Death Song For the Manual Transmission

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There are things in life you desperately want but know you can’t have anymore. Maybe it’s a 20-year-old girlfriend  . . . if you’re 45 and not rich/not Brad Pitt.manual lead

A two-pound bag of M&Ms . . . if you’re Oprah.

The manual transmission is another.

It’s not very practical; and the truth is it may not be good for you anymore, either.

I realized this the other day – very much in the same way that a 45-year-old realizes 20-year-olds are no longer what he needs (even if they are very much what he might want).

There I was, stop-and-going in suburban DC-area traffic. In my truck, with a five-speed stick. Roll forward for maybe 20 yards, then hit the brakes – and depress the clutch – as traffic bunches up. Roll to a stop. Wait a few. Repeat. Over and over and over and over, uncountable times. In. Out. In Out. Get to third or fourth, maybe. Downshift, upshift, Neutral. You become a mindless machine minder. A drone performing a repetitive motion. It is no longer particularly fun – and meanwhile, it’s harder to drink your coffee or send a text.

Once upon a time, manuals were referred to as standard transmissions. Because most cars came with them, standard. Today, manuals are to an increasing extent very much optional.stuck in traffic

If they’re available at all.

Did you know that every full-size truck on the market right now is automatic-only? Remember when three-on-the-tree (or perhaps four on the floor) was as much a part of the Truck Experience as shotgun racks and manual-lock hubs? When a high-performance sports car with an automatic was an oxymoron? Or at least, shameful . . . if the car wasn’t your wife’s car?

Not even hydraulic-assist has been able to stave off the decline and fall of the manual transmission. People simply aren’t much interested in doing their own footwork, so to speak.

And I get why.

It’s not that clutches are heavy (they were sometimes, prior to hydraulic assist) nor are manual equipped cars hard to drive (in fact they’ve never been easier).

They’re just tedious to drive – because you’re not really driving much anymore.

Creeping along at 0-35 or so (and then 35-0, repeat) as one of an endless conga line of cars is travel, certainly. You are transporting yourself from A to B. But to call it “driving” is like calling a meal at McDonald’s “dining.”

Your daily grind is something you have to do. Not something you want to do. Like prison rape, you want to get it over with as quickly as possible, with the least amount of damage to your soul.

When you’re stuck in the slow-motion monotony of perpetually gridlocked traffic – which describes more and more of the average American’s driving, as the population swells past 320 million and road capacity isn’t coming close to keeping up with this kudzu-like growth – your priorities change. What matters most of all is that the car is quiet; that with the windows up and the AC (or heater) on, you are insulated – and isolated – from the outside unpleasantness (this, incidentally, is why AC is all-but-ubiquitous these days  . . . and vent wing windows extinct). That the radio – oops, the audio system – is superb. That you can call up the office or your buddy or your wife via the Bluetooth wireless and distract yourself from the unpleasant chore at hand with conversation.traffic 2

Automatics are just what you want when you’re just creeping along. Their most admirable aspect in this regard is that you can idle in gear (Drive) and not have to fuss with anything or even think about fussing with anything. When the minivan in front of you creeps forward a little, so can you.

Meanwhile, what’s on Sirius/XM?

It has not helped the manual’s cause that the latest crop of automatics can out-shift them as well as out-MPG them. The practical arguments on favor of manuals have been rendered as irrelevant as the causes of the Spanish-American war. Check the stats and you’ll see it for yourself: Pretty much any new car that’s offered with either a manual or automatic transmission will give you better gas mileage when fitted with the automatic – a parking brake 180 reversal of the Way it Used to Be.

A few weeks back, I did a week-long test drive (and review; see here) of the 2014 Nissan Versa Note – an A to B Transportation Appliance. This car, with the still-available five-speed manual transmission, rates 27 MPG in city driving and 36 MPG on the highway. Which is very good. But it does even better when ordered with the optionally available continuously variable (CVT) automatic transmission: 31 city, 40 highway. manual 1

How ’bout them apples? And how much longer do you suppose Nissan will even bother offering the five-speed manual in this car? Und so weiter . . .

Keep in mind: By 2016, all new cars will be required to average 35.5 MPG. Those that don’t will cost the companies that make ’em money – in the form of “gas guzzler” fines. And that will cost you money, as these fines are folded into the price tag of cars that don’t quite make the cut.

But it’s not just about economy. Roll it around in your head that not a single new Ferrari comes with a clutch. Well, not a clutch operated by the driver. It’s been entirely automated – because automatics are quicker (and more consistent) than you are. They shift faster, more precisely – every single time. Not even race drivers can match this. They might bang off The Perfectly Timed Shift  . . . every other time. Or even most of the time. Ferarri gearbox

But not every time.

The bottom line is automatics do a better job of shifting than we do – or could do. And they’re more efficient because of it. That they relieve us of the chore of dealing with a clutch is almost beside the point.

Throw it in the Woods?  


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  1. Silly arguments. I go into work later. I go to the gym earlier, and when I’m done I go back to work during rush hour. I stay in the office during rush hour, and reap the benefits of blazing through 6 gears on open roads during the weekends.

    Of course this isn’t compatible with GPS, but fuck that. Why do I need to think less when my brain makes the money? Sometimes you have to go back to your roots and spur a bit of intuition to avoid traffic.

    And when it’s time to rebuild the transmission… or replace a drivebelt. Piece of a cake. I drive an E46 M3 and love it.

  2. In a recent issue of Consumer Reports they actually recommended that people buy a manual transmission Mazda3 because it was so fun to drive and efficient.

    When even stodgy Consumer Reports can come to that conclusion then perhaps there is hope in the world for the MT. Meanwhile I’ll be very happily out driving my 2010 Mazda3 Sport with its proper 6-speed manual. My mother is also very happy with her TDI Jetta wagon with its 6-speed manual. I recommended that she get the stick because it’s less likely to cause a problem down the road than the dual-clutch setup.

  3. There were attempts to do that type of thing early on in the history of automatic drives. Automatic clutches, preselectors, etc., operated by vacuum or electrical solenoids. (I don’t think any of them had fully automatic shifting, though.) In the years just before and after GM’s Hydramatic a number of different techniques were tried to partially or fully automate the shifting process. Most fell short in terms of performance and/or reliability.

    Is that really the best approach though? I’m reminded of a printing technology for early computers in which a hood with solenoid-operated plungers was lowered over the keyboard of a standard typewriter. Yeah, it sort of worked, but…

  4. I have often wondered why car manufacturers have gone to all this trouble to make an automatic transmission which has a manual paddle shift mode instead of a manual transmission with an automatic mode.

    Here is my concept…I am not an engineer or a transmission expert, so feel free to point out any flaws in my idea.

    Why couldn’t a manual transmission be outfitted with solenoid controllers that would be responsible for shifting the gears and disengaging/engaging the clutch? I would think with the precision that computers can operate solenoids that an automatic-manual transmission could easily be designed. Signals from the brake pedal could be interpreted to engage/disenge the clutch solenoid and signals from the rpm could be used by the computer to determine when the optimum shifting point is. The upside I can think of is that because manual transmissions tend to be more durable and cheaper to work on, most problems you’d likely encounter would be related to a bad solenoid and because solenoids are already standard technology in automatic transmissions the concept of using them to change gears is proven.

    If nobody can think of any reason why this concept could not be further pursued, I might look into what it would take to outfit an older miata with solenoids to drive the clutch and shift the gears in some of my spare time once I retire.

    • What you’re suggesting is, more or less, exactly what is happening in the various dual-clutch transmissions from Porsche (PDK), VW (DSG), etc.

      I don’t think it was difficult or expensive to add manual control of gear selection to existing automatics. After all, I could do this by selecting “2” or “1” on my parents ’78 Monte Carlo, instead of “D”. The paddles or tap-the-shifter-left-or-right option is just doing the same thing, though a bit more elegantly.

      WIth 5- to 8-speed transmissions commonplace now, it makes a bit more sense since accurately selecting the correct gear from a “row” of numbers on the dash might result in catastrophic error. From a marketing perspective, some customers feel this adds some sportiness to their minivan, or SUV, I guess. Our van has it and the only time I use it is when driving through the mountains to keep the van from “hunting” gears so much.

      The reverse, and what you propose, is not so easy. As I mentioned, for the most part, this technology grew out of racing. In fact, one of Ferrari’s first auto-manual gearboxes was called the “F1”. As with other early offerings from other premium and exotic brands, it was very expensive to buy, expensive to maintain, unreliable and drove like crap. I spent a fair amount of time behind the wheel of an M3 with the SMG I, it was awful.

