The Truth About Cars » Manual http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 03 Aug 2015 11:00:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Manual http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 2015 Nissan Micra S Review – Lively Lilliputian http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-nissan-micra-s-review-lively-lilliputian/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-nissan-micra-s-review-lively-lilliputian/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 22:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1127761 Staring at a Monroney sticker with a four-digit MSRP would only excite you if spending a weekend clipping Sam’s Club coupons while sipping Faygo is a “fun night in.” With a base price of $9,998 in the Great White North, the Nissan Micra is the definition of Quebec Special: an entry-level car in the lowest of […]

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2015 Nissan Micra S (2 of 10)

Staring at a Monroney sticker with a four-digit MSRP would only excite you if spending a weekend clipping Sam’s Club coupons while sipping Faygo is a “fun night in.”

With a base price of $9,998 in the Great White North, the Nissan Micra is the definition of Quebec Special: an entry-level car in the lowest of trims and absolutely zero options. Wind-up windows. Manual locks. An actual, honest-to-goodness metal key. All it needs is a cassette deck and a bench seat to take you back to a time when parachute pants were cool and Wesley Snipes was paying taxes.

Yet, this diminutive, red hatchback is much more than its price and lack of options suggest. While my predecessor likened the Micra to the EK Civic, I’m going to take it one step further: The Nissan Micra is a four-door Mazda Miata.

 


The Tester

2015 Nissan Micra S [Canada]

Engine: 1.6-liter DOHC I-4, CVVT (109 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm, 107 lbs-ft @ 4,400 rpm)

Transmission: 5-speed manual

Fuel Economy (Rating, MPG): 27 city/36 highway/31 combined
Fuel Economy (Observed, MPG): 32 mpg, 50/50 city and highway, 50/50 eco-driver and small-car, fast-lane lunatic

Options: What you see is what you get, folks.

As Tested: $11,565 (sheet), approx. $8,950 USD.


“Miata with four doors? Have you completely lost the plot?” Maybe, but …

All the important ingredients from the Miata are woven into the Micra’s DNA as well: light weight, just enough power to spin the little front rubber donuts, and the suspension — well, let’s just call it peculiar for now as it needs an explanation all its own.

The bottom line: The Micra provided the most engaging and fun driving experience I’ve had in at least 12 months, and that includes all the 400+ horsepower cars that have graced my driveway over the same timeframe.

2015 Nissan Micra S (1 of 10)

Exterior
Before we get into why the Micra is a four-door Miata, we should talk about its looks for a moment, because this is really the only area where Nissan’s sub-compact could use some effort the next time around.

As much as some writers believe we shouldn’t genderize car design — especially when critiquing said sheet metal — the reality is automakers pen vehicles to appeal to certain demographics: young women, older men and any combination thereof. Certain genders will be drawn to particular design cues more than others.

When I attended the launch of the Micra last year, Nissan representatives were surprisingly upfront about the car being styled to primarily capture the attention and interest of female buyers — and it shows. The Micra is a women’s car whether you want to bury your head in the sand about it or not.

However, the cheap-and-cheerful demeanor of the Micra isn’t so dissentious that male buyers should disregard this wonder of economical automotive manufacturing. In a color other than our tester’s Red Alert, the Micra is a bit more palatable.

With that out of the way, the V-Motion grille is a bit of an architectural afterthought, like an addition to a family home gone awry. Fortunately, this forced design lineage only affects the Micra in the Canadian market. In other regions — where this runabout is named March — a single chrome bar floats within the grille’s crevasse. Headlights are the same globally, finding their place far up the hood much like the Chevrolet Spark and even the Nissan Juke, though their placement much less visually pronounced on the Micra.

A side view of the car brings back memories of the old New Beetle and its perfectly arched roofline thanks to the Micra’s semi-circular window frames. Unpainted door handles and mirror caps are noticeable but not in the same way as black plastic bumpers grabbed your attention on base model Chevrolet Cavaliers. Even though this Micra is the bottom rung on the trim hierarchy, its wheel covers still manage to look higher end than the optional alloys available on the Mirage.

2015 Nissan Micra S (4 of 10)

There’s additional unpainted black plastic at the back, but thankfully it’s limited to just the door handle for the rear hatch. The taillights and bumper seem to have received more stylistic attention than one would expect for a car costing significantly less than its competitors. To top it off, the rear window also provides ample vision from inside the car — and you’ll need it, as there’s no back up camera on this Japanese go-kart. But, you do get a rear spoiler, so at least there’s that.

2015 Nissan Micra S (7 of 10)

Interior
Complaining about the Micra’s interior materials is like going on a tirade at H&M about the quality of their $4.99 fashion-of-the-week, button-up shirts. A car that’s near-as-makes-no-difference $10,000 is going to be incredibly cheap. You don’t buy this type of car for its soft-touch dash and rubberized temperature control knobs. You buy it because it’s usable and serviceable. The plastic knobs are almost translucent in their cheapness, but they work and that’s all they’re meant to do. You should feel lucky the Micra even has a tachometer in this trim.

The only complaint I have — a trivial personal preference more than anything else — has to do with the gas gauge. You are given a digital gas gauge in the Micra — and I hate it. Please, Nissan, just give me a nice little dial so I can more accurately estimate the amount of fuel in the tank.

Other than that, the seats are incredibly simple along with the rest of the interior and not something you’d want to sit in for long jaunts on the highway, but this car isn’t built for long highway jaunts anyway.

2015 Nissan Micra S (9 of 10)Infotainment
I used to have a manual, Vulcan-powered Ford Ranger with a manual transmission. Like the Micra, it didn’t have air conditioning and just a simple radio provided your anthem for the road. When I bought my Ranger, the total came out to nearly $14,000 in used condition. It also featured two speakers — one in each door. The Micra has double the number of speakers and is cheaper in new condition. Folks, by all accounts, that’s a bargain!

In all seriousness, the Micra does come with a CD player and auxiliary input as standard. If you are keen on tuning into some daytime sports talk radio on the AM dial, you can do that, too.

You aren’t locked into the ’90s radio option, however, but you’ll need to spring for the Krom or SR-trimmed Micras to get USB input, Bluetooth and display audio as standard and those models are significantly more expensive than our base model tester.

As you can imagine, audio quality with the simple four-speaker stereo is on par with listening to a alleyway catfight on a string can telephone — tinny, full of treble and all the vocals sound like they’re being performed by Richard Simmons with a throat infection.

The 2015 Nissan Micra will mark a new era of unbeatable value for Canadians when it arrives this spring. Combining Japanese quality with European styling and heritage, Micra will provide Canadians with more fun, more attention to detail and more value than they've ever expected in a small car.

Drivetrain
Under the Nissan Micra’s short hood sits the same 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine found in the Versa Sedan and Versa Note producing 109 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 107 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. These numbers might seem downright dismal in comparison to other slightly more expensive offerings; in the Versa Note equipped with the CVT, this engine is slow, loud and almost as annoying as Social Justice Warrior Comedy Hour. When sent through the standard five-speed manual transmission, the little four pot sings along just like the eager hatchbacks of 15 or 20 years ago. The 1.6 loves to rev, but still has a grunty note that permeates the cabin. Meanwhile, it’s probably the most responsive motor in the sub-compact class with a manual that I’ve driven in recent memory. Even if you opt for the automatic transmission, you will still be welcomed by four real gears instead of the near-ubiquitous Nissan CVT.

However, the Micra isn’t incredibly efficient. Fifth gear in the manual box is too short for highway usage and bumps up fuel consumption a tad. Again, this car is built to be a cheap city grocery-getter and not a cross-country cruiser.

The manual gearbox itself is a tad loose, but it’s fairly forgiving, making missed shifts a rare occurrance. I could also say the clutch needs to provide some more feedback, but then I’m really going down the road of nitpicking. The manual in the Fiesta is better.

2015 Nissan Micra S (3 of 10)

Drive
Even with all the text above extolling the Micra’s cheap car virtues, driving it on a windy road is what makes it a real winner. The five-door Datsun absolutely loves corners — but not in the way you’d expect.

The Mazda MX-5 Miata is highly regarded as being the most-fun driver’s car per dollar. That’s not because the Miata puts up huge horsepower numbers or corners completely flat or does record-setting laps around the Nurburgring. Instead, it’s because the Miata communicates with the driver and doesn’t desensitize the driving experience. If the body rolls a little bit, you’re going to feel it. When braking, the Miata’s brake pedal will communicate to the driver the exact point before ABS kicks in.

The Micra does the same thing.

No, it isn’t going to attack a corner as fast as a Miata, but it feels just as fast. If the brain is tricked into thinking it’s going fast — even if the car is only doing a bit over the speed limit — isn’t that all that matters? You don’t need to be a driving hero. You only need to feel the sensation of being a driving hero.

While we all know this feeling is very hard to quantify, let alone market to the buying public, this is the Micra’s greatest party trick. It’s the slow car you want to drive fast — or at least think you’re driving fast. And it isn’t by accident that the Micra drives the way it does, especially in Canada.

Compared to overseas units, the Micra in Canada has different sway bars — front and rear — and steering tuned specifically for North American roads. This makes the Micra more chuckable, more communicative, and — as a result — a helluva lot more fun.

Unfortunately, those of you in the U.S. won’t be able to enjoy the magic of this micro machine — at least not yet. A year ago, there were rumors swirling about the Micra’s future availability in the U.S. They’ve simmered down before coming to fruition.

It’s unfortunate, really, because when the answer is not Miata, it could surely be Micra.

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Audi Confirms 2017 A4 Diesel for US http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/audi-confirms-2017-a4-diesel-us/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/audi-confirms-2017-a4-diesel-us/#comments Thu, 09 Jul 2015 15:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1112009 The ninth-generation 2017 Audi A4 will sport a diesel engine for the first time in the U.S., Motor Authority is reporting. When the sedan launches next March, the 2.0-liter turbocharged oil burner will make 190 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of twist. That’s on top of the 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine that’ll make 252 hp and […]

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2017 Audi A4 Sedan

The ninth-generation 2017 Audi A4 will sport a diesel engine for the first time in the U.S., Motor Authority is reporting.

When the sedan launches next March, the 2.0-liter turbocharged oil burner will make 190 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of twist. That’s on top of the 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine that’ll make 252 hp and 273 lb-ft.

But that may not be the best part.

According to Motor Authority, the diesel sedan may make it stateside with a manual transmission, which are definitely not dead, or a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission if you’re not into fun things. An S4 will certainly follow, an RS4 may be in the works and an A4 Avant will definitely not be stateside — that’s what we have the Allroad for, apparently.

Initially, the A4 will be married to Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system with front-wheel drive variants arriving later in the year.

There’s been no word on fuel economy figures, but Audi engineers say they expect the car will improve by more than 20 percent even with the horsepower bump. Pricing for the A4 hasn’t been announced.

Like the A3, the new A4 will be seriously tech heavy and options-laden. Along with Audi’s compartmentalized MMI system with Google Maps, the A4 can sport Apple’s Car Play, a 7- or 8.3-inch infotainment screen, handwriting recognition system and a 12.3-inch instrument display screen.

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QOTD: Is It Time We Give Up The ‘Save The Manuals’ War? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-is-it-time-we-give-up-the-save-the-manuals-war/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-is-it-time-we-give-up-the-save-the-manuals-war/#comments Tue, 07 Jul 2015 15:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1109129 With news that BMW’s M division might give up offering manual transmissions altogether along with the plethora of automatic-only performance options from other automakers on the market, the battle to keep the manual looks bleak. Not only that, but automatics seem to just be the better choice for a number of other non-performance options as […]

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2015 Dodge Challenger 6-speed manual shifter

With news that BMW’s M division might give up offering manual transmissions altogether along with the plethora of automatic-only performance options from other automakers on the market, the battle to keep the manual looks bleak.

Not only that, but automatics seem to just be the better choice for a number of other non-performance options as well.

