Thursday, September 27, 2012

My Take on the Death of the Manual Transmission

I know it has been done, but I will go ahead and share my opinion on the death of the manual transmission.  Let's start at the top. Go ask your friends, check Facebook, check Twitter, or just walk around a normal American parking lot.  No one owns a manual anymore.  I understand the luxuries of an automatic, so don't get me wrong. For some people who deal with a lot of traffic an automatic is just easier.  But it is more than just car buyers not selecting a manual over an automatic.  Most drivers are not even learning to drive a stick, which to me seems almost silly.  Just for emergency situations it is worth the time for every driver to at least understand how to drive a manual.  It may never happen, but it is easy to at least imagine a situation where a manual vehicle is the only choice to drive yourself or a loved one to a hospital or flea a zombie apocalypse, whichever scares you more.  There are also some obscure reasons to drive stick.  Statistics show that manual cars are stolen less due to the fact that car thieves can't drive stick.  Friends are also less likely to borrow your car.  Big plus if you drive a truck because everyone wants to borrow it to haul whatever they have that won't fit in their Prius.  "Can I borrow your truck man?" "Sure, can you drive stick?" Your friends feelings are spared, and you seem like a hero not a jerk because let's face it you weren't going to let them drive your baby anyway.  

This situation is not just the car buyers fault though; car makers are to blame, too. In Europe and other parts of the world, small inexpensive cars are more common with manuals.  However, I am directing this post to fellow American drivers. We have much fewer options to even buy a manual transmission.  This biggest insult and tale of the times comes from Motor Trend magazine.  The top three contenders for their latest Best Drivers Car competition had no manual.  In the past there was no such thing as a Drivers car without having a manual between the seats.

Why pick a manual over an automatic?  Well there are actually several reasons. In most cars a manual gets better miles per gallon fuel economy.  I don't think anyone will cry over a few extra bucks in their pocket.  The biggest reason I drive a manual though, is the control I have over my vehicle.  Automatic transmissions are designed to up shift as much as possible to save on fuel economy.  In some situations such as merging into traffic or passing that's a terrible thing.  I need my vehicle to hold that gear so I have those extra revs and horsepower the revs give me.  The worst feeling I get from automatic transmission is when I am cruising down the interstate and all of a sudden the transmission down shifts because of maybe a hill, or my foot slightly pressing on the gas, or a ghost; the engine will rev up and then the car will jerk as it will then again pick the top gear.  That doesn't happen in a manual.  The car stays in the gear I want it to be in until I tell it to change. I am driving the car and in complete control; not the machine.

As of the time of this post, the last savior of the manual is Porsche.  Last year Porsche announced their all new seven speed manual.  I will admit that transmission makes me grin with giddy joy.  When competitors like Ferrari have done away with manuals altogether, and Lamborghini buyers must special order a manual from the factory if they want to row through their own shifts. So what's the future for drivers looking for more fun and control in their ride?  The double clutch transmission appears to be our compromise.  Both Ferrari and Porsche are bragging on the improvements to fuel economy and lap times this new technology produces for their products.  Motor Trend picked Porsche's new 911 for their best drivers car with a PDK on board. This type of transmission is not limited to the high end cars either.  Volkswagen offers the double clutch in the very affordable GTI.

If you still have a manual please hold on tight as you move from third to fourth.  Enjoy that left leg pain you feel after an hour in bumper to bumper traffic.  You can tell your grandchildren about how things were so much harder back in your day when you actually had to drive your car. 

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