Et Tu, Ferrari?


If you’ve got even half an ear to the cacophony that is the auto news world, you probably heard a disturbing piece of information from Ferrari earlier this week. No, I’m not talking about the fact that the 458 Italia will be the newest Autobot in Transformers 3 – though that’s unsettling enough in its own right. In a back hand to all good hoons everywhere, the Prancing Horse itself said the company is giving up on on manual transmissions for good. In their stead will be a new generation of dual-clutch wonders capable of swapping cogs faster than any mortal man can. This leaves me conflicted.


On the one hand, a faster gearbox means a faster car, and as anyone who’s ever abused the skinny pedal can tell you, that’s no bad thing. Dual clutch transmissions are an amazing piece of kit, too. Yes, there are a million moving parts just waiting to ruin you track day with an expensive clang, but they blend the ease of a slusher with the benefits of a manual. At least that’s what I’m told. Thing is, I’ve never really had enough time with a DCT to really get comfortable with those flappy paddles.
For a long time, my biggest defense of the manual transmission was that it was faster and more efficient than its automatic counterpart, but these days, that’s just not true. GM’s six-speed auto box can crank out impressive fuel economy numbers all day long, and a solid dual-clutch transmission can make a third pedal weep for its mommy when it comes to tallying up the shift times. So why do I have this pang in my heart when I hear Ferrari’s walking away from the row-your-own option? Because when it comes right down to it, I simply want a manual gearbox. It has nothing to do with being able to clip off faster 0-60 times or saving an extra mpg per tank. I want it for the bolt-action feel, and because only 10 percent of the population knows how to drive one. Because I grew up shifting from HI to LO in a Testarossa in Sega Outrun, and because in the end, a Ferrari isn’t ever about being faster – it’s about what you want.

0 Comments

  1. the nannies are taking over. sports/super/performance whatever you wanna call'em cars cater more and more the the average Jo Shmo (see what i did there) who has no idea how to properly drive. I say take the nannies away, and bring back the respect to sports cars.. Have fun in one, but respect it because if you cross it it WILL kill you..

      1. been bombarded with work.. and by time i get home no longer in the mood to even look at a computer. i'll try to be on here more often.. I'M A DISGRACE… DISGRACE I TELL YA…

  2. Removing the stick is like taking the brush out of the artists hand. This what separates the men from the boys. Soon driving will be like going to the arcade, only without the reset button. I could go on and on… I think racing should be about the best talent getting around the track in the best time, rather than about doing it the fastest. I know it sounds like a contradiction, but its not. If you think about it:) Seeing true talent at work is for more entertaining than seeing something go fast.

    1. Artists now have the option to use Illustrator and Photoshop…what is your take on that? Do they hang on the to brush and palette, taking months to make advertisements, or have the ability to throw out many, many ideas all at once?
      (Weirdly, this is quite analogous to the situation with the manual and the car. I expect to see the manual hanging around only as a novelty, just like how oil paintings are not mainstream anymore. We won't lose the stick altogether, but it might be offered as a $1000 option, not the other way around.)

      1. Yes they have the OPTION of using these tools. Problem here is that Ferrari is taking the option away. They are those that appreciate a fine oil painting on the wall more that a photo shop. Always room for being faster and more productive, but lets not forget the other forms of artistic expression:) I would like to see this progression extended to the manual as well. More can be done with it, I'm sure.
        Buy the way. I do far more Photoshop now than oil panting. Good because it helps me get more ideas down faster. Problem is, I never seem to find the time to do an oil panting. Before, I had to make time because that was what I had to work with. Hope we don't see the same with manuals. Just a though:)

  3. A manual transmission is about driver involvement. When you are double-clutching, avoiding a slide, not slamming into your competitor all while downshifting to 2nd from 4th, that is a cacophony of automotive orchestra. When you eliminate the stick and clutch, all you are doing is turning your washing machine to Normal Wash, and pulling the button.
    Fuck that noise, I say. Now, would I rather drive a '88 Corolla over a 2011 458 Italia…..
    Fuck that noise.

    1. +1 and I agree 100% with the sentiment.
      Playing Devil's advocate for a minute I have to ask myself, Why should it require more skill to drive a road-able Ferrari than it does to pilot one of their race cars? This is sad news, no doubt, but you have to admit it is inevitable news.

      1. Ohh, that's a good point. Who has driven a "new" car lately. My truck is a '97, is a 5-speed and is my daily driver. The newest car that I have driven on a regular basis was my parents '04 Sierra when the motor was out of my truck.

        1. I've never owned anything built before 1974, with either two or four wheels. Hell, back when I had bikes, I never had one that didn't have a kick starter. I drive three on the tree on a daily basis. I hear you guys, new vehicles have no soul.

