Ask The Best And Brightest: When Are Two Pedals Better Than Three?

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
ask the best and brightest when are two pedals better than three

A scheduling conflict led me to be booked into a 2013 Mazda CX-5 SkyACTIV. With Jack and Brendan having already driven the car, I’ll spare you all yet another review discussing Mazda’s latest crossover. But a week in the CX-5 raised an interesting question; when are automatics better than a stick shift, even if it’s a vehicle that (arguably) has some appeal as a driver’s car?

The Mazda3 SkyACTIV, as well as the CX-5, both use Mazda’s newest SkyACTIV powertrain. As my review of the Mazda3 revealed, the SkyACTIV powertrain is better suited to the 6-speed automatic, even though the manual is a great gearbox. Driving the CX-5 confirmed this. The CX-5 seems to want to upshift to the highest gear ASAP, but when commuting, I don’t find it so bothersome. The transmission kicks down when needed, shifts are beautifully smooth, and the manual model enables nearly unfettered use of all six forward gears.

The SkyACTIV isn’t the only instance of a two-pedal gearbox being the one to get. The E60 M5 was famously set up to work best with the SMG gearbox. U.S. gearheads complained until BMW relented and offered a six-speed manual. It turned out that the stick shift was a poor choice for the car, no matter how much enthusiast cred it added. Most of the time, I’ll take a stick shift, even though I engage in a lot of stop-and-go driving. But my memory doesn’t extend far enough to remember the muscle car era, when an automatic was often preferred. Best and brightest, fill in the gaps in my knowledge. When is an automatic the gearbox of choice? Or am I just plain wrong?

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2 of 123 comments
  • JaySeis JaySeis on Apr 08, 2012

    2 pedals, definitely for towing. My '03 Expedition would tow circles around my 6 speed '99 F250 SD. I've grown so accustomed to the '06 GT's swift 2-3 and 3-4 shift (way faster than any gear jammer) that I look forward to newer and better autos. I drove sticks since the late 60's and manuals will always beat autos in basic reliability unless you are a chronic clutch abuser. Even then clutch replacement is way cheaper than an auto that's been lunched. Computer controlled n-speed autos = $$$. But if I'd had a post apocalypse zombie squashing legacy rig to own, it'd be a stick.

  • Mcnabb100 Mcnabb100 on Apr 09, 2012

    The automatic in my grand am gt is pretty nice. The v6 has plenty of torque, and the tranny is fully willing to downshift if I need a bit of get up and go. Very nice combo.

  • MaintenanceCosts Nice color combo. Worth noting that this is not a conventional automatic but an automated manual, which gets you all the roughness of a real manual with none of the fun. Also not sure why everyone loves the V10 so much; it sounds more UPS truck than performance car except at the extreme high end of the tach. Having said that the E60's looks have aged VERY well; the car looks nicer now than it did when it was new.
  • Kcflyer just happy it's not black, white or silver. hooray for color choice
  • Matt Posky I paid a little under $300 bucks per month to park in Queens and was told by everyone else with a car that it was a great deal. Parking in Manhattan is typically far more expensive to rent and often involves waiting 20 minutes while someone fetches your car. Unless it was a secure garage where you yourself have 24 hour access directly to the vehicle, and it was less than a block away, there is no scenario in which I would actually purchase a parking spot in Manhattan.
  • Jeff S VoGhost--He is a Russian troll.
  • GrumpyOldMan The weather protection of a motorcycle plus the bulk of a car.