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Anthony Fongaro

Controversial! Manual Transmissions are Over-Rated

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*Note: this isn’t my opinion. This article is more to spark a discussion. I love #savethemanuals. With that, please enjoy a controversial article.


Some people are fans of electric cars. Others regale the days of the glorious V12s which are now few-and-far in-between. Same goes for interiors. While the days of analog gauges, non-infotainment systems, and simple controls hearken back to an easier time, trends are making those just memories. Most people, car lovers or not, accept changes to vehicles. Fuel economy, safety, performance, and technology are constantly evolving. However, there is one aspect of vehicles that isn't sport or performance-based that needs to go away. The manual transmission. 


If you’re reading this and are a #savethemanuals fan, you probably hate me for talking about ditching the manual transmission. I’m sure the comments are not going to be the most positive. Granted, my thought process of manual transmissions is not new. Performance companies such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, and McLaren don’t have manual transmissions anymore. There is a reason why there has been a campaign for over ten years called #savethemanuals and fans rejoice when a car has either a standard or optional manual transmission. 


Should they be completely taken off the map? No. I believe sports cars and performance vehicles should still have the option of a manual transmission. The Porsche911 and 718 range and Toyota’s 86 both have a manual as optional or standard. Even “hot-hatchbacks” such as the Honda Civic Type R and the VW Gold GTI/R have manuals, with the manual being the only transmission for the Civic Type R. Do they expect to sell a lot of them? Transmission wise, no, but owners of this type of vehicle want to shift the car themselves. I will admit that cost and upkeep of a manual is cheaper before you count replacing the clutch.


This brings me to a few different complaints. First, “I feel one with the car.” Excellent! But I feel one with a car that has an excellent automatic or dual-clutch transmission. Inexpensive cars such as a Nissan Versa or Honda Fit seem ok with a manual, but what’s the point then? Feeling one with a car that’s $14,000 doesn’t seem to make sense. If you’re spending that much for a new car, why not get a more fun or practical car with a manual if that’s all you want? To me, feeling one with the car means I know what’s going on constantly with the tires, suspension, and brakes. I also do know what’s going on with my transmission because of complaint number two.


“Rowing gears”. You start out at first gear, accelerate while shifting to a certain gear, and go down to second gear when you turn a corner. That’s what I did in my Volkswagen GTI with the DSG gearbox. For me, I didn’t really “row gears” the same way you would in a manual, but I did get to choose which gear I wanted to be in. Choice is what manual only drivers like. They can be in the tallest gear such as 6th or 7th and drop instantly to 2nd for a tight corner. Slight problem with that. Thanks to advanced automatic gearboxes that are constantly evolving, vehicles with automatics can shift manually. Not just let the car rev a little bit, but let the car stay in one gear all the way to the top of the rev range. Thanks to paddle-shifters, shifting can feel more fun and like a race-car.


Speaking of race-cars, complaint number three is “manuals are quicker around a track compared to an automatic.” There is some truth to this but remember the types of vehicles we are talking about. This isn’t about a BMW M4 or a Porsche 911. These are vehicles that probably cost under $50,000. We are talking vehicles like the Honda Accord. Can you take a manual or an automatic Accord around a track? Sure. It would be hilarious to see a brand-new Accord go against another brand-new Accord, but it would be pointless. You don’t buy these to go on a track. 


So, with the complaints out of the way, why do I think automatics are better? They’re fast. There is a reason that high-performance vehicles are ditching the manual for the automatic. Even in mundane vehicles, clever automatics such as dual-clutch automated manual transmissions can be faster than their manual counterpart. Driving in rush hour traffic or through a city is easier with an automatic. You can change gears the way you want and once driving becomes frustrating, switch the car into Drive and you’re set to go. With technology advancing, the automatic transmission is also evolving. Granted, I still don’t like the CVT transmission.  That said, we now have automatics with more gears, faster shifts, and better fuel economy. When was the last time you saw a hybrid or a plug-in hybrid with a manual? 


Before I end, I have to say this: this article only applies to car owners in the United States. If you travel out of the country frequently, you will certainly be in countries where you need to know how to drive a manual. Otherwise, the manual transmission is already going the way of the CD changer. It’s just unnecessary to have to shift gears yourself if the car isn’t made for performance. Granted, with the rise of electric vehicles, we soon may see a #savetheautomatics as a hashtag. 

What is your opinion? Are you livid with me bashing the sacred manual transmission and will only drive manual? Do you care what transmission you have, or do you only drive automatic? Leave a comment below and follow us on social media. 
 


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In the U.S., automatics surpassed manuals in sales in 1954. Yes; I need to see your sources for “last 10-20 years”.

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14 minutes ago, balthazar said:

In the U.S., automatics surpassed manuals in sales in 1954. Yes; I need to see your sources for “last 10-20 years”.