  4. Clinging to being more "involved" Vs faster when it comes to sports cars is a problem when you take it to its logical conclusion. At some point, you're just driving a poor-handling slow car that's hard to drive.
    Ferrari does not build cars to compete with vintage racers or even Miatas, they build the finest sports cars in the world. It's hard to build the finest sports cars in the word if they're not doing everything they can to be fast. That's kind of the point.
    There are plenty of cars out there to provide that vintage 60s/70s/80s/90s driving experience. They're from the 60s/70s/80s and 90s. You want that stripped down, MS, MB, carbed 4-speed machine? There are countless examples out there for a quarter the price of a new car. Quit complaining and go buy one.

    1. For me, its the question of whats more satisfying. Is it better to go fast in a slow car or go fast in a fast point and shoot car? Yes I know there is still a level of talent required to get around the corner with the best line, even with the most assisted car of today. Even then how long will it be before that is done for us as well? There are already cars that stay in the lane for you! If you listen to those that get out of the overly assisted cars, they comment on how capable THE CAR was and how amazingly fast IT was, but how often do they comment on what THEY were able to do with it.
      How long will it be before we get tired of being taken over 200MPH? I know; what am I saying! I would love to go over 200, then once I do that 300. And I know that if we are going to go that fast and live to tell about it we need some safe guards to save us from ourselves.
      Having said all that, I need to ask. What is wrong with producing the best manual car? As good as the Ferrari is they have yet to produce the best manual! This is because, to do so, they would have to get rid of the gate. And that would break tradition. It is easier to leave a tradition behind than change it.
      I am thankful we do have the classics. I do like them more than the new cars. They do seem to have more soul. But that may be, because that is what I lusted after during my most impressionable years. I do hope that we have them around for a long time and they are not outlawed by the environmentalist cults:)

    2. Fine, I will. The point of sports cars isn't just going fast, it's enjoying the experience as well. Modern Camrys are much faster and utterly brainless to drive compared to Ferraris of yore; does that mean you'll have more fun in a Camry?
      I thought Clarkson was just trying to be funny, but he's right — Ferrari and their fans takes themselves way too seriously. I think Lambo should start an F1 team, hire Kimi Raikkonen, supply him with a tanker of ethanol, and see if he leaves enough for the car to finish the race.

      1. More fun in a Camry? No.
        More fun in an automated-manual equipped new Ferrari that's so fast you nearly piss yourself? Quite possibly.

    3. Ferrari has always been cutting edge. Even now, they are working on their HY-KERS. That should be fast. Electrics have amazing tourques and impressive horsepower. Once the battery weight goes down, electric Ferrari's will be just as fast, if not faster, than they are now. That future is probably just a few years away. Once you take out the combustion engine and replace it with some batteries and voodoo, does that make it fine? Maybe, but that's not fine with me.

    4. Dual-clutch gearboxes now offer a superior overall experience than manuals. And y’know what? That’s great, because that’s progress. I don’t wish I still had a computer the size of a building because punch card input methods were “more involving” than a mouse and keyboard. Hindering progress by clinging to nostalgic sensibilities is the last domain of the short-sighted. What does driver “involvment” mean anyways? If I hand-crank the engine to start it, is that more involved? Is that desirable and practical? I think not.
      Even the erudite and wise LJK Setright admired the abilities of the latest automatic transmissions, perhaps even considering manual shifting a bit gauche. Had he seen the progress made by dual-clutch transmissions in the last few years, I have no doubt he would be a staunch supporter were he still alive.

        1. I never claimed that desirable and practical concerns were related, but now that you mention it, they are. But only in one direction.
          People desire practicality, but desirable cars are rarely practical. Whereas most people want something practical, driving enthusiasts like us seem to be a largely irrational group. We either want something that is old and will break down or something fast that will kill us or something nimble and practically compromised.
          Perhaps I should have said "desirable or practical” because although they’re inextricably related, people rarely seem to want both.

          1. Naa, there's nothing wrong with what you said originally. But I think you nailed it there in the second post, the irrationality of enthusiasts is at the base of being an enthusiast in the first place. We want to max out those areas of performance that fit our desires, even if it causes the detriment of others.
            This is also what makes great cars great. I mean, imagine commuting in a Daytona Coupe, or a Lancia Delta S4!

          2. I think the whole thing is backdraft caused by the bloat and unnecessary driving assists most cars come with. A dual-clutch transmission straight out of an F1 isn't automatic, and has existed since the 90s, and would probably make a typical enthusiast giggle with glee after getting used to it, but isn't what we're getting these days with our electronic DSGs (or whatever the acronym is). Therefore, we're suspicious of most new development.
            Another example: an electronic gas pedal would probably be more precise (and therefore more desirable) than a drive-by-wire gas pedal if it were simply a direct connection to an electrically-operated throttle body. Its reputation, however, has been tainted by the fact that it's currently used as the input to a computer that reads your foot's action and interprets your intention, which it then modifies into what it feels is an acceptable output, introducing all sorts of frustrating gas pedal behaviour.

