Hooniverse Asks: Automatics Are So Good, Do Manuals Even Matter Any More?


Have you ever heard of the VW/Porsche Sportomatic transmission? This was an attempt at an automatic/manual gearbox by the German collaborators which effectively added a torque converter and pneumatic clutch actuation to a standard four-speed synchromesh transaxle. The clutch was signaled by a microswitch in the gear knob and the driver still had to shift the gears, only being freed from the necessity of having to coordinate the clutch at the same time. Oh boy, were they terrible.
In fact, almost all automatic transmissions up until about the mid-Eighties were pretty terrible for the sporting enthusiast to use. Sure, they worked okay on the drag strip, but for anything else, they were the weak link in almost any sports car’s drivetrain. This was such an issue that many exotic manufacturers refused to even offer automatics in their cars. Nowadays, the opposite is true, and it’s hard to find a sports car, even an exotic, that offers three pedals and the ability to shift on your own without interference from the car’s computer brain.
The reason for that is that automatic transmissions have gotten better. A lot better. They’re so good in fact that one of the reasons to own a manual, its better fuel economy, has been rendered moot as automatics generally do better at wringing miles out of fuel than you or I could ever hope to do. Argh! This is obviously the first step towards our inevitable overthrow by the machines. Do you think that’s a good thing? If automatics are better at their job than we are, should we just let them do it? We’ve given up a number of automotive running practices to automation over the years—ignition timing, starting, etc—why not give up shifting entirely too?
 
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71 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: Automatics Are So Good, Do Manuals Even Matter Any More?”

  1. Michael Felix James Avatar
    Michael Felix James

    The fact that automatics are good now is sort of irrelevant. To me, the purpose of a manual transmission is simply driving enjoyment. Three-pedal operation is more fun. Maybe I could get quicker lap times at a track day with an automatic, but I’m not that guy. I just like driving.

    1. Ol' Shel' Avatar
      Ol’ Shel’

      So right. It’s about involvement.
      I was so disappointed to learn about computerized rev-matching for modern manual transmissions. That made me sad. I’m not crazy about what tech and automation are doing to the world.

      1. crank_case Avatar
        crank_case

        I’m less worried about that, because you can turn the feature off. It just blips the throttle for you when you downshift, which is handy on the public road so you can focus on braking while being kind to your engine and gearbox.

  2. P161911 Avatar
    P161911

    I think hybrids and electrics will have more to do with making manuals irrelevant. The 100% torque at 0 RPM, there isn’t much need to row your own. That’s said, I’d still love to have a new Z06 Corvette with a stick.

    1. outback_ute Avatar
      outback_ute

      Not really, with so few hybrids/electrics sold.
      I’d say it is part to do with the improvement in automatics plus the introduction of dual clutch boxes, and a lot to do with the terrible traffic that most people drive in. I swapped vehicles recently for a couple of weeks for a manual and because it was a turbodiesel pickup it wasn’t bad even in stop-start traffic, but I wasn’t sorry to see it go.

  3. Kiefmo Avatar
    Kiefmo

    In supercars, where human/machine engagement can be left on the table to some degree in pursuit of the almighty tenth of a second, yeah — the machine can do it better, faster, and more consistently.
    In regular sports cars and economy boxes zooted up with sporting pretensions, which normal people drive to relive themselves of the daily drudgery, that human/machine engagement matters so much more than a tenth here or there.
    In economy cars — maybe not. Most people already don’t buy manuals, and automatics are more or less a solved problem. They are just as efficient (perhaps more so under the foot of the average indifferent driver, and one can reasonably expect an auto trans to last hundreds of thousands of miles with only regular fluid and filter changes. One huge caveat with this is if stripper models ever get popular again. If crank windows, manual steering, and so on ever see a return, dammit I want a manual in that car.

