How Does a Tiptronic Transmission Work?

by Joe White
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shifter image by Brett Bouwer from


A Tiptronic transmission is an automatic transmission that can be controlled like a manual transmission. In a standard automatic transmission, a computer selects which gear the car should operate in, but a Tiptronic transmission gives this control to the driver. The name "Tiptronic" was created by Porsche, who made the first such transmission, but it also can refer to similar transmission systems from other manufacturers.

Automatic With Manual Feel

The purpose of the Tiptronic transmission system is to give the driver more control of the car's performance and approximate the feel of a manual transmission while keeping the car as easy to drive as an automatic. Car makers had attempted to design a manual transmission that performed like an automatic, but the Tiptronic approach was more successful.


In ordinary driving, the Tiptronic transmission functions like an automatic transmission and can shift gears without driver control. When the driver activates the Tiptronic system, the transmission ceases to shift automatically and relies on the driver to change gears. Usually the driver controls the gears with paddle-shifters, which are small levers located on the steering wheel. One paddle shifts gear up to a higher gear, while the other shifts to a lower gear.

Driving With a Tiptronic

Tiptronic transmission systems often feature special settings, such as a performance setting in which the automatic transmission shifts gear at higher RPMs to simulate the feeling of a sports car. Many major manufacturers use a Tiptronic transmission or a similar system in some of their models.

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