I’ve gone on, ad nauseam, about my preference for a gear lever and three-pedals – and this love was only reinforced after a recent stint in everyone’s favourite sports car...
You’ll see a feature elsewhere in this issue in which I set off from the headquarters of Porsche Cars GB to Wales in a Macan GTS. Needless to say, that’s the perfect car in which to cross continents – or, in this case, the island of Great Britain. But there was another GTS in the parking lot that caught my eye, and one that I wormed my way into a few days later – a 911 GTS with a 7-speed manual gearbox.
Now, it’s been decades since the manual saw much innovation – save for the introduction of seven speeds by Porsche a few years ago. So, as you’d imagine, I’ve been itching to try one ever since. But, while the dual-clutch PDK is a dime a dozen, the manual is about as rare as a Unicorn!
So, after a short stint, having finally put my left limbs to use while in the cockpit of a car, I came away pleasantly surprised. The clutch was feather light, while the short, stubby gear lever had no trouble slotting perfectly into place with even the slightest persuasion. I couldn’t help but wonder, then, why more 911 buyers wouldn’t opt for the manual.
Sure, on a racetrack, the PDK would be quicker. And, truth be told, the 911 has become so capable that it’s now better suited to on-track use than the daily commute. On a public road, you simply can’t come anywhere near the performance potential of this machine – it's too good. You no longer have to worry about settling the front before getting on the power, nor do you have to be fearful of lift-off oversteer – it’s just point and shoot. The only thing that holds you back are speed cameras.
That being the case, the last bastion of connection between man-and-machine remains the clutch pedal and manual gear lever. In the past, a good driver could transform the driving experience of just about any machine. Now, the driver is an imperfect appendage who, more often than not, inserts an element of unpredictability into what is otherwise a machine that’s been honed to near perfection. But I’ve spent years refining the art of heel-and-toeing, or left foot braking, and generally sensing what a machine needs to coax the best out of it. Clearly, an outdated skill set if there ever was one.
Nevertheless, it’s a skill set that still allows you to hit all the right notes in the right car. Case in point: 911 GTS – it’s alive, responsive, and linear, as opposed to inert and clinical like some EVs. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing quite like the efficiency, silence and, yes, even sheer speed of an electric vehicle. But if I want the hair on the back of my neck to stand on end, it’s the three-pedal GTS that I’d pick.
Thank god I still remember what it feels like to use all my faculties – not to mention limbs – during the act of driving. Thank you Porsche for helping us #savethemanuals.
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