    1. crank_case Avatar
      crank_case

      I think you’ve highlighted the difference between a supercar and a sports car. A sports car to me is about purity, something that is designed to be enjoyable to drive hard, everything feels good whether you’re going two tenths or ten tenths, even if ten tenths isn’t that fast where cars that are merely “sporty” are quick, but sort of fall apart in terms of driving experience when you really push on – e.g. a lot of premium “sports” saloons.
      Supercars are more about viscerality rather purity. More is more. Crazy looks, monster engines, insane stats. Many of them, the scenery is probably coming at you so quick, that it’s taxing enough for the average driver (i.e. not Walter Rohrl) to hang on, never mind do the perfect rev matched gear shift.

    2. Harry Callahan Avatar
      Harry Callahan

      Stripper cars will make a comeback only if loan terms are capped at 24, or perhaps 36 months.
      Even Kia has a tough time selling strippers.

  4. Alff Avatar
    Alff

    Manual transmissions are fun. I’d like one in a self driving car.

    1. cap'n fast Avatar
      cap’n fast

      OOOOOOOOooooooooo……… that would indeed be clever……….

    2. nanoop Avatar

      We were playing something like that as teenagers: the passenger moved the stick while the driver was in control of the rest.

      1. dukeisduke Avatar
        dukeisduke

        The first time I ever shifted one, was when I was 10 or 11. A neighbor had a ’66 Mustang, a six with the three-speed. He’d let me shift it while he worked the clutch.

      2. salguod Avatar

        I used to do that with my daughters. I’d clutch and call out a number and they’d have to shift into that gear. Fun times.

  5. smalleyxb122 Avatar
    smalleyxb122

    Why take your own photograph of the Grand Canyon, when the postcard at the gift shop is better?
    Some things we want to do for ourselves. It may be quantifiably worse, but it is more fulfilling.
    Why drive at all? Is there not someone who will drive for you? In the upcoming proliferation of self-driving cars, the only reason to drive yourself will be the desire to do so, and if you want to drive, you should want to be engaged (no pun intended) in the experience. Perhaps as the numbers of privately owned and driven cars decreases, we will see an increase (in percentage, not total numbers) of private cars with three pedals.

  6. GTXcellent Avatar
    GTXcellent

    This isn’t exactly a new development – heck back in the “golden age” of muscle cars, a Torqueflite was quicker in the quarter mile than an A-833. Personally, with my lack of coordination (and inability to master a good heel-toe) I’m sure I could wheel a slushbox quicker around a road coarse than a clutch.
    But, like most of the comments here, it’s just more fun to have to drive with 3 pedals. It’s more engaging. It probably sounds ridiculous, but in this world where we seem to have less and less control in our daily lives – with a manual, I’M THE BOSS. I control what gear the car uses. Not my kids, not my boss, not the internet, not big-gubment – me.

  7. cap'n fast Avatar
    cap’n fast

    what with the state of all wheel drive, there may be no need to “heel and toe” thru a turn. hammer down and go. SAS systems make almost anything possible.
    as for auto transmissions, the bell has rung. DSG is the bomb. as long as the engine output is strong at low rpms, the DSG just gets my vote. manually selecting a gear-any gear-is now possible. they can be programmed to short shift. and the shifts are very quick. after all it is about accelerating while maintaining the engine in an acceptable rpm range.
    brakes are for slowing down. down shifting is for accelerating. to apply brakes to make the car do something it is not properly engineered to do is stupid. reengineer the car. get the all wheel drive and stability systems and tires that work together.
    but what fun would that be?

  8. Tiberiuswise Avatar

    // Looks at calendar
    Barring a disability, I don’t think I’d ever buy a motorcycle with an automatic. At least not a gas engine one. It’s too important to the whole “becoming one with the machine” part of it. Like many others have said here, it is not about efficiency, it’s the experience.

    1. outback_ute Avatar
      outback_ute

      Prompted a search for me; there are actually some automatic bikes on sale, who knew?

      1. Tiberiuswise Avatar

        Some reviewers are even claiming it to be superior to the manual on the new Africa Twin.

      2. Vairship Avatar
        Vairship

        Given that there are automatic transmission bicycles, I’m not THAT surprised: http://evolvethebike.com/

        1. outback_ute Avatar
          outback_ute

          Really. I note that in the technical specs they don’t list the weight of the bike. About as necessary as a fixie.

