By on June 1, 2011

When Nissan introduced a six-speed manual transmission for its Sentra SE-R, Chiat did a really cute ad campaign called Master Of The Sixth Speed to trumpet the fact. For many years, a “6” on the gearshift was the sign of a serious performance car (or the serious diesel pickup which towed it.) The original mass-market six-speeders were all serious business: the Viper, the autocross-conquering L98 Corvette, and, of course, the Porsche 964. The Viper would have been fine with four forward gears, as would the ‘Vette, but the relatively peaky 3.6 non-Varioram Porker did benefit from having the shorter spaces between ratios.

Now that base Hyundai Accents and Kia Rios offer their owners a chance to become “masters of the sixth speed”, however, Porsche has decided to up the ante.

Our friends at AutoGuide report that the next-generation Porsche 911 is likely to have a seven-speed manual transmission as an alternative to the orthodontist’s-choice seven-speed PDK. Although the article doesn’t mention it, I would expect this transmission to be provided by Aisin. That’s right: since the disgraceful introduction of the “996” fourteen years ago, most variants of the 911 have used a Toyota transmission. Porsche’s own “G50” transmission, as seen in latter variants of the Carrera 3.2, the 964, and 993, was a famously robust unit that is still much in demand by makers of mid-engined kit cars. The Aisin “G96”, however, is a much weaker item and is known for a cavalcade of issues that would no doubt annoy more 911 and Boxster owners if their engines didn’t prophylactically self-destruct before the G96’s problems could become fully apparent. Don’t expect the addition of a seventh gearset in the same rather cramped housing to improve matters.

With any luck, Porsche will have some sort of ingenious system to prevent inadvertent “money shifts” across the middle of the gear range. American customers won’t accept first gear being in the “racing position” down and off to the left, as in the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16, so third and fifth are likely to be floating in the middle of the pattern between first and seventh. Perhaps applying the infamous “skip-shift” mechanism to prevent selecting gears which are absolutely inappropriate would address the issue.

Also on the agenda for the next 911: a “longer wheelbase for stability”. Maybe they can put it on the Touareg, I mean, Cayenne, I mean, Panamera platform?

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50 Comments on “Seven-Speed Manual Porsches: They’re Not Just Part Of Your Ecstasy Flashback Anymore...”


  • avatar
    dswilly

    My ’82 Toyota PU has Aisin locking hubs, a very distant relative to that fancy transmission? So whats my point?

  • avatar
    Gedrven

    Why not have a two-speed final drive instead? Lower speed for your autocross and commute, higher speed for your Autobahn-storm? If a Model T could have one, I don’t see why a 21st-century Porsche can’t.

  • avatar
    SVX pearlie

    Hmm… looks just like a simplified Subaru trans, missing the center diff, hollow pinion shaft, and rear output…

  • avatar
    92golf

    That sounds like a really dumb idea.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m an advocate for shifting for yourself but having more than 5 or 6 gears in a manual shifter is just a recipe for tiresome.

    A powerteam that is going to use a manual transmission needs to have enough torque available across a broad enough powerband to make each gear useful, not just for the sake of being able to say you’ve got more gears than a competitor.

    Otherwise, stick with a auto-manual (DSG), a traditional auto, or a CVT. Let the engine stay in its tiny powerband and have the transmission do the job.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      A fully user-controlled CVT would be my preference: just slide the lever to adjust the ratio, or let the system decide.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        That would be amazing!! I’d assume you’d have a lever, rather than a shifter, and you could move it forward or back to control the ratio.

        Does such a thing exist? The technology certainly exists.

  • avatar
    Vega

    Sorry to disturb your favorite narrative (“Everything was better before the 996, since then everything is bad at Porsche”) but the G50 is not a Porsche, but a Getrag unit. The last Prosche unit was the G50s predecessor, called 915. Slow and crashy, but durable.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Porsche must have requested a poor design to further stick it to their customers since that has apparently been the company strategy since 1998 because Aisin transmissions are pretty well regarded. They supply almost every OEM out there (GM, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Hyundai, etc).

