Please Porsche, let the manual transmission die with dignity.

by Andrew Maness

This story originally appeared in Vol.7 “The Athlete Issue”

This is most likely not the first story about the Porsche 992 GT3 Touring that you’ve read. If it is, I congratulate you on successfully living under a rock since the car was publicly revealed in the summer of 2021. For my part, I’ve been all over everything to do with the GT3 Touring because I am unabashedly a fan of Porsche, of the 911 and of the GT cars in particular. My first brush with a “special” 911 was a 997.2 GT3 RS 4.0, which was a hell of a way to kick things off and recalibrated my brain in ways few other driving experiences have. Oddly enough, a few days after that experience, I found myself behind the wheel of a 991.2 GT2 RS. Again, new neural pathways were formed and my perception of reality was altered. Since then I have been fortunate to have driven a 996 GT3, 996 GT2, 991 GT3 RS, and 991.2 GT3 Touring. I don’t rattle off this list to make you envious, but rather for posterity. You must understand that when I say I was hotly anticipating time with the 992 GT3 Touring, it wasn’t just because it was the new hot-shit 911 on the block; it was because I needed to know how it stacks up against these other GT cars, especially the previous Touring. There was a lot of hype surrounding the second-gen Touring from the moment mainstream auto journalists got their hands on it. How justified was the hype and how much smoke was being blown up Porsche’s figurative ass? I had to find out, both for myself and for all of you. When my loaner unit arrived wearing Gentian Blue Metallic paint paired with unpainted silver wheels, four-way manually adjustable seats with woven cloth fabric centers, and a manual transmission, I knew I had my work cut out for me. This was a press unit optioned damn near to the way I would do it. I had to remain objective, not fall for the shiny new toy temporarily in my possession. Ultimately, this would prove easier to accomplish than I thought.

The first couple of outings with the Touring (as I’ll be calling it from here on out for brevity) were nothing out of the ordinary. Well, not as far as my typical high-performance sports car sampling process goes. I ran a few errands with it and established that it’s the same as any other 992 911 around town and that the manual is fine in traffic. It encourages bad behavior by way of having three pedals and a 9,000 rpm redline. The temptation to do second-gear pulls any time the opportunity presents itself (not to mention third gear) is mighty hard to overcome, but by the third or fourth day with the car, I got there. Somehow, someway, I forced myself to mature and drive the Touring like a responsible adult — at least in traffic. When I took the Touring out to the canyons northwest of LA, however, my inner child took the wheel. Cars like this are meant to be driven hard, for hours on end. How odd it was when I didn’t feel the pull to stay out longer than I had planned on any of my outings, or take the long way home, get one more spirited jaunt in. Make no mistake, Porsche knows how to get under a driver’s skin, probably better than anyone. They have you looking for idiosyncrasies, analyzing every facet of the drive, hoping that you, the world’s best driver (because of course you are — you got a paint-to-sample GT3 Touring!), have what it takes to find the angel’s share of the magical driving experience they’ve concocted. Only this time, with this car, it was fleeting. I cannot recall driving a high-performance car where the shine wore off more quickly than it did with the Touring. By the fourth day with it I could hardly be bothered to go for a drive just for the sake of going for a drive. This was supposed to be “the one,” what with the manual transmission and naturally aspirated motor and all. What was the problem? Well, I’ll tell you what the problem is: us. We, the diehard enthusiasts, the devout worshippers of all that has come before, we’re the problem. Were it not for us, Porsche would have stuck to what they do best: progressing by way of carefully considered refinement. Instead, they felt the need to cater to the #savethemanuals crowd and offer a manual in a car that doesn’t need one. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but at this point the PDK is simply the better fit for what the 911 has become, which is an incredible sports grand tourer, if not the incredible sports grand tourer.

“But what about driver engagement?!” you howl, having read my sacrilegious take. Look, if you want a pure driving experience out of a 911, you’ll have to go back to at least the 997, if not the 996. Since the arrival of the 991 in 2012, the manual-transmission option has been little more than an affectation for the owner. It’s a conversation starter, a clout play, but it doesn’t add anything to the driving experience of a modern 911. For a large swath of 911 owners, that doesn’t matter, and Porsche knows it. They understand the clientele well enough to know that for a lot of customers it’s about getting a nod in the parking lot, not getting the most out of the car. To be clear, I’m not here to say there’s anything wrong with that. After all, it’s a road car, not a race car, right? But wait, isn’t the GT3 supposed to be a race car for the street? Or is that the GT3 RS? What does that make the Touring? Flawed. Inherently and fundamentally flawed. The lack of weight and feel in the clutch pedal alone should be a red flag. Porsche didn’t rejigger this manual box to make it suited to a GT car; they just slapped it in there so buyers could proudly declare “Yeah, I got the manual” while adjusting their hoodie sleeve so everyone can see the 116520 Daytona on their wrist.

Look, I couldn’t care less about lap times. I’m all about how a car makes me feel out in the real world, how it connects with a specific environment. For all of its impressive numbers and the exceptional amount of feel it possesses, the Touring left me wanting more. It has taken me time to really put a finger on it, but taking into consideration everything above, I can distill it down to the following: The 992 GT3 Touring is like movie-theater popcorn. You really want it, you excitedly consume it, it fills you up, but at the same time it leaves you feeling hollow, and you’ve gained nothing from it — just empty calories. We don’t need a manual GT3 Touring, which means we don’t need a GT3 Touring. The PDK is the right transmission for the modern 911, especially for the GT cars. To quote an acquaintance in the business of fixing and selling all manner of Porsches, “GT cars have wings. They need wings. You have to own that you chose a GT, not hide from your inner child. It’s built to go fast as hell on the track or on the street. No wing, no GT car.” Having noticed how much the rear of the Touring moves around at high speeds when you don’t really want it to, I’m inclined to agree. We don’t need to #savethemanuals. We need to #preservethemanuals.