      These transmissions are electro-hydraulically controlled and effectively do what you are thinking… it’s a “manual” transmission where the ECU manages the clutch engagement/disengagement and gear changes. The early ones were all single clutch designs and were probably best suited to track use.

      At some point, somebody figured out that using two clutches greatly improved drivability, reliability and cost, over the long run. Shift times went from, I think, 60 or so ms in the early Ferrari F1 trans to 8 ms in a current VW GTI. I don’t think anybody is building single clutch models any more… As Eric pointed out, it’s getting more difficult to even find a stick. Even amongst exotic performance cars, true manuals are being removed from the option sheet. The only offering is a dual-clutch auto-manual.

      Retrofitting or designing one of these systems for fitment into an existing car would be darn near impossible, in my opinion, unless you’ve got the engineering background and resources typical of a top-tier racing team. You’ve got to remember that this shifting needs to be tightly integrated with the “engine” side of the house as well since it needs to “lift” the throttle during upshifts and blip it during downshifts, as well as “balancing” the throttle against the clutch take-up. For now, these are more complex, expensive and maintenance intensive than conventional automatics or manuals.

  5. When I was engaged to my wife, she needed a new car. Hers was very much “used up”. A local Dodge dealer had one 5-speed Neon left from the prior model year. They were offering a $99/month lease, two-years, 15K, no money down deal. The only options it had were A/C, CD and rear window defroster. I said… get this, drive it for two years until you/we get on your/our feet. (Yeah, probably was a bad idea but here we are, 15 years later…) She said, “but I can’t drive a stick”. She needed my credit and I said, “I’m not co-signing for an auto.” She got the car and within a week, was saying, “I don’t know why I thought this would be so bad.” Seven manuals later (though we have none now), it was nice to have my options open when shopping. She would even drive my 5-speed, 318 Dakota I had for a while. It also allowed her to do a few track days with me in my track car at the time, be it the Miata, Cooper S or BMW M Coupe. (Though she was in a much slower run group. ;-))

    Unlike Rich B, my kids will know how to drive a stick, probably before they’re licensed. We’re contemplating upgrading my daughter’s ATV to a sport quad that would have a typical cycle transmission. My wife is concerned but she’s a smart kid and I think she’ll have no trouble learning. Heck, if we forced people to take their DL test on a manual, we could probably weed out a bunch of very poor drivers.

    My mother is 67 (or 68… I have to do the math) and although my dad no longer drives due to his eyesight, they have a 6-speed Miata that they love driving. They wanted a cheap, reliable fun car to enjoy at this time in their lives. As always, Miata is the answer and as other posters noted, manual is the only way to go. Of course, they had one of the original 5-speed SHOs and a Celica All-Trac Turbo in the past so it wasn’t new to her. (How I wish they’d hung onto that All-Trac now…) They know I get first dibs on the Miata for my daughter in a few years… Roll cage, some track tires and brakes and we’ll have some great father/daughter days at the track.

    I do agree with the posters that believe there could be something to the manuals make safer drivers thing… They do require that you do a better job of watching what traffic is doing ahead of you and anticipating your next move. They also help you understand, whether you realize it or not, the power delivery curve and the relationship of motor to the ground, traction. Driving a manual also somewhat pre-empts you eating fries and texting while driving as well.

    Another benefit of manuals up until the last ten years has been that they offered “poor man’s traction control”. The 91 SHO, for example, didn’t have traction control but by driving in a gear or two higher than normal in snowy or icy conditions, you could limit wheelspin by keeping the motor well below the torque or horsepower peaks. By driving around “bogging” the engine in those conditions, you matched output with available friction.

    That being said, the dual clutch gearboxes are getting better and better and offer all the performance and control of a manual with much faster shifts and perfect downshift blips. I can’t count the number of apexes I missed because I messed up my heel-n-toe downshifting into a corner at the track. Even on my sim-racing, I use paddle shifters all the time. Not having to take your hand off the wheel or move/reposition your feet (I drive with two feet when sim-racing) is a big plus. I think they’ll continue to evolve and get better over time and we can certainly thank the GT class of motorsports for that. The tech is trickle down from where those teams use it for an obvious competitive advantage.

    My wife’s left knee is bad and it’s become worse over the years. I’ll certainly consider a dual-clutch gearbox for our next fun car, although no “Tips”, or glorified autos with manual “control”. If it has a torque converter, it’s an auto, I don’t care what you call it or how you tell me I can shift it.

    • Ditto all that, Late Apex!

      I’m a manual-believing (and knowing and owning) guy, too.

      But, it’s getting harder to stick with a stick – if you want a new car (let alone a new truck).

      And as traffic worsens – and becomes inescapably worse – people lose interest in driving. My next book gets into this. Look for it soon!

    • I have the same problem as your wife. I prefer a stick shift but find these days that my clutch leg cramps up pretty quickly, especially in traffic. So at this point I’ve joined the Torqueflite generation.

    • Clutch leg cramps eh? I’m about to turn 68 and my clutch leg tightens up a bit. …..sometimes. After a 12 hour day in a big rig with a clutch that is so old your butt is nowhere near your seat when you attempt to get into gear. I’ve always been a pussy though.

  6. One action by some automakers that has helped to kill of MTs—and might have been meant to do so—is excluding clutch repair and replacement entirely from new car warranties. First heard about this in the 1990s.

    Here’s the first example that popped up on Google. From the 2014 Buick warranty info available online: “Excluded from the powertrain coverage are transmission cooling lines, hoses, radiator, sensors, wiring, and electrical connectors. Also excluded are the clutch and pressure plate as well as any Transmission Control Module and/or module programming.” (Who knew that Buick had a manual anywhere in the line? Actually might just be boilerplate to cover all eventualities.)

    So if the clutch is defective and grenades through no fault of the driver, the owner still gets to pay. For some owners, this provides good incentive not to risk getting a manual.

  7. For the admittedly small group of people who care about driving, driver involvement is a *huge* factor.

    I own one of the few Volvos with manuals, an R MT. They’re fairly cheap, but they’re hard to find, especially compared to the automatic versions. Stop and go traffic in town is painful, especially the slow automatic creep forward at red lights. Stop and go traffic on the freeway can be infuriating. You can almost feel the dollars being abraded away from your clutch if you attempt to maintain a normal following distance to the car in front of you. After a while, you just get resigned to maintaining a larger distance and getting periodically cut off. Good luck changing the radio. Forget about that coffee in your cupholder.

    All that irritation goes away once you double clutch into second entering a chicane, hit the torque peak at the exit apex, slam into third, and leave other drivers wondering where the hell you went.

    The computer controlled approaches – DSG, Tiptronic, whatever – may be faster, but they don’t provide the same sense of connection that a manual does. A manual does exactly what you tell it to, even if that means blowing up your engine. Manuals are the ultimate direct interface, and as long as there are people who really like to drive, they’ll be around.

  8. Some cars are just meant to have a manual.

    I’m a big fan of the Mazda Miata, and I just can’t imagine that with an automatic.

    You know what I mean?

    Real car guys know exactly what I am talking about. A Miata with an AT is just not right.

  9. Eric,

    First, some full disclosure: I love my manual transmissions. Not just for all the usual reasons that you have shown to be disappearing, but for the base experience of handling a manual professionally. I like being able to start my car on a dead battery, I like being able to push and tow it easily. I like the control I have over my car.

    I read somewhere (I can’t find the link at the moment) that the rate of accidents/fatalities for drivers of MT-equipped passenger vehicles was significantly lower than that of drivers of AT-equipped passenger vehicles. The logical conclusion was that manual transmissions required the driver to be more active in the operation of the vehicle – as well as being more difficult to eat/text/apply makeup/other nonsense people do while driving.

    I won’t pretend that it impossible for MT drivers to fall into driving coma like so many Clovers. It certainly can become routine. However, shifting does require the drive to more actively participate than simply pushing a gas pedal.

    • Hi JP,

      I agree with you and others who’ve suggested that the widespread adoption of the automatic transmission is probably the single greatest contributor to the increase in Dimwit Driving. Arguably, people who are unable to master driving a manual-equipped car smoothly/competently lack the basic skills necessary to operate a car, period.

      • Dear Eric,

        “Arguably, people who are unable to master driving a manual-equipped car smoothly/competently lack the basic skills necessary to operate a car, period.”

