And then you try the optional PDK, Porsche's brand-new dual-clutch transmission. PDK may be named unimaginatively (it stands for Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe, or "Porsche double-clutch gearbox" in English), but it's practically psychic in its operation, choosing both the gear and the shift speed that you'd pick yourself. Off-the-line clutch engagement is smooth and linear, and under most circumstances, you can't feel shifts even if you try. PDK is the best dual-clutch transmission yet; and that achievement is no surprise when you consider that Porsche developed it jointly with ZF, maker of the world's best automatic transmissions.
The seven-speed PDK, which replaces the ancient five-speed Tiptronic automatic, is geared similarly to the manual in first through sixth gears, reserving seventh as an ultralong, ultraefficient cruising gear. The drop between sixth and seventh is drastic - whereas the manual 911's engine turns almost 3200 rpm at 80 mph in top gear, the PDK's is loafing along at just 2200 rpm. The 911 has always been one of the most fuel-efficient sports cars, but the new 911's less thirsty engines and PDK's long top gear reduce fuel consumption by about fifteen percent.
The PDK is simple to use, too - a console-mounted shifter works just like that of an automatic transmission. It features the requisite manual control via either the shifter or push/pull paddles mounted on the steering wheel. The PDK's one fault is that Porsche, for reasons of tradition, kept the Tiptronic shifter's push-forward-for-upshifts pattern. This is the opposite of what you find in sequentially shifted racing cars, and it's a shame that Porsche didn't use this opportunity to change it. Thankfully, the transmission won't upshift at the rev limiter or automatically downshift while in manual mode unless you press the kickdown switch at the bottom of the gas pedal's travel. That switch is a great feature both for safety and performance: say you're cruising in seventh gear in manual mode at 50 mph and need speed quickly. Plant your foot in the carpet, and the transmission will instantly drop into second gear and upshift at redline as long as your foot remains on the floor.