Apologies, that sentence was not supposed to be there.

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NP. 
I driven numerous manuals (3, 4, & 5-spd), and I own a 4-spd currently. I also certainly call myself a car enthusiast... but manuals do not appeal to me. Its personal preference only; the ‘one with the car’ mantra is BS in my opinion, and one certainly could make the argument that refusing to drive an auto is “refusing to accept change”, were one so inclined.

Personal preference.

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I have driven manuals all my life, just recently got a daily driver with automatic.

I love the manuals and they make the daily commute grind much more entertaining (unless your commute is in traffic).  However, I definitely agree that hard to beat the convenience and performance of modern auto transmissions. 

Despite that I think it is hard to beat the enjoyment of driving a sports car with manual.  Personally, I get way more satisfaction driving energetically car with manual transmission, than driving performance car with auto, even though auto might be slightly faster.

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As with all things... it really depends on the vehicle.  I wouldn't want a manual in my Toronado for example. But a small economy car or sporty car like the Miata or Camaro, yes a manual would be nice.  That said, I just had a Camaro with the 10-speed automatic and it did everything I told it when I told it. 

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The notion that manuals "need to go away" is absurd on its face. There simply isn't any reason behind that statement. Choice is always a good thing, and that applies to transmissions as well as any other aspect of equipment in a car. For my part, even if I won the lottery tomorrow, I'd never buy a new performance/super/hyper car with flappy paddles - it's a deal breaker. For me, manuals are simply more fun and engaging to drive - that's a happy exchange over an automatic that shaves a few tenths off of the 0-60 time. "It's faster" pales in comparison to "it's more fun". As for the tech (driving modes etc.), I'd opt out of that too wherever possible I don't like video games, and I sure don't want to drive one. I hope there remains room in the world for both, and the campaign to remove the choice dies, but as for me, I'll take the analog version.

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Depends on the car...I like manuals in sporty cars,  and like modern automatics in daily drivers.  

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37 minutes ago, Camino LS6 said:

The notion that manuals "need to go away" is absurd on its face. There simply isn't any reason behind that statement. Choice is always a good thing, and that applies to transmissions as well as any other aspect of equipment in a car. For my part, even if I won the lottery tomorrow, I'd never buy a new performance/super/hyper car with flappy paddles - it's a deal breaker. For me, manuals are simply more fun and engaging to drive - that's a happy exchange over an automatic that shaves a few tenths off of the 0-60 time. "It's faster" pales in comparison to "it's more fun". As for the tech (driving modes etc.), I'd opt out of that too wherever possible I don't like video games, and I sure don't want to drive one. I hope there remains room in the world for both, and the campaign to remove the choice dies, but as for me, I'll take the analog version.

Love that you're back adding your two cents. :2cents:

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I have no opinion concerning manual transmissions. 

Then again, manuals are no longer as common as they were 30 or 40 years ago.  There is a reason automatics have dominated for decades.  I would offer another reason: few people WANT manual transmissions in their cars or CUVs or SUVs or pickup trucks.  Also, today's automatics are so good that a manual has a difficult time competing against a well-tuned automatic.  The large trend towards EVs will make manuals even more scarce than they already are.  In 1940 there were virtually no vehicles with an automatic transmission.  I suspect that by 2040 there will be no true manual transmission in new vehicles out for sale.

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17 minutes ago, riviera74 said:

I have no opinion concerning manual transmissions. 

Then again, manuals are no longer as common as they were 30 or 40 years ago.  There is a reason automatics have dominated for decades.  I would offer another reason: few people WANT manual transmissions in their cars or CUVs or SUVs or pickup trucks.  Also, today's automatics are so good that a manual has a difficult time competing against a well-tuned automatic.  The large trend towards EVs will make manuals even more scarce than they already are.  In 1940 there were virtually no vehicles with an automatic transmission.  I suspect that by 2040 there will be no true manual transmission in new vehicles out for sale.

As long as there is a Miata, there will be at least one manual transmission.  Unless they turn that EV too.

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Long term, Manuals are dead and so will be the automatic transmission as we migrate to electrics. Yes some EVs have 2 step automatic trans, but I believe in time, even those will go away. Humanity is finding alternative things to do and enjoy and with roads so congested, the days of Manual Sport Enthusiasts are numbers sadly. RIP the Manual!

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I've had plenty of manuals,

Hard reality is with bad traffic, and other factors, it really is better and even safer to be in an automatic.  Autos are better at FE now, faster to shift, etc.

I still would endorse some models out there have Manuals available.  Primarily for performance vehicles and fun to drive vehicles.  But really nothing like a base Kia Forte should have one.  Now, say, if Chevy had a 2.0 Malibu manual in a true RS sports sedan package...maybe.   

