Retro-grouch purists should just accept that the modern age is upon us, and get with the times
Progress Marching On PHOTO: TORQUE

The auto industry is a funny old place. Manufacturers are constantly trying to foist new technologies on us, but purists have stubbornly resisted, especially when it comes to performance cars.

Even their patron saint, the Porsche 911 GT3 (our cover car), has dramatically fallen from grace, now only being offered with a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

Needless to say, this has caused several death threats (or at least, rotten eggs) to be sent to Zuffenhausen. But as a Porsche PR man told me when I quizzed him about potentially alienating purists: "Porsche is a performance company, not a purists’ company".

In typical Teutonic fashion, he won an argument with the crushing weight of logic – a dual-clutch gearbox will always shift faster than a human can. For the purists, their argument is that not being able to shift gears yourself strips the emotion out of driving quickly.

I think it's ridiculous. If you can remain unmoved by the Audi R8 V10 Plus' new dual-clutch 'box rifling downtwo gears and delivering perfectly blipped rev matches while hearing the engine bark in concert, I'd advise you to get a check-up, because I fear you may well be dead!

Now, I understand if the automatic choice was slushy because then I’d
choose a manual, too. But when the former is just so good, electing for the "inferior" choice seems a little... silly. It's like walking past the gargantuan flatscreen TVs in an electronics store and demanding that the sales clerk point you to where the flickering black and white CRT TVs are.

Much like the CRT TV, the days of the automatic transmission in a
performance car are all but numbered. Even Ferrari, arguably the Grand
Inquisitor of automotive purity, doesn't have a manual car now.

The last Ferrari to have a manual gearbox was the California, and even then, its self-shifting option was quietly phased out last year.

The biggest reason for Ferrari's wholesale switch to dual-clutch gearboxes might be something a little more prosaic – manual cars simply aren't selling.

Of the 260 Californias sold in the UK back in 2011, just one was a manual.
Want to guess how many manual Ferrari 599s were sold in the UK from
2007 to 2011? Would you believe us if we told you it was zero?

So, progress is coming and even if it isn't welcome, that's just toobad. Ferrari’s statistics also make me wonder why these "purists" haven't put their money where their mouths are. Ah, perhaps it's because they're not the ones actually buying the cars...

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This article first appeared in the October 2013 issue of Torque.


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