I was chatting with my both of my brother in-laws while back east during my Volt road trip, both being massive lovers of all things automobile. The topic always turns to cars when I’m with my wife’s family, and that’s a wonderful thing as far as I’m concerned. I brought up a few of the vehicles that I’ve driven recently, and someone asked about the Aston Martin V8 Vantage roadster.
“Lovely machine, that one, with a glorious engine note that pairs perfectly to the stunning looks… too bad the transmission is garbage.”
“The one I drove was equipped with the new SportShift II automated manual gearbox… horrible.”
“So… it was horrible driving an Aston Martin?”
“…umm, yes actually, please allow me to explain enough so I don’t sound like a jaded dick.”
The SportShift II is an automated manual transmission, which means it can be driven as a typical automatic or it can be shifted via a pair of paddles. However you drive it, there’s still a clutch facilitating gear changes, which doesn’t sound entirely terrible. There’s a problem in this application though, and it can be felt in between each shift.
Put the car in “D”, and allow the Aston Martin to shift itself. If you do this, you’ll also keep constant pressure on the throttle as you accelerate and you’d expect a crisp, smooth shift when called for. You’re clearly an idiot who should know that the SportShift II requires you to lift ever-so-slightly off the throttle for the smoothest shifts.
OK, let’s pop this thing into SPORT and see what happens. Oh, that between-shift lurch is now more perceptible… that’s not fun. How about this, let’s just go full manual with SPORT on and shift it ourselves. The between-gear lurch is still present unless you’re nailing the slight lift between paddle pulls. With some practice it starts to disappear, but it shouldn’t be there in the first place.
Other automakers use automated manuals, and they are not as rough as the Aston Martin version. It doesn’t make sense that an expensive, stunning, otherwise-fun-to-drive grand touring exotic be stuck with such a mediocre gearbox. The manual version is rather nice, of course, but the other option needs to change. Time for a DCT or simply find a more refined automatic.
…dammit, I still sound like a jaded dick that’s complaining about driving one of the best looking cars on the road. Regardless, the SportShift II transmission is my Hooniverse Thanksgiving Turkey for 2012.