          1. Vairship Avatar
            Vairship

            Necessity is in the eye of the https://www.xiaomiforsale.com/86-thickbox_default/holder-bee.jpg

  9. 0A5599 Avatar
    0A5599

    Chances are, as long as I am still able to drive, I will have cars in the fleet from an era when a standard transmission was indeed standard. In my remaining days, I see myself buying more vintage cars than contemporary ones. And I will likely be seeking some examples with clutch pedals.

  10. Sjalabais Avatar
    Sjalabais

    Got to admit, I still haven’t driven a modern or just “good” automatic. It also sounds like voodoo to me that a digital brain may have better anticipation of hilly geography and silly traffic than a skilled driver. Aunt Gertrude may see her fuel numbers and driving chore improved by a fancy automatic, but guys like us? Sort of predictable answer.

    1. Maymar Avatar
      Maymar

      I think we’re still at the point where “good automatic transmission” doesn’t mean it’s able to predict everything you’ll need all the time, just that it’s responsive and has the intuitive ability for you to warn it when to be ready. I quite like VW’s setup – when you’re in drive, tap down to engage sport mode, which just has it rev a little higher. (closer to the powerband when you demand it be there).

    2. Alan Cesar Avatar
      Alan Cesar

      I’ve driven VWs that downshift early when you’re braking so you’re in the gear you actually want when accelerating out (instead of waiting for you to apply throttle). Sometimes they really are good. I’m not even talking recent: it was a 2004ish Jetta.

  11. crank_case Avatar
    crank_case

    I think when the car is solely aimed at being fun, manual all the way, cars that are meant to be really driven. It’s hard to imagine an MX5/Miata, BRZ or Caterham with two pedals.
    Anything outside that purist stuff, I find less and less reason to have a stick. I guess from a US point of view, when a stick shift is the exception, it becomes a badge of cool, but in Europe you have the opposite problem, lots of cars, some of them not very interesting to drive, that would be better off with an auto and be done with it. I had a Hyundai i40 diesel on loan for a weekend and it was a lovely car in the sense of being comfortable and pleasant, but the one jarring, out of character thing was a manual gearbox. The car did everything else, it had an auto handbrake, but manual box. It wasn’t like you’d really gain anything from the experience, its a diesel so narrow powerband, no point revving it, just drive it on the midrange torque, perfect for a decent auto.
    It depends on the character of the car.
    Even anything that’s sort of a little GT-esque rather than pure sports car, like a Lexus coupe, or even a BMW 135iM (or is it 140im now, not the 1M/M2), I can sort of see where an autobox could be a better all round experience in many ways.

    1. Ol' Shel' Avatar
      Ol’ Shel’

      My trip to Spain and France was improved by the simple fact that when I saw all these unusual, useful vehicles, I couldn’t repeat my usual lament:
      “Yeah, but you can’t get it in a manual.”
      Not to mention how hot it was to see that every woman could drive stick (;

      1. crank_case Avatar
        crank_case

        Can be nice from the hire car point of view alright, you can have a barrel of laughs with a rental Fiat Panda. Everyone can drive stick… doesn’t mean that they can do it well. It may be hot that Nicole can heel toe downshift her Clio along route napoleon, but when you don’t get through the lights on a rainy tuesday in Dublin, despite being the second car in the que because Mary in the wheezy Nissan Micra in front of you can’t seem to engage first and take off with any urgency… not so much.

    2. duurtlang Avatar
      duurtlang

      I actually drove a BRZ with an automatic, it’s owned by a friend of mine. He sought it out, he only owns autos despite being perfectly capable of driving manuals. The auto in the BRZ is nog a bad transmission at all, probably the best automatic I’ve ever driven. It tends to shift at the right moments and you can even shift yourself with those paddles behind the wheel.
      Having said all that, while driving I had the impression of playing a Playstation game. Slick but detached, uninvolved. It’s just not what you (well, I) want in a car like that.

      1. crank_case Avatar
        crank_case

        Exactly, the autos pretty amazing, but why would you bother unless you had a disability? Nice to know the option is there for such folks though.