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        S2000 owners might disagree with you.

        Interestingly enough, the same transmission is trouble-prone in the S2K and trouble-free in the RX-8.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        Sounds like it is an application issue in the S2000. If your screwdriver breaks because you were using it as a prybar, I find it hard to fault the designer of the screwdriver. Ultimately, it comes down to the OEM for what transmission they spec for the vehicle. If it doesn’t work in the S2000 and does work in the RX-8, Honda failed at doing the required testing to determine that the transmission wasn’t suitable for their car.

    • 0 avatar
      Redshift

      As much as I love my RX8, I have to admit the Aisin has a mixed reputation on the forums. Personally I’ve been very happy with the shift feel, and It’s generally a pretty good gearbox on street driven RX8s, but doesn’t hold up too well to a lot of track days or racing use. (To be fair, that probably wasn’t part of the design brief.)
      There are some really good posts by Jason Saini over on RX8 club about it, and the design improvements in the 2009 version of the transmission.
      He actually has an interesting theory in that the same basic transmission has been used in multiple cars (it’s in the Miata and MX5 as well) and the ones mounting to the PPF on the passenger side seem to be very reliable, and the ones mounting from the drivers side (eg RX8)have been more trouble prone. I wonder how it mounds in the S2K.

  • avatar
    Jack Baruth

    Yes, but it’s my understanding that Porsche built the box in-house, the same way they continued to build their own transmissions after switching from “Porsche synchros” to Borg-Warner units.

    I’ve driven plenty of 915-equipped cars and never minded shifting them, although with the long throws off the floor it wasn’t something you did without consideration.

  • avatar
    evan

    A small correction: it was the Porsche 993 that introduced the 6-speed transmission, not the 964

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Not a small correction, and as a 993 owner I should know better. As tomorrow’s story will make clear, I’ve been, ah, under the weather a bit.

  • avatar
    findude

    Overkill in my book. *Maybe* it can be justified for a car that will actually be used at speeds approaching 200mph. Our MINI Cooper S has 6-speeds and 5 (or maybe even 4) would be adequate if the ratios were better. As it is, I frequently skip shift (usually 2->4, 3->5, 4->6, and even 2->5 or 3->6 from time to time). The engine puts out plenty of power from about 2800rpm all the way to 6500, so the advantages of a close-ratio transmission don’t apply–they make plenty of sense on super-torquey diesel engines that have a power band maybe 1200rpms wide.

    What the MINI S really needs is a sixth gear that is more of an overdrive so that it could get the highway mileage it deserves instead of spinning along at 3,000rmp at typical freeway speeds.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      You’d probably be downshifting quite a lot to pull any hills with more of an OD gear. When our R53 MCS starts getting under 2500rpm, it tends to struggle to pull any substantial hill. I don’t mind downshifting on a country road, but downshifting on the interstate at 70mph would be rather annoying.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        Sure, but it would be nice to have the option of keeping it in 5th for hilly country or 6th for low rpm flatland cruising. Both my vehicles( yes, one’s a Mini) are spinning over 3000 at 70 mph, most of the time they’d do just fine at 2500.

  • avatar
    cc-rider

    I had a 84 euro 928 with the dog leg 5 speed tranny

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    Throw in an overdrive or a hi-low box. Soon Porsches will be as easy to drive as 18 wheelers were 30 years ago (but with better brakes).

  • avatar
    vermontwalton

    Someone please remind me to get one of these when they come out with 14 blade razors.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    I can understand the 13-speed Road Ranger transmission on a diesel-powered truck that has the typical extremely narrow torque band, but any road car with a reasonably flexible engine should be all right with a five-speed, I’d think. My ’92 Accord was great with a five-speed, and neither my 1969 318 Valiant nor my 1967 383 Barracuda really needed more than the four-speed boxes they had.