        It’s conceivable that under a genuine private property system, the ability to drive a manual would be an integral part of competency tests for driving, period.

        • Hi Bevin!

          As it ought to be…

          I am “learnin'” a kid how to drive not only a manual transmission-equipped car but an old car with a manual! One convert at a time, eh?

          • Dear Eric,

            Yup. As the saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles… “.

            What “old car”, if you don’t mind my asking?

            A less powerful car will provide a greater test of the driver’s shifting skill, especially on freeway onramps.

            I remember how exciting merging into traffic already at speed could be with a 40 hp beetle!

                • Manual transmission enjoyment comes in all forms, for instance, coming into a wide sweeping curve on a limestone road while diving to the inside while gradually rolling into the throttle and reaching WOT midcurve while steering out as you catch the tractor and trailer both at their point of being in a straight line and spooling up that big 3406 Cat and letting it all slide to the edge as you exit into the straight and having it bite just right to grab that next gear as it all gains traction right at the edge so you can ride it hard down the straight.

                  God, what a feeling of power and exhilaration at the sound of the engine reaching maximum torque and horsepower, as the turbo brings it all into into an aural ecstasy and it all congeals into that seat of the pants feeling of being right at the edge and rocketing down the straight.

                  “Warning, don’t try this at home. This demonstration done on a closed course (public road you can see for the next mile)by a professional driver”. Yee Haw bad kitty, gitte up and go.

                  P.S. Don’t describe this to your other half.

                    • bevin, after making that run 20 times a day for weeks you just find it inevitable at some point.

                      You know how you get to Carnegie Hall?

                    • I used to love the Wide World of Sports because they had all kinds of crazy stuff and some fairly unbelievable driving.

                      You see a stunt man gearing up for a particular stunt and it’s just one thing he’s got to nail. A lot of ol country boys nailed it the first time cause they were that good.

                      I can recall exceptional drivers locally including my ex BIL and a guy in my class. The guy in my class was hanging out one night with everybody else and we had our hot rods all tuned up and had quit racing for the day/night. Paul has this 49 Merc with a huge Lincoln engine and a 4 speed that would haul the mail so to speak. He’s cruising along and sees a spot between a couple cars he wanted to be in so he spins that Merc and slides backward into it. Then everybody(fools, not me)starts ribbing him saying he couldn’t do that again in a million years. He said “put you money where your mouth is” and soon he’s off to do it again. Once again he spins it and slides backward right into that spot. That shut everybody’s mouth and hurt their wallet.

                      Long before the Dukes were doing derring do there were ol country boys who’d done all that long before and were no doubt the basis for that show…..only they didn’t get second chances with their rides.

                      I’m sure eric could curl your hair with some of his exploits but he’s a public figure and can’t tell about some of his feats.

                      The company I used to work for is 7 miles of backroads from my house. I’d get in from a long day and have a couple beers with the boss and then hit the road. I was driving a T 800 KW daycab at the time with a CPS belly dump trailer and the roads were really sandy. I’d drift that rig around those little curves just for grins and have sand all over the tanks and frame. Those were very low speed as opposed to that big left hand sweeper I’d drift in.

                      Probably you’d believe I used to love to drive on ice and spin my car doing 80 mph and catch it after 360 degrees or twice that and continue on down the road. Nobody ever refused to ride with me and there’d be people with me egging me to do it again…..and it didn’t take much. My oldest sister used to like to go for an early Sunday morning ride out on a farm road with lots of high speed curves. I’d open the dumps and we’d be off to the races…so to speak. And now and again it turned into the races we’d have 100 people at before somebody narced to the DPS and they’d show up. They couldn’t arrest people since there’d be mama’s and daddy’s sitting there along with the kids.

                    • “Probably you’d believe I used to love to drive on ice and spin my car doing 80 mph and catch it after 360 degrees or twice that and continue on down the road. ”

                      It’s not that I doubt you. I don’t.

                      It’s merely that the feats boggle my mind.

                      I’d be dead if I tried anything like that.

  10. Eric, Clearly, you have captured the attention of some entities on the “other side.” My guess is that the seventh post in this string was written by one. I think that even your most “passionate” (to use a charitable description) regular ranters have enough smarts to avoid online advocacy of such specific acts of political violence.

    Your call…”free speech” and all that. But it’s troubling to see a false flag poster speaking, by inference, for your site and other posters.

  11. I drive a 2007 Mini Cooper (standard – not the turbocharged or supercharged version) with a six speed manual transmission. I remember having it at the car wash a while back the same time another gentleman in his 60’s was having his Veloster done. I complimented him on his ride and inquired as to the transmission: he replied something to the effect of “I love it; it’s a six speed manual. My kids can’t drive it”.
    My kids can’t drive my Mini either. I love it!

  12. Hi Eric, I enjoy reading your blog, thanks for submitting to

    I have a 2013 Nissan Versa with a 5 speed. If I drive it easy, I average 42 MPG. Driving it like I stole it nets me about 40MPG. I commute daily in the car, in fact that’s why I bought it.

    The traditional 4 Speed AT only gets 35 MPG. Only the CVT model is rated at 40MPG. The sticker of the CVT is $14,580, while the MT is only $12,780.

    Try finding a CVT on a lot that doesn’t have a bunch of other features tacked on, you’ll never see it for the $14.5k sticker. The MT is ACTUALLY available in the base model, I picked mine up early last year for $11.2k out the door (yes, tax, tags, title, processing).

    I’m convinced that the only reason the MT exists is because it’s used as a marketing ploy to get people to buy the over priced CVT’s. As long as this rings true, I think we’ll see MT’s for years to come.

    I also do the DC grind every day in my car from NOVA. I’m just used to it, doesn’t bother me a bit. It’s just as bad in an automatic, at least the MT let’s me lane jump to get around someone.

  13. NO!

    I remember the joy of REAL CONTROL over my machine, how I could coast down a decline and into a curve with the rpm just-so… and then lug it a little for some extra mileage…

    Or I could put it into THAT gear so that the engine would scream and the car would come out of the curve like a bullet from a gun and drifting – and yet in perfect control.

    No. I will not totally surrender that to an algorithm with an “optimum shifting solution”.

    The computer and the hydrolics may know better than I HOW to shift.

    But they will never know better WHEN to shift, for that choice, like the choice of a fiery tigress or a gentle lover, is a choice best made with the heart rather than the head, and is as totally beyond the engineer’s ability to forecast as is next Friday night’s choice of Mexican food, Asian food, or barbeque.

    No, they can tell you how to drive, and THAT you will drive, but they cannot tell you WHY to drive, that choice is yours alone is yours alone.

    • My god El Gordo, you just described it perfectly.

      Not only do I drive in those 2 modes, at the extreme..and anywhere in between those extremes depending on my mood, as I interpret you do also and that is the joy of driving, the ability to go for milage or performance or whatever strikes you at the moment…..well said!

  14. You make an excellent point Eric, the elites will continue to have their 20 year old trade in wives and their manual transmissions. I see both all the time cruising downtown Aspen. The funny thing is, most of those Viagra addicts don’t know how to use either of them!

    Seriously, though, the modern DSG is no replacement for a decent manual/clutch transmission. The two big problems are not knowing what gear you’re in without looking and the lack of neutral. On a regular stick, you know what gear you’re in because the shifter is right where you left it. Your hand is how you know what gear you’re in. If you want to “take control” of what gear you’re in manually you can, but you only get a +/- shift, much like a joystick. Once you shift the lever goes back to the center position. There’s no feel to what gear you’re in, so you have to look at the dash (although you can get a good idea of where you are based on speed and engine sound too). The other problem, which is extremely aggravating to me, is that the transmission (at least VW’s DSG/S-tronic) never goes into neutral. This makes the car get a little herky-jerky when slowing down to a red light, for example. Yes, you can shift to neutral, but if you’re in manual mode (shift into drive, then move the shift knob to the right) you have to move back to drive, push the shift-lock button, then move to neutral. Not a natural move in any way, and it’s extremely easy to overshoot the N and throw it into reverse(!). Clearly the engineers wanted you to pick mode and keep it there. You also can’t start in anything other than 1st gear, which on my TDI is extremely short, and it often will downshift automatically even in manual mode to keep the engine from lugging (which, if neutral were a possibility would accomplish the same thing).

    However, “sport” mode makes up for 99% of the problems with manual mode. I think it’s basically what the engineers wanted, with D just there to make the DOT happy. It really changes the car’s behavior for the better.

    • Of course the DSG was invited for F1 racing. It always seemed nothing of value when not racing….for me anyway.