Edited by regfootball
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I prefer manual transmissions and greatly miss that aspect of driving my previous vehicle, a moderately underpowered Jeep Compass.  My current vehicle has an 8-speed automatic and has a hard time figuring out what gear it needs to be in from time to time.  This would never happen if I could positively select my own gears.  I would love the option of a 6-speed manual in the Chevy Colorado with the V6 and four wheel drive.  Toyota and Nissan still offer them, but there is no way I would buy one.

As far as Europeans go, I envy them for a couple of aspects of their automotive landscape:  Manuals are still prevalent in mainstream vehicles, diesels are still available, and smaller vehicles are not viewed as penalty boxes.  Also, Europeans are not yet afraid to be fanciful in design.

In America, automotive choices disappear every year.  There is a sameness to everything because everyone is trying to chase the same customer, apparently.  This will only careen further south as more EV are forced onto the market, looking for buyers who do not exist.  Sad state.

Edited by ocnblu

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14 hours ago, dfelt said:

Long term, Manuals are dead and so will be the automatic transmission as we migrate to electrics. Yes some EVs have 2 step automatic trans, but I believe in time, even those will go away. Humanity is finding alternative things to do and enjoy and with roads so congested, the days of Manual Sport Enthusiasts are numbers sadly. RIP the Manual!

EVs eventually will have transmissions (look at Porsche).  In order to put smaller motors and increase efficiency they will start putting at least 2-3 speed transmissions.

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10 hours ago, ocnblu said:

I prefer manual transmissions and greatly miss that aspect of driving my previous vehicle, a moderately underpowered Jeep Compass.  My current vehicle has an 8-speed automatic and has a hard time figuring out what gear it needs to be in from time to time.  This would never happen if I could positively select my own gears.  I would love the option of a 6-speed manual in the Chevy Colorado with the V6 and four wheel drive.  Toyota and Nissan still offer them, but there is no way I would buy one.

As far as Europeans go, I envy them for a couple of aspects of their automotive landscape:  Manuals are still prevalent in mainstream vehicles, diesels are still available, and smaller vehicles are not viewed as penalty boxes.  Also, Europeans are not yet afraid to be fanciful in design.

In America, automotive choices disappear every year.  There is a sameness to everything because everyone is trying to chase the same customer, apparently.  This will only careen further south as more EV are forced onto the market, looking for buyers who do not exist.  Sad state.

Are you sure about Europe on that? I believe due to Diesel Gate VW, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, that Diesel is in a short list of death and will be gone in the next few years too, also my travels have shown the opposite as I rarely except in old auto's see manuals. Everything is auto now and the costs have truly kept the young away from auto's so I do not see Manuals as a Prevalent transmission in their mainstream auto's. Europeans are also starting to get bigger and as such, I think they will be moving to bigger auto's too. Buyers are on the fence awaiting choices and I will bet we will see many buy once a variety of EVs are out.

Ignore the future at your own expense.

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3 minutes ago, dfelt said:

Are you sure about Europe on that? I believe due to Diesel Gate VW, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, that Diesel is in a short list of death and will be gone in the next few years too, also my travels have shown the opposite as I rarely except in old auto's see manuals. Everything is auto now and the costs have truly kept the young away from auto's so I do not see Manuals as a Prevalent transmission in their mainstream auto's. Europeans are also starting to get bigger and as such, I think they will be moving to bigger auto's too. Buyers are on the fence awaiting choices and I will bet we will see many buy once a variety of EVs are out.

Ignore the future at your own expense.

Search any of the manufacturers' sites. Diesel is all over the place still. 

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8 minutes ago, ccap41 said:

Search any of the manufacturers' sites. Diesel is all over the place still. 

Yes, they have it as an option, but I question how many sales, European union has stated sales are in clear decline.

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17 hours ago, dfelt said:

Yes, they have it as an option, but I question how many sales, European union has stated sales are in clear decline.

I know it isn't a guarantee but when there are that many offered, it is likely because it is the preferred choice. 

I also believe that when the fuel is mostly cheaper per country and it's more efficient, it makes the most sense for it to be a popular fuel source.

https://autotraveler.ru/en/spravka/fuel-price-in-europe.html#.XbmUMihKiM8

Edited by ccap41

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Because of dieselgate, diesel is now seen as a lot dirtier than gasoline, even if it has since cleaned up its act.  Environmentally conscious Euros, of which there are a lot more of per capita than there are here, are switching to hybrids, EVs, and even just regular gasoline cars to avoid the dirt stigma. 

Diesel has fallen to 30% of sales in the EU when it was over 50% a few years ago. 

Add to it that gasoline cars have gotten more efficient and diesel engines still cost more to buy up front and the cost advantage on diesel has diminished significantly. 

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