The End of stick shift? - : The site for all your Ford Mazda and Volvo needs
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post #1 of 35 (permalink) Old 10-31-2008, 09:29 AM Thread Starter
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The End of stick shift?

Thought you guys/girls may wanna read. I think no, cause they are awesome in cars like porsches and such. Also maual id prefer in altima, as the other option is CVT.

Is the manual transmission — the tormentor of generations of driver’s ed students — going the way of the buggy whip, the eight-track, the Hummer? That sounds like heresy to driving purists like me, who have always assumed that automatics are for wimps, for people who couldn’t tell a clutch pedal from a daisy petal.

Yet here I am, flying at 140 mph down the banked straightaway at Pocono Speedway in the new BMW M3. This 400-horsepower beauty of a sports sedan happens to be equipped with BMW’s latest high-tech, no-clutch-pedal 7-speed automated-manual transmission — basically a manual gearbox that can shift by itself.

A right-hand turn approaches, and it’s time to stand on the brakes. But instead of mashing the clutch, yanking the stick and blipping the gas with the same foot that’s squeezing the brake — the old “heel and toe” downshift maneuver — I simply flick a little metal paddle attached to the steering column. Both hands stay put on the steering wheel, making it easier to stay on path.

With no clutch pedal to push, my left foot sits there, as unoccupied as a teenager on summer vacation. The BMW even blips its own throttle automatically, danke schoen, making sure the dolt behind the wheel doesn’t screw it up. I arrive back in the pits, and the guilty thought flashes like a checkered flag: What’s the point of a stick, if I can have a self-shifting transmission this good?

Let’s be clear: I’ve been a stick-shift disciple for nearly 30 years. In fact, I’ve never owned an automatic transmission car in my life. But these new gearboxes are just so versatile, so easy — swift, precise, convenient – that I’m considering a date with the dark side. As with similar systems, BMW’s M DCT with Drivelogic offers the best of both worlds: Sit back, relax, drive it like any conventional automatic. But when the curvy road beckons you can shift manually, even selecting settings that boost the intensity of gear changes until you’re in Speed Racer territory.

Manually shifted transmissions are certainly an endangered species. Back in 1980, more than 35 percent of all cars were sold with a stick. Because they cost less and boosted fuel mileage, manuals were more popular when gas prices went up or the economy went down, according to Mike Omotoso, powertrain analyst for J.D. Power and Associates.

Then the SUV appeared, which often came automatic-only. By 2005 only 6 percent of all buyers bothered with a stick. Skyrocketing fuel prices and more choices in small cars brought a mild uptick to 7.7 percent last year, but the trend is clear.

Porsche is one carmaker that has kept the faith. The sports car-centric brand sells a higher percentage of sticks than any other, from 60 to 65 percent on all its sports cars. Yet even Porsche officials say that automated gearboxes are a key to maintaining the brand’s appeal among new generations. “So many young people never learn how to drive a stick, unless a parent makes a point of teaching them,” said spokesman Tony Fouladpour.

As such, the German automaker expects its new PDK dual-clutch automatic to be the company's most popular automatic ever. "That's the progression even pure sports cars have taken," says Porsche spokesman Dave Engelman. As a result, Porsche anticipates that 70 to 80 percent of 911 owners will opt for the auto box, especially in the early going.

These systems are dramatically defying the old arguments for a manual transmission. For instance, it's widely believed that manuals are more fuel-efficient than automatics. Sorry, that's no longer true. The latest Porsche is one of several cars that's more economical with the automatic: 19/27 mpg in city/highway driving, compared to 18/25 mpg with the stick.

Another myth is that manuals accelerate faster. Wrong again. The Porsche and other models are faster with computer-controlled trannies. These automatics shift so quickly that no human being, not even the world's best drivers in Formula 1, can match their abilities.

Lapping the 911 Carrera and Carrera S at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah, I get my own high-speed introduction to the system's no-excuses performance. And as I segue from the track to a relaxed run to Park City, I realize the 911, which has always been one of the world's most versatile sports cars, is even more of a dual-threat machine. Porsche spokesman Bernd Harling took pains to distinguish the new breed of automatics from the "geriatric support systems" of old.

"They're faster, they make you a better driver, yet fuel consumption goes down," he said. The latter is no small matter, with automakers warily eyeing a federal mandate that will require cars and trucks to average 35 mpg by 2020.

It's the same story with the venerable Chevy Corvette. As its automatic transmissions become better and faster, more customers take the plunge. Two of every three Corvette coupe buyers choose the six-speed paddle-shifted automatic. For the convertible, 75 percent choose the clutch-free version.

Harlan Charles, Corvette product manager, notes that the ultra-high-performance Z06 and ZR1 models don’t offer an automatic at all. And the ‘Vette purist still demands a stick. “For the Corvette, there will always be sufficient demand, so the manual is here to stay,” Charles said.

One remaining hang-up is cost. Audi’s S Tronic (formerly called DGS), the pioneering dual-clutch system that’s now shared with VW models, adds more than $2,000 to the price. Porsche’s PDK will add an eye-popping $4,080. Yet some serious performance cars, including the Nissan GT-R and the $1.3 million Bugatti Veyron, are automated trannies or nothing. Among Ferraris and Lamborghinis I’ve driven lately, finding a stick shift is like finding an honest banker on Wall Street.

