By on December 12, 2013

Manual - Picture  courtesy

In the United States, most vehicles leaving the showroom today come with some form of shifting that involves very little, if any, input from the driver, from the dual-clutch driven Porsche 918 Spyder, to the CVT-powered Nissan Versa Sedan.

In the United Kingdom, however, the manual is still king.

While higher-end vehicles sold in the U.K. no longer bother with a third pedal to help move the gears along, a good 75 percent of all cars sold between January and October of this year came equipped with a manual. This may be due to the fact that driving tests administered in the country are tied to the transmission directing the power; were one to turn up in a dual-clutch variant of the RenaultSport Clio 200 for their test, they may find themselves legally unable to row their own later in life unless they opt to go through the hurdles to be certified to drive a stick.

What say you, B&B?

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99 Comments on “The Manual is Alive and Well in the United Kingdom...”

  • avatar

    People in the UK get it. India is more manual too. Give me 3 pedals or give me death.

    • 0 avatar


      The manual is being killed by federal regulations when you think about it. The laws requiring higher fuel efficiency already knocked off the V8 and damn near the V6. Then they cause these 8 and 9 speed transmissions/CVT to be the new thing. No way you’re gonna have manuals with those.
      And if the future goes electric or automated, the manual dies anyway by default.

      • 0 avatar

        The manual is also being killed by the lack of demand and the resulting cost to the manufacturers and dealers to offer this unpopular option. For a them to offer a manuals they have to:

        -Spend many millions on design, tooling, training, manufacturing the optional manual transmission.
        -Stock parts and provide support for 20+ years.
        -Produce the multiple variations of each model with both automatic and manual options, essentially doubling the model mix complexity
        -Dealerships have to stock parts and train service techs for the manual. They also have to order some cars with them for inventory.

        …all for a take rate of 5% or less.

        Also note that of the blame for the unsuccessful Dodge Dart launch was because they offered lots of manuals and not enough automatics. The industry is simply responding to consumer demand.

        • 0 avatar

          “The manual is also being killed by the lack of demand and the resulting cost to the manufacturers and dealers to offer this unpopular option.”

          True, but if the manual offers 1 or 2 mpg advantage over the auto, there’s a CAFE advantage and an advertising advantage. There are no regs or laws requiring manufacturers to produce manuals, so even at a low take rate, the business case still works out apparently. I wonder how much further sales have to drop before they call it quits – 4% take rate, 1.5%?

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t agree. Fuel economy numbers are mostly figured out by carmakers. When they do run a test the automatic adjusts..sh8ts up and down..where the manual you have to decide on what the rules for the test what speed or rpm to shift into 4th, 5th. I rent a lot of cars. All automatics and had a company automatic. Real worldmilage is 19 to 22. They are comparable on the highway but fall away badly compared tomy manual TSXin the city. I believe it’s because I know if I’m going to be aggressive and in 3rd gear at 50 or going to be stuck behind grandma in a Camry and thereforeimin6th at 38mph. I can put a stick in neutral many times. Youknow the driving situation and put the stickin the right gear. The automatic is always guessing what the situationotr your plans are. Real world milage on a stick is still far better than an automatic.

        • 0 avatar

          I don’t agree that “far better” is a good description. Differentials of just one or two mpg between the manual and auto versions aren’t uncommon, especially with “luxury” cars.

          Your argument assumes that a driver will always be able to execute manual shifts at the most optimal time. Fuel economy enthusiasts can probably pull that off, but I wouldn’t call their experience representative of the “real world” at large. Most people can barely use their turn signals, let alone shift a manual at the optimum time every time.

          • 0 avatar

            There are many manuals that don’t get MPG as good as an automatic because the manual is driven in gears favoring more power than high fuel economy. with an automatic, that difference is activated normally by a “sport” mode setting. Normally, the manual seeks the HIGHEST gear early to make better fuel economy. In Sport mode, it constantly dips into low gears.

        • 0 avatar

          nine11c2 – – –

          This whole topic is a hot issue for me, from several points-of-view:

          1) Existence of manuals – YES! Thank God for the UK, India, Germany, and Holland!. In America, I wonder if manufacturers aren’t in fact “pushing” automatics because they can make more money on them?

          2) Fuel Mileage – I doubt that manuals and automatics EVER are being compared with “all-else-equal”, by the EPA or anyone else. For this comparison to be valid, EACH transmission would have to be tested as follows:
          …a) Same number of gears;
          …b) Same gear ratios;
          …c) Same differential ratio;
          …d) Same drive-train layout (FWD, RWD. etc);
          …e) Same environmental conditions(wind, temp, sun, etc);
          …f) Skilled test operators for both vehicles, using the same shift points.

          My view (and experience) is that, given the above, it is physically impossible for ANY torque-converter automatic to have better fuel mileage than the comparable manual. (That is not true for automated transmissions, such as Porsche’s PDK, etc. But even with a PDK-type, it’s added weight and maintenance cost more than cancel out any fuel-mileage benefit from shifting speed alone in actual driving.)