      How many people who buy a car so equipped actually use it? I’m guessing not even a tiny percent.

      But using a stick can and should be for adapting to need, mood or condition.

      My grandfather taught me to use 2nd and a slipping clutch to start in slick conditions. Owners manuals used to encourage this very thing for those conditions.

      Now I’m guessing they have no such advice. Not that long ago vehicles such as Broncos and Blazers had a second gear start mode for very slick conditions.

      Even if people could read their owners manual now I doubt they would and even if they could and would I doubt they’d understand the concept.

      No, pubic skools have reached their goals of ignorance abundant.

      How many people now would even note the absence of an owner’s manual?

  15. Gee, Eric, I never thought about it: the absolute trustworthiness of media, yours included, in forming way-of-life judgments about what I drive and how I live. An interesting blog, indeed, but believable? I don’t think so.

    I am an urbanite born “Yuppie” who does not adhere to the Yuppie world view.
    I have been farming in a remote region of the Great White North for ten years now.
    I have discovered that the “Trustworthiness Quotient” is more important to me than what commercial propaganda tries to sell me.

    When a mechanic installed a new fuel pump in my 2002 F-250 “manual” truck and damaged my brake lines, I drove the truck home braking with the 5-speed transmission. When I routinely drive country roads in difficult weather or plow my farm-access roads, there is nothing like a manual transmission to give you the comforting feeling of control on the road.

    Caveat Emptor BIG TIME…. Choose as you will, but don’t become an overripe tomato eating, breathing , taking up space and not “exercising” that fantastic muscle God planted in your noggin–the brain.

  16. In 50 plus years, I’ve had several AT repaired/rebuilt and never had a MT repaired. I did have to replace the clutch on an Alfa once, but that was it.
    If you plan on keeping the vehicle — then MT is the better investment.
    MPG is in the drivers control. Don’t use the clutch as a brake — slip it into neutral and ride the brake to the stop. I’ve never had an AT that got better mpg than an equivalent MT

    • I’ve had the same experience, Doug.

      I’ve owned a lot of vehicles over the years – and never had a MT fail. But I’ve killed several automatics!

  17. It will be sad to see MTs go. My 2000 Toyota Echo reached 485,000 miles before the MT had to be overhauled (which only cost $1800). I don’t know of any AT transmission that could have made it to that mileage and get 40+ mpg to boot. Simply put there is no transmission more economical, reliable or durable than MTs.

  18. Thus morning I wrote a comment to Eric’s column “Moore’s Law as Applied to Cars”, dated @ Feb 17, 2012. The comment should have been to today’s column.

    • Here’s my comment.

      Manual vs automatic. I second what BrentP says (or has said). As a driver, I want to be in control. As a libertarian, I will shift when I want to, not when some federal mandate determines. If I want to go 60 MPH in first gear, that’s up to me.

      I live in Denver and drive in the mountains. Going downhill, I don’t want to have to rely only on brakes to slow me down I want two methods. Brakes get hot with constant use. It is scary to think of descending Independence Pass with an automatic, especially since there are no guard rails (so snow plows can just push the snow over the edge, rather than lift and dump).

  19. Clearly a manual tranny is simpler than an auto. Is simpler better? Depends. In many cases (maybe most) they’re more efficient and easier to drive. I’d definitely want a car with AT if my usual driving was in stop-and-go traffic. Mine isn’t. I can actually “drive” to work 12 mile and only have to stop for several traffic lights. And you can’t “push start” a car with AT. If your $60,000 Mercedes doesn’t start because some electronic gizmo failed or malfunctioned, or even just the battery went dead, you’re pretty well screwed, and it will cost you $$$ to get running again. Not so if you’re an old timer and your car has a manual transmission.

    • I’ll date myself. Back in the day you could put a Powerglide in low and push start it. Only automatic I ever knew you could

  20. Eric, I live in Montana and don’t have your problem. With my old Jeep with manual transmission I can do things an automatic can’t… I can control gear selection by downshifting in advance of a downhill grade on a 4X4 Jeep trail. Automatics can’t see that coming. I can see an upcoming hill, speed up and downshift to keep the momentum and torque going up the hill. I have a cabin at 8500 feet which can be accessed only by four wheel drive up 10 switchbacks. I have yet to see an automatic which has a clue as how to shift through this. With an automatic I have to be constantly on guard for it’s clueless shift selections and I have to fight against it and constantly override it. Automatics actually endanger my safety when they speed up unexpectedly on a downhill (or flat) in advance of an upcoming turn over a precipice.

    They may stop selling new cars with manual transmissions, but I’ll never stop driving them. I can afford to by lots of new cars but I refuse, I’ll take a classic with simpler mechanics every day. For the price of one new vehicle I can buy and maintain 3 or 4 classics. I’ll never need a rental while one is in the shop so I can deal with the inevitability of mechanical failure better.

    I’m thinking it is more patriotic to buy used vehicles, not new. Eschew your big government co-opted big auto manufacturers and support the smaller manufacturers and mechanics who make the parts and provide support for the classics.

  21. Re: better gas mileage for ATs, some of the sports cars use lower gearing for the MT in order to lower acceleration times. My BRZ, for example, has the following gearing with each transmission:

    ____AT ___MT __# differenc _% difference
    1 _3.626 __3.538 __0.088 ____2%
    2 _2.188 __2.06 ___0.128 ____6%
    3 _1.541 __1.404 __0.137 ____10%
    4 _1.213 __1 ______0.213 ____21%
    5 _1 ______0.713 __0.287 ____40%
    6 _0.767 __0.582 __0.185 ____32%
    R _3.437 __3.168 __0.269 ____8%

    Even with the lower gearing of the manual, I recently averaged 34.5 mpg in my MT driving 65 miles on a mix of interstate and 55mph roads. In town I average in the 27-28 range… and I’m not exactly babying it. I can’t imagine what the AT would get, but then again, I don’t want the AT. The BRZ has wonderful handling, but at 200 hp, it’s hardly a muscle car. 0-60 times are more than a second slower in the AT – which sort of kills the idea of a sports car.

    Of course, I’ve never owned an AT, so even if the AT had the same 0-60, I wouldn’t have bought it. Too complicated, too expensive, etc…

  22. Re: Maintenance. Assuming you don’t have a failure, the clutch is a wearout item, whereas the AT is not. (I equate the torque converter with the clutch). I change my AT fluid every 50k or so and that has treated me well. My two automatics are Fords (E-150 & Explorer) so I also drain the torque converter.

    Just checked out a ’14 Nissan Rogue Select with a CVT and gotta say it drove differently, but perfectly fine. It is totally designed for mpg’s. (Towing ratings on CVT’s are very low…) However, I think the jury is still out on CVT longevity. (IMHO)

    Certain cars *must* have MT: Basically any 4wd truck, Subaru’s, BMW’s, VW’s, Audis, muscle cars & sports cars

    • Clutches are designed for a specific load and swept area determines the size. There comes a point at which single units will be too large in diameter to fit behind the engine and inside the bellhousing. Truck tractors and farm tractors reached that point long ago as did race cars.

      Automatic gear changes via various means have become more popular in road tractors with many owners even adding it to conventional gearboxes.

      Some change and have no problems while others are plagued with problems and some even return to the manual mode.

      Automatic transmissions are becoming more popular in big trucks even though they’ve been around since the 60s although mainly in Class 5 to Class 7.

      Many OTR carriers have ever larger fleets of ATs but they’re nearly non-existent in HD trucks.

      Light trucks now offer No manuals in their diesels and haven’t for years. Not sure why manual manufacturers haven’t tried to stay up with current torque levels of new light trucks but it may be a packaging problem or clutch problems. While manual transmissions in light trucks were still available the engines were detuned from the AT trucks. Clutches were not holding up long even in dual mass mode when torque levels were half what they now are. The current crop of pickup diesels make over 900 lb. ft. of torque and that’s getting into big truck territory.

  23. MT has become the best anti-theft device they put in cars. No electronics to mess up and no false alarms waking the neighbors.

    • Even in the 60s I found a method of linkage adjustment to foil thieves. I adjusted the linkage so when leaving it in reverse simply chaining to first had both gears engaged simultaneously.

      To get into 1st gear the shifter had to be pulled backward from reverse into the position where there was no gear.

      Someone in a hurry going back and forth between the two would be quickly frustrated.

  24. Sigh. It took me a lot of looking to find my ’98 Civic with manual trans. The thought of having to operate auto trans in the future leaves me feeling depressed even though auto trans may be the better way to go.

