The previous generations of Porsche 911 GT3s were targeted at driving enthusiasts and were only available with a manual gearbox. So when Porsche launched the 991 variant of the GT3 at the Geneva Motor Show in 2013 and a PDK transmission was the only available option, the popular social media channel were full of disappointed potential owners who wanted (and who had been expecting) a manual gearbox, at least as an option.
Later and at least partly in response to out cry regarding the PDK only GT3 Porsche launched the manual only Cayman GT4 at the LA Auto Show in November 2015. This driver focused Cayman was a big hit with demand far exceeding supply. Building upon the success of the Cayman GT4 Porsche then launched the limited edition manual only 911R at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2016. This car received universally glowing reviews and was the recipient of multiple awards. Limiting the production run of the 911R to just 911 units ensured exclusivity, but also resulted in value of the cars rising sharply on the used market.
Despite statements made by Andreas Preuninger (head of the Porsche GT program) at the launch of the 991 GT3 in 2013 that all future GT3s would be available only with a PDK transmission, the 2017 991.2 GT3 will be offered with both Manual and PDK gearboxes. The manual gearbox coming directly from the earlier limited edition 911R.
Porsche have stated that for the 991.2 GT3 they expect one third of drivers to choose the Manual and two thirds the PDK. But if you were lucky enough to be chosen to buy the new GT3 (rumor has it that you need to have purchased at least 14 other Porsche first) which gearbox should you pick?
PDK for Performance
Potential owners and motoring journalists may have been vocal in voicing their disappoint at the lack of a manual gearbox in the first generation 991 GT3. However, I do not recall a single review criticizing the PDK transmission itself. In fact the Porsche PDK gearbox has become the bench mark against with all other dual-clutch gearboxes are judged against. A case in point being this early GT3 review by Chris Harris before he joined Top Gear.
When it was launched in 2013 the 911 GT3 was positioned as the most usable GT3 ever produced and by including the PDK gearbox more drivers could enjoy the performance on offer, even if they did not posses the driving skills of Walter Röhrl. It was a GT3 that you could drive every day.
If you want to go fast then PDK is the gearbox choice. Porsche state that acceleration from 0–100 km/h (0–62 mph) takes 3.4 seconds vs 3.9 seconds for the Manual. Although the PDK car does have a slightly slower top speed than the manual (197mph vs 198 mph) due to the PDK equipped car weighing more (1,430kk vs 1,413kg) then the manual.
Manual for Engagement
For road driving every car from a hot hatch upwards is easily capable of exceeding the national speed limit today. For may drivers (myself included) I get much greater enjoyment from the engagement of driving rather than raw speed. For example a Caterham that feels like it is doing 70mph when it is actually doing only 30mph is much more exciting on the road than a Porsche that feels like it is doing 30mph when it is actually doing 70mph.
A manual gearbox may be considered antiquated technology by some. But as impressive as the PDK gearbox is, flicking a paddle will never have the same level of driver engagement as using a third pedal and a gear stick to change the ratios for yourself.
Given the pent up demand for a manual GT3 and that it is predicted that manual cars will account for around one third of all production units, a manual car is also likely to hold its value better than the PDK car and at least in the short term trade at a greater premium.
Track Driving vs Racing
Many people have stated that if you are going to regularly drive the car on track then you must buy the PDK as it will be faster around the lap. However, I disagree as I believe these people are confusing track driving with racing.
Racing is about being consistently quick on every lap and finding every technical advantage (within the rules) to beat your competitors. Having participated in many track days I am consistently quicker in a paddle shift equipped car like the Ferrari 458 Challenge that I drove recently at Silverstone than I would be in a manual car. If I was racing in a series that allowed paddle shift transmissions I would pick that every time.
However, track days are about having fun and enjoying your car away from the restrictions of the public roads. A track day is not about setting the fastest lap times. Especially in the UK where lap timing is typically banned as this can invalidate the track day operators insurance.
If lap times are what excites you and you want to drive a 911 on track then my advice is to buy used Carrera Cup race car. Personally, I would rather be several seconds a lap slower in a manual car because I would take much more enjoyment and satisfaction from the greater level of engagement that I had had in putting the lap together.
So should you buy a GT3 with a PDK or Manual gearbox
If you plan to drive the GT3 every day in heavy traffic, if you want the latest technology or if you value speed over driver engagement then you should buy the PDK. However, if you value driver engagement (on road and/or the track) over everything else then you should buy the Manual car.