Let’s set the Mazda MX-5 Miata aside for a moment because we all know putting an automatic transmission in a light-weight, low-power roadster is sacrilege and anyone attempting to buy an automatic Miata should be shipped off to a re-education camp.

For starters, let’s talk about one car that isn’t necessarily driver oriented.

In Alex’s review of the Scion iA yesterday, he points out the automated needs on the lower end of the price scale (emphasis mine):

The iA isn’t the Scion I was expecting, and it isn’t the Mazda I was hoping for either. The iA seems like Mazda’s interpretation of what a Scion should be, and marriage has created a surprisingly good little car. Shoppers will find a well-controlled ride, excellent road manners and impeccable fuel economy all wrapped inside Scion’s warranty and scheduled maintenance, and sold at a Toyota dealer. The combination makes for the most appealing sedan in this segment by a hair. (If Ford mates an automatic transmission to their 3-cylinder turbo Fiesta, it’s game on.)

For those of you who’ve never driven a manual Fiesta, especially one with the 1.0-liter 3-cylinder EcoBoost mill, it’s as close as you can get to driving nirvana in the subcompact segment without adding ST curry. The manual transmission is the perfect amount of notchy and forgiving, and it’s the one vehicle I wish I could use to teach everyone how to drive a car with a stick shift.

But, appreciation for rowing your own these days is limited. The little three-pot Fiesta would likely do a helluva lot better sales-wise if it could be had with an automatic. Instead, those looking for a new car who’ve never driven a manual before immediately dismiss it. That should be expected as learning how to drive on a brand-new $17,000 investment is far from ideal.

Over at General Motors’ Aspirations Division, Cadillac’s last-generation CTS-V was an absolute hoot to drive. When it came out, I was lucky enough to spend time behind the wheels of both the CTS-V Coupe and Sport Wagon (which they should have called Estate). The coupe, equipped with its six-speed automatic, was an absolute blast to drive hard. It also required zero effort to just cruise around as you should do in a Cadillac. On the other hand, the six-speed manual Sport Wagon was more fun when driven in anger, but about 1/10th as relaxing to drive in “Everyday Mode.” If it were my money, even though I’ve grown up my entire life on manual cars, I’d have bought the automatic V — hands down.

What do you think, Best & Brightest? Is it time to give up the “Save The Manuals” war and finally accept computers are better than us as this whole changing-gears business?

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1998 Alfa Romeo 164 2.5 TD European Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/1998-alfa-romeo-164-2-5-td-european-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/1998-alfa-romeo-164-2-5-td-european-review/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2015 14:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1095393 One clever man who likes powaaah, steaks and punching people once said that you are not a real petrolhead until you’ve owned an Alfa Romeo. Seeing how Alfas are either considered terrible, unreliable crap by sane and rational people or totally revered by devoted fans, I assumed there has to be something about them. Maybe it […]

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1998 Alfa Romeo 164 2.5 TD

One clever man who likes powaaah, steaks and punching people once said that you are not a real petrolhead until you’ve owned an Alfa Romeo. Seeing how Alfas are either considered terrible, unreliable crap by sane and rational people or totally revered by devoted fans, I assumed there has to be something about them. Maybe it really is that fabled “automotive soul” everyone talks about.

When I drove modern Alfas, I tended to lean towards the “they’re crap” crowd. The Mito is just a Fiat Punto that’s been made worse and more expensive, while the Giulietta can be a hoot to drive, but you want to douse it in gasoline and light on fire every time you need to use it as transportation. It’s like someone did the first 90% of development and then decided to have some chianti instead of finishing the rest. Which is probably what happened.

As usual, the fanboys say the older cars are the “real” Alfas, before the brand was ruined by someone or something (usually Fiat or GM). And with the prices of 156, 166 and even the FWD iteration of GTV from ’90s laughably low, I’ve been eying an older Alfa, preferably with the famous Busso V6 engine, for some time now. But with my tight budget not allowing for two cars at once, I always ended up going for something bigger, more comfortable and (supposedly) more reliable – like an old Mercedes E-class, Chrysler LHS, borrowed Lincoln or also-borrowed Chevy Van.

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Only recently did a perfect opportunity to get an Alfa present itself. I managed to find some poor soul who was willing to give me actual money for the Chrysler and a friend of mine needed to get rid of her old Alfa as she was getting a newer one (a diesel 159 Wagon). The car in question was a 164 Super, highly optioned and from the last year of the model’s manufacture, wearing some “cosmetic flaws” (= it looks like some crazy Italian drove it around Rome for a month, drunk) and motivated by diesel.

A diesel engine kind of ruins the point of proving you are a petrolhead. Also, I hate them. I never understood why American auto enthusiasts, with their access to cheap gas and powerful engines, lust for diesel cars so much. Diesel stinks, rattles and booms, and it’s slow. It doesn’t rev, which kind of spoils the point of stick shift. Even worse, the 164 is powered by the infamous VM Motori 2.5 TD four-cylinder with one head per cylinder, well known for ruining the reliability score of Chrysler Europe when it was used in Voyagers and Cherokees.

On the other hand, the car had its merits. First of all, it was free. Second, the diesel four-cylinders tend to be quite economical, which is a welcome change after several years of pouring expensive European gas into a series of American cars while broke. And third, it’s still an Alfa from the “better times” (even though it was developed in cooperation with Fiat, Lancia and Saab), so it should be interesting at least. And fourth, as I learnt soon after being offered the car, it’s got a wooden steering wheel, which is insanely cool and in itself enough reason for me to want it.

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So when the time came for me to pick up my new vehicle, I was quite excited. Save for the various press loaners with their fancy new common-rail engines and a friend’s old Mercedes W124 300D-24, I’ve never really driven a diesel manual car in a while. Also, my last four daily drivers (see above) were invariably automatics with quite powerful engines, but with totally numb steering and suspension setup for comfort. Will the Alfa feel like a someone put an old tractor engine in it? Will it have the terrible turbo-lag the old turbodiesels were known for? And can a diesel powered, Saab-and-Fiat-based Alfa show any signs of the famed Alfa Romeo soul?

The last question was answered right after I placed my bottom into the bluish-green cloth seat. Remember all those ramblings about the ape-like driving position of old Italian sportscars? The modern Alfas don’t have it. Even the 156 didn’t have it. But once you sit in the 164, you instantly feel like you’re in an old Italian movie. You instantly forget about “proper” seating position, with nearly vertical backrest and steering wheel close to your chest, and instead find a relaxed position, leaning back slightly and with the steering wheel seemingly too far in your lap and far more horizontal than you would find acceptable in a modern car.

It’s interesting how the seating position changes your attitude towards driving. While it reminds me of old Italian sports cars, it’s definitely not sporty in your classical “sit straight and focus on the apexes” way. Instead, it makes you want to drive in an Italian way. Fast and with joyful abandon instead of precision. You can just imagine yourself bombing around the Rome with a smoke in the corner of your mouth, blasting through tight streets and narrowly missing scooters and tiny Fiats. Or, sometimes, not missing them, as evidenced by the beat-up state of the car (in fact, it was scoff-free when it came to Czech Republic, but it just looks like it was driven in Rome).

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The steering position is not the only part of the interior that feels alien to someone used to new cars. There’s, of course, thin body pillars and the fact that the 164, although it was the biggest Alfa of its time and quite a large vehicle by any (European) means, feels slightly cramped with its windscreen right in front of you within arm’s reach. But there are weirder bits. Its full instrumentation with a cool layout – large speedo and tach in the upper part, voltage, oil pressure, water temperature and fuel in the lower row – and crazy center panel with rows of buttons that resemble an ’80s cassette recorder. Or the power window controls, with buttons for front windows on the doors and for the rear windows on the center console.

Being an Alfa, one would expect it to break. And, stereotypically, it does. The cool buttons on the center panel work only sometimes, and the trunk button often activates the hazard lights. Or the hazard lights activate themselves. Or the trunk unlocks while driving. And the HVAC control display doesn’t work. Nor do the power locks.

But a proper Alfa should also be fragile mechanically and prone to rust, at least if you believe the popular opinions, which makes it kind of strange the most pervasive feeling from the whole car is that of robustness and solidity. It may be that my example is in better shape mechanically, but it doesn’t feel any less substantial than the same-era Mercedes E-class. And, unlike the Mercedes, it doesn’t show any signs of rust – probably the result of Alfa’s disaster with Alfasud (which was usually already rusty on the showroom floor) and its drive to prevent any similar problems in the future.

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At the same time, there’s still a bit of Alfa Romeo’s sportiness differing the 164 from its siblings – the Thema, Croma and Saab 9000 (or at least people who have driven all of them say so). For someone who’s used to large American cars and old Benzes, or brand new cars with their numb electric steering racks, the Alfa’s helm is fantastically direct and full of feel. The shift action is not nearly as great, but that’s compensated by pedals perfectly laid out for heel-and-toe downshifting.

Of course, the large diesel kind of spoils the fun. It’s much smoother than one would expect from an oil-burner that’s almost two decades old compared to, say, the 1.9 TDI/66kW from VW. It has almost zero turbo lag and it pulls linearly from 1200 rpm. When driven leisurely, it’s quite a pleasant engine, but try any kind of spirited driving and you’re in for a disappointment. It’s still an old diesel, so it’s noisy, unrefined and it seems to hate revving above 3500 rpm. Also, the VM Motori four, with its four fragile cylinder heads, is prone to overheating and subsequent head failures.

Even with this in mind, I couldn’t resist taking the Alfa to our last trackday/cheap car race event, but at almost 90 degrees Fahrenheit, I was pretty scared of blowing the head gasket and never found the courage to really push the engine. Even so, the Alfa showed some pretty interesting handling. With the large and heavy diesel in the front, one would expect it to understeer like crazy. In reality, the 164 is pretty well balanced. On old winter tires, it was pretty easy to adjust it from understeer to oversteer by lifting the throttle and even throw it into pretty spectacular four-wheel slides.

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The Verdict
Though it may be Saab-related and diesel-powered, the 164 is still able to give you a taste of the Alfa Romeo soul. It’s interesting to drive and, after a series of large American cars, it made me understand how US enthusiasts can consider diesel manual cars as something really cool. It also seems to be, contrary to the public opinion, quite reliable (except for electrical stuff) and it’s definitely one of the cheapest cars I’ve ever had to run. Even if I had to buy it at market value (probably $500 or so), it would be dirt cheap transportation. On the other hand, the Italian suspension and driving position, together with cool Pininfarina design, will always make me think about how cool this car would be with a proper engine – the illustrious V6 “Busso”. Since 164s with V6s are almost extinct, I’m starting to think that there’s a Busso-powered 166 in my near future. You have to have a proper Alfa, at least once, to be a proper petrolhead.

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@VojtaDobes is motoring journalist from Czech Republic who previously worked for local editions of Autocar and TopGear magazines. Today, he runs his own website, www.Autickar.cz. After a failed adventure with importing classic American cars to Europe, he is utterly broke, so he drives an Alfa 164 Diesel he got for free. His previous cars included a 1988 Caprice in NYC Taxi livery, a hot-rodded Opel Diplomat, two Dodge Coronets, a Simca, a Fiat 600 and Austin Maestro. He has never owned a diesel, manual wagon.

Photography:author

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Question Of The Day: Should I Blow My Tax Refund On This http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-blow-tax-refund/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-blow-tax-refund/#comments Tue, 24 Mar 2015 13:30:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1027945 So, let me be clear: I have a very good, brand new car. I have no real need for a second car, no place to park a second car and no desire to take on a project. But god damn it, I want this. The car in question is a 2003 BMW 325xi Touring. It […]

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103605_f93624f11fc1a244a63ac5be0ac46a8a

So, let me be clear: I have a very good, brand new car. I have no real need for a second car, no place to park a second car and no desire to take on a project. But god damn it, I want this.