  12. Citric Avatar
    Citric

    I have yet to drive an automatic that is as much fun as a manual, and that’s the issue. Automatics can be as technically brilliant as can be, and a totally logical choice, but fun has nothing to do with logic. I mean, logically, a Miata makes no sense – can’t bring your friends, difficult to bring home an armoire – and yet Miata (with a manual) is always the answer.

  13. Alan Cesar Avatar
    Alan Cesar

    Some flappy paddle (and whap-the-stick) auto boxes work really well and are indeed just as satisfying to drive as a manual. If the goal of a manual is to be able to (figuratively) row your own, then a well-engineered automatic with paddles is a welcome replacement for a manual. To me, this is an acceptable future.
    There are things production automatic transmissions will probably never know: When to downshift for a turn and when not to (even in street driving). When to hold a gear on a hill. How to drive around a race track. But even my wife’s tepid, automatic Toyota Yaris, is a fun car to chuck around when I use the 3-2-L portions of the shift gate (though its response is often slow).
    Honestly, pumping my left leg is not a big deal, and not an integral portion of the experience. The times when you actually need to control slippage are so rare, so infrequent that I don’t mind letting it go. For me, the important part is being able to choose what gear I want to be in, and when. (and ideally not having to do it with GM’s pathetic rubber +/- rocker switch.)
    If every automaker goes to automatics for all their cars, you get two advantages:
    1. Cars get cheaper to design. Ideally (though not necessarily), this means lower prices for the consumer.
    2. You can select your gear and have fun in the same car that is fine to deal with in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

    1. Synchromesh Avatar
      Synchromesh

      Sorry but I’ve never met an automatic I actually liked. Flappy paddle, whap-the-stick, whatever else, they all end up in fully automated mode after a couple of runs because let’s face it – they’re just too distant and calculated. Manual gives a way to drive the car *your* way, not the way some engineer at a lab intended it.

      1. ptschett Avatar
        ptschett

        I’ve met plenty that I’ve liked. Most surprising: Eaton UltraShift, after years of me thinking RoadRangers were the only way to go in class 8 trucks.

      2. Alan Cesar Avatar
        Alan Cesar

        Clearly you haven’t driven a good one.

        1. Synchromesh Avatar
          Synchromesh

          I’ve driven enough of them to realize that no automatic ever no matter how fast it shifts will ever be as fun as a true manual. And that’s why I’ve owned nothing but manuals since ’99 and keeping it that way for as long as I can.

          1. Alan Cesar Avatar
            Alan Cesar

            It sounds to me like you’re putting a lot of your emotional attachment on the way you move your body parts (rowing your arm, pumping your leg) than on what the car is actually doing.

          2. Synchromesh Avatar
            Synchromesh

            I beg to differ. It’s all about controlling the car and being in tune with what it’s doing at any given moment. A feeling an automatic robs you of by definition.

          3. Alan Cesar Avatar
            Alan Cesar

            Then I say once again, with vigor: You clearly haven’t driven a good one.

  14. JayP Avatar
    JayP

    I’ve driven the new turbo Mustang auto at the track… it was ok.
    The car I really enjoyed was the FT86/BRZ auto in sport mode. It downshifted with a blip and was in the right gear all the time. Very nice to drive.
    But I do love my manual Mustang and the toe-heel, blips and the noise a manual transmission makes. Gives me a sense of accomplishment when I pull it all off.
    Ford tried an automatic for their Re-Rendezvous… sounds like crap.

  15. Desmo Avatar
    Desmo

    Shifters have a “sailing mode” (i.e. no gear, not to be confused with AutomaticNeutral).
    This means that I can turn of any gear at any time that I want. No automatic gearbox is able to perform this- therefore there is no such thing as a ‘good’ automatic. The automatic gearbox is just lacking a feature which I refuse to give up. It´s not that I hate automatics – in my opinion they are just uncomfortable.

