Ben Whitworth on supercar gearboxes | CAR Magazine
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Ben Whitworth on supercar gearboxes

Published: 28 June 2011 Updated: 26 January 2015

The 458 Italia’s gearbox is superb. Irrespective of throttle opening, its twin-clutch set up whips through its seven gears incredibly quickly and smoothly. There’s no jolt through the chassis and drivetrain even at red-line change-ups, and you can drop through the cogs with machine-gun speed. Its technical brilliance perfectly matches the character of the car. I hated it.

The iconic metal-framed open-gated gear lever housing was an integral part of Ferrari’s appeal. As a child poring over the pages of CAR, I dreamed of what it must be like clack-clacking that ball-topped wand through its gate. A Ferrari without that toothed gate atop the transmission tunnel looses a huge degree of its appeal.

Sure, I hear you say, I have to move with the times and laud the advances these twin-clutch transmissions bring – quicker shift times, better economy and lower emissions. But that, to my mind, is not what these cars are about. Do I really care about the milliseconds saved by a paddleshift transmission? If I was Alonso hammering through Eau Rouge with Button filling my mirrors, then yes. But when I’m having the time of my life whipping a supercar along a favourite road, I want to immerse myself in that experience – and I want three pedals.

Which perhaps explained why I loved driving the Audi and Porsche in Wales, when most hands were reaching for the Ferrari and McLaren keys. I found myself flipping up and down their gears, getting a real thrill from a perfectly timed gearshift (rare) and a cleanly executed heal-and-toe (rarer still). The Audi’s throw was beautifully light and precise, the Porsche’s hefty and mechanical – both very different, both equally enjoyable. They brought me closer to the action, placing me centre stage rather than in the front row.

>>Do you demand three pedals, or happy with two paddles? Share your thoughts in the comments section below:

By Ben Whitworth

Contributing editor, sartorial over-achiever, HANS device shirt collars

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