The car in question is a 2003 BMW 325xi Touring. It has a clean CarProof (Canadian version of a CarFax) and it’s a manual. On the other hand, it has 328,000 km (203,000 miles), and since it’s an auction, you don’t exactly have time to contemplate whether this is a good idea or not.

But, I’ve always wanted a BMW manual wagon, and I have a decent tax return on the way. What do you say, B&B?

 

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Piston Slap: Avoiding Brutal CVT Step Gears? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-avoiding-brutal-cvt-step-gears/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-avoiding-brutal-cvt-step-gears/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 12:04:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1019698   TTAC commentator Raincoaster writes: Hi Sajeev, I currently drive a 2011 Honda Fit(Manual) and I’m mildly interested in a CVT for my next car purchase. I have never driven one, and one thing that gives me pause is all the “fake gears” that they set them up with. I understand that this is to […]

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A path too Brutalist? (photo courtesy: flickrhivemind.net/Tags/architectute,concrete)

TTAC commentator Raincoaster writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I currently drive a 2011 Honda Fit(Manual) and I’m mildly interested in a CVT for my next car purchase. I have never driven one, and one thing that gives me pause is all the “fake gears” that they set them up with. I understand that this is to make them drive in a manner familiar to traditional automatic transmissions, but this seems unnecessary and possibly inefficient to me. Are there any cars/companies that don’t fake it and just let the engine/trans cook up the best ratio at any given time? I’d like to test drive something like that to see how it feels.

A second and 2 part question. I work a 40 day on, 40 off shift and while working, my car (2011 Fit) sits. Is this bad and is there anything I should do for preparation or upon first start up? This also got me wondering about cars on dealer lots, do they periodically start sitting inventory?

-Raincoaster

Sajeev answers:

A 40-day stagnation period has been discussed, here’s the first example. Your only concern is having an older battery: newer cars in many geographic locations are rough on 3-5 year old batteries, so be ready for a dead battery that won’t come back from a jump start. Hopefully there’s an open parts store or a Wal-Mart nearby when that happens.

I also like the traditional, non-stepped CVT as witnessed by my 2014 Mirage road test.  The Mirage lacks flappy paddles and fake gears, but has a manual “low” for steep hills or maybe autocrossing in a serious sleeper. Add that with the fuel economy benefits, these CVTs are worth considering over auto-erratic slushboxes.

As I mentioned in the review, compared to the slow upshifts and the borderline-unsafe delays on WOT downshifts of modern 6-8 speed automatics (considering decades of performance oriented designs, both from the factory and the aftermarket) a stepless CVT is okay.  But public adoption sans fake gears is unlikely, Nissan’s D-step redesign is proof of that. Hopefully you, me, and threads like this mean that CVT step gears become a fad like motorized seatbelts.

Speaking of steps, I’m side-steppin’ your query.  Aside from the Mitsubishi, I don’t know which new CVTs run without steps. I assume Toyota hybrids stay stepless, as people are okay with a Hybrid being different.  This is why Piston Slap only succeeds with the Best and Brightest in play. So off to you!

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Question Of The Day: What Makes You Drive A Manual http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-makes-drive-manual/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-makes-drive-manual/#comments Mon, 16 Mar 2015 19:40:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1023409 In my column on manual transmissions, I touched on how the only way to ensure the survival of the manual gearbox is to keep buying them. But a significant number of commenters expressed the sentiment that rowing your own was no longer worthwhile. On the one hand, I get it. Today’s automatics have never been […]

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In my column on manual transmissions, I touched on how the only way to ensure the survival of the manual gearbox is to keep buying them. But a significant number of commenters expressed the sentiment that rowing your own was no longer worthwhile.

On the one hand, I get it. Today’s automatics have never been better, to say nothing of dual-clutch transmissions. There are a number of cars (any of the SRT Hellcats, for example) where an automatic makes more sense than a manual. But I also know that there are plenty of reasons to buy the stick.

I am always fascinated by the reasons people give for purchasing one. There are enthusiasts who cite the engagement and connection with the car, but for every individual who wants the purity of a manual, there is someone who has little to no interest in cars, but has always driven a stick and won’t give it up, or someone who think that it’s a good way to keep themselves from getting bored while driving.

Me? As much as I take the enthusiast line on manuals. I also find the act of pressing the clutch pedal and changing gears to be an incredibly relaxing repetitive motion. There’s something calming about the repetitive, rhythmic motion that I don’t ever want to give up.

How about you, B&B?

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Editorial: You’re The Reason Auto Makers Don’t Offer Manual Transmissions http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/quote-of-the-day-car-makers-dont-offer-manual-transmission/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/quote-of-the-day-car-makers-dont-offer-manual-transmission/#comments Fri, 13 Mar 2015 15:01:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1021473 One of the essential questions that many automotive writers fail to examine is “what is the nature of an automaker”? All too often, they lose sight of the fact that OEMs are in the business of selling cars, not manufacturing widgets for people who like cars. This kind of mindset is what leads to the […]

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One of the essential questions that many automotive writers fail to examine is “what is the nature of an automaker”? All too often, they lose sight of the fact that OEMs are in the business of selling cars, not manufacturing widgets for people who like cars.

This kind of mindset is what leads to the exchange outlined in Automobile Magazine, where one writer discusses the lack of a manual transmission in the 2016 Audi R8.

“You have to look at lap times,” he said at the 2015 Geneva auto show, adding that the take rate for manual transmission-equipped Audi R8s, at least in Europe, was almost nil. When pressed on the issue, Hollerweger remained firm. There is simply is no way for a stick-shift to match the performance of the R8’s dual-clutch transmission and few buyers wanted one, so Hollerweger believes there’s no point in offering a manual on the new car.

Of course, we’d beg to differ and we were a bit taken aback by his assertion that a manual-equipped car is not the more engaging experience for the driver.”

Emphasis added by yours truly. But that assertion alone highlights what is either a total lack of understanding regarding the auto industry, or willful blindness. The R8 is a halo car for Audi, and you can bet that they spent lots of time and money doing market research, analyzing sales data and talking to current and prospective customers about what they want in a car.

A manual is not something they want. It is what you want, and what I want, but the people signing the $200,000 checks have little to no interest in the purity and tactile supremacy of a clutch pedal and a gated manual shifter. Therefore, Audi has decided not to offer one, sparing them tens of millions in costs, regulatory headaches, fewer combinations that complicate the assembly process and three-pedal versions that sit on dealer lots collecting dust. It’s not a difficult decision to understand, but our ego is designed to protect us from thinking that we are somehow less important to Audi than the (very wealthy) customers who are supporting the brand by actually purchasing their products.

And yet, this writer begs to differ. On what grounds? Because it’s cool? Because it’s a shame to see the manual die out? Because you think they should. Sorry, but in the world of ROI and P&L statements (which make a car company stay in business), those reasons are less than worthless. If you don’t live and die by that line of thinking, then you’re Lotus, barely existing despite doing everything right in the eyes of the enthusiast.

The entitlement that comes with thinking that a particular car or variant thereof should simply exist for the sake of it is something I can’t wrap my head around. Whether a car that you’ll never ever buy has two pedals or three, a stick shift or paddles has literally zero impact on your daily life. There’s a good chance that you will never even see a 2016 Audi R8 on the road, depending on what part of the country you live in. And yet every time a new car is released without a manual, we have people rending their garments over this matter.

There is literally only one way to ensure the continued existence of the manual transmission. You have to buy new cars with manual transmissions. Car companies, like people, respond to incentives. Increased sales of manual transmissions in new vehicles (not used) is an incentive for them to offer more. Whining about their demise is not. We are not entitled to anything in this world, let alone an unpopular, costly (for the car maker) option that by all rights should have disappeared long ago.

So why not reward the people who are still doing God’s work and offering you three pedals and a real stick shift (and I really do mean that, because all of the product planners I know do their best to make the case to management for offering a manual, even if it means sticking their neck out)? Bark did. Jack did. I did. Do your part. Vote with your wallet. Here’s a list of cars that offer one, and there is still a manual option to fit every conceivable need. If everyone that complained about a lack of manuals actually bought a new car with a manual, we’d be like Europe. If you have no intention of buying a new car with a manual transmission, then you have lost your right to complain.

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Piston Slap: Divorced Sleeper Flew The Coupe? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-divorced-sleeper-flew-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-divorced-sleeper-flew-coupe/#comments Mon, 29 Dec 2014 13:21:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=963722   TTAC Commentator raresleeper writes: Hello, Sajeev! I need your wisdom and sound advice, Kind Sir. After what could be called a much needed separation from my wife (undoubtedly the beginning of a very long divorce proceeding), I purchased myself a vehicle. A 2006 Accord Coupe v6 6-Speed. On cold mornings, I have noticed that […]

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TTAC Commentator raresleeper writes:

Hello, Sajeev!

I need your wisdom and sound advice, Kind Sir. After what could be called a much needed separation from my wife (undoubtedly the beginning of a very long divorce proceeding), I purchased myself a vehicle. A 2006 Accord Coupe v6 6-Speed.

On cold mornings, I have noticed that the steering is hard to turn if the car isn’t moving. Once the car revs just slightly, anything other than idle, the steering effort gets “normal” again. I also hear a whine under the hood on cold mornings, so I am fairly certain that is the power steering pump showing its weakness. Every once in a great while, there is a slight intrusion upon shifting into 3rd. It rarely affects my shifting, but there is a slight notch (best way I can describe it) that I sometimes need to put the extra effort to guide the shifter into while grabbing third.

I paid $9K. The car is the EX model, it has everything besides navigation and the “sport” appearance package (spoiler, etc.). 120k miles. I love this stinkin’ car. I went right to a car which I love and the fact that my estranged wife would hate everything about it makes me smile a little more. It’s a quick little machine.

Is there anything else I need to have checked maintenance-wise (other than timing belt) before getting too comfortable tossing it about during my morning commute?

As always, thank you kindly. Your assistance here is certainly appreciated.

Sajeev answers:

That’s not a bad machine to celebrate your newfound singlehood!  Congrats on this next step in your life.

“I also hear a whine under the hood on cold mornings, so I am fairly certain that is the power steering pump showing its weakness.”

I am certain that’s normal, most vehicles are less than thrilled with molasses-cold fluids.  These parts are designed to spin warmer liquids, hence the need for a proper warm up routine.

Regarding the transmission and the current mileage, perhaps its time for a fluid swap with fresh Honda fluid or maybe–MAYBE–aftermarket fluids compatible with your transmission.  Or perhaps it’s totally normal with cold fluid, if that’s a valid correlation in your case.

We’ve discussed the basics of used car upkeep before, and I focus on neglected rubber bits: tires, belts and hoses. And new shocks might be a worthwhile upgrade at this age, if a like-new ride (or better than new, with performance parts) matters. Always RFTM for the basics and do a comprehensive visual inspection to make sure nothing else is wrong. (i.e. physical damage from the last owner’s mistake)

Don’t be afraid to get that visual inspection from a mechanic if you have any doubts, especially since they can put it on a lift.

Off to you, Best and Brightest!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: MT 6-speed Hyundai Sonata…Coda? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-mt-6-speed-hyundai-sonata-coda/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-mt-6-speed-hyundai-sonata-coda/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:04:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933514   TTAC commentator Arthur Dailey writes: Sajeev, Over 40+ years of driving, I have traditionally changed cars every 2 years and never kept one for longer than 5 years or 150,000km. However I made my most recent car purchase with the intention of keeping it for 8 years or 200,000km. With the belief that in modern […]

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This just happened. (photo courtesy: autojunction.in)

TTAC commentator Arthur Dailey writes:

Sajeev,

Over 40+ years of driving, I have traditionally changed cars every 2 years and never kept one for longer than 5 years or 150,000km. However I made my most recent car purchase with the intention of keeping it for 8 years or 200,000km.