    Eventually, as Eric points out, our vehicles will drive us, we won’t drive them. If we’re permitted to have vehicles.

  25. Manual transmissions did have one advantage: they kept you focused on driving. With standard transmissions, fancy stereo systems, A/C and rolled-up windows, drivers have a tendency to drift off into their own little world and cease paying attention to what is going on on the highway.

  26. I’m now training my youngest to drive, and in a car with a manual. Yes, it makes the learning harder, but it seems to me that everyone should know how to drive a clutch. My father-in-law wouldn’t let his daughters get their licenses until they knew how to use an MT, and I’m of the same mind.

    It’s yet another little nail in the coffin of my struggle against bonehead modernities to see the stickshift go the way of the dodo.

  27. My Australian Ford Ranger is an auto.

    I was originally trying to get manual, partly as the earlier Rangers were known for their slipping gearboxes. Now that I have an auto I’m glad I got it. On a (very) recent 400 mile trip it worked flawlessly – and I love how the only “work” I had to do was occasionally flip off the overdrive for some of the hills.

    It’s in traffic it really shines though, as Eric points out.

    But all this talk of repair costs? Every manual I’ve ever had apart from one, which I hated and didn’t keep long enough, I’ve had to replace the clutch sooner or later.

    And they aint cheap! Even if it’s just the thrust bearing rattling and rumbling, the whole thing has to come out and the car is in the shop for a day or two.

    In contrast, I’ve had.. lemme think… at least 8 or 9 automatics and I’ve not once, not ever, had to have any repairs on the gearboxes. Never, ever.

    I’m not saying they never go wrong, just saying it’s relatively rare. Clutches on the other hand are like tyres; designed to be replaced on a regular basis.

    • You’re a better man than I. I’ve never had an AT go more than 150,000 miles without serious maintenance. My mechanic brother told me that ‘s because no one changes his AT fluid regularly, and he’s probably partly right. But how many people change their MT fluid on schedule, if ever?

      My Geo Metro, which was the best car I ever owned, went 185,000 miles before its first clutch change. It was “adult driven” at the time of course, as it needed another clutch in 90,000 miles when my teen-aged son started driving. Thing was, even the clutch replacements weren’t that expensive, and peanuts compared to repairing or replacing a modern AT.

  28. The only downside I feel an automatic transmission has over a manual is that downshifting isn’t as efficient as it could be. However last time I looked automatics now come with sport shifting – clutchless manual gear-shifting.

    On the other hand, 35.5mpg, that’s 6.63l/100 km – the efficiency of a 2.0l, 4-cylinder car. I guess this mean soon the era of turbo-charged 4-cylinder cars will arrive.

  29. Any thoughts on AT/MT in snowy/slippery conditions?

    Growing up in WI & living in NE Ohio most of my life I think AT’s are much
    better in snow or slippery conditions. The inherent slop in the torque converter
    lets the (RWD) wheels stay in contact with the road, while the engine speed can
    vary slightly. With a MT the engine is always going slightly too fast or too
    slow and the wheels are always slipping. I had a (RWD) 78 Mustang II with MT and
    no weight in the rear end that was almost completely useless in snow. Plus
    touching the brakes at the wrong time locks up the wheels, the engine conks out,
    and you have no power steering or brakes.

    My Dad’s 5s 99 Boxster is a gas to drive, but you gotta be nuts to drive a car like that in winter 🙂

    • Snow is about tires, tires, and well tires, but an MT gives the driver more control, and if one wants to disconnect the engine from the trans, it’s just a move of the left foot away.

    • Around here in the north country, people fry their ATs all the time when they’re stuck in snow. I suppose one could cook his clutch or something if he really tried to trying to get unstuck, but I’ve never heard of it happening.

      It’s also amusing to hear of folks with their ATs pulling heavy loads, diddling with ATF coolers, AT temperature gauges, shift kits and Lord knows what else, just because they’re too lazy to use a manual.

    • When stuck in snow, I much prefer MT. You can “rock” it much better without worrying about killing the transmission by shifting back and forth between 1st and reverse. You get it going in one direction, hit the clutch, shift in the other direction and when you reach the end of your travel in the first direction, let it roll back and then slowly let the clutch out. Much more effective rocking than with an AT.

      Another important benefit of MT is that if your battery dies, you can push-start it. If you know that your car’s battery is bad and you can’t afford $100 for a new one, just park on a hill. It may not work in town, but it sure does in the country. The only reason I voluntarily would have AT is the fact that my wife cannot drive MT and hates driving in general so much that she will not learn.

      • Actually you can push-start many early automatics as they had a rear pump. You did have to get the car rolling at about 25 mph though to get it to work.

      • My wife can drive MT but since her shattered ankle it’s a drag for her.

        Buying a MT diesel pickup was my answer to keeping her from driving my pickup.

        She’s a slob in a vehicle and I can drive a work truck every day and the interior stays spotless except in conditions of muddy feet. No wrappers or empty cans or bottles nor what drains out of them.

        No mysterious scrapes and scratches nor mechanical problems I never have.

        She cussed my MT diesel cause it wouldn’t start simply because she didn’t get the clutch pedal pushed far enough down.

        She called one day and said my damned old diesel wouldn’t start….nobody could get it to do anything. Hold what you got and don’t let another person in it, I’ll be right there. 30 miles later arriving in her car and told her to get in it and go. She wanted to stay, ostensibly in case I needed help. I just wanted to avoid another fit from her so I cranked it up and left her sitting in a place not as easily left since I left over a big tall curb and sidewalk. I then drove to a friend’s house after grabbing a case of beer and we got right at the kitchen table with our pals, The Doobie Brothers.

        Later at home she’d chilled a bit but still in a huff mode and made me wish we’d stayed with the program a while longer.

        BTW, I intend to have another MT diesel pickup and possibly 2. I don’t care that the new ones have twice as much power.

        • Diesels make so much sense, I can’t think of any rational justification to force them out of the market.

          I’m blown away by the durability of a good diesel engine, not to mention its ability to burn all sorts of inferior low octane fuel, even leftover cooking oil.

          One would think that ecology minded people would be all for diesels, instead of poormouthing them.

          • My old 6.5 Turbo once ran fine with no ill effects on transmission fluid, Rotella T and gasoline due to a green nozzle indicating diesel and dispensing gas. It wanted to run hot but I kept the load down. Once I had it most of it out(I had already run the gasoline out but was dealing with the stuff that wouldn’t pump and clear the tank)I filled it with diesel and ran that for a while and then refilled it with diesel to no drama. The wind was blowing too hard for me to smell the gas. I was pissed but there was nothing else to do

  30. An automotive engineer may be able to correct me, but I believe there is an intrinsic MPG penalty due simply to the utilization of a torque converter in an AT. Not sure about the newer ATs with constant velocity. It just “seems intuitive” that a skilled driver with MT and clutch would be able to achieve higher MPG overall – even though the CAFE figures belie that – “lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

    • Hi DR,

      Most modern automatics have lock-up torque converters, which does what it sounds like: The transmission is now directly connected (mechanically) to the engine, which greatly reduces efficiency losses by eliminating slippage through a hydraulic connection. But, the lock-up only works part-time (e.g., steady state cruising). The modern automatic is more efficient than most manuals because its gear changes are optimal (and consistently optimal) and also because – with the latest ones – of the advantages of having eight or nine forward speeds vs. the typical 5-6 in a manual.

      • Eric,

        Yes, at this point most if not all automatic tranmissions that use a torque converter have a lockup converter. However this is not really a recent feature. The Packard Ultramatic Drive that was introduced in 1949 was equipped with a lockupup converter.

        • Hi Jason,

          Yup! Same with overdrive; it was available a long time ago.

          But, lock-up converters didn’t become common until the ’80s; same with overdrive automatics. I put a modern OD automatic (with lock-up) in my ’76 Trans-Am and it literally transformed the car. Mileage is now not terrible (high teens, which is decent for a two-ton muscle car with a 7.4 liter V-8) and it’s both quick and long-legged on the highway. In overdrive fourth, it trundles along at about 2,200 RPM at 70 – just like a modern car – even with 3.90 gears in the pumpkin!

      • No sale, Eric. They may well be a great convenience and very nice to drive for some. I still can’t afford it.

        Break out the maintenance and repair costs. Those have to figure into the “efficiency” as far as I’m concerned. I’ve not had to put a penny into the manual transmission of my Saturn (and have had zero problems with it). How much would it have cost me to maintain an automatic over the last 13 years, even if it had always performed perfectly?