          BTW: I have 5 vehicles: all standard RWD, all Manuals.


          • 0 avatar

            “Your argument assumes that a driver will always be able to execute manual shifts at the most optimal time. Fuel economy enthusiasts can probably pull that off, but I wouldn’t call their experience representative of the “real world” at large. Most people can barely use their turn signals, let alone shift a manual at the optimum time every time.”

            My argument is that an automatic does not know how I’m going to drive the next 10 seconds..ever. And a I do 95% of the time. So I CAN shift the manual as best as possible to meet those demands, the automatic cannot. I’m not talking about shifting at the optimal time – I’m talking about if you need to accelerate you are riding at 40mph in 4th or 5th. If you know you don’t have to you ride at 40mph in 6th. Its not so much when you shift a manual – you’re not always accelerating – its picking the right gear to be in dude..

          • 0 avatar

            Even a PDK is at a disadvantage unless you are actually driving it manually all the time. It can only be reactive, it can’t anticipate like a driver can. Then there is my #1 pet peeve with automatics – they all usually too darned eager to downshift. It is more efficient to use a large throttle opening at low rpm, and most automatics simply will not let you do that. Give it any throttle and it downshifts. Drives me nuts. I want it to be like an old Benz or my Range Rover – don’t down shift until the throttle is flat on the floor! But then the buff books would call them “unresponsive”.

          • 0 avatar

            @NMGOM “My view (and experience) is that, given the above, it is physically impossible for ANY torque-converter automatic to have better fuel mileage than the comparable manual.”

            True, but sheesh, have fun rowing a nine-speed. There’s a limit to what self-shifters will put up with.

            @krhodes Seems like that request should be easily accommodated via software, these days.

          • 0 avatar

            dtremit – – – –

            1) Please see my comment re # gears, to “Halftruth”, on Dec 12th, 8:35 PM;
            2) Semi-truckers have no trouble accommodating 13 gears, —
            so why would 7, 8, or 9 be a huge obstacle for car enthusiasts?

            And yes, I do have fun and great reward from rowing my own…


  • avatar

    I grudgingly refer to the gradual elimination of manual-equipped cars from our roads and showrooms as the “pussification of North American drivers”. Manuals are getting increasingly harder to find on all but the lower-optioned examples of econo and/or sports cars, and almost completely non-existent on pickups, vans and larger cars.

    Hey manufacturers, driving instructors and members of the general public: You want future generations of drivers to be more attentive and involved in the driving experience? Bring back the manuals. You want a bunch of “coma drivers” with alarm clocks on their dash set to go off at their ETA to their destination (if they make it that far)? Keep on your same trajectory. That is all.

    • 0 avatar

      zeus01 – – –

      “I grudgingly refer to the gradual elimination of manual-equipped cars from our roads and showrooms as the “pussification of North American drivers”. ”

      Exactly. And some women even rebel against that trend as well. My daughter-in-law intentionally sought out a van with a manual transmission (Mazda 5) for the family, because she throws a smooth double clutch, and did not want to be seen as “one of them” (referring to 95% of other females in the Madison, Wi area).


  • avatar
    Johannes Dutch

    Manual still very popular here. A 5 speed was the norm for the past 25 years or so, now a manual is often a 6 speed.

    You’re not allowed to drive a car with a manual gearbox here if you passed your driver’s license test in a car with an automatic gearbox.
    You want to go manual then you’ll have to pass a new test to get yourself a “manual” driver’s license.

    In heavy traffic an automatic is ideal. Personally I like to “stir in the gearbox” as we say.

  • avatar

    Although an automatic is a blessing in traffic jams, I still prefer a manual. It is much more fun to drive, especially in a sporty car.

    In The Netherlands, the number of cars sold with a manual are even higher than in Britain. So far, 80 % of all new cars sold in 2013 have a manual gearbox. Automatics (especially VW’s DSG) became more popular the last few years mainly because of tax reductions for fuel efficient cars. So at a certain point, a Golf DSG was cheaper than a manual one, only because the DSG emitted less CO2 than the manual!

  • avatar

    i think this is more a consequence of small capacity cars due to overbearing govt. regulations

    also isnt it normal that most places charge $1,000 to $2,000 usd for automatic transmissions?

    not a big deal on a $50,000 car… moreso a problem on a $12,000 car

    • 0 avatar

      True, but it does cost more to build an auto transmission and if the take rate is low then that bumps up the price. Kind of like the reverse here with the manual having a low take rate.
      Manuals were very popular even before all the current environmental legislation. It is a cultural norm.

  • avatar

    I have a manual (’04 1.8T Passat) and enjoy it well enough. But I can certainly see that if one views the car as “transportation” today’s autos are a fine choice. Even the better CVT’s are good enough.

    Most people are not “car guys” and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  • avatar

    Driving an automatic is less work than driving a manual.
    People generally like things that reduce their workload.
    Thus, automatics are more popular.