With the belief that in modern autos perhaps the most expensive item to repair is the transmission (owning 4 Caravans in the preceding 15 years reinforced this), following the truism that “it is more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow”, and being admittedly George Costanza like in my spending habits I ordered a vehicle with a manual transmission. Yes, a manual Hyundai Sonata.

Nobody at the dealership had ever seen one. They even had problems confirming that it came with a traditional hand brake (it does but in return you don’t get heated seats). But find one they did. Unfortunately after taking possession and performing some routine cleaning, I found that the filters were rather dirty for a new car. Checking the manufacturer’s plate I found that it had been made 14 months previously and therefore had been sitting on the lot for nearly that long , exposed to the elements for at least one full winter.

So my questions:

  • Will sitting out on a dealer’s lot for 13+ months reduce the longevity of some parts?
  • Was I correct in assuming that a manual transmission will both last longer and cost less to maintain than an automatic or was I ‘penny wise and pound foolish’?
  • Should I expect a modern car including a Korean one built in Alabama, to be relatively problem free as long as I follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule, rust proof it annually and drive like the old fogey that I have become?

Sajeev answers:

Yes! We’re actually discussing the manual 6-speed Hyundai Sonata and its sister ship Kia Optima that I really, reeeeeeally wanted in brown with black cloth. Turns out I needed a 5MT truck more. But I digress…

Shine on you crazy diamond, enjoy your South Korean Unicorn!

Luckily, your first question was previously covered.  Assuming it’s been driven after purchase, you’ve cleared the “bad” gas and rusted brakes/flat spotted tires.  I think a good detail/cleaning of the vinyl/rubber/leather bits (both inside and outside) is all that’s needed to ensure the patient’s long term health.  Maybe do an engine oil change, if you haven’t done it already under normal maintenance. You got nothing to worry about.

Question 2: I can see why you are conditioned to fear transmission/transaxle replacement costs, but you’ve owned older Chryslers.  Own something from Germany and the fancy tv screens should absolutely terrify you. Or fixing bent rims.  Or a suspension overhaul from years of abuse causing bent rims. I’d be more terrified of any car rollin’ on twankies more than any transmission woe.  And is an automatic really more durable than a manual?

I donno, dude.  200,000km isn’t a long time by non-Chrysler-minivan standards. I’ve seen auto transmissions last 400,000km with nothing more than occasional ATF fluid swaps.  If you are easy on the clutch, you are fine. If not, you might need a clutch swap and completely destroy the value proposition mentioned. Don’t be that guy! 

Question 3: Problems with the Sonata and Optima have been sparse, just look at the TSBs generated.  Undercoat/rust proof, follow the owner’s manual, don’t abuse the gearbox (good luck finding a replacement in North America) and you’ll be fine.

And you might love the 6-speed Hyundai Sonata so much that you’ll keep it well beyond 200,000kms.  You “old fogeys” (your term) need to understand that most modern vehicles last longer than cars from decades past.  Rust proof this one well and I’m confident you’ll agree.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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Piston Slap: Have a SEAT in Spain? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-seat-spain/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-seat-spain/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 12:20:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=912322   Phil writes: I am going to Spain for 2-3 years for work but I have decided to sell my truck and only ship my motorcycle. Once I am there I will be looking to buy a cheap used small car, preferably a hatchback with a manual transmission. I am aware of some European brands […]

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greeting Medas Islands

(photo courtesy: www.whattoseeinibiza.com)

Phil writes:

I am going to Spain for 2-3 years for work but I have decided to sell my truck and only ship my motorcycle. Once I am there I will be looking to buy a cheap used small car, preferably a hatchback with a manual transmission. I am aware of some European brands like Seat, Alfa, Peugeot, Renault, etc. but do not know much about their modern line up. Gas or diesel is fine, can you help me with some recommendations?

Sajeev answers:

Since I don’t live in Europe and don’t know your budget–what’s up with you people not telling EVERYONE ON THE INTERNET how much money you have to spend on a car?–I say what I usually say: test drive a lot of cars in your price range.

And do a lot of virtual touring via Google Image search to see if you like a particular design.

Me? After seeing the SEAT Ibizia in person, I’d kinda go for that.  Or a Rio Brown MKI Ford Sierra Ghia…no wait, that’s already been done. Plus, SEAT is the Spanish offshoot of VW, with nice regional flare inside and out.  Lastly, depending on your budget, repairing a warranty-less VAG product in Europe is far easier/cheaper than in the Toyota-centric U.S. of A.

Luckily you have a motorcycle, there’s no reason to rush into anything.  Enjoy the buying process, and enjoy the local flavor by brand. Me thinks you’ll have a preferred brand in no time. Of course you can’t go wrong with a MKI Ford Sierra Ghia…even when you do.

Off to you, Best and Brightest!

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Want A Ford Fusion 6-Speed Manual? Too Late. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/want-a-ford-fusion-6-speed-manual-too-late/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/want-a-ford-fusion-6-speed-manual-too-late/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 14:37:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=863457 Ford’s confusing strategy of pairing a 6-speed manual 1.6L Ecoboost and a 1.5L Ecoboost automatic on the Fusion just got a bit easier to understand. There’s only one choice now. Reports say that the three-pedal Fusion is now dead, with the 1.5L engine the sole option for the Fusion’s smaller Ecoboost trim levels. Given what must […]

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Ford’s confusing strategy of pairing a 6-speed manual 1.6L Ecoboost and a 1.5L Ecoboost automatic on the Fusion just got a bit easier to understand. There’s only one choice now.

Reports say that the three-pedal Fusion is now dead, with the 1.5L engine the sole option for the Fusion’s smaller Ecoboost trim levels. Given what must be an absurdly low take rate, this is hardly surprising.

Last year, Bark M managed to take one for what may be our first Reader Ride Review. It might be the only independent account you’ll ever see of this car.

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Review: 2014 Opel Astra Manual Diesel Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/review-2014-opel-astra-manual-diesel-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/review-2014-opel-astra-manual-diesel-wagon/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 12:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=761313 Recently, Mark Reuss told media that he would like GM to have an American wagon. If this happens, the prime candidate is the Chevy Cruze Wagon, which already exists – and is also offered with diesel engine and manual transmission. But what if GM wanted something more upscale? What if Reuss’ dream wagon is meant […]

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Recently, Mark Reuss told media that he would like GM to have an American wagon. If this happens, the prime candidate is the Chevy Cruze Wagon, which already exists – and is also offered with diesel engine and manual transmission. But what if GM wanted something more upscale? What if Reuss’ dream wagon is meant to be a Buick?

Several cars in the Buick line are siblings to European Opels (or Vauxhalls, in Great Britain). Two of them are also available as wagons – the Insignia Sports Tourer is basically Buick Regal Estate Wagon, and the Opel Astra Sports Tourer would make, with some re-badging, a nice Buick Verano Estate Wagon. The Astra/Verano is probably the better candidate for the American wagon, since it’s almost as roomy inside as Regal/Insignia (with seats folded flat, it actually has more cargo space), and is significantly cheaper.

Why not go all the way, and make it a sporty diesel, manual wagon. Last year, the Astra’s engine line-up was enhanced by addition of the 190hp 2.0 CDTI Biturbo version. Actually, it’s more than just an engine option – Biturbo comes as  a separate equipment level, somewhere half-way between ordinary Astras and the full-on sporty OPC version. It doesn’t have the same clever Hi-Per strut front suspension the OPC and GTC (that’s the three door hatch coupe version), but it’s been lowered, fitted with stylish 18” wheels and dual exhaust tips, special seats and a trick front spoiler.

The core of the Biturbo package is the engine. Two-liter diesel plant with common-rail direct injection offers some 190 horsepower and 235 lb-ft (320 Nm) sent to the front wheels through the six-speed manual gearbox. That puts the Astra Biturbo right on the border of the diesel hot hatch/hot wagon territory – but the Biturbo is not nearly so ostentatious. In fact, seeing that it’s not called the “OPC diesel”, it seems that Opel really wanted it to be more of a fast GT than a realy sports wagon.

The Biturbo’s exterior is quite restrained – no wings or flares or vivid paint to tell everyone you bought “the fast one”. Thanks to the slightly different front bumper, large (and really pretty) wheels and lowered ride height, the Biturbo looks more handsome than “ordinary” Astras, but unless parked beside one, most people will never notice why it even looks different. They’ll just like it a bit more than they usually like Astras. It makes for a wonderful sleeper.

Once you open the door, things change. The seats with red highlights and a silly “tire tread” motif seem incongruous with the discreet exterior. And I suspect that older people will have slight problem getting out of the front ones, since they’re really heavily sculpted.

But as the driver, you will probably love them. They offer lots of support, and even the base version is widely adjustable (you can add more adjustment as an option). I would really like to have an adjustable headrest, as it was too much forward, but overall, the seats are nice. And it gets even better once you reach for the wheel. The fact that it’s adjustable both in rake and reach is pretty much normal these days, but most cars are lacking in the range of adjustment. If you like to sit in the “proper” position, with the steering wheel high and close to your chest, and the backrest as vertical as you can bear, you run into all sorts of problems – usually with not enough range. In the Astra, it took me just a few moments to find a nearly perfect driving position. And the steering wheel’s thickness and diameter was spot-on as well, although the shape was not. I have never understood what was wrong about steering wheels being round… this ain’t no racecar, dudes!

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Remember everything you heard about the modern diesels being so refined you hardly even know that you’re not running on gas? This is not the case, even though the Astra uses a very sophisticated common-rail system. The Biturbo two-liter may sound more refined than the old N/A plants from W123 or W124 Benzes, but it isn’t that much quieter.

Shifting into first brings much more positive thoughts. The shifter action is light and quite precise. Maybe not the best in the business, but certainly pleasant to use. Leaving the parking lot, you notice the first difference between the Biturbo and ordinary Astra, in the form of loud scratching sound when the front splitter hits the ground for the first of many times. In the beginning, you drive slow and carefully to prevent this from happening. Then, you realize it’s pointless exercise and just wonder when you’ll rip it off (as I found out later, Opel employees bolted the splitter to the bumper to prevent journos from losing it somewhere).

From a European perspective, the Astra feels massive inside. Compared competitors like the Ford Focus or Renault Mégane, it seems to be just so much bigger – which gives you a feeling of safety, but also makes parking quite tricky. If you’re buying one, don’t forget to add both front and rear parking sensors, or, better yet, a back-up camera.

Astra_04

I may have criticized the Tesla Model S for having no tactile controls, but the Astra is at the other end of the spectrum. There’s incomprehensible sea of buttons, captioned with confusing acronyms. If you’re new to the car, you will be hopelessly lost. I did find myself acclimating to this layout as I drove it, but I’d be worried if that didn’t happen.

Quibbles aside, the Astra is a nice car to drive. Even with the Biturbo’s stiffer suspension and on large 18” wheels, it’s reasonably supple. Hit the sport button and you’re treated to less steering assistance, quicker accelerator response and the red glow of the instruments – of, and the adjustable dampers firm up, making the ride a bit more brittle. Luckily, you can disable any of these. I really hated the red instruments.

While most of the diesel hot hatches seem stuck on getting the best Nurburgring lap time – and suffering for it in the real world- the Astra feels more grown-up, more comfortable . On our drive into the twisties, with sport mode on and the radio turned down, the Astra delivered a competent, but not exactly exhilirating performance. Handling was fairly neutral, even with the heavy diesel engine up front. Like most modern racks, the steering has a bit of a dead-zone on-center, but it’s well weighted. The clutch and gear change are all nicely done.

But American wagon enthusiasts need to temper their expectations. This is not a fiesty hot hatch like the Focus ST. It feels much more like a GT, at home on highways rather than back roads, and all its heft – perceived or real (it weighs about 3700 lbs) makes it feel like it was meant to be a Buick from the beginning.