    1. crank_case Avatar
      crank_case

      Not sure if it’s what you mean, but several autos have a “Coasting” mode now for economy. I’m not convinced it’s a good idea, but it’s there in BMWs for sure, the gearbox can disconnect from the wheels and even use stop start to turn off the engine and just coast.
      Pretty sure coasting in a manual is generally regarded as a bad practice though.

      1. theskitter Avatar

        I believe that’s a holdover from the days of insufficient drum brakes or 40 ton semis. There’s nothing wrong with coasting. It’s just another situation you learn to anticipate, adapt, and use to your advantage. With the engine fully (key) shut off in an older manual car, you do gradually lose brake booster vacuum. You can drive around that, though anything with auto-stop-start is monitoring booster vacuum, which is part of why they can frustratingly restart while inching downhill in traffic.

        1. crank_case Avatar
          crank_case

          It was still very much frowned upon when I did my driving test, and by then cars had servoed brakes. You simply have less control over the car, while excessive use of engine braking in place of using your brakes to slow down isn’t regarded as good either, for the simple reason that brake pads are cheaper than clutches, gearboxes and engines and that downshifts can destabilize a car.
          With the clutch out, you have less natural retardation from engine braking and also you lose the element of adjusting speed via throttle position til you re-engage.
          It also does not save fuel, in fact, on a conventional manual with EFI, coasting will use more, as fuel will need to be supplied to the engine to keep it turning over, where if you leave it in gear, momentum does that for you.
          Automatics with a “coasting” function are setup specifically to utilize coasting when appropriate in terms of ECU/Fuelling and safety. The principle is similar to the “pulse and glide” method used by Prius hypermilers.

  16. Fred Talmadge Avatar
    Fred Talmadge

    In my daily driving Acura it doesn’t really matter. Especially stuck in traffic. Heck I rarely use the paddles. For my fun car, yes it does matter. I just don’t think it would be as much fun.

  17. Dean Bigglesworth Avatar
    Dean Bigglesworth

    I’ve come across the Sportomatic when researching how to drive a manual without the use of legs. Saab also had a similar “clutchless” h-pattern manual some time ago; wasn’t a huge success. Modern aftermarket systems work roughly the same way, standard manual gearbox and clutch, only the clutch is operated electrically via a button/sensor on the gearstick.
    The most fun automatics i’ve driven have been automated manuals, like the 500 Abarth(US get’s a torque converted auto iirc?) and VW Up!. The most annoying box is the 7-speed DQ200 DSG used in smaller VAG products, and I don’t much care for the larger 6-speed either. Longitudinal DSG’s in Audis with larger (3.0T and up) engines work pretty well, though.
    In theory CVT’s would be ideal for performance cars, but they are usually paired with tiny torqueless engines with makes them unbearable. Works really well with enough torque, like in a Lexus GS450h. A CVT seems like a much better idea than a 9 or 10 speed automatic, provided there’s plenty of torque.
    TL;DR Dislike the shift logic in most autos and I prefer manuals, but since driving one requires a possibly unreliable aftermarket automated clutch i’ll probably stick to automatics.

  18. jeepjeff Avatar
    jeepjeff

    I get bored driving automatics. Even quick ones. The skill of using a clutch is just too much fun for me.
    There’s also a component of familial stubbornness (but my brother didn’t get it, so…). My Dad lost partial usage of his left side (both arm and leg) in a car crash before I was born, and he insisted on re-learning how to drive a manual and then always had one around when I was a kid (he only just got an automatic a couple years ago, which has been a good thing, since he’s needed knee surgery since). My stepfather has also said to me that if you can’t drive a stick, you can’t really drive.
    I’m unlikely to even own an automatic any time soon (well, unless I’m stripping it for parts).

  19. mdharrell Avatar

    I’m okay with automatics as long as they are sufficiently awkward and troublesome.
    https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/54/155016400_171a5b9cb9_b.jpg

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      And handily(?) just as fast in reverse ?