Honestly, I still find joy in self-shifting. One of my biggest kicks recently was testing the Koenigsegg CCX — an insanely rare, 806-horsepower, $1.1 million Swedish supercar. I jumped in and discovered a classic aluminum manual shifter, just waiting to grab my hand and go out to play.

Perhaps the only argument left for manuals that holds any water: A stick is simply more fun. It makes you feel like the pilot, in control instead of along for the ride. I’ll agree with the purists that a stick is more “involving.”

"It's not all about lap times," said Timo Resch, Porsche's North American product planner. "At least for now, some customers still want to use their left foot and shift."

Yet when technology and traditionalism fight, we know what usually wins. I’m sure twisting a crank to start your car felt pretty involving. I remember what panic stops in the rain felt like before the advent of anti-lock brakes. Those are feelings I can do without. And the older I get, the less patience I have for driving a manual in heavy rush-hour traffic — the constant shifting, the two-step polka on the pedals.

Sure, learning to drive a stick was a rite of passage, handed down for generations. Mastering a manual said not only that you knew your way around a car, but that you were becoming a man. But 20 years from now, young drivers may wonder what the fuss was about. Like kids who’ve never heard of the Beatles, they’ll give us a pitying look when we start going on about the days when “real” cars had three foot-pedals and something called a “shift knob.”

A Michigan native raised and forged in Detroit and a former auto critic at the Detroit Free Press, Lawrence Ulrich now lives in Brooklyn, New York. His reviews and features appear regularly in The New York Times, Robb Report, Popular Science and Travel + Leisure Golf.

For commentary on the latest auto industry trends or in-depth analysis of developments affecting consumers, turn to MSN Autos’ Industry Insider for the real story behind the facts and figures. Written by respected veterans in the field, Industry Insider delivers expertise and insight that helps make sense of the automotive world.

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post #2 of 35 (permalink) Old 10-31-2008, 09:40 AM
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Re: The End of stick shift?

I like having 3 pedals.
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post #3 of 35 (permalink) Old 10-31-2008, 09:43 AM
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Re: The End of stick shift?

definitely. my old mazda3 sedan was the first automatic tranny car i've owned and i dont plan on buying another one.

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post #4 of 35 (permalink) Old 10-31-2008, 09:52 AM
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Re: The End of stick shift?

Saw this on Digg today. The only cars I've owned were all manual. I love the control and the simple task of having to shift. Keeps me occupied on my long drives to and from work. Except when I get stuck in bumper to bumper Providence traffic.

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post #5 of 35 (permalink) Old 10-31-2008, 09:54 AM Thread Starter
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Re: The End of stick shift?

the only downside i could see of having a manual would be bumper to bumper. I think manual would great for a summer car, auto for a daily (again depending on what traffic you drive in). I must admit if i had the choice, my summer would be ultima gtr/ferrari f430 scuderia and daily would be M5.
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post #6 of 35 (permalink) Old 10-31-2008, 09:59 AM
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Re: The End of stick shift?

i dont even mind mtx in bad traffic. the only time its ever been an issue was driving through a car show. it was literally stop go for about 45 minutes because pedestrians wouldn't move my left leg went numb :shock:

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post #7 of 35 (permalink) Old 10-31-2008, 10:04 AM Thread Starter
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Re: The End of stick shift?

i agree with the article pretty much. In terms of performance, the SMGs are doing amazingly well. The stick shift however is that nice feeling of control, and fun.
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post #8 of 35 (permalink) Old 10-31-2008, 10:15 AM
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Re: The End of stick shift?

I am of mixed feelings. As to whether it will ever go away, maybe one day, but no day soon. SMGs are just so much more expensive then either a regular torque converter automatic or an all manual gear box. I doubt you'll see much in the way of SMGs on lower end cars for at least 15-20 years.

When it comes down to it, it is less expensive for manufacturers to build a manual gear box, and to a large degree there isn't nearly the same kind of R&D that has to go in to a manual gear box that does, say into an automatic gear box (nor nearly the complexity or number of parts) or an SMG let alone something like an engine. The great thing about a manual gear box is, that you can change the gears within it, yet leave the same basic setup and parts the same and share it across a huge platform of cars if you want to easily enough. Of course to a degree an SMG wouldn't be significantly different then this (automatics with their planetary gear boxes require a huge amount of reworking to change gear ratios other then the final drive).

So, yes I think we will see a large uptick in SMGs. I think you'll see them take a much larger bite out of the automatic sales then out of manual sales...unless of course that vehicle doesn't have a fully manual option.
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post #9 of 35 (permalink) Old 10-31-2008, 12:07 PM
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Re: The End of stick shift?

On the flip side if they get put into economy cars that increase production numbers whicsiveh drives down cost. Heck the GTI comes with DSG and it's not stupid expensive.

Personally, this is the future of cars. I expect that in the next 10-15 years we will begin to stop seeing a stick and automatic option, instead we'll have a single transmission choice that does the job of both. And I'll be sad to see the third pedal disappear.


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post #10 of 35 (permalink) Old 10-31-2008, 12:13 PM
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Re: The End of stick shift?

I'm all for SMG.

SMG offers much better performance potential, there's no way to argue against that.
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