The only trouble is that once you get to cruising speed and the engine noise fades into background, it’s replaced by even more unpleasant road and aerodynamic noise. At typical A-road speed of 50-70mph, it’s a bit annoying, but not terrible. At highway speeds of 80 or 90mph, it starts to bother you. And if you’re in the hurry and try to keep the Astra at 110-120mph, it’s hard to even listen to the radio.

Fuel economy is one area that doesn’t disappoint. At a typical relaxed pace (55-60mph on major roads), the Astra can get over 40 mpg. And only when driven really hard in the twisties, with the pedal to the metal on each and every straight and the speedo needle sometimes nudging 100mph, it barely gets under 20mpg. High-speed, cruising with speeds in the triple digits brought similar numbers.

Astra_05

 But, would the diesel Verano (GSD, maybe?) be a good car for America? I’m not sure. First of all, the economics for a diesel passenger car rare make sense with fuel prices so low (yes, I know, resale and all that matters too). And as much as North Americans may fetishize the idea of a diesel performance wagon, I’m not sold on the tradeoffs in refinement that the Biturbo Astra requires. In Europe, this car costs as much as a Ford Focus ST wagon, which is much faster, much more fun and not much worse on fuel when cruising on the highway.

But if you’re really hell bent on getting a diesel, manual wagon, this would be a nice choice.

@VojtaDobes is motoring journalist from Czech Republic, who previously worked for local editions of Autocar and TopGear magazines. Today, he runs his own website, www.Autickar.cz and serves as editor-in-chief at www.USmotors.cz. After a failed adventure with importing classic American cars to Europe, he is utterly broke, so he drives a borrowed Lincoln Town Car. His previous cars included a 1988 Caprice in NYC Taxi livery, a hot-rodded Opel Diplomat, two Dodge Coronets, a Simca, a Fiat 600 and Austin Maestro. He has never owned a diesel, manual wagon.

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Manual Wagons Total 0.0956% Of All New Cars On Sale: Cadillac Offers One, BMW Doesn’t http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/manual-wagons-total-0-0956-of-all-new-cars-on-sale-cadillac-offers-one-bmw-doesnt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/manual-wagons-total-0-0956-of-all-new-cars-on-sale-cadillac-offers-one-bmw-doesnt/#comments Tue, 29 Oct 2013 18:31:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=637185 Juan Barnett of DCAutoGeek has compiled the definitive infographic on our favorite niche segment: manual wagons.  Using inventory from Cars.com, Barnett found that of 2.4 million new cars current available for sale in America, just 2,336 or 0.09 percent are manual wagons. Subaru, followed by Volkswagen, are the big players in this very small market. […]

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Wagons

Juan Barnett of DCAutoGeek has compiled the definitive infographic on our favorite niche segment: manual wagons.  Using inventory from Cars.com, Barnett found that of 2.4 million new cars current available for sale in America, just 2,336 or 0.09 percent are manual wagons. Subaru, followed by Volkswagen, are the big players in this very small market. BMW is sadly absent from this list, now that the 328i wagon can no longer be had with a stick, but Kia (the Soul is technically a wagon), Scion (ditto their two-box offerings) and Mini still make the cut, according to the government’s definition of a wagon. Who would have thought that Cadillac would replace BMW in these rankings?

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Not An April Fool’s Joke: Rear-Drive, Manual, Diesel Wagon For Sale In North America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/not-an-april-fools-joke-rear-drive-manual-diesel-wagon-for-sale-in-north-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/not-an-april-fools-joke-rear-drive-manual-diesel-wagon-for-sale-in-north-america/#comments Mon, 01 Apr 2013 16:15:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=483089 Want a BMW manual diesel wagon for under $10k? You can buy one right now, on Ebay (via Bring A Trailer), and if you live in Canada, you can legally register it. One gentleman in Germany is offering a 1997 BMW 325tds wagon with a 5-speed manual for sale. The seller is offering to ship […]

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Want a BMW manual diesel wagon for under $10k? You can buy one right now, on Ebay (via Bring A Trailer), and if you live in Canada, you can legally register it.

One gentleman in Germany is offering a 1997 BMW 325tds wagon with a 5-speed manual for sale. The seller is offering to ship the car to Halifax, Nova Scotia, a major eastern port and a country where the car can be legally registered. The 2.5L diesel engine puts out 141 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque, hitting 60 mph in a leisurely 9.9 seconds – between that and the very European cloth seats, I think I’d rather opt for a gasoline powered wagon, if I had my pick.

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Piston Slap: Automatic Decisions, Manual Trannies http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/piston-slap-automatic-decisions-manual-trannies/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/piston-slap-automatic-decisions-manual-trannies/#comments Tue, 12 Mar 2013 17:16:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=480900 TTAC commentator hidrotule2001 writes: Hey Sajeev, A few months back you helped me sort out a plan of action for my Ford Fiesta transmission problems, and I have another stick-shift quandary I thought you might have some insight on. My second vehicle is a 2003 Ram 1500 (bare bones work-truck, standard cab, manual everything), which […]

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TTAC commentator hidrotule2001 writes:

Hey Sajeev,

A few months back you helped me sort out a plan of action for my Ford Fiesta transmission problems, and I have another stick-shift quandary I thought you might have some insight on.

My second vehicle is a 2003 Ram 1500 (bare bones work-truck, standard cab, manual everything), which I’ve recently been doing a lot of maintenance on (new plugs, pads, rotors, u-joints, carrier bearing, and a few other things). One issue I haven’t been able to sort out is an odd grinding/squealing I get when the car is in gear at high rpms (3000+) with the clutch peddle fully depressed (on the floor), something akin to what you hear if you come off the clutch with the shifter only part-way into gear.

Everything I can find on forums seems to indicate this is a worn throw-out bearing, but there seem to be a few things that suggest otherwise:
1) it only happens above a certain RPM (3000+), and makes 0 noise if the clutch is put in at lower revs
2) it only happens when in 1st gear, and occasionally in 2nd or 3rd (but much quieter in these cases)

I’ve had two local shops take a look at it, and neither was able to say more than it might be the throw-out bearing, or possibly some other bearing in the transmission, and they wouldn’t be able to say for sure unless they pulled the transmission out. I figure if it’s to the point that the transmission needs to be pulled, I should look at replacing the clutch (since it’s still on it’s first one, with 120k miles), and possibly some other transmission components, but that’s going to set me back a pretty penny (and it seems like throwing parts at a transmission problem is a good way to lighten you wallet quickly). I’ve also noticed that first and second gear are “clingy” and that when I shift back to neutral and/or have the clutch engaged, it takes substantially longer for the RPMs to return to idle than it does in higher gears, on the order of 2 full seconds(I’ve never noticed this in other M/T vehicles I’ve had, or if there was a difference it wasn’t noticeable). I’ve got a video where you can see the difference in time it takes to return to idle, as well as hear the grinding noise, here.  I’ve also found that the problem is worst when the engine is cold, for the first 10-15 minutes of driving after starting.

At the advice of some DodgeForum members I recently took the truck into my local independent shop to have the clutch, throw-out bearing, transmission fluid, and pilot bearing replaced, but my mechanic called back to say he was pretty sure those weren’t the cause of the issue. He’s convinced the issue is coming from something within the trans, possibly the counter shaft bearing, and was hesitant to replace components he didn’t think were causing the issue. His quote for a rebuilt transmission was 1700, with shipping and labor and a new clutch, that would end up around 2700, which is right about what the truck’s worth.

So now the question is, do I…

-Wait things out and see if they get any worse?
-Have the clutch components replaced anyway and see if that improves things?
-Have them pull the trans and hope it’s something easy to replace/fix?
-Look for a used trans and have that installed instead of a rebuilt one?
-Bite the bullet and have a rebuilt trans installed?
-Try my hand at a tranny-pull and see what trouble I can get into?

Thoughts/suggestion/voodoo-cures welcome. Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

You covered all the bases, short of learning how to rebuild gearboxes yourself.  Which is usually the big problem here: nobody knows what the hell is failing until a rebuilder takes it apart and assesses the situation. I consider transmissions (of all types) to be magic boxes of horror that you must never tear apart unless you are ready for a complete rebuild.  Obviously that doesn’t include accessible fail points like the clutch, torque converter, etc that aren’t encased within the gearbox itself.

Maybe you need a new clutch/throwout bearing/pressure plate/pilot bearing, but if your mechanic says no, I revert to my “magic box of horror” tranny theory.

Don’t worry about RPM hanging between gears, that’s part of the engine computer’s tuning. Not sure why it would hang more gears than others, but make sure you are driving the same way (intensity of throttle input, RPM speed before going into neutral, etc) in all gears to see if there actually is a problem. The hang in my Ranger was super annoying in all situations, so an SCT tune cured it…among other things. But I digress.

Back to your mechanic’s recommendation: let the transmission die, don’t change it immediately.  Just make sure you buy a good replacement from a trusted rebuilder.  If your local searches fail, get one from Jasper or a similar national distributor with a good reputation.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Today’s Strangest Manuals http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/todays-strangest-manuals/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/todays-strangest-manuals/#comments Wed, 06 Feb 2013 16:35:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=476547 The manual transmission is dying.  We know this because other sites constantly run articles about the death of the manual transmission, predicting its final demise sometime in the next few years, weeks, or hours.  Personally, I realized the manual’s future was limited on my last couple of trips to Europe, when I was given an […]

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The manual transmission is dying.  We know this because other sites constantly run articles about the death of the manual transmission, predicting its final demise sometime in the next few years, weeks, or hours.  Personally, I realized the manual’s future was limited on my last couple of trips to Europe, when I was given an automatic without even requesting it.  On one occasion, I even returned the car without damage.

But while the manual may not be long for this world, there’s still the occasional vehicle that – against all odds, and market research – is offered with three pedals.  Some are listed below, and I hope to hear about many more obscure stick shifts in the comments.  Even if you’re TTAC’s top troll.


Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano

Ferrari has dropped the manual transmission to the chagrin of precisely no one, except a few “purists” who like to heel-toe their 308 on the way to local FCA functions.  However, sometimes said purists strike it rich, presumably from selling their large collections of bright red Ferrari shoes, or sweaty underwear worn – and signed – by Michael Schumacher.

Until recently, Ferrari offered those purists a three-pedal 599 GTB – and their wives could have a stick shift California, too.  That’s no longer true, but there are always one or two manuals on the market.  Just ask the dealers that get stuck with them.


Mercedes C-Class

I mentioned in a previous story that the Mercedes SLK is available with a stick shift.  That kind of makes sense, as the SLK may fit the definition of a sports car for people who have never driven a Porsche, or people who have never ridden in a Porsche, or people who have never seen a Porsche, or people who work for Mercedes.  But through the 2012 model year, you could also get a stick shift C-Class – a baffling fact that can only be attributed to Mercedes accidentally sending a few to the States, then saying “Oh yeah, we meant to do that.”  This can also explain most of Land Rover’s products in the last 20 years.


Porsche Cayenne

In years past, Porsche was a bunch of crazy Germans making weird cars.  Witness the one-off, four-door 928; the 1989 Panamerica concept car, which included Porsche crests in the tire treads (really); and the “maybe today’s the day you die” 930.

Today, the crazy is mostly gone from Porsche, with one distinct exception: the manual Cayenne.  Yes, Porsche dealers will still sell you a new stick shift Cayenne, presumably under the condition that you trade it in somewhere else.  At one point, there was even a manual Cayenne GTS – now exclusively available at used car lots who didn’t pay enough attention at auction and thought they were buying an automatic.  Sadly, the three-pedal Panamera and Panamera S sold in Europe aren’t offered in the US.  Because that would be crazy.


Land Rover Discovery

To me, the Series I Land Rover Discovery is famous for two things.  One, when it rained, water would get into the interior dome lights and slosh around under cornering.  This didn’t break the dome lights, primarily because they were never working in the first place.  Number two: the first Disco was, from 1994 to 1996, inexplicably offered with a stick shift.  It was sold alongside the Defender, which also offered a manual, though the two have endured radically different fates.  While Defender owners can still get the original MSRP for their trucks, Disco owners must settle for roadside abandonment.  Manual or automatic, it will probably roll away.


