Porsche manufactures top-of-the-line transmissions. Emphasis on the plurality in that sentence. Transmissions. Porsche manufactures a ton of different gearboxes that all thrive in different ways.
This handy blog post will cover everything you need to know about Tiptronic S gearboxes, what they are, how they work, how they differ from manual and PDK transmissions, and whether or not they might be suitable for you and your needs.
Don’t worry if you have never heard of Tiptronic gearboxes before, by the time we are through with this, you will feel like a bonafide expert. Let’s jump right into it together.
What is a Tiptronic Gearbox?
The best way to think about a Tiptronic gearbox is to think of it as a sort of in-between of manual and automatic transmissions. Which sounds counterintuitive, right? How can it be both?
Well, a Tiptronic transmission offers a sort of override system for whatever the automatic transmission is doing.
This means you can drive along as if you are driving an automatic, but if you want to get more involved and suddenly want an extra kick, you can use buttons on the steering wheel to shift down a gear and accelerate away.
While on a Porsche, the up and down buttons on the steering wheel are a talking point for many, once you get used to it, it becomes second nature and feels completely natural.
The idea behind the Tiptronic gearbox is that it offers the convenience and ease of an automatic transmission with the responsiveness, versatility, and, let’s face it – fun – of a manual one, at least to an extent.
While Tiptronic gearboxes can be found in many cars, they are put under the spotlight in sports cars. That’s where they have the most impact on the driving experience, and it also means that people enjoy picking it apart in discussions.
But sure, back in the day, my parents had an E46 BMW 320i with Tiptronic, and as much as you might like the idea of a Tiptronic gearbox in it, from experience it doesn’t really make too much of a difference, although I do remember the salesman at the dealership trying to use it as a selling point.
Is the Tiptronic S the Same as an Automatic?
Obviously, there are some differences between a Tiptronic gearbox and an ordinary automatic one. The most significant difference is that a standard automatic gearbox does not allow you to manually change gears. That’s sort of the entire point.
However, in mechanical terms, they are very similar. Not exactly the same. But pretty darn similar. An ordinary automatic gearbox could be considered a closed system. It is managed and controlled by predefined conditions set out by the manufacturer. It decides when to shift up and when to shift down based on predetermined values and input of the drivers right foot .
However, a Tiptronic gearbox will do all of that, plus it also allows the driver to essentially override those values by changing gears manually. Why would you want to do this you might ask.
As clever as automatic gearboxes are, they don’t always make the right choice. You might find yourself on an incline and feel that if you were to change down a gear, you would find ascending the incline a lot easier.
On the flip side, if you wanted to engage in a more spirited style of driving, you have full control over what gear you want to be in, thus controlling how responsive the engine is according to the revs. The Tiptronic S is also generally more intelligent even when driving in automatic mode, as it learns more efficiently from your inputs.
You also can’t rule out the biggest factor. The fun factor. It’s more fun to drive stick, you know it, I know it, there is no denying it. Sometimes we want to feel a little more in control, we want to feel the car reacting to more than just putting our foot down. A transmission like the Tiptronic S allows for the convenience of an automatic with hints of the pure enjoyment of a manual.
Do All Porsches Use Tiptronic S?
No, not every Porsche uses a Tiptronic S gearbox. In fact, not every Porsche uses the same manual or automatic gearbox either. The Tiptronic S is offered in a select few vehicles depending on the make and age.
They are generally only on Porsches from the early 2000s, this includes the 996 and 997 generations of the 911 as well as the 986 and 987 generations of the Boxster/Cayman.
The Tiptronic S is better than the standard Tiptronic as it can handle more power and torque while being more intelligent with how it shifts. It also brings more reliability to the gearbox as long as you service it at its proper intervals.
The Tiptronic S regularly sees itself competing with another of Porsche’s excellent inventions, the Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK). This is a double-clutch automatic transmission that has become more popular on newer Porsches.
But this is a completely different type of gearbox, and it’s not fair to make the comparison. Porsche’s PDK is a whole new level, introduced in the Porsche 911 997.2, and is still used in recent models.
You only need to consider the Tiptronic S when looking at the generations of Porsche I just mentioned above.
Porsche Tiptronic S vs PDK – Which is More Powerful?
I know I said it’s not fair to make the comparison, but then I thought to myself, I need to shed more light on the situation. In terms of raw power in a head-to-head, the PDK outpaces the Tiptronic S.