        One of these days someone will come up with a transportation device with actual “plug in” components that won’t require a contortionist and a home equity loan to replace… until then, the more complex and interconnected things are, the more expensive they are and the more limiting in application, especially outside an ideal environment.

        • Oh, I agree!

          I prefer manuals – irrespective of the efficiency advantages of a modern automatic – in part because it’s more enjoyable to drive a manual car (assuming you can drive – as opposed to sitting in traffic) and also because (as you’ve noted) the replacement cost of modern automatics can be enough to flat-line a guy.

          You can still buy a performance-built TH350 or TH400 (GM’s non-overdrive automatics from the ’60s & ’70s) for about $700. Many modern OD (and electronic control) automatics will cost you $3 or $4k to replace.

          • No traffic here, Eric. Just thousands of miles of open road and beautiful landscape. You’d love it. 🙂 “Speed limit” on the interstate here now is 80 MPH. Some people even go that slow. 🙂 But there are very few “clovers” here – very few anybody on the major highways, so the only real slowdown happens on the side roads sometimes where you might encounter a logging truck or a herd of cattle. Or deer, antelope, elk, or even moose. We do slow down for them. I prefer a clean shot instead of road kill. 🙂

      • I’ve mentioned the Constantinesco mechanical torque converter of the 1920s before. That didn’t have any slippage problems, and its sprags (the weak point, as they got continually engaged and disengaged) would hold up better with modern methods (V groove thrust surfaces and sprag profiles that allow shallower, lower force impacts) and materials (metal fatigue resistant alloys like phosphor bronze). In fact, I think you could get a pretty good transmission just with one of those followed by a Ford model T style pedal operated epicyclic gearbox (accelerator and brake as per usual, a leftmost pedal for reverse and another left pedal for low range, interlocked to prevent simultaneous selection, with no left pedal selection giving high range).

        For technical reasons, no automatic can give truly 100% optimal gear changing without a completely, impossibly perfect prediction system. Roughly and untechnically speaking, that’s because change ups have to be set at slightly different trigger points to change downs, or else “hunting” happens as the selection jitters up and down when you stay near the change point – but if you have the trigger points set far enough apart to prevent that, at least one and usually both will be sub-optimal. Continuously variable transmissions face different issues, but they don’t get this one because gear changing doesn’t arise.

      • And this is only where Auto’s shine. For a performance application a traditional hydraulic planetary gear automatic transmission is a failure. It will never downshift as smoothly, or offer the same chassis control as a manual or dual clutch transmission. And while dual clutch transmissions have exceeded the capabilities of a manual transmission their cost for a high performance DCT is insane. Cost of repair is equally insane. Rebuild of a typical 5-6spd manual transmission is between $500-1000. Cost of rebuilding a dual clutch transmission? Closer to $5000.

        Give me the manual any day of the week. Stronger, more reliable, simpler to fix.

        I bought a 2013 Focus ST, I paid about $25k for a car that doesn’t even offer an automatic transmission and I’m HAPPY about that.

    • Yes there are losses from the torque convertor. However the computer software that controls the transmission is written for the CAFE test and possibly the sticker fuel economy test. Real life is something very different.

  31. Maybe the sole remaining reason — besides driver involvement — justifying a MT is that they are so much cheaper to repair (and initially buy). I know this after receiving estimates of $4,000-6,000 to replace the AT on my wife’s Volvo V70 station wagon, which had 165K miles on the odometer. My guess is that the AT went TU so early because we have lots of hills where we live, which are traversed at neighborhood — and not highway — speeds, along with many stop signs.

    • Right on the money. My five-speed Forester not only is faster than its later CVT successors, the trans will be far cheaper to fix (if it ever needs fixing) and far cheaper to maintain. The difference in trans lube change between the stickshift and the automatic (don’t know about the CVT, but I’ll wager it isn’t cheap) is about a cool $120 or so at the dealer. Figure 5-7 changes over the life of the car (recommended) and you’re talking real cash.

  32. I think that a MT can be designed to be more fuel efficient than an AT.

    I have often seen the final drive ratio of an AT to be taller than the final drive ratio of MT.
    Toyota Camary

    Honda 2006 Civic
    Manual (4.294 FD)
    1st- 3.143 / 13.50 overall
    2nd- 1.870 / 8.03 overall
    3rd- 1.235 / 5.30 overall
    4th- .949 / 4.07 overall
    5th- .727 / 3.12 overall
    Automatic (4.437 FD)
    1st- 2.666 / 11.83 overall
    2nd- 1.534 / 6.81 overall
    3rd- 1.022 / 4.53 overall
    4th- .721 / 3.20 overall
    5th- .525 / 2.33 overall
    I think the taller top gear would have some effect for the mpg of some AT being better than some MT.

    The only place that an AT shines over MT is in bumper-bumper traffic. Unless someone drives in a large metro area, most people do not drive often (less than 5%) in bumper-bumper traffic.

    • I don’t know about that. Being in Houston, TX, I would suspect that bumper to bumper number to be around 20%+. If you try and take an alternate route around the hideous traffic on I-10 or US 290, you will invariably be stuck in endless red lights and some of the worst traffic management in the industrialized or post-industrialized world. Our red lights last forever and you often get caught through 2 cycles of red lights before you are alowed to proceed through intersections. In Houston, there are NO right turn lanes to speak of, although there are plenty of protected left turns.

      The bottom line, it is a very hostile environment for someone who wants to shift himself.

      The only manual equipped cars that I would consider for a daily driver in this environment are the VW Jetta GLI or the BMW 3 series. Something with an easy, seamless clutch and a 6 speed transmission. 5 speeds are outmoded in today’s environment. So are econoboxes that can’t accelerate faster than 8 seconds to 60.

      Thank the Democrats and the Republicans for this crap.

      • Swamprat,

        I just pulled the number from thin air. 😉

        Besides, I would consider Houston as a large metro area.

        I have driven in NYC with a MT and even in bumper-bumper traffic the MT was not that bad. The other idiots that pose as drivers are another issue. 😉

  33. I’ve had a few automatic transmissions, and hated every one of them. I drove my sister’s new car three years ago, with the AT, and I hated that too.

    Even in thick So. Calif. traffic, for all those years and all those miles, the clutch and shift part of the drive was not the worst of the experience, by any means. The wasted time, smog, discourteous people, and sore back were the greater part of my decision to stop that kind of driving. Adding an automatic transmission would not have helped much at all.

    Here’s hoping my old 2002 Saturn with MT will last the rest of my driving life. I get 36 MPG, and drive very carefully, so it’s a possibility. Just went to get auto insurance from a different company and the lady was flabbergasted to learn that I have had one “ticket” and one accident (my son wrecked the car) in the 53 years I’ve been driving.

    So no, I don’t see that the automatic transmission is that great a deal. But we will have to live with it, I suppose.

    • Dear ML,

      “the clutch and shift part of the drive was not the worst of the experience, by any means. The wasted time, smog… were the greater part of my decision to stop that kind of driving. Adding an automatic transmission would not have helped much at all.

      So no, I don’t see that the automatic transmission is that great a deal. But we will have to live with it, I suppose.”

      That has been my own experience as well.

    • My 97 Saturn SL1 with 5-speed is still going strong with a little over 200k miles on it.

      It still gets between 28-38 MPG, depending on when I had my last oil change mostly.

      Bought it for $3500 cash in 2001 and haven’t spent more than $300 in any given year on repairs.

      I pray everyday won’t be the last day for my beloved Saturn.

  34. I had the same experience when I lived in NOVA twenty-odd years ago. Swore I’d never buy another MT! But, since moving into the (colder!) mountains, and not having to deal with bumper-logged traffic, I’ve found that MTs are just fine again. It’s interesting that the newest ATs seem to be delivering better gas mileage, but, pardon the pun, “your mileage may vary.” It all comes down to the WAY you drive. And CAFE standards are based on set, prescribed routine of distances, speeds, and driving styles. One style fits all. Problem is it does until it doesn’t.

    Case in point: my much beloved Priuses (I have two now, yeah, I know.) There is so much real time feedback available in the control department (instantaneous mileage, status of regenerative braking and battery interface, etc.) that you CAN’T HELP but learn to “drive for mileage,” or “hyper-mile,” as the Prius enthusiast community terms it. Now, I know what everyone here is thinking: “DR must be a CLOVER!” But, let me assure, I try not to hold anyone up when I hyper-mile, which is most of the time in the Prius.