Hummer H3

There’s nothing like the Hummer H3 – a fact other automakers would tell you is very much by design.  It’s blocky, aggressive, and inefficient – but also a rare example of badge engineering gone right, since it’s indistinguishably a Chevrolet Colorado underneath.  For some reason, that also meant it inherited the Colorado’s stick shift, which was offered up until the end in 2010.  Like the manual Cayenne GTS, stick shift Hummer H3s only end up at mistaken used car dealers, who then list it on AutoTrader with a bunch of interior photos angled away from the center console.


Lexus IS250

The first-generation Lexus IS300 offered, in addition to clear tail lights, a stick shift and a station wagon (though never together).  Enthusiasts liked the stick shift IS300, while positive reviews of the IS300 SportCross appeared in dozens of magazines, like Blind World and Blind Monthly.

Unfortunately, the second-gen dropped the wagon in favor of a hardtop convertible meant for divorcees who didn’t quite get a large enough settlement for an SC430.  The stick was relegated to the IS250, which had more power than a pacemaker, but slightly less than a midsize forklift.  Nobody bought it, but boy did it allow Lexus dealers to offer some great lease specials in the weekend newspaper.


Lincoln LS

Stunning, isn’t it?  Yes, you could get a Lincoln LS with a stick shift.  You had to get the V6 model and you probably had to undergo mental competency tests at the Lincoln dealer, which was unaware that a third pedal could be used for anything but the parking brake – but it existed.  Here’s the real kick in the teeth: as everyone knows, the LS shared everything except its handsome styling with the Jaguar S-Type, which uses a retro design to remind customers of a time when Jaguars were even less reliable.  And by “everything” we mean “everything:” yes, you could get a Jaguar S-Type with a manual transmission.


(Dodge) Ram 2500

Chevrolet dropped the manual heavy duty pickup after 2006, pissing off about eleven wealthy ranchers in the process.  Ford did the same after the 2010 model year, further angering another 19 cattle prod wizards.  But Dodge – or rather Ram, at least allegedly – still offers heavy duty models with a stick shift and what can only be described as a gear lever adapted from a walking cane.  A quick glance on AutoTrader reveals the price of these trucks can climb to $60,000, placing a fully-equipped, three-pedal Ram HD behind Porsche among the most expensive sticks on the market.


Hyundai Santa Fe

If nothing else on this list shocks you (really?  You’re not surprised by the Lincoln LS?), then this one should at least raise an eyebrow.  I’m not talking about the first-generation Santa Fe, and this is no soft top Suzuki.  The Hyundai Santa Fe could be paired with a manual transmission up until 2011, when the latest model finally pushed Hyundai to its senses.  Car companies make cars like this to advertise good deals, only to have the customer show up and discover they have to pay more for an automatic.  In other words, stick shift Santa Fe owners: you’re driving a marketing expense.


BMW X3

The BMW X3 could be ordered with a stick shift until 2010.  I’ve always fantasized about owning one, since the manual X3 (and its larger X5 sibling, which was available with three pedals through 2006) is just about the only SUV that is universally car-guy acceptable.  Unfortunately, BMW dealers seem to think a manual transmission is a luxury SUV is something of a godsend, so they’re invariably priced like automatics.  My advice: show up at the dealer and act angry when you “find out” it’s a stick shift.  Then haggle from there.  After all, the guy looking for the stick shift X3 isn’t going to get a discount.


Honda Insight

There’s no stick shift in the current Honda Insight.  That should be obvious, since the current Insight is just a ripoff on the current Prius, and the current Prius only offers a weird shift knob that includes a gear called “B.”

No, it was the first generation Insight that had a manual – originally as its only transmission – long before the CR-Z made underperforming manual hybrids with thin tires cool.  A CVT came later, but the stick stayed around until the Insight died in 2006.  At the same time, Honda offered another surprising manual hybrid: the original Civic Hybrid, which could be had with a stick from 2003 to 2005.

So there you have it: a few of the stranger manuals in recent memory.  I have no doubt TTAC readers will remind me of some that are odder still.

Doug DeMuro operates PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, roadtripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute laptime on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta.  One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer.  His parents are very disappointed.

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Piston Slap: Honey, If You Do This For Me… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/piston-slap-honey-if-you-do-this-for-me/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/piston-slap-honey-if-you-do-this-for-me/#comments Wed, 06 Feb 2013 12:40:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=476354 TTAC commentator sastexan writes: Sajeev – One of my best friends is shopping to replace his Mazdaspeed6 for something a little more utilitarian that can hold his bicycle and gear in the back (frequent triathlete). Here’s the issue – he wants to get another manual shift car, but his wife is pressing for an automatic […]

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TTAC commentator sastexan writes:

Sajeev –

One of my best friends is shopping to replace his Mazdaspeed6 for something a little more utilitarian that can hold his bicycle and gear in the back (frequent triathlete). Here’s the issue – he wants to get another manual shift car, but his wife is pressing for an automatic because she has never learned to drive stick.

And he is worried that he will get tired of this new car and want to donate to her and get rid of her CX-7 (he is seriously anti-SUV), but feels that if he goes automatic, that day will come very quickly. I suggested he find a good driving school and send her (and maybe a friend) to learn how to properly handle a stick shift and have some fun doing it. That could get her excited about the potential and won’t create marital strife of him trying to teach her to drive manual.

First, does the Best and Brightest think this is a good plan, and second, any suggestions for driving schools?

Sajeev answers:

Luckily for your friend’s marriage, he cannot pawn his wife off to a driving school: most teach the basics of car control, not how to drive a stick. You gotta accelerate/steer/stop before you attend, so it’s time to take matters into his own hands. Because everyone has their “must haves” in anything, especially in a life partner. And if there’s marital strife from this…well, perhaps he’s selling the wrong bill of goods.

Like friction modifier to the limited slip axle that is a marriage, your friend must show his wifey the value in driving a manual transmission.  It’s more interesting to drive, for starters. But more importantly, it makes her exponentially cooler than every other woman around him. Am I lying?

What man doesn’t want a woman that’s fun, exciting and maybe a bit more competitive and challenging?

How could you, a gearhead of a man, not go out of your way to excite a woman like that in return?

When sold on this promise, how can she resist? She becomes exciting to her man! She’s an object of desire!  She’s hooked, so he can teach without fear of her losing interest.  Or patience. This is how love should work. If you don’t believe me, ask my special lady friend.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

 

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Piston Slap: Of Power Curves and Turbo Boost… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/piston-slap-of-power-curves-and-turbo-boost/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/piston-slap-of-power-curves-and-turbo-boost/#comments Mon, 17 Dec 2012 12:32:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=470319 Chris writes: Sajeev, In a couple recent Piston Slap articles you’ve mentioned that when driving car with a manual transmission its most efficient to accelerate with the engine near its torque peak, then cruise in the highest gear possible. This raised two questions in my mind: 1. Does the engine’s torque peak vary based on […]

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Chris writes:

Sajeev,

In a couple recent Piston Slap articles you’ve mentioned that when driving car with a manual transmission its most efficient to accelerate with the engine near its torque peak, then cruise in the highest gear possible. This raised two questions in my mind:

1. Does the engine’s torque peak vary based on throttle position? From what I understand, power and torque curves are generated at wide open throttle. But would the torque curve look different at, say, 50% throttle? I’ve heard that exhaust backpressure can affect the torque curve (maybe this is a myth). Could throttle position have the same effect via intake vacuum? Speaking of intake pressure, that leads me to my real question:

2. How does your strategy of accelerating with the engine near its torque peak apply to a turbocharged vehicle? My car has a turbo and according to the manufacturer the torque peak is 2000 rpm. But clearly it’s not always capable of generating max torque at 2000. If I’m loafing along at 1800 rpm and floor the throttle it takes a very laggy second or so for the boost to build and its definitely past 2000 rpm by the time it starts really generating power. I’m thinking there must be a different torque curve for part-throttle acceleration, when the engine is either off-boost or not making full boost. I think this would also apply to an engine like Audi’s supercharged V6, where the supercharger can de-clutch from the engine under low load. Any thoughts on the most efficient way of accelerating in a turbo? Better to accelerate “on boost” at relatively low rpm and relatively wide throttle? Or accelerate with less throttle, keeping it out of the boost (but probably winding the tach up more to avoid moving at a snail’s pace)? Or just forget the whole thing, floor it and enjoy the wild turbo-torque surge?

If these are stupid questions, please disregard. These are just things I ponder while sitting in traffic… Keep up the great work!

Sajeev answers:

This is a fantastic question that I am totally not qualified to answer…but that hasn’t stopped me before, and it hasn’t stopped you lovely people from reading, so let’s do this thang!

Point #1: Yes, throttle position will affect the torque peak. Because an engine is basically just an air pump, if you have less throttle you have less air, less fuel and therefore less power.  Thankfully, with the advent of electronic fuel injection there are multiple mappings: older systems have a full and a part throttle program, and newer systems probably have several.  So I betcha you can maximize an engine’s efficiency at just about any throttle opening. Every application is a little different, and many are tuned to maximize performance with a computer reflash from an aftermarket programmer.

As a rule of thumb, and I’m ready to get slammed by engineers for saying this, backpressure (or a lack thereof) does indeed affect the torque output of an engine.  More importantly: backpressure isn’t a good thing, finding the ideal exhaust velocity to minimize backpressure while keeping the speed “slow” enough to not hurt torque output is crucial.  That’s why, in the past 10-15 years, we see far higher quality exhaust systems in all OEM applications: no crush bends in the tubes, cast iron manifolds that are shaped more like aftermarket tubular headers, and mufflers/catalytic converters that aren’t a significant restriction.**

Point #2: turbocharged motors are just like point #1 when it comes to power in part throttle applications. And every boosted application out there is different. Once again, and even more so, tuning makes ALL the difference in the world.  Because the turbo is a muffler/restrictor in the exhaust system, you want as little restriction behind it to ensure maximum efficiency: hence why the Dodge SRT-4 is muffler-less from the factory.

My gut feeling is that with any modern car, turbo or not, you need to give it more gas to cut through the slop of electronic throttle control/torque management to get into your torque peak quicker.  Spend less time accelerating and more time cruising, with traffic conditions in mind of course. That doesn’t mean you run wide-open throttle, either. There’s a happy medium out there, somewhere.

Off to you, Best and Brightest: I’m ready, I’m wearing my flame suit.

**Grab a catalytic converter from the 1970s-early 1990s. They neck down, restrict air flow, etc far more than the goodies I see today in cut-away diagrams at the auto shows.  We have come a long way, baby.

 

 

 

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QOTD: The Year’s Most Important Stories http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/qotd-the-years-most-important-stories/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/qotd-the-years-most-important-stories/#comments Thu, 13 Dec 2012 18:35:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=470027 As the year comes to a close and we choose our most reviled cars of the year, it’s also worth reflecting on the most compelling narratives of the year. At TTAC, we pride ourselves on covering stories that other outlets overlook. Whether it’s territorial disputes in China, overcapacity in Europe, a manufacturing boom in Africa […]

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As the year comes to a close and we choose our most reviled cars of the year, it’s also worth reflecting on the most compelling narratives of the year.

At TTAC, we pride ourselves on covering stories that other outlets overlook. Whether it’s territorial disputes in China, overcapacity in Europe, a manufacturing boom in Africa or implosion in Australia, we do our best to deliver compelling content to you, the readers, and we’re always amused and intrigued by your comments. But our news judgement and yours don’t always align.

The floor is open to what mattered most to you. We’re cognizant of the fact that not everyone likes low-cost cars or Chinese sub-brands, so let us know what kept you reading this year.

Personally, low-cost cars and the proliferation of modular platform kits are most interesting to me right now.