  5. Let us all bow our heads for a moment of silence in honour of Manuel Shift. He has led a long and exciting life. May he never stall again on a steep hill at a railroad crossing or miss another 2nd-to-3rd upshift coming out of the hairpin. He touched alot of peoples hearts in ways that words cannot begin to describe.
    He is survived by his brother Otto and his sister Constance

  6. This is sad news. I got beat up a couple weeks ago at [REDACTED] for railing against the hybrid Porsche concept. My point then is the same as my point now: sports cars, while about speed, are also about connection. The driver and the car — human and machine — should blend into one being. When you add in too many electronic nannies and exotic systems, that relationship changes. Now rather than piloting the vehicle, you are merely operating it. Rather than becoming one with the car, you are insulated from it. The simpler a machine is, the easier it is to get to know it. To understand it. To learn its quirks and tendencies. Insulating drivers may produce impressive times on the track, but it breaks down the symbiotic relationship drivers for the last 120 years have had with their cars.
    From a pure performance point of view, this makes perfect sense. From a driver's point of view, I lament the change.

    1. Here's the problem: Your argument hasn't been true for over 25 years. As long as I've been alive, sports cars have been about being faster, not more involved.
      Why? Because that's what the market wants.
      Who are we to tell sports car manufacturers (whose products we don't actually buy) that they should constrain themselves to the Nostalgia corner, to the point that they're unsuccessful businesses?
      MG, Triumph and TVR kept it real. Look where that left them.

      1. That's markets and marketing. Does FerrariWorld Abu Dhabi help their cars go faster? There's an increasing gap between:
        1) what cars can physically do given ideal situations (race track, Stig, R compound tires) and
        2) what you, I, and most mere mortals can get out of them on public roads.
        A lot of people buy "sports cars" to tell people about (1) (woohoo for phallus waving contests) when (2) is what I want out of the car. Give me an amusing car and an empty mountain road, and I'll see you in a few months. Probably in a hospital or jail.
        Speed is only part of the egregious vehicular misbehavior that a hoon should be capable of. Ferraris are designed for to be three things to rich people: posemobiles, expensive dedicated track toys, and lawn ornaments. I'm not rich, and I have no use nor desire for any of these.

        1. I'm not in disagreement with anything you just wrote.
          But none of it has anything to do with whether or not Ferrari kills manual transmissions in their lineup. Per your argument, it's basically not a big deal.

          1. I guess. I think I'm just disheartened by the fact that Ferrari doesn't make anything that I'd give my left nut to drive. They're supposed to be the be all and end all of automotive awesomeness to everyone, and I wish they still were to me.

    2. I also lament the change. However, Ferrari is not much of a trendsetter. Is it? I mean, what Ferrari does is pretty much exclusive to cars that I cannot afford (and do not want), and cars that I usually ogle from behind a velvet rope. I say, let Ferrari. They can advance their technology. I will still find a car, and row it myself.

  7. I can see it from a practical stand point, they have a tremendous amount of power and the flappy paddles allow you to put it down to the pavement in a quicker and non lethal manner.
    However, now gone are the days of intimate connection between man and machine, skillfully working in concert. Gone are the days of listening to a car and being able to tell if the driver is practiced. Gone are the days of being able to chuckle at a poser stalling his sports car because it requires more than money to drive it. Gone are the days of busting your buddies’ chops because he can’t shift as well as you, or your grandmother. Gone are the times of relying on your own skill and not programmers to pilot a machine.

  8. Fair point, and as a damn capitalist I have to agree with you, but that doesn't mean I have to like it 😉
    You are absolutely right, though. If there was still a sufficient enough market for a row-your-own I'm sure Ferrari would be keeping it. However, it doesn't make business sense to keep a transmission option — along with the stock, assembly and all the other costs associated with it — for something that only accounts for a small percentage of sales.
    I still lament this change, and as a "purist" — or conservative — I will continue to bitch about it. Even though I realize that life is about change.

  9. Who says life has to change?
    (we're still talking about cars, right?)
    Nothing (besides money) is stopping anyone from buying a manual-equipped F430. It's not like there aren't other manufacturers out there willing to sell a proper manual gearbox.
    Besides, if you're more interested in an "involving" experience in your sports car than speed, WTF would you pay exotic prices for? Go buy a Miata or Spitfire or something. Hell, you can buy a 308 for $25k.

  10. If I want a hair-raising ride in a Ferrari that doesn't really need me around, I'll stick to their rollercoasters.

  11. I love manual transmissions… I really do.
    However, as the available alternatives get better… it is hard to stand defiant against them.
    It is fun to go fast and the basics of doing so are there… you still tell the car where to go and how sideways you want to get around the next turn.
    As long as the driver is still driving… all is not completely lost.

