Porsche's seven speed shift pattern. Image: Chas Hallett for WhatCar.com
Back in the old four-speed days, your forward gears formed an “H” pattern. Then came the five-speed gearbox, which put fifth gear to the right of third in an “H and a half pattern.”
Next came the six-speed manual, which was really just a double “H” shift pattern.
Now Porsche has pioneered the seven-speed manual transmission in the upcoming 2012 Porsche 911, so we’re entering the “double H and a half” phase of automotive shifter evolution.
To no one’s surprise, Porsche has located seventh gear up and to the right of fifth gear in the shift pattern. That leaves a spot for an eighth gear, should Porsche (or another manufacturer) deem it necessary or advantageous to performance or fuel economy.
It’s no wonder that paddle shifters are becoming more popular, since keeping track of seven forward speeds will take getting used to on a manual gearbox. Each added gear increases the chances of a “money shift,” and as many six-speed Porsche 911 owners have learned the hard way, it isn’t difficult to grab third when you meant to grab fifth.
That’s a chance that most of us here are willing to take, but we’ll ask the question anyway: what’s your preference for a seven-speed gearbox: manual, or paddle-shifted automatic?