The reason is that it’s newer technology and therefore has the added advantage of more modern engineering. The PDK is designed to shift faster, hence the double clutch.
In a PDK, whether using the automatic mode or paddles to shift manually, the responsiveness is almost instant. This means that the car’s ability to take off in any scenario is significantly faster.
Take for arguments sake, the same Porsche, one with Tiptronic S and the other with PDK. In every race, the PDK car will be faster as it reduces the time to shift so much that even without a power increase, it will win.
I’ve even experienced scenarios where I’m up against a more powerful manual or standard automatic car, where the PDK has come out on top due to the time saved in the gear change. It’s just that good.
While many believe Porsche’s PDK is the best double clutch solution in the market, other brands such as BMW, with their DCT transmission, are able to achieve lightening fast shifts as well.
Porsche Tiptronic S vs PDK – Which is Better Value?
Given that the PDK is arguably better, and since there are plenty of PDKs on the market at a reasonable price, you might make the case for the PDK being the better value option. However, you can almost certainly find either of the two that is cheaper than the other. It really depends.
These days a manual 997.1 Turbo could be more desirable than a newer 997.2 Turbo with PDK. I’m not too sure about the argument for a Tiptronic S though, the majority of the internet seems to prefer either manual or PDK on Porsches. This means you should be able to find a Tiptronic S for cheaper.
What really matters is what you want to get out of your car. To decide which is better value for money for you, if you love the look of an older 997.1 911 and aren’t too fussed with having the absolute fastest gearbox on the market, and are purely looking to just drive it around town, then a 911 with Tiptronic S could be perfect for you. You get to save some money and get to enjoy the Porsche experience.
On the other hand, if you love the latest and greatest technology, enjoy driving at pace, and want to chase lap times at the track, a 911 with PDK could be better value to you.
By the way, that’s not to say you can’t enjoy racing a Porsche with Tiptronic S. Many people do and say it’s fantastically responsive and provides them with all the control they need. People even upgrade their cars with more power and the Tiptronic S is able to handle it just fine.
I suppose what I’m alluding to here is that it’s all personal preference, and the Porsche Tiptronic S is a more than capable gearbox. It can do everything a PDK can and the value you derive out of it is up to what you do with the car.
Porsche Tiptronic S vs PDK – Should You Prioritize One Over the Other?
At the end of the day, as per what I said before, it all comes down to personal preference. If you prefer a little more control over your shifting, you probably want to go with the PDK. If, on the other hand, you are just cruising around town and want to save some money, you’ll likely be able to pick up a Tiptronic S car for less.
My top tip here, from experience, is that both gearboxes offer the Porsche experience. Don’t listen to what the haters have to say online about Tiptronic S. If you go to YouTube right now, you’ll see plenty of people enjoying it on the track or squirting around public roads.
Personally, at this point right now, I just bought a manual 718 Spyder and for me, the manual experience trumps both of these gearboxes. But I’d love to own a PDK Turbo S one day, whether it’s the 997.2 or the latest 911 at the time. But I’m also not discounting the fun of a Tiptronic S, I’ve driven a few in my time and it was a great time.
Final Verdict On Tiptronic S
Hopefully, you now feel like you have a good understanding of what a Tiptronic S is and its benefits when stacked up against other gearboxes. I took you through the other options on the market and hope I clearly conveyed that the Tiptronic S is great. I wouldn’t shy away from a car just because of this gearbox.
The PDK is obviously faster and smoother than the Tiptronic S, but whether it’s worth the extra dollars is up to you and what you want to use your Porsche for.
I’m Daniel, the founder of YSM Motors. I’ve been living and breathing cars since I was born and got into the online space when I was 16, writing about cars.
My unique view comes from owning several interesting cars, ranging from a Volkswagen Golf R, BMW M3, and, more recently, my Porsche Spyder. Owning these cars and a few others has allowed me to become close friends with other car enthusiasts giving me insight into rarer and more exotic cars such as Ferrari, Maserati, Porsche GT cars, and more.
I’ve been lucky to experience and maintain such a vast range of exciting cars, and in the process I’ve become close with a few car dealers and high-end workshops, which has allowed me to pick their brains on topics you can’t find info about online.
My eye for detail stems from my full time career as a Business Analyst. This all started when I studied a Bachelor of Science with a Major in Information Systems, leading me into my 13-year career.
After honing my online skills with various projects and immersing myself further into car culture, by 2019, I decided to dedicate myself to YSM Motors in my spare time and purely focus on my passion for cars and everything to do with them.