The high-performance variants of the 2021 Porsche 718 are fearlessly arguing that automatic transmissions and sports cars are not mutually exclusive. When ordered with two pedals, the GTS 4.0, GT4, and Spyder variants are quicker than their three-pedal counterparts, and their flat-six engine makes a little bit more torque.
Porsche announced the 2021 718s would gain the seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission called PDK in June 2020, but it didn’t reveal technical specifications until September. The paddle-shifted gearbox helps the 718 GTS reach 60 mph from a stop in 3.8 seconds, while the 718 Cayman GT4 and the 718 Spyder log a 3.7-second sprint. All three cars are a full half-second quicker than when they’re ordered with a stick-shift.
Released as a middle finger to downsizing, the GTS 4.0 is powered by a mid-mounted, naturally-aspirated flat-six engine with a displacement of — you guessed it — 4.0 liters. It makes 394 horsepower and 309 pound-feet of torque when it’s bolted to a six-speed stick, but the latter figure increases slightly to 317 when it’s hooked to the PDK. Moving a little bit higher in the hierarchy, the GT4 and the Spyder receive a 414-horse 4.0-liter, but their torque output also checks in at 317 when they’re ordered with two pedals and shift paddles.
The cavalry runs through a limited-slip differential before it reaches the rear tires, and the unit fitted to PDK-equipped GT4 and Spyder has higher locking values than the stick’s: 30% in traction and 37% in overrun, versus 22 and 27, respectively, with the manual.
Porsche noted all three cars come standard with the Sport Chrono Package, but selecting the automatic when ordering the GTS 4.0 adds a Sport Response button that delivers a hilariously potent 20-second burst of speed. It’s located on the steering wheel. And, compared to the PDK-equipped four-cylinder 718s, the two-pedal GTS, GT4, and Spyder trio receive a specific gear selector that looks like the one found in the 911 GT3, and a shorter seventh gear.
Enthusiasts who order a six-cylinder 718 with the PDK transmission will receive their car in early 2021. Porsche priced at the gearbox at $3,210 for the GT4 and the Spyder, and $3,730 for the GTS 4.0.
What remains to be seen is whether motorists are willing to swap the engagement that comes with shifting their own gears for quicker acceleration. Broadly speaking, the answer is a resounding yes in the United States; new stick-shifted cars represented a tiny market niche in 2019. However, the manual’s take rate may be higher when it comes to a mid-engined Porsche developed for drivers who speak about winding roads in a reverential tone.