    1. There are inherent advantages and disadvantages to every technology. The alternatives only seem better because they are getting more research/attention than the original. It's the same reason why Mustangs can race competitively on a track with live axels – Roush has poured cash into developing them for years.
      In the end, the manual transmission will always, given ideal conditions, be the most efficient and the simplest, the automatic will be the easiest (but least efficient/performing), and the DSG will be the most complex, but the fastest-shifting.

  12. The shifting of gears, as facet of driving, can be as significant as the pressure and position applied to the steering wheel, throttle, and brake pedal. The other inputs concern the extremities of mechanical personality, but the clutch and shift lever reach in to the center, the heart that ties the rest together. There are far more metaphors for a gearbox in life than are made for the original act of changing gear because it is intrinsically expressive. It can be done with subtlety or exuberance. The long forgotten art of shift feel once spoke, in rises and falls, lightness and darkness, of the synchronization of gearbox speed in the same way that an exceptional steering linkage faithfully relays the touch of the road to fingertips. This mechanical extension of our nervous system connects us to our machines and our environments in a way that the disembodied voice of a ship's computer never can. This involvement, this symbiosis may require or gift a broader consciousness. The inner hoon naturally seeks a more expansive experience. Were Ferrari the only example of pushbutton transmissions, I might celebrate it as an exciting variation in a jungle of unique automotive species. But instead it is an extension of a monoculture, sold with promises in the vein of the least common denominator. For years the automatic transmission carried its own punishments in performance and efficiencies. Now the same causes are calls for the extinction of manual actuation, that future progress might never be accompanied by its depth. In suffocating insulation, let it be the last to die.

  13. Ferrari hasn't been about the driving experience for some time now. They are about building fast cars for people with money. Not for people who want to drive fast, or who want to enjoy driving, but for people who want a fast car that they can be seen in. Everything they've done for the last few years has centred around making a car that even someone with ham-hocks for hands like Clarkson can drive quickly around a course. They've abandoned the niche of building a great sports car to companies like Spyker and Koenigsegg. So there's no reason for them to support a manual transmission. Furthermore, their fanbase of Ferraristi are so obsessively ravenous that they'll sing the company's praises no matter what they produce. They could offer it only with a PowerGlide, and the Ferraristi would talk about how their car is so good it doesn't need more than two gears.
    I've driven dual-clutch VWs, slapstick autos, and old-school autos with a "sport" option. Still the car I enjoyed driving the most was my three-on-the-tree Rambler with an automatic overdrive. Seven pedals, baby. As god intended. So I'll stand behind the manual despite all arguments telling me there are better options out there. None of them are as much fun, end of story.

    1. To be perfectly fair, if you're going to blow that much money on what should be the ultimate supercar, you are probably willing to sacrifice the joy of operating machinery for the pride of owning one of the fastest road-legal machines on the planet/a more precise (if less raw) racing experience.

  14. Having never driven a floppy paddle gearbox I really can’t say anything bad about them(does a v6 mazda6 with sports mode count?)but there’s something about rowing your own gears that will never be replicated in a DCT. I guess the ultimate goal is to make it a better driving experience and not worry about missing a shift.
    I’m afraid it won’t be long until Porsche will follow suite.

  15. I'm back to stir up more shit.
    If you're competitively tracking a car, you want it to be as fast as possible. Hence: flappy paddles
    If you're a poseur douche with too much money who wants a flashy car that people on the West Side will think is cool, you probably don't want or need a stick. Again: flappy paddles.
    That's 3% and 97% of current Ferrari customers, right there.
    People who are really about the driving experience buy RX8s, S2000s and Miatas. People with money who are really about the driving experience buy Miatas for the track and daily drive Phaetons.

    1. Well … duh. 🙂 When I race in online sims I use the flappy paddles on my G25 instead of the stick.
      If you really want to stir up shit:
      1) Has Ferrari always been more a car for poseurs than drivers? If not, since when?
      2) Why do people continue to idolize them? The only non-spec series they race in is F1, where the "racing" is atrocious (see: Bahrain).
      3) Is Ferrari really relevant to the hoon anymore?

  16. Don't let ANYONE EVER convince you that automatics are more fuel efficient than manual transmissions. There is no way a heavier transmission with more drivetrain losses (due to more moving parts) is more fuel efficient than a lighter, simple one. Who knows how they test the standard cars; obviously the automatics are programmed to cycle through gears as fuel-efficiently as possible, which YOU would be able to do if only you were instructed how to.
    Dual-clutch is the new manual for supercars because it enables auto-tards while allowing the real drivers to get even more performance out of their cars if they choose. Again, it's a new bit of machinery Borg'd with electronics to distance you (and your town mechanics) from your car.

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