  • avatar
    Acubra

    To me anything with more than 5 speeds seems – track/racing tool aside – to either have a narrow power band, to suffer from bad marketing or to have a combination of both.

    Transfer cases on EU/JDM spec manual Subarus is a neat touch though.

  • avatar

    Surely they have calculations somewhere: “if Fritz is driving 222 kph on autobahn, when using long 7th gear fuel consumption will be 0,0004 L/100 km lower than with same car which has 6 speed box and CO2 emissions are lower too, ergo we can claim this car is much green-er.”

  • avatar
    william442

    My friend’s “drag car” as she calls it, still uses a two speed Power Glide, and goes just fine.
    Jack: Despite almost four years of crunches, the S2000 still works quite well?

  • avatar

    Not sure how PKD/DSG got to be an Othodontist’s Trans. Perhaps that crap they called the “Tip” i.e. make the care worthless, unsalable, and unshiftable might be appropriate for the poser crowd, but the dual-clutch is a real trans with no plantary garbage and is a true entheusiat’s box. I would love to replace the 915 in my race car with the DSG (even the one from my Jetta Fahrenheit) and the logic that goes with it. After all the technology came from the 962.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      What I’m hearing from that ridiculous Cayman “Interserie” is that the PDK ain’t ready for racing prime time, even “racing” that amounts to a bunch of Chicago investment bankers bumping uglies at 7-10ths. The Mitsubishi Evolution has the same issue… heat buildup in the clutch mechanism. It doesn’t look like any of these transmissions are designed to withstand constant full-torque drive pressure, not even the one in the GT-R.

      • 0 avatar

        Well, maybe not THIS PDK, but SOME PDK would be wonderful! I have never tracked the Jetta but that trans is so head and shoulders beyond the 6-slop TIP-POS in my Cayenne turbo that I almost never use the manual mode, the Sport mode is just too good! Design is bastically two manuals with a coaxial input so it’s not inherently any weaker than a real manual..and since when is a Cayman a Porsche anyway?

      • 0 avatar

        Sorry, but I simply HAVE to point out the irony of a Cayenne owner saying that the Cayman isn’t a real Porsche…

      • 0 avatar
        Matthew Sullivan

        @Jack: my recollection is that the word on the Evo forums was that the Evo’s twin clutch overheating was related to left-foot braking. The trans was programmed to slip the clutches when the brakes were applied as if the car were coming to a stop.

        I’m a skeptic about the long-term reliability and cost of these units, so I went old-school when I got my X.

        No regrets, though I really missed that 6th gear on a recent drive from Houston to Miami.

      • 0 avatar

        Jack,

        How many car components are indeed ready for racing? You yourself have often made that same point about brakes. Now I suppose, if track driving at 7/10ths and higher is part of the company’s marketing of the car, then they should make sure the car is up to severe service.

        Also, plenty of racing components break. DNFs are a part of racing.

        What I take away from what you’ve said is that racing is very hard on machinery. A component can give years of safe, reliable service, but out on the track it might not even last one lap.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Orthodontists don’t buy shitty transmissions on principle. Perhaps more than even “racers” they know what’s hot or not. Or, at a minimum, what is perceived as alpha dog items. As a result, many of them only put the tip in their wife’s car, or, to the detriment of P, didn’t buy their cars out of fear of either appearing to be incompetent (buying a tip), or removing all doubt (by messing up shifts in a 6 speed). The automagicmanuals, aided by F1 references, neatly solved that problem.

      Ditto launch control programming, high slip angle stability control etc. All items that work well, and make even F1 stars faster, but whose improvements is the most noticeable to those not quite at F1 level driving skills, to put it mildly.

      Now, considering the aggregate difference in purchasing power between the world’d orthodontists and it’s “racers”, the smart automaker research money is on bringing the former closer to the latter, not on advancing the already fast pace of the latter, while saving them money.