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Super Piston Slap: NVH = Killing You With Kindness? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/super-piston-slap-nvh-killing-you-with-kindness/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/super-piston-slap-nvh-killing-you-with-kindness/#comments Tue, 04 Dec 2012 19:20:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=469097 While Noise, Vibration, Harshness (NVH) control built into a modern machine is normally your friend, it often kills you with kindness.  That’s when NVH hides things that should never be hidden.  Shameful. Cowardly. Pathetic. And while I wasn’t expecting this level of deceit when merely replacing the shift knob on the otherwise stock transmission in […]

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While Noise, Vibration, Harshness (NVH) control built into a modern machine is normally your friend, it often kills you with kindness.  That’s when NVH hides things that should never be hidden.  Shameful. Cowardly. Pathetic. And while I wasn’t expecting this level of deceit when merely replacing the shift knob on the otherwise stock transmission in my 2011 Ford Ranger…well it was thrust upon me.  And it can happen to you, too.

There was a time when you could simply unscrew the factory shift knob on any basic machine (cough, 2011 Ford Ranger) and replace it with whatever the heck you liked.  Something with a little more style than stock. Or something with more heft, giving a nicer quality feel in your hands. I had a solid 8-ball shifter remaining from the T-56 swap in my Fox Cougar, and I certainly thought it would look choice on the truck. So I began pulling the factory part off. Oh man, what a mistake THAT was…

So apparently the shift knob isn’t a normal “twist and spin-off the threads” type of deal. The forums mentioned a way to pull really, really hard to pop it off the threads, and I’ve seen that done elsewhere on other vehicles…so I gave it a shot. While those scratches weren’t from my teeth, they sure felt like it. No dice.

I wound up ripping off the rubber knob skin with my Leatherman tool, then attacking the hard plastic covering with a ball-peen hammer.  I was left with this metal hunk, and the remnants of the plastic covering wedged between the shift lever and the shift knob.  How many vibration quelling layers are there to this thing? 

Back to the top photo. I wised up and did what others suggested: remove the shifter assembly.  Which is another multi-layer, sleeved, affair with NVH reducing content. But with one bolt, I made it all go away.  But was I gonna try to remove the factory knob on my workbench?  I already mangled the damn thing up pretty badly, and the scratches could be present when I install the 8-ball knob. So I punted on 4th down. I called in my kicker, eBay motors, and got what I really wanted instead. Sure it cost me a few too many dollars, but…well…

BAM SON!  What you see here is the chrome lever from the Ranger FX4 Level II, the aforementioned 8-ball knob, and the faux-leather boot from a 1991 Mustang LX 5.0 Notchback. (Yes, I had to add the Notchback part, as that makes it cooler).  All this stuff together makes for a far superior design, deserving to be standard issue on ALL Rangers of the U-shift-it variety. Aside from the slick chrome plating (mixed feelings with all this black plastic) and the unbelievably better ergonomics of the FX4 lever, this part has very little NVH interference. To wit:

  • Huge, thick, air tight(ish) noise quelling rubber boot? Gone.
  • Multi-layer Knob sporting chintzy plastic and rubber covers?  Nope.
  • Sleeved shift lever with some rubbery stuff sandwiched between them?  History.

Now remember I said that the stock stuff can kill you with kindness? That doesn’t mean you want to be physically abused: word has it that the Hurst replacement is a bit over the top for most folks, even if the price is nice.  So the Ranger FX4 part has the right look and feel, and it’s a fantastic piece of OEM engineering. I can now shift without my elbow ever leaving the armrest.  The notchy engagement is now faster, and you can feel the notches instead of just wondering WTF is wrong with the gearbox. Vibrations through the shift knob are minimal, but present. Hammer the throttle in first gear and the lever emits a gearbox whine that–with my modified air filter housing and 2010 Mustang GT muffler–gives the DOHC Duratec Ranger a Pre War British sports car’s demeanor.

You can’t help but smile a little as you twist up the little Duratec Ranger through redline in the first three gears.  OR A LOT. This is just so frickin’ cool. And it’s so damn hard to find this anywhere in the world of new vehicles sold in North America.

My point? Just about any vehicle can be de-wronged, fixed to your liking. Don’t be killed by kindness, you need not be a victim any longer!

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Capsule Review: 2013 Corvette 427 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/capsule-review-2013-corvette-427/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/capsule-review-2013-corvette-427/#comments Tue, 04 Sep 2012 12:30:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=458759 Neil Armstrong died on August 25th of this year and the nation mourned, doubly so. First for the man, and second for what he stood for: hero, explorer, icon of a time when all that was best in America rose up on a pillar of smoke and flame to dance among the heavens. The astronauts, […]

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Neil Armstrong died on August 25th of this year and the nation mourned, doubly so. First for the man, and second for what he stood for: hero, explorer, icon of a time when all that was best in America rose up on a pillar of smoke and flame to dance among the heavens.

The astronauts, of course, all drove Corvettes. GM gave a white ’62 to first-flyer Alan Shepard upon his return to Earth, then a Florida dealership provided subsequent one-year leasing deals to put astronauts behind the wheel of the latest models – clever PR for sure, and yet it seemed a perfect fit. While the very first ‘Vettes were more Piper Cub than Bell X-1, those that would be piloted by the likes of Gus Grissom and Alan Bean had the Right Stuff; the fastest and best machines America could produce.

Sixty years after GM built the first Corvette (and about fifty-six since they got the recipe right), here we are with an explorer on Mars, and it’s a robot with a sarcastic twitter feed. Heroes are scarce; the cult of celebrity now shines a spotlight on the kind of people you’d cross the street to avoid. And as for the Corvette?

This convertible is the final sortie for the C6 ‘Vette; in production since 2005, the sixth-gen Corvette is now almost entirely overshadowed by the strong-selling Camaro. Rumors about the C7 flit about the internet at the speed of conjecture, but if you’d check the click-count, I’d warrant more attention is drawn by war-correspondence on the battle between the ludicrously powerful supercharged pony cars.

Still, there’s no denying the old girl’s a stunner. It’s not really a Z06 convertible, more a Grand Sport with extra add-ons like carbon-fibre body panels. Still, between the enormous alloys and serving-platter brakes, power bulge of the hood (also carbon-fibre), and those twin grey-blue stripes on the ethereal-white body, you can tell this car is something special: a tarmac speedboat.

It is, per expectation, as plastic as Heidi Montag’s left breast. Prodding the rear bumper lightly makes for some alarming flex. There’s little sense that this car is precision-engineered or built to last.

But then, these are the rules of Corvette-dom. ‘Vettes are a big Chevy V8 up front, rear-wheel-drive out back, flimsy body in-between and a woeful interior on the inside. Speaking of which…

It does not do to complain about the inside of a C6 Corvette overmuch. Everything you’ve heard about for the past eight years is true – the navigation system is dated, the quality of the materials seems unequal to the price-tag, and there are a whole host of minor annoyances. The top, for instance, has a manual latch that’s a bit fiddly and the power-folding mechanism balked several times.

But we know all this. We’ve had these shortcomings outlined to us time and time again until they’ve become gospel. Corvettes are fast, but they’re tacky. They’re uncouth. Someday the C7 might correct the short-comings, but the C6 just doesn’t measure up to European standard. Right?

Somehow, sitting in the 427, none of these “truths” seem to matter. Just as it looks from the exterior, the inside feels like that of a cigarette boat. Yes, the seats are more comfortable than well-bolstered, but this is a street-car, not a track-special coupe.

Already feeling preconceptions melting away, I push in the clutch and press the afterthought of a rectangular start button. Two minutes later, any thoughts of what a Corvette might be is left far behind in a cloud of burnt hydrocarbons as the 427 demonstrates, unequivocally, what it is.

This is a wonderful car. Absolutely wonderful. Not only is it immensely powerful, with the Z06’s seven-litre mill providing 505hp, but there is also little-to-nothing separating you from the experience.

Sure, all that power is harnessed by wide, sticky Michelin Pilot sports, and the balanced chassis is suspended on the hyper-adaptable and ICP-baffling Magnetic Ride Control suspension, but the 427 is anything but buttoned-down. Apply full throttle in second gear, feel the chassis yaw and hear the change-over as the exhaust baffles snap open at three thousand rpm and the ‘Vette roars its battle-cry.

An ’80s-style heads-up display starts rolling over green-lit numbers at a ridiculous pace. If you’re used to miles-per, you’ll think you’ve switched over to metric. If you’re used to metric, you’ll think you’re looking at a hundredths and tenths on a stop-watch.

The 427 roars down the on-ramp with the unstoppable thrust of a Saturn V. Without a roof, there’s nothing to muffle the thunder of that uncorked LS7; come off the loud pedal and the resulting crump-crump sounds like the echo of far-off artillery. If you drive this thing through a tunnel and it doesn’t make you cackle like a madman, you’re probably a communist. Or dead.

Everything that was missing from my experience with the 911 can be found here. The ‘Vette has none of the finesse of the niner, and considerably less practicality. But it’s more honest somehow; analog, not digital – an F-14, not a flight simulator.

It’s unfair to call it crude; you’d not use the same epithet for a sledgehammer or a SPAS-12. The Corvette is simple, brutal, visceral and vital in a way other sports cars have forgotten how to be.

At the end of its production run, it’s just a funny plastic car with a gargantuan heart of pure aluminum. I love every single thing about it.

A 1967 427 Stingray once driven by Neil Armstrong is for sale on eBay right now, with bids rumoured to be in the quarter-million range. Ghoulishly, the car did not previously meet reserve when listed originally, but now is almost certain to reach a higher number with his passing.
It’s a battered old thing, clapped-out and badly treated, with hacked-up fender flares and a patina of abandon. Still something special though; something worth preserving.

It’s hard to imagine a modern astronaut behind the wheel of the modern 427. Not that slipping the bonds of Earth takes much less courage than it used to, but there’s less of a by-the-seat-of-your-pants air about it.

These days something like an autonomous car might be more appropriate. Or, given the successful flight of SpaceX (one step closer to Weyland-Yutani), perhaps a Model S?

No, this is not a car for today’s scientist-explorers. Instead, it’s a link back in time, an appropriate flag-bearer to mark the 60th anniversary of an exceptional automobile.

Its replacement, the C7, will no doubt be a refinement in many ways: proper seats, improved in-car amenities, better electronics, reduced fuel-consumption, probably faster as well.

Tough to say, though, whether actually any better than this, the last hurrah for the sixth-gen Corvette.

Because it’s a God-damn rocketship.

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Off-track Excursion – 2013 Ford Mustang GT Take Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/off-track-excursion-2013-ford-mustang-gt-take-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/off-track-excursion-2013-ford-mustang-gt-take-two/#comments Fri, 15 Jun 2012 13:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=449029 You can read Jack Baruth’s extremely thorough track-test of the 2013 Mustang V8 here. All right stop, collaborate and listen: The Mustang’s back in a brand-new edition, Recaros, grab a hold of me tightly – Flow through the corners daily and nightly “Will it ever stop?” Yo, I think so, It’s got grabby pads and […]

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You can read Jack Baruth’s extremely thorough track-test of the 2013 Mustang V8 here.

All right stop, collaborate and listen:
The Mustang’s back in a brand-new edition,
Recaros, grab a hold of me tightly –
Flow through the corners daily and nightly
“Will it ever stop?” Yo, I think so,
It’s got grabby pads and brakes by Brembo.
To the extreme: a drag car that can handle,
Light ’em up, stage, then wax a chump like a candle.

Right, I think that got all the Vanilla Ice out of my system. Let’s drive this damn thing.

It’s brony week at TTAC and things are looking good for Ford with Back Jaruth Jack Baruth Beardy McShinyshirt calling the ‘Stang, “the best, most thoroughly realized product Ford makes.”

Oh, Ford makes this thing? Well that’s weird: why there aren’t any dang Ford badges on it? I’ve got a galloping steed up front, “5.0” on the flanks and a big ol’ GT belt-buckle out back so that the guy in the 3-series knows that at least he didn’t get smoked by a V6.

