Top 5 automatic transmissions

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Some car enthusiasts still loathe the automatic transmission, but these modern self-shifters are top-shelf units that even diehards can’t ignore.

Gone are the days of slow-shifting four-speed automatics in sports cars. We went through a brief era of the five-speed ‘tiptronic’ automatic, some with push-button steering wheel-mounted +/- buttons, but even John West would reject those.

Real advances came with the dual-clutch transmission design that dominates our top five, but there are also traditional torque converter automatics that hand out ratios as effectively as a casino card dealer.


1. Porsche 911 and Boxster/Cayman PDK

porsche-911-and-boxster-cayman-pdkPorsche 911 cayman pdk

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 911, Porsche performed 50 full throttle launch control starts in a seven-speed dual-clutch-equipped 991 faster than you can say doppelkupplungsgetriebe – the name of the transmission, but shortened to PDK.

The combination of thumping upshifts, aggressive auto-timed downshifts and tightly spaced ratios is enough, but clearly such special Stuttgart engineering has resulted in transmission longevity too.

It’s best sampled beyond 8000rpm in a 911 GT3 RS, where you can even pull both paddles at once and uncouple both clutches to, “neutralise the driving behaviour of the vehicle when oversteering in a wet curve, thus redirecting additional cornering force to the wheels of the rear axle”.

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