I live for L.I.F.E. Love Is For Ever.
I live for L.I.F.E. Love Is For Ever.
Here’s a mega-tl/dr post for you all to read. I wrote it a while back before I realized I’d never write for this site. It’s everything I could think of to defend manuals, all at once. So I’ll dust it off and share it here:
Automatic transmissions sell themselves to the uninitiated. What better way to build $1,000 into the price of every car sold than to foster a mentality where manuals are cheap, jerky, and quaint relics of the past? Surely you have heard all of these pro-automatic rationales kicked around like a hackney sack:
-My auto can shift just like a manual (and you can also play soccer with a basketball.)
-I never have to pay to replace another clutch (ever paid to replace an auto?)
- My wife/son/brother/hooker can’t drive the car (advantage?)
-Autos are so much easier in stop-and-go traffic (Yeah, but only if … ok, you got me there.)
The regular readers of this site probably don’t need to be sold on the idea of a manual transmission. We often represent the fringe of enthusiast motoring but, whether we like it or not, it’s ultimately the others—the mass market—that determines our future automotive choice. With new car manual sales well below a 10% market share (most of that confined to sports cars or econoboxes, for quite opposite reasons), it’s time we all made a push to get manuals back into the mainstream—at least so they don’t disappear from the options list forever.
Modern automatic transmissions (including dual-clutch autos, which are mechanically akin to manuals, but are driven more like automatics) are no doubt marvels of engineering. Many of them are so complex, even the best general mechanics won’t touch them, preferring to sub out the work to a tranny shop. Sometimes I wonder how we arrived at the point where we accepted such electrohydromechanical complexity in almost all of our vehicles. The manual just didn’t seem that annoying in the first place.
Now that consumers are purchasing newer, more efficient automatics in larger numbers), many analysts fear we may be nearing the end of an era. Even in traditionally manual-dominated Europe, where car economy has always met car enthusiasm, a surge in automatics could portend a full-scale shift in our collective attitude towards cars—maybe not to the extreme where we pit the “pry it from my cold, dead hands” crowd against the Eric Schmidts of the world, but one where another element of joy and connection to tradition is slowly removed, further numbing the experience and commoditizing motoring into just another form of transportation. So was it really that paltry 1-2mpg advantage that kept manuals alive for so many years? Or is there more to it?
Forget the knee-jerk reactions; there are still good reasons for buying a traditional manual transmission, even though they are not always completely obvious or easily explained.
1. Cost Expectations: In almost every car, the manual option is cheaper up front. A clutch will always fail eventually, but usually with some advanced warning. This event can be predicted and saved for ($500-$1500, which is roughly the cost of the automatic option up front). However, automatics often fail unexpectedly, catastrophically, and/or at incredible expense. “No, ma’am, no matter what Car & Driver says, your Corolla wasn’t supposed to have a ‘Launch Control’ system.”
2. Emergencies: In the event of unintended acceleration, you have ready access to a clutch pedal and a neutral gear, both of which you already use many times per day. If you want to recreate an alleged case of UA, you’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way: Call 60 Minutes.
3. Proactive Safety: The mentally engaging nature of a manual transmission forces the driver to pay more attention to their actions. While no data bears this out in a formal study, just ask any driver who spends time with both transmissions. Driving, smoking, eating, calling, texting, picking your nose: Choose any two. And do one of them badly. Great, now my nose is bleeding.
4. Efficiency: Manuals still beat the efficiency numbers of all but the most advanced automatics. Manuals also benefit from more immediate drivetrain braking, rather than most auto trannies’ tendency to find top gear as quickly as possible, and then hold it all the way down to idle, thus cheating their way to better efficiency numbers.
5. Better in traffic: “Wait, I thought you already conceded this one to the automatics.” It depends. For full stop-and-go traffic, automatics can relieve the hassle of constant clutch action. However, with a torquey engine in creeping traffic, manuals do extremely well in 1st or 2nd gear, allowing the driver to make speed corrections with the throttle alone. Automatics rarely perform as well, especially with an unlocked torque converter at low speeds—the very definition of “slushbox”.
6. Skill: Power steering, power brakes, ABS, traction control, stability control…with so much already assisted or automated, it’s nice to have one remaining element to differentiate the skilled drivers from the mediocre ones.
7. Skipping gears: Some automatics can do this fairly well, but a true manual is the only way to go instantly from 3rd to 5th (for economy or, in my case, laziness), or 4th to 2nd (for power when exiting a turn or, in my case, laziness).
8. Power/Torque Management: No surprise kick-down. No delayed kick-down. No sluggish 5th gear at 20mph. The gear is where you put it. The throttle is independent of that. In most autos, the tranny and throttle work together like a couple of sloppy 16-year-olds after a bottle of Boone’s Farm. With no torque converter to smooth your shifts, you know that you always have a direct connection to the drivetrain whenever you’re in gear.
9. Bilateral Involvement: Automatics require one hand and one foot—typically the right. This is fine for people with mobility issues, but why don’t we just issue electric wheelchairs and Segways to the public because they’re easier? Engaging both sides of your body requires more attentiveness and keeps you from doing things you probably shouldn’t. And you can’t just let the right side run the show, or else pretty soon you might end up in an unwinnable war against laziness.
10. Innuendo: You can never have enough phallic jokes.
11. Weight: In an age of bloat, do you really need an extra couple hundred pounds following you around everywhere? Think about how much money, time, and effort you would spend to lose that weight from your body. Colin Chapman and Jenny Craig compel you.
12. Cool Factor: A perfectly executed heel-toe downshift. Rolling into a parking spot with the engine already off. Peeling out with even the tiniest of engines. Grinding the 1-2 shift while trying to drag race the oblivious high school girl in the 3-series next to you (assuming you’re a guy…or a girl in a Subaru).
If all of the above have never been a part of your automotive existence, then you’ve missed out on a lot more than a historical relic—you’ve missed motoring the way it was intended to be. If we don’t vote with our dollars and influence others to do the same, imagine a world where the simple and effective handbrake is turned into a pedal…or even a button. What? Dammit. Sometimes the best progress is regress.
It’s not about being defensive to prove your point - it’s about being completely vulnerable to another human being. To not be afraid to show shame nor humiliation.
Dashing through the snow, in a one horse open-sleigh - riding high and low, what Chu got to say?
Silent night, holy night, we got game, you got lame. Praise the giver of rules on code. Praise the dev on them codes.
I am nothing more than a puppet in this world.
The best friend I got is the person who I hurt the most.
The people that we don’t really like that are my friends are my closest friends after her.
Life has a fucked up meaning. It’s funny how I can’t even sY this out loud.
I’ll let my tears decide what to do.
There’s going to be more and more crazy things happening in the world, huh. Just one thing happening after the other. Old things in the past crops up like rain in the amazon, and new things comes up like rain does in Los Angeles. It gets tiring after a while. And while nobody likes being an office , we somehow manage to make a connection and think that we have to stay there, it gets difficult to justify why. Sometimes, one feels that if everything collapses at the same moment, it would temporary be better and everything will be okay.
Everyone needs money, but how are we going to get it?..
Well…it beats working at a fast food restaurant.
I wish I wasn’t fat.
If the skies are always grey and the rain is always falling, how will the sun shine through?
Hey, nice goin’, bud
Never learned to walk back home?
Welcome to New York.
Yo, mook, what the f*ck?
Move your ass or I’ll move it
Go back to Jersey