      And for the record, I’m firmly in the orthodontists’ camp when it comes to how all this tech affects my pace, so I’m in no way pointing fingers. I also getting all te world’s fat people to the point of being able to walk five miles, is lots more important for public health than helping some Olympic marathoner shave a second of his PR, but aesthetically, something is nevertheless lost with all this focus on the orthodontists and the fatsos.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    How about just stick with 5 or 6 forward gears but make the ratios easily changeable with basic tools. I find the Cayman S gears 4 through 6 too closely spaced and not nearly tall enough for casual highway driving. In fact, the car drives well enough with just gears 1, 2, 3, and 6.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    I’ve only seen development mules, and it isn’t very useful to make a judgment before seeing the final product, but the next 911 looks longer, wider, and more massive in general.

  • avatar
    BostonDuce

    AFA the S2000 transmission goes, Change oil to GM Syncromesh FM; allow for reasonable oil warm-up for smooth 1-2 and 2-3 shift; and don’t skip shift through the gears.

    And just because it has a 9000 RPM red line, doesn’t mean you have to ring it out on the way to Stop & Shop.

    Repeat after me “It’s not a race car, It’s not a race car….”

    Smooooothest manual I ever had.

    BD

  • avatar
    Adub

    I wouldn’t mind a hi-low option. There’s no reason to not have tall gearing for highway driving. Cars that spin at 3k at 75 mph are annoying.

  • avatar
    Darkhorse

    I cannot understand why anyone would want more than even 5 speeds unless it gives you some advantage in racing or autocross. My Porsche 964 is happy with 5, and I only use 5th on the interstate. Then again, I grew up with “three on the tree” so 4 or 5 is wondrous excess.

    • 0 avatar
      windnsea00

      In my Z3 M coupe 5th gear (same as E36 M3 trans, ZF unit) is 1:1 so I don’t have an overdrive. Thus 80 mph=3,500 rpms which is quite overkill for a 3.2L I6. Sure it is responsive but an overdrive gear as found in the euro 3.2 E36 M3 or E46 M3 sure would be nice :)

  • avatar
    JMII

    The combination of 6 speeds and the torque of T5 in our C30 makes for highway cruising at 70 mph and under 2K of spin. Don’t really need 6th but for long distance high speed cruising your wallet thanks you as gas mileage gets a nice boost. We have even noticed the improvement in city driving where a long stretch between lights allows for 45-55 mph in 6th basically idling along with the turbo torque providing plenty of pull. With the HP and TQ as well as speed Porshes have a 7th gear seems like it might be useful. However why not go with 8 so you get a nice pattern? 6 with reverse down and away just seems so right. Only complaint is the gears are tightly spaced, I’ve missed 4th and dropped it into 2nd but the C30 is not my daily driver… its the wife’s.

  • avatar

    Having spent significant time behind the wheel of vehicles with either a 2 speed Powerglide or a three on the tree, one must laugh a little at the 7,8, and now 9 speed transmission there are.

    Hell, my bicycle has a 2X8 setup and unless I’m climbing or going downhill, I use at most 4 of the ratios. If I’m in the small chainring I’ll use the 4 and 5 cogs in back. If I’m in the big chain ring, it’s 3 and 4.

  • avatar

    So 7th gear in the Porsche is probably there to allow for better gas mileage when cruising and a better top speed while keeping the lower gears shorter to make them better for the street. It’s almost like an overdrive on a 4speed automatic or the 6th gear on a ZO6. Am I on track with this?

  • avatar
    M 1

    “The Viper would have been fine with four forward gears”

    Maybe if you only road-race it. And only maybe — on the long back straight at Sebring I’m often winding out 4th and thinking about 5th before I remember just how much speed I need to dispense with before entering the tooth-loosening hell that is the mile-wide hairpin going into the front straight.

    In the real world, I slip my Viper into 6th at about 65 MPH and can cruise all day at highway speeds turning less than 1500 RPM and enjoying approx 28 MPG. (One night [in a dream] I drove two solid hours through west Texas at 125 MPH… never cracking 2500 RPM and still managing 24 MPG.)

    Yes Virginia, more gears = gooder.

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