    Simply put, the Prius educates one about their driving style. Here’s a good anecdotal example. My son drives my 2010 Prius. When he comes home from college, I go over his vehicle a bit, ride with him, check things out. He invariably seems to be averaging around 48 MPH long term. The way he drives, I’m not surprised. I, otoh, average low fifties, year round, and near 60 in the summer. It’s all driving style.

    Driving the Prius, you see the INSTANTANEOUS penalty for racing up to a stoplight that’s obviously going to be red, then having to BRAKE away the unneeded speed/momentum. Like a twenty-year old “instinctively” drives (I did too, and still do when I’m driving for performance.) Other examples abound, and the vehicle itself, due to its superior design with regen. braking, Atkinson cycle engine, etc., is the instructor. But you have to pay attention to the lessons, or care about them.

    This has bled over into my overall driving style with my other vehicles, and I’ve noticed MPG creeping up in all of them. So… long story short, I suspect I’ll continue to do better with MT on my girl’s 4 cylinder VUE with MT, that many would with their ATs, simply because I’ve learned how to drive for mileage. My big old land yacht does better because I’ve adopted a thinking, driving, style, as well.

    • Efficiency, standardized, programmed, integrated, these are all words of the technocracy. What’s missing is the word Fun. MTs are fun, imho. Driving a 5 speed is second nature and as much a part of me as instinctive shooting. Must everything conform to this technocratic vision of funless Hell?

    • DR, I can get better mileage out of most anything that who ever normally drives it and it’s because I don’t do the tear off and slam the brakes thing. On the highway when I’m in Tx. there isn’t much way to really save a “great deal” of fuel although you can by keeping tire pressures proper, not jumping full throttle into returning to speed, etc. I’m sure you know all the tricks. I learned this from driving trucks. Seems like my brakes last years longer than anyone else I know. Look down there at that signal light and it’s easy to tell where it will be in a cycle by the speed you’re driving so slow down and let it go through one so you’ll be there when it turns green. I’ve driven trucks hundreds of miles not being able to use the clutch because of parts failure in the system. It’s not easy but certainly not impossible to never stop for several hundred miles. The real limiting factor was my bladder.

      EPA tests are a bunch of bull anyway. They have the vehicle tied down and the rear wheels turning(or the fronts on FWD), big fans blowing cold air to the engine. That takes headwind, crosswind, sidewind and many other factors(bumps, dips)out of the equation and allows the companies to show numbers that not real world indicative of anything. As you know, you can best their mileage or get much worse.

  35. I would also say that I miss my 5 – 6 speed manual, especially in a full size truck. A full size 1/2 ton, 3/4 ton 1 ton 4×4 should have a manual transmission IMO.

    • When I bought my F350 long, long ago I test drove the manual in Denver. With a diesel and a red line of just over 3500rpm and a six-speed in city driving it was damn near impossible. On the Cooper S I wouldn’t have it any other way. But there’s a huge difference between having to shift 3-4 times on the way to 35mph and not at all.

      • Keith, why all the shifting? I normally start(not trailer pulling)in 1st and if it’s uphill maybe into 2nd and then it’s OD. Diesel don’t care when it’s not loaded. At least my Chevy doesn’t. Cummins are even sweeter in that respect. Start in 1st or 2nd, shift to OD, no fuss no muss.

  36. “Did you know that every full-size truck on the market right now is automatic-only? ”

    Sorry, Eric, you are wrong. The Ram still offers a manual on the 2500 and 3500 heavy duty trucks. For 2014 anyway, who knows if it will still be available on the 2015 models.

  37. The problem of stop and go being so painful to MT drivers is because of the dominance of the AT. I experienced traffic jams in northern Germany where MTs dominated and they were not the painful experiences here at home. In one traffic jam everyone just stopped, shut their cars off, got out and enjoyed the June late afternoon/evening. Right there on the autobahn. When whatever caused the jam up had been cleared everyone got back in their cars and we were doing 100mph again.

    The AT reduces the cost to the driver of the the battle over small gains in traffic jams. It reduces the cost of not being smooth. It reduces these costs to zero. Thus the effect is the horrid traffic we have here in the USA. Then more people get AT cars.

    But now the “practical” argument. The AT has pulled ahead because it is computer controlled. That is it is controlled by the manufacturers who programmed it for government. Case in point, the Ford F150, customers complain because of how it shifts. It won’t accelerate or drive the way they want it to because it has been programmed to get fuel economy, not performance. It’s programmed for the government tests. Automakers do this with MTs with skip shifts which are usually disabled by the car owners, or in the case of my car I just go from 1st to 3rd when the computer tries to make me go from 1st to 4th.

    Simply put there’s no good way for master to tell us how we drive our cars with an MT.

    The automatic transmission is the root of automotive evil. I often say it jokingly, but it is true. Without it most of our driving problems go away or are diminished.

    • All true, Brent… but just as cRap “music” has regressed music, there’s no fighting this… the battle’s over.

      We lost.

      • It would be helpful if we actually SHOWED UP to the battle once or twice.
        AT / MT; 2nd A; 4th A; 5th A; Bundy ranch; etc.

        Problem is, since we’re NOT Tax parasites, WE need to work – and if we don’t work, we starve.
        The c*nts who make the noise, mostly Liberal Demoncraps, Communists, Socialist, and all other manner of “Progressives” – they’re on part-time jobs, if they even have a job – so they make LOTS of noise.

        One or two of us should go make a lot of noise, too. Should keep a tally, like “headshot”, “headshot”, “headshot”, “headshot”, “headshot”, “headshot”, “headshot” …

        And having thinned the herd, bug out.
        Napalm works well, too, and could probably be delivered by RC aircraft…

        It’s r/K breeding form. We are the high-end types, who would be predators (normally), and educate the young, take care of them, have a family system.
        The other side is the Breeders, who pretty much stop at “Impregnate a female.” We’ve allowed the mice to win. They outnumber us, hundreds to one.

        I believe that there is no replacement for a human life. I’m just past the point of CARING. The valuable lives? They have value in the eyes of God, sure.
        But since the dawn of modern medicine, and better (?) nutrition, and more regular distribution of food, and reduction of costs through automation, we’ve allowed the shallow end of the gene pool to grow exponentially. The average American is borderline retard. God may see a value; any more, I see a liability.
        Flush ’em. They’ll grow back.

        And with one “volunteer” per manufactured event, it could REALLY be an issue: different towns, different events, different MOs, different minds, to throw off the profilers.
        Burn the heads off the hydra whenever you can, wherever you can.

        Then there are “accidents” to consider too. I commute with a bunch of maggots, they have brains of tapioca… though that might be insulting the tapioca. Government thieves + subway train = red jell-o + freedom, one body at a time.
        Yes, I’ve bandied about the thoughts in my mind. But it gets harder and harder to listen the shmucks fellate the government, and the current administration… and they even put down the Chimp, who set us firmly on this course! They REALLY ARE that stupid, venal, and worthless.
        Like ants.

        Treat them that way. MOW the clovers. Mulch them.
        History will clean up the details…

        • Jean,

          Breed them out. If you’re awake and aware then you have a duty to raise children, properly brought up. When society falls apart I want as many like minded individuals at hand as I can get. What you’re talking about is only going to put a target on us, even if it’s only frustration being vented. Keep your eyes open and wait for the time to present itself.

          • Hi Guy,

            I agree. And I now regret not having had a kid. For the reasons you lost as well as others (who am I going to will my collection of bikes, my tools and muscle car to?)

          • r/K selection theory indicates we cannot breed them out. 🙁

            I noticed almost 20 years ago that the GOOD (well written, complex) shows on TV (Lowest common denominator market, but still) were destined to go off the airwaves fast.
            Cheap, poorly written, formulaic stuff that was all fluff? THAT stayed for YEARS. (Law and Order, for example, and the ever-worse spinoffs). The writing was OK, but it mis-taught us Lots of “law”. And CSI, for example – the original was decent (science) but the spin-offs? Great dramas, in some ways – LOUSY in others. For example, CSI:Miami has a lead who is a cold-blooded murderer… Soulless ginger. Should be executed for murder… But he’s the HNIC, so no one even dares question.

