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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Manual or Automatic?

Years and years ago I would have simply chuckled at a suggestion of getting an automatic transmission in a car that was also offered with a manual. Even when I started my automotive “career” and bought my first Chevy van for delivery work in 1989, I considered the auto tranny it had a big mistake. I thought it robbed the engine of power, always having it at what seemed like the wrong rpm, except when cruising at a steady 100 km/h. And then I tried a Chevy van with a manual…

These days, automatic transmissions are far superior and much better in some applications than the manuals. They also took away the fuel consumption advantage from manual boxes. Their smoothness, quality of shifting and responsiveness are very impressive compared even to slushboxes available just a few short years ago. Many cars offer easy gated or paddle manual shifting, if you must control what gear your racer is in.

The comfort and convenience of an automatic transmission is also undeniable. You can drink your coffee and check your iPhone messages (I don’t publicly admit to having a BlackBerry anymore), without worrying about spillage or sending your boss the very, very wrong picture from your phone.

So what’s left for the manual? The direct connection between engine and wheels, that’s what. There are some cars like the Boxster, the GTI or the WRX STi that I would still choose a manual transmission for. In order for the manual to work however, it must be precise, smooth shifting, with positive clutch take-up, and offer perfect pedal spacing for heel-and-toe shifting.

To me a manual transmission is still better, but in some cars its day-to-day practicality may be questionable. What do you think?

Check out this Car and Driver story: 2013 Volkswagen CC 2.0T Manual and DSG Automatic


  1. Newer automatic transmissions with fuzzy logic provide good shift points and reasonable fuel economy. There are also "manumatic" automatic transmissions where you can shift manually, sometimes even with buttons on the steering wheel.Manuals are far less prone to failure generally.

    Savannah Used Cars

  2. I agree with you. Automatic transmissions are far superior and much better in some applications than the manuals.