The proliferation of dual-clutch transmissions this year prompted another revelation that never occurred to me back when the VW/Audi DSG was the only game in town. Namely, that the success of such a gearbox depends less on its technical execution than on the personality of the car in which it's installed. When VW first introduced DSG, I liked it so much that I figured I'd enjoy it in any car. But, although a dual-clutch transmission is perfect for an upscale hot-hatch Volkswagen R32, and I can't imagine the technologically avant-garde Nissan GT-R with anything else, I was turned off by the dual-clutch transmissions in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo MR and the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S. Not because there was anything inherently wrong with those gearboxes - both whipped off instant upshifts and flawless, rev-matched downshifts - but because they don't seem to suit their host vehicles. Driving a dual-clutch Evo or 911 is like inviting a legendarily debased friend on a trip to Vegas and learning that he's stopped carousing and become the director of a charity called Worthy Causes That You Really Can't Make Fun Of. You can't fault the guy, but his newfound maturity is secretly disappointing.
Also disappointing were the 911's seats. After the five-hour drive back to Ann Arbor, my notebook included the following observation: "I'm not Andre the Giant, but at about six feet and 180 pounds, I am too wide for the seats. The 911's optional "comfort" seats look like they were molded for Mary-Kate Olsen. What gives? Germans are a hearty, schnitzel-eating people. They're deluding their beefy, beer-loving Hun selves by building seats sized for tapeworm-infested woodland fairies."
Narrow bolsters notwithstanding, I'm not complaining about the chance to rack up a few hundred miles on a 911, but I'll admit it wasn't my first choice for the long trip back. I wanted the Challenger. Alas, at 8 a.m. its space in the hotel parking lot was vacant, some early riser already rockin' down the highway. I shouldn't have been surprised.