            Sometimes nature needs some selective pressure. The REAL problem for me is, how do we “select” targets? I could kill a thousand clovers, say; does it matter? Change anything? NO! It’s just murder, for the sake of murder – pointless and evil. Killing the clovers, as lovely as it seems, is the long, hard, self-destructive, nihilistic road.
            For the long run, we need to just de-incentivize the r selection and incentivize the K selection measures. It’ll take time, but would result in a stronger society overall. Of course, it ALSO results in LESS government… Meaning it’s most likely stillborn regardless. Gov’t wants more control, and intelligent, educated, responsible people won’t be easy peasants for the Jackboots to control and manipulate.

            Which pushes me back into that “murderous rage” realm, suggesting we need more predators to thin out those ranks of Clovers, wastrels, the willfully indigent, and – most important – the Political Parasite Classes and their puppetmasters.

            Catch-22. Those who WANT to be self-reliant aren’t herd animals; those who ARE herd animals want “god” to support them. “God” really just means, “Someone Else.” State will do; wife or husband will do; sugar daddy/ sugar momma / Corporate job… whatever! Who cares, as long as it allows the problem to be pushed to “mañana,” or on someone else’s shoulders. So then culling the herd isn’t such a bad thing regardless…

            And the circular reasoning just burns cycles and gets nowhere. And people like me? We stick out: We’re not looking for power as an end in and of itself, and would rather be left alone. Not joiners, not herd animals. Not looking to be rabid wolves (Well, wombats, given the quality of people giving the orders these days.)

            Can’t win. We need a Frank Castle and his allies sort of thing, only now? Who cares about the Mob. THEY at least have (hopefully present tense) honor, and are interested in actually providing PROTECTION for the protection racket. They live in a GOOD neighborhood. Their families will live in a GOOD neighborhood. Gangs will NOT shoot up their neighborhoods, nor will drugs be sold, etc.
            As opposed to the stories of the triads, and the mexican gangs, etc, etc, etc.

            But how to generate even a loose coalition? And how to ID the GOOD tragets? And how to trace it back up the chain a bit? Give the hydra so many heads it cannot function? Or burn the stumps before they can regerate? Either way….

            Just leaves me clueless. Analysis paralysis.

            But I’m against mass murder for its own sake, seems counter-productive. I just can’t figure out Plan B. Need a smarter person to be a mole, becuase even if they’re just helping me to eliminate competitors, it means there are fewer and fewer heads to worry about. Something to be said for action, though after Bundy, and the ongoing police militarization and routine excalation of force and abusive procedures? We might get both barrels the hard way. I need to sort out the “least worst” solution, but I’ve already GOT full-time jobs… (The woman counts as “second shift.” 😉 )

          • eric, what’s your problem? I decided I wanted to spawn a little radical like myself and asked the old lady. She said I was lege to do what I wanted if I could pay for it(she’s really jealous as hell but feign to admit it). Ok, I’ve located a young woman(24)and she “might” be up for it but it’s dicey. Of course the first thing I’d teach my offspring would be heel and toeing. Then I’d teach them how multi speed trannies with a few OD’s were much preferable to those slushboxes that get confused and bang into one gear but ssslllliiiiddddeee into the next.

            Screw that. For 30+ years going on to 40 my wife has slapped my hand when I’d be off into my thoughts while driving and reach over for another gear, often with auto boxes but shifters to my right(stupid is as stupid does) since a shifter on the column or dash does just as well. Chrysler had it right with the pushbutton shift…..although I hate anything without a manual engagement so when you pull on whatever control it actually exerts force on internal parts in the tranny. I detest 4WD’s with a CS button instead of a gear lever to actually manually pull that sumbitch into gear. Don’t get me started. I recently spoke to a young girl who had an atuto Harley, just screw me blind please. I was aghast when they put a damned electric starter on a bike and now auto trannies? Just screw me blind……please…..Don’t even want to live anymore. And now I’ll get back to stirring a stick and get outta my way.

            Sheeple, nothing more or less. Back in ’08 I was headed west on I-20 and came on a 43 mile work zone. No going across the barditch to the access road signs said everywhere.. I’d had plenty of it, been a long day to Dallas and back, over 600 miles and Buck, the pit bull was just sick of it as was I and there had been two multi-death accidents each way that day. I saw the first one start early that morning when I was headed east. I didn’t know how bad it was till I got online and got the news. I knew there was a truck stop nearby and just cut across 100 yds of barditch to the access road. It was amazing. All these SUV’s and pickups just dove into the barditch and made such a dust storm I could barely see behind me. We all arrived at the truckstop within seconds or at the very least, in a couple minutes of each other. My point? Nobody has any guts any longer. This wasn’t the first time I’d experienced this phenomena. I did this same thing in Missouri when the barditches were flooded and muddy but with 4Wd I went around the entire mess, state troopers and all. Other folks had 4 WD evidently and followed me. It was a mass exodus. WTF is the matter with everybody? I was tired as hell, been on the road from deep in the heart of Tx. since the wee hours that day and it was 4 or 5 in the afternoon and I’d had it.

            I’ll give up my MT when they pry my cold dead hands off the shifter. And when I grab that other lever and shift into OD for all gears they can kiss my ass. Brownlite gearboxes forever.

          • Imho, many more Freedomista types in North America need to do the same:

            “I decided I wanted to spawn a little radical like myself and asked the old lady. She said I was lege to do what I wanted if I could pay for it(she’s really jealous as hell but feign to admit it). Ok, I’ve located a young woman(24)and she “might” be up for it but it’s dicey. Of course the first thing I’d teach my offspring would be heel and toeing. Then I’d teach them how multi speed trannies with a few OD’s were much preferable to those slushboxes that get confused and bang into one gear but ssslllliiiiddddeee into the next. ”

            It’s a damned fine idea.

            Extended families living together under one roof is an even finer idea. [Godly, even].

            My only wish is to be able to pay for it and follow your lead.

          • Oh yeah, and as Dave Ramsey said on his radio show, paraphrasing ” If you wait to have children until you think you can afford them, you won’t have any.
            They don’t cost a lot. They are tiny and don’t eat alot in the beginning. They’re not that expensive.”

            If Only I’d been told that before!
            After reading your words, eightsouthman, I’m thinking it’s not too late for those of us who put things off, so,… we’d better get busy. [Yeah, you too eric.].

    • AT’s really have caused many of the problems on the roads. If being lazy, stupid and unskilled aren’t obstacles to being able to drive then the worst people will inevitably be on the road.
      It really is an analogy to libertarians/anarchists vs statists. One wants to control what their machine is doing while the other just wants things to be taken care of and not worry about it.
      There are many people who will say they “can’t” drive a car with a manual transmission. From my experience almost 100% of the time these people probably shouldn’t be driving anyway.

      • Harry; I was taught how to drive on a 1956 AT Pontiac in early 60’s. Then had a Ford Falcon AT. After that Am. Motors (several cars), several chev. then last few decades moved to Japanese and Korean cars. Husband learned on a Jeep three sp MT. In town/cities AT’s best way to go. People want a free right arm to drink, wave, or nibble on a snack, etc. AT’s get better mileage now than MT’s also more traffic everywhere without the hassle of shifting. Most women hate the MT’s to incl men, that learned on the AT’s like me.

  38. And motorcycles are next… Honda CTX700, for one. And some other “CVT” bikes, too.
    One article I read said, “the need to coordinate all four appendages to clutch with a hand, shift with a foot, and apply the front and rear brakes separately with the other hand and foot can seem like an insurmountable task, especially since the likelihood that a beginning rider has any experience with a manual is almost nil.”
    **insurmountable task** -wow. I am so out of touch…
    As you’ve brought up before, Eric, things just keep getting dumbed down further and further.
    Won’t it be grand when my motorcycle has an auto tranny, abs, semi-retractable training wheels, crash warning alert systems, air-bag cage system, self-guided parking, and of course, O-star to alert the ‘authorities’ should I accidentally drift over the speed limit?
    I’ll keep my v65 Sabre (as long as they say I can legally hold the title), and all the “insurmountable tasks” necessary to ride it!

    • 2014 Harleys now come with linked front and rear ABS. Apply either brake control and the braking is balanced front and rear.

        • I can recall ’94-onwards CBR 1000’s coming out with linked brakes front and rear. This would transfer some of the braking power (probably 25%) to the other wheel automagically. Don’t think it can be turned off either as it comprised of a series of linked hoses.

          Makes fanging it through twisties more difficult, if not a complete hassle, as I normally add some rear brake out of tight corners for better stability, as it pulls the rear suspension down a bit.

          I can’t imagine using any mechanical conveyance without complete control over its momentum regulation systems. In so many ways, life as a highwayman has begun to suck exponentially.


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