be it with very long ratios. Has the PDK option fixed this? Well, yes and no. Yes as you can drive the can in auto and not have to think about the gearing and no as chasing the redline still takes an age. The most significant change, aside from the redundancy of your left foot (unless you are a left-foot-breaking-badass) is the near instant and seamless shifts which make the 718 models feel even more potent, because they are.
In comparison with 718 models featuring the standard manual transmission, the 414 horsepower GT models – the 718 Spyder and 718 Cayman GT4 now accelerate from 100km/h half a second faster(!), in 3.9 secs. Where permitted, they can reach 200km/h in 13.4 secs (0.4 secs faster). The 718 Cayman GTS 4.0 and 718 Boxster GTS 4.0, both with 395 horsepower, also improve on the standard sprint from 0-100km/h by half a second to 4.0 secs, and then reach the 200 km/h mark in 13.7 secs (0.4 secs quicker). These are substantial and tangible gains, but what is this like in reality? I headed over to Germany to see if the PDK option had blunted the charms of the 4.0 and GT variants of the 718 family.
The answer unsurprisingly, is no. Yes, it is different, but every variant I drove felt just as engaging and ever more potent than before. The PDK shifts are so unbelievably quick and smooth that you just get the best of the power and torque band whenever you demand kick down or pull for a downshift. Of course, there is a level on detachment, but the chassis, steering and the redline up at 8,000 (in the GT cars) are so seductive that you focus on other elements which mean these 718 models still shine.
On the savage handling track at the Porsche Experience Centre, Hockenheim, I struggled to keep up with the shifts when using the wheel mounted paddles. The nature of the tight, barrier lined track meant that avoiding an embarrassing crash was a priority. Simply put, I would have been unable to shift gears manually and maintain the frantic pace that I was. This is where the PDK shone and allowed me to make the most of the power and torque on offer.
The addition of a PDK option to the 718 GTS 4.0 & GT models makes the cars an ever more tempting proposition to those that want a great road car that they can comfortably take to a track and be tremendously quick. If the choice was mine, I would still prefer the manual, but if sector times and daily drives are more of a priority to you, do not feel short changed optioning the PDK, it is still a thrilling experience. This simply broadens the appeal of the finest sports cars on sale today. The PDK transmission option includes a Launch Control function. On the 718 GTS 4.0 models it is priced at £2,303, and on the 718 Spyder and 718 Cayman GT4 it is priced at £2,000. On the GT models, a lap trigger and Track Precision App is also included.