Driving Porsche Tiptronic at track days
I own a 99 Porsche 996 with tiptronic. I decided to write up how I'm driving it at HPDE events and the extra maintenance that I do related to the transmission. I've had my car now for around 3 years and done a few HPDE type days with it.
Normally, you change the transmission oil every 100k miles in a 996 tiptronic. If you drive it hard then you'd better make that annually. This costs about 300 USD to do at the dealer but it's well worth it, a new transmission will set you back around 10k USD, ask me how I know...
My car is a C4 so I also change the front diff fluid which is another 250 USD annually.
Driving at the track
I drive the car in manual. You don't need to worry about upshifting. It will do that automatically and mine shifts when the RPMs are around 7k - 7.2k usually.
I downshift manually under braking. So, I start braking hard for the corner and then hit the downshift button on the wheel when in a straight line. The car will downshift when it can and it may take a moment until the RPMs have dropped to the point where it can shift without damaging the engine. If you don't like this then just downshift a little later. Personally, I 'queue' the downshifts as I'm braking by hitting the button early.
There is no need to lift when it upshifts or blip the throttle when down shifting. The car does it all for you. No need to heel and toe, just concentrate on driving the line and hitting the braking/turn in points.
The car won't upshift while you're turning so pick a good gear at around 4k ish and drive through the corner, applying gas once you apex and let the car take care of upshifting. Just focus on the line and squeezing on the gas. Now drive to the next corner, brake, downshift if necessary and turn in.
Weight transfer during shifting
But, if you turn in and then hit the button to downshift then it will do it (you did ask it to!) and then it's possible to unbalance the car when the shift happens during the turn in. The downshifts are not seamless and doing this can cause a spin or undesirable behavior if you're not careful. This usually only happens if you downshift too late. Hence, my reason for downshifting ahead of time.
Weight transfer doesn't seem to be a problem when upshifting. I find the car can automatically upshift or I can do it manually with no unbalancing when accelerating.
Year differences between tiptronics
All the tips until 2001 are basically the same on a 996. The 2002 model saw Porsche use the Turbo tiptronic unit instead of the older one. This gives 2002 cars a 'stronger' tiptronic and some other features.
Manual shift in D
When in D, you can still use the buttons to manually shift. It returns to D after 8 seconds in a gear.
Stationary overrev protection
You will not be able to rev the car while it's stationary beyond 4k RPMs. Don't do this anyway or you'll be buying a new torque convertor (2k installed).
More shift patterns in D
It has 250 shift patterns instead of the 5 or so on the older box. This means it can be cleverer in D.
More robust tranny
The 2002 onwards has a transmission from a much more powerful car, the Turbo. So, I'd imagine in a normal 996 that it will last longer than a pre 2002 transmission would.
D or M while driving around the track
My 99 doesn't work well around the track in D. It takes too long to get in to the sport shift map and I don't like it. M works well for me. If you have a 2002 or better then you may have more luck with D. Apparently, it's faster than a real manual gear box around a track with anyone normal driving the car, i.e. not a racer etc.
Throttle position shifting and left foot braking
You can get a tiptronic to shift very quickly using just the throttle. If you press the accelerator quickly (jab it) then the tranny will pick the lowest gear to get you around 5k on the tach in about 0.2 seconds. Once you get the hang of this then you can use it driving on the highway to effect. You don't need to floor the throttle, just press it fast enough and it will do this.
If you drive the car around the track in D then you can try this just before turn in by jabbing the throttle while left foot braking. But jabbing the throttle before turning in can be a little nerve wracking and potentially if it shifts a little late then you can unbalance the car. I have seen a professional instructor from Porsche recommend this while left foot braking but I can't manage it yet. Remember, the trick is to jab it quickly and then get off the gas. This will cause the shift. This is faster than using the buttons as the car will drop as many gears as needed to get to 5k at the current speed where as with the buttons, you'd need to downshift multiple times, worry about what gear it's in etc. You just need to be comfortable left foot braking to pull it off.
Does it do this when accelerating on the track?, i.e. would this happen when you don't expect it? No, the jab is typically a faster movement than I would do when driving around the track. The squeezing of the throttle when accelerating around a turn is a slower movement than we are talking about, I've never had it downshift when exiting a turn because of this. Be smooth on the throttle.
I like it. I'm from Ireland and never drove an automatic in my life until I came to the USA 5 years ago. I wanted a manual 996 but this is what was local when I decided to buy. So far, besides the tranny failure, I enjoy driving the car despite it not being a manual. It's a lot of fun and pretty easy to drive at the track and this means you'll likely be taking it home afterwards.