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        True, although a complete absence of reverse is also acceptable.
        https://i.ytimg.com/vi/bH7qhmsB4fg/hqdefault.jpg

  20. Maymar Avatar
    Maymar

    Once you can buy a subcompact with an automatic and it isn’t just kind of sad, I might stop thinking manuals matter (maybe). For now, as far as I’m concerned, the Golf is the baseline for cars that aren’t ruined by losing the third pedal (which puts it as front runner in contention for my next purchase, since my wife seems to refuse to get comfortable driving stick).

  21. ptschett Avatar
    ptschett

    I’d get a stickshift in the smallest and the sportscar-est cars but in general usage I’m fine with an automatic. I’ve had a Dodge Challenger R/T in manual 2010 and automatic 2015 versions, and the things I miss from the 2010 are its simple radio/climate controls and limited-slip differential… not the 3rd pedal.

  22. Hillman_Hunter Avatar
    Hillman_Hunter

    There was an episode of M*A*S*H* where some of the crew grow corn so they could enjoy corn on the cob, slathered in butter.
    Unfortunately the camp cook creamed the corn and ruined the treat for everyone. Father Mulcahy might even have cursed.
    Automatic transmissions are creamed corn.

  23. Professor Bananahot Avatar
    Professor Bananahot

    Besides the experience angle that everybody here is focused on, there’s always the durability, maintainability, and quirky aspects that the 12 people like me in this world like to focus in on.
    I can rebuild a standard transmission, or replace it with an identical one with a minimum of electronic fussery. I can push-start my car with it’s near-dead battery. It can be flat-towed. I can gently and briefly clutch in to disengage the cruise control. I can feel what’s happening easier in ice and snow. I can be bothered about the extra weight and leaks of an auxiliary transmission cooler. Engine braking can be performed whenever I want without hesitation. I can slow down a tiny bit without the brake lights coming on (brake light cascades cause traffic jams) Nobody’s ever going to steal my car, etc.
    None of these things are huge issues that make me question the ease and effectiveness of an automatic, but lumped all together they form an argument that is impossible to explain to non-gearheads.

  24. dukeisduke Avatar
    dukeisduke

    As some may remember, I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that we were looking for a used car (a first car) for my 16-year-old daughter. We bought a 2010 Kia Forte Koup, with a five-speed manual. She’s getting the hang of it, but she still slips the clutch too much when starting off. She’s getting better.
    She wanted a manual (her boyfriend has a TJ Wrangler with a six-speed), and my wife and I can both drive them (to teach her, and, drive it when we need to), so we said okay.

    1. JayP Avatar
      JayP

      My son is eyeing the Ranger for his first car.
      I asked if he thought if he could drive a 5 speed… he didn’t think it was gonna be too bad.
      This will not turn out well. I can tell.

  25. Harry Callahan Avatar
    Harry Callahan

    1) Driving a manual is more engaging.
    2) I can replace a clutch in my garage over a weekend. I cannot rebuild a contemporary automatic.
    3) The cost of clutch and manual gearbox repair is a fraction of the cost of rebuilding a complex contemporary automatic.

  26. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    I prefer manuals because as time passes it’s progressively making them as theft-proof as a Model T Ford.
    Of course I’m also looking forward to the reduction in insurance premiums for them which would obviously follow.

  27. outback_ute Avatar
    outback_ute

    Beyond supercars that you can’t shift gear fast enough to keep up with, is there any car that isn’t better with a manual gearbox? (note I said car)

    1. ptschett Avatar
      ptschett

      For my purposes: Dodge Challenger R/T.