Welp, there ain’t no bow-ties on a ‘Vette neither. The Mustang is a brand all to itself, which is exactly why it has such a clear feeling of identity. This latest edition obviously has the blood of its sixties ancestors pounding in its veins, although I can’t say I’m in love with the tweaked front end. It looks like Moose thinking about something sad.

This car is American, inside and out. Frankly, I love it. The materials aren’t luxuriant – dear me, no – the pebbled dash is textured like the backside of a vulcanized rhinocerous and why does chrome-look plastic even exist? Why? Matte-black would do just fine.

The steering wheel is leather everywhere you don’t touch it and plastic at the 9- and 3- o’clock positions. And the retro-look speedometer is useless with metric markings, but serve me right for living in an igloo.

Ignore all that. The Recaro seats fit perfectly, the cabin is clean and simple and spartan and it feels really well put-together. You get the feeling that the person (well, robot, I suppose) that screwed all the plastic bits down watched the car go out the factory door with a satisfied nod. Made in America, and that’s a good thing.

I suppose I should mention something about the on-board infotainment entermation. The optional Shaker Pro system is incredibly loud and comes with an after-thought trunk-mounted subwoofer that looks like a metastasizing desktop PC. If you play Motörhead through it at high-volume, all vegans within a five-mile radius spontaneously combust. Fun!

But then, the glorious V8 soundtrack is about half the reason to buy a GT over the V6 in the first place; why cover it up? Save your money for an aftermarket exhaust. Or, just put the window down.

Overall, the inside of the Mustang’s a bit like a pair of jeans. Not useless skinny jeans nor saggy-crotched baggy jeans nor hyper-expensive ass-framing euro-denim. Just jeans. The kind you wear when you’re going to fix something or hammer nails into stuff. “Getting-shit-done” pants.

Yeah, that’s it. The inside of the Mustang feels like a place where you Get. Shit. Done.

This is the ranch, where I keep my four hundred and twenty horses. They’d like to run to 7500rpm. Too bad the fuel cut hauls on the bridle at 7K.

The Coyote loves to rev. Point that big nose down the on-ramp, stomp on the throttle and don’t forget to shift – there’s no top-end dead zone to remind you. 1-2 from a roll-out around town is giggle-inducing; 2-3-4, you shut up and pay attention.

As a sort of sauerkraut sorbet to whet my palate pre-Stang, I spent a few days behind the wheel of six-speed M3. Let me just put this out there: while the ‘Stang’s Chinese-sourced 6-speed may be inferior to the Boss Tremec option (deferring to the opinion of my colleagues here), it’s better than the Bimmer’s. And, dare I say it, I like the Mustang’s engine better too.
And then there’s the cornering…

Whoever designed the Mustang’s traction control was either a genius, or a red-neck, or a redneck genius. Mishandle the ‘Stang, yank at the wheel and stomp on the go-pedal and the back-end riverdances about like Michael Flatley, pulling back just before it falls right off the stage.

Sure you can disable it for the track, but on the street it’s less hand-slapping e-nanny and more Master P: shake dat ass – but watch yo’self! Stickier tires would not go amiss though.

This car had the glass roof, high-mounted weight which should theoretically affect the handling like a lead cycling helmet. That and the soft-ish suspension might have track-addicts hunting down the Boss instead – or heading for the aftermarket. As a street car though, you’ll be having too much fun to care.

There’s a caveat. For all the talk of muscle-car-turned-sports-car, the Mustang is a big machine. With an upright seating position and long front-end, it’s like being in a canoe (albeit a canoe with twin Mercury outboards) compared to the “sit-in” kayak hip-pivot feel of something like a MX-5. Not disconcerting, but something to get used to if you’re stepping out of anything lighter than 3000 pounds.

And then there’s the fuel economy which is not… good. If you’ve got a commute, and you’re on the fence about the V6, be aware that you won’t get any pleasant surprises from the V8.

But I pay for my own gas when I’m evaluating a car, and I begrudged the V8 not a single drop. Sure it did a pretty thorough job of processing petrochemicals into noise and shimmy, but I expected it to.

There are basically just two kinds of cars in the world. There are those that you climb into after a long day’s labour and suddenly you find yourself half-way home on autopilot, living out the Talking Head’s “Once in a Lifetime”.

Then there are those cars that straighten out the workday slouch and quicken your step as you walk towards them in the empty parkade. You’ve put in extra hours to make the bigger payment and the nine-to-fivers are already gone for the day.

Rush hour has tailed out, the roads are quiet and you pause before you crank the starter to mute the radio and drop both windows. The Coyote barks, hollow echoes bouncing off the concrete. Dinner’s in the fridge, kids already in bed – no need to drive straight home.

Yo. Word to your mother.

Ford Canada provided the car tested and insurance.

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Mrs. McAleer Rows Her Own. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/mrs-mcaleer-rows-her-own/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/mrs-mcaleer-rows-her-own/#comments Wed, 06 Jun 2012 17:06:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=447534 As noted in a triumvirate of TTAC reviews, the Scion iQ is a fun little box that’s hobbled by a somewhat crappy CVT transmission – though, it should be noted, not to the “’Tis but a scratch” extent that the SMART is de-limbed by its godawful gearbox. The above text message was received from my […]

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As noted in a triumvirate of TTAC reviews, the Scion iQ is a fun little box that’s hobbled by a somewhat crappy CVT transmission – though, it should be noted, not to the “’Tis but a scratch” extent that the SMART is de-limbed by its godawful gearbox. The above text message was received from my wife after she drove one briefly.

Naturally, after telling her how disappointed I was in her total lack of ethics, I felt rather pleased. When I met Katie, she was a dedicated cyclist and transit-taker who hadn’t bothered to get her driver’s license until her early twenties. With a series of Acura mid-sizers rotating through Dad’s driveway, she regarded the car as either an appliance or a necessary evil.

And then, along come I with my idiotic fervour for the things. Sure, I gave up my first car for the engagement ring, but when we got married I bought a Ford Escort GT with a 5-speed and set out to teach my new wife how to drive it.

It wasn’t easy. There were frustrations and setbacks, tantrums and whining and sometimes I thought the tears would never stop coming.

She wasn’t that thrilled about it either.

I toyed briefly with the idea of pitching this article with a more instructional bent: “How to teach your spouse to drive stick.” But that opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms about the sexual politics of driving, perhaps a topic for another time.

What’s more, it’s not like I could get you past the first step anyway. I did have strong and persuasive arguments about the necessity of learning to drive a manual car – what if there was an emergency, like if I accidentally tripped and accidentally repeatedly fell on some beer and it accidentally repeatedly spilled into my mouth and I accidentally repeatedly swallowed it and became accidentally incapable of driving, accidentally? Very. Convincing.

But, like so many things in a successful marriage, convincing was less important than compromising. I would attempt to reduce the amount of commuting I did by car, and she would, in turn, endeavour to learn to work a clutch and a five-speed.

As we’ve covered, driving a manual transmission is not manly. It’s not always more efficient. In most cases though, it is more fun.

Certainly, it made the little Escort somewhat enjoyable. 1991 and newer ‘Scort GTs are fairly interesting cars to drive as they’ve got a Mazda BP powerplant and decently nippy handling characteristics. Add a stick and burlap-based interior fabrics and you’ve got the makings of a Great Little Beater(tm).

It’s important to have a car you don’t really care about for any kind of instruction. Gears will be ground. Starter motors will be durability tested with repeated stalling. You will be participating in the dance known as the “bunny-hop”. Acrid clouds of clutch smoke will hang over the proceedings.

The Escort was as ideally suited to this sort of abuse as a Labrador Retriever is to a toddler’s ear-pulling. The 1.8L engine had modest power, but reasonable torque off the line, the clutch engagement was forgiving and the shifter had fairly wide-spaced gears.

Better yet, we had a ideal setting to learn in. The Gulf Islands off the coast of B.C. are sparsely populated in the off-season and we used to spend a fair bit of time on Galiano Island, where we were married.

Without worrying about traffic holding up traffic, and with plenty of rolling hills to provide challenges once the basics were mastered, it provided as low-stress environment as you could hope for.

One trick I learned that might be of use is to actually get out of the car and coach while walking beside it. In the same way that it becomes strangely difficult to parallel-park when someone’s sitting in the car with you, removing the audience seems to help things go more smoothly.

My wife has three degrees, including a Medical Doctorate. She’s an accomplished musician and chorister and has sung at Carnegie Hall. She’s also a surprisingly fast long-distance trail-runner. Currently, she spends her time as a palliative care physician, balancing an encyclopaedia of medications with exacting fineness, freeing her patients to reclaim the balance of their lives from either pain or opiate fog; caring for the dying and their families with empathy and grace.

In light of these achievements it is colossally stupid of me to be overly proud of her ability to operate an anachronistic automotive control system. Oh baby, work that steering-wheel mounted manual spark advance.

But I am proud of her, and I must confess to always bumping up my admiration of any person when I learn that they drive a stick. Competence is just plain cool.

And, miracle of miracles, now she actually prefers self-rowers! What’s more, having been somewhat spoiled by the generous horsepower of our daily-driver WRX, she’s the first to turn up her nose at a press car for being too dull.

Picking up an Acura for review, the Honda rep urged me to sign out the new CR-V: “I know you’ve driven it already, but let your wife drive it. She’ll really enjoy it!” Not even close.

A modern car will do a lot for you. It’ll tell you if people are in your bind-spots, figure out how to stop you if you just slam on the brakes, keep you on the road with stability control and take the guesswork out of highway-driving with radar-guided cruise-control. Some will even handle the parking for you, and it won’t be too long before some are taking on at least a portion of the actual driving duties.

Every electronic nanny, every helpful gizmo or warning-light whatsit is one more step away from being a driver and one step closer to becoming a passenger. Introducing a stick-shift into the equation pushes the sliding scale back a little bit. It makes a dull car interesting. It can make someone who doesn’t care about cars understand why you do.

I always knew I’d teach my kids how to drive stick. My father taught me at a very young age, putting our Land Rover into low-range and letting me trundle around the back-forty at a walking pace.

We’re just a few months away from finding out whether our first will be a boy or a girl: it’ll be years and years before we get to the point where that particular lesson needs to be taught. But, when the time comes, it’s not a lesson I’ll be teaching alone.

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2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon Coming Here: Will We See A Diesel Stick-Shift? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/2013-bmw-3-series-wagon-coming-here-will-we-see-a-diesel-stick-shift/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/2013-bmw-3-series-wagon-coming-here-will-we-see-a-diesel-stick-shift/#comments Sun, 13 May 2012 13:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=444117 Even as the wagon Gods smile down upon on this Mother’s Day, BMW’s announcement of an all-new 2013 3-Series Wagon still has us waiting with bated breath with the announcement of not one but two diesel powertrains. We will almost certainly get the 328i, with the controversial turbo 4-cylinder engine, but BMW also announced a 320d […]

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Even as the wagon Gods smile down upon on this Mother’s Day, BMW’s announcement of an all-new 2013 3-Series Wagon still has us waiting with bated breath with the announcement of not one but two diesel powertrains.

We will almost certainly get the 328i, with the controversial turbo 4-cylinder engine, but BMW also announced a 320d and 330d. A 335i is conspicuously absent, but with two torquey oil-burners, who cares? The 320d, with 181 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque returns 52 mpg. A 330d with 250 horsepower and 358 lb-ft of torque will also be offered, but BMW is being coy, stating that American spec models will be announced at a later date.

What will be offered is xDrive all-wheel drive, all the usual overwrought F30 3-Series gadgets, and a power tailgate similar to the 2013 Ford Escape, that can be opened be sweeping your foot underneath the rear bumper. And no, we’re not sure if the diesels will get a stick shift. The 328i will surely get a 6-speed manual as well as the 8-speed T1000 Cyborg Automatic.

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