    2. crank_case Avatar
      crank_case

      I can’t imagine a Bentley or Rolls Royce with a manual, it seems..undignified. 😀
      Similarly, my old Volvo S80 with a manual would have been a less pleasant experience, because that car was about comfort and cocooning you from the world. It was not about involvement, quite the opposite, but it knew exactly what it wanted to achieve, unlike some pseudo-sporty german saloon with superficial “sportiness” by being needlessly harsh, but not actually that entertaining.
      I used to dismiss Jaguar XJs or Toyota soarers for not commonly being manual, but even there again, maybe it’s just getting older, but I think an Auto suits these cars, they are long legged GTs for unfettered progress, not angry touge battle weapons.
      Any diesel is better with a good auto, you drive them on a narrow band of mid range torque, unlike a petrol, going to the “red line” is a whimpering anti-climax not a crescendo. Let an 8 speeder shuffle cogs, and adapt your driving style.
      Any Mercedes, because their manuals are usually horrible.
      My fathers torqueless 1.4 Peugeot 307 with throws so long, they’re in different timezones and a clutch bite point higher and more unexpected than a bunch of stoners on everest, that car would definitely be better off with an automatic …replacement by a better car.
      Of course, the discerning gentleman rejects your uncouth working class manual, the decadent Americanism of the wasteful torque converter, or the Germanic unromanticism of the DSG and favors the pre-selector.
      http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2506/3914638517_a8e55a6a44.jpg

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        I must disagree with your position concerning Bentleys and Rolls-Royces. Expecting one’s chauffeur to be entirely competent at shifting gears is a perfectly dignified position to take.

      2. outback_ute Avatar
        outback_ute

        Yes I agree that luxury cars suit an auto, although I think a Bentley Turbo could be interesting with a manual. Probably to try but not own however.
        Many things depend on how well they are implemented. Years ago I drove a Nissan D40 Navara 2.5TD with a 5sp auto that almost felt like a CVT to drive. When accelerating it would vary by only 200 rpms or so when changing gears, with the accelerator pedal giving more or less acceleration, revs and volume. Lots and lots of volume! And a very unpleasant noise. Once up to speed it was quiet.
        I also drove a 2013 Ford Mondeo diesel/DSG for a while which was not very good, it rarely felt like it would make use of the diesel’s full torque and often felt like it would hang on the rev limiter before changing gears under full throttle. I’ve driven a few manual turbodiesels and obviously you drop boost when changing gears but they don’t have the “looseness” of most autos.

        1. crank_case Avatar
          crank_case

          On diesels, yes absolutely, hence prefacing auto with “good”, it’s such a narrow powerband that if you get calibration wrong, it’s terrible, but I still think a good auto would be better than the “oh I need to change gear again” of a modern diesel, the nature of the engine makes gearshifts something you just gotta do every so often rather than being particularly fun in most cases. Not awful, just meh.. where’s the upside?

  28. Van_Sarockin Avatar
    Van_Sarockin

    Ur so write. My left leg will now be employed in kicking your butt.

    1. crank_case Avatar
      crank_case

      Best comment on this thread, I salute you sir.

  29. SlowJoeCrow Avatar
    SlowJoeCrow

    It’s actually an old argument. Back in the early 70s I read an interview with BMW sidecar racer Schorsch Meier where he said he had an automatic 2002 because the kickd own was faster than he was. There were also some racers with autos at the time, Chaparral had automatics in the 60s and some Formula Vee cars used the VW Automatic Stickshift.
    For daily driving an automatic is more practical, especially in stop and go traffic but the manual transmission gives more connection and involvement. Also I think the craft of driving suffers form electronic nannies where a neophyte can mash the pedals and saw at the wheel and rely on traction control, ABS and ESP to keep the car going straight and mostly fast. Skills like feathering the throttle, modulating the brakes and rev matching are lost to the pushbutton generation.

    1. cap'n fast Avatar
      cap’n fast

      hmmm. craft of driving….primarily should involve not crashing into a bridge abutment whilst concerning ones self with gear selection and artfully applying the brakes during a decreasing radius sweeping turn into the torque steer?
      driving in a city is now an episode of “short attention span theater” and requiring the fools to learn how to use the tranny is asking an awful lot of their limited resources.
      do autonomous cars come with a stick???

      1. SlowJoeCrow Avatar
        SlowJoeCrow

        On the first point, gear selection is something you do instinctively as a background process, leaving you attention free to avoid bridge abutments while modulating the brakes. Also I did preface my remarks by saying slushboxes are the better choice for everyday driving, borne out by most recent experiences commuting in a stick shift car. It was OK but auto makes it easier. Then again I also ride a motorcycle so I’m clearly willing to sacrifice in the name of fun.

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