    EVERYTHING is becoming more automated; soon your car may not only shift itself, it may be able to drive itself.

    If you want a manual transmission, buy a car/truck with one. Just accept that you are a in a very small minority, and being in that minority does not legitimize self-righteousness, smugness, or disdain for others that do not share your preferences.

    • 0 avatar

      One problem with reducing the workload is that drivers will become inattentive to traffic and road conditions. There are times when it is imperative to override your automatic conveniences, such as going downhill on a mountain road or slowing down for inclement road conditions.

      It’s already a problem with commercial airliners. Just this year, a Korean pilot crashed and burned a Boeing 777 in San Francisco, because he was unfamiliar with how to monitor the glide path of his plane manually.

      To land the big Boeing manually required the flight crew to pay attention to the airliner’s airspeed and visually monitor an old-school array of runway lights that indicate whether the plane is too low or too high on its final glide path – amongst other items that are on a checklist.

      • 0 avatar

        “Just this year, a Korean pilot crashed and burned a Boeing 777 in San Francisco, because he was unfamiliar with how to monitor the glide path of his plane manually.”

        I’m sure there’s much more to the story. The lights you’re refering to are either VASIs (visual approach slope indicator) or PAPIs (precision approach path indicator). I don’t know what SFO uses but I do know that visual landings aren’t difficult and are a pretty basic maneuver. I’m guessing this was an uncoupled approach but still that’s well within the skills of a professional aviator.

        Also, for most U.S. flagged carriers, all visual approaches are backed up by one of the instrument approaches into the field or with the GPS. Either can give glide slope information.

        I’m not familiar with the particulars but I gather there was more to this particular accident.

        • 0 avatar

          I was responding to ” soon your car may not only shift itself, it may be able to drive itself.”

          Eventually folks will become complacent or a bit rusty in their driving skills when an emergency arises.

          Hupcap – I was referring to VASI lights.

          As for the Asiana crew – I wouldn’t want to depend on that particular to safely land a commercial airline on the Hudson River. I differentiate between on and in here. Sullenberger by luck of the draw happened to be an experienced glider pilot.

          What was the saying for PAPI approach lights? White over red, you’re ok. Red over red you’re …….

      • 0 avatar

        A common claim, but I haven’t seen the data yet that shoes manuals are involved in proportionally fewer accidents.

        • 0 avatar

          You’ve got me – because my last accident occurred while I was in a hardware store. My truck rolled forward two parking spaces into a rear of a new Dodge Stratus, due to the idiot behind the wheel having left the stick in neutral and failing to set the parking brake before exiting the vehicle.

          Had I been driving an automatic, the stick would have been placed firmly in the park position.

    • 0 avatar

      This. People (in general) are lazy. This is not necessary a bad thing, we have automatic EVERYTHING these days. We are constantly using technology to make thing easier. For example there was a time when you had to defrost your freezer! Now we have automatic brakes, automatic parking, automatic lane control, so automatic transmissions make perfect sense.

      However personally I hate them, there a total disconnect from the driving experience. I’ve driven manuals my whole life and always seek them out. Even my wife is a manual convert, she completely hates autos now, its not really driving when car picks some random gear for me. However my truck is an auto because it makes pulling out of boat ramps easier (see I’m lazy too at times) plus the vehicles tow/load rating increased with the auto tranny. Guess they don’t make clutches like they used to.

      • 0 avatar

        Boat ramp issues: could it be that American manufacturers long ago deleted a proper hand brake that you could use in conjunction with a granny gear?

        A while back I found the late 1990’s Mazda engineered 5 speed manual on the F 150 to be a definite weak point – mainly due to the lack of a granny gear and Ford’s use of an emergency brake pedal versus a proper handbrake.

    • 0 avatar

      >> Driving an automatic is less work than driving a manual.

      Wait wait wait… driving a manual is work? :)

  • avatar

    No one is going around buying new cars so that they can take a driving test.

  • avatar

    can someone show me a high performance car with more than 500HP, 0-60 in less than 11 seconds, AWD and launch control that comes that way STOCK?

  • avatar

    I still opt for manuals, but automation is here to stay in America.

    From what I see in parking lots, some of my fellow Americans have difficulty manipulating a steering wheel to get into a parking space or hold a proper lane. So, look for that task to see wide spread automation, too.

    You won’t find a single full size half ton pickup truck in the US that offers the option of a manual transmission.

    My pet peeve is the inability to even purchase certain vehicles which are sold overseas with a manual transmission option, but not here in the US. Some examples are the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.

    Unfortunately, I do have to drive rentals for about 4 weeks out of the year. I’ve heard the argument that automatics are better for stop and go in heavy traffic. I would argue that your more likely to rear end someone these days if you are distracted even for a moment, because of CAFE inspired shift points.

    My experience is – when slowing down for an intersection or crawling along in rush hour traffic – today’s CAFE inspired shift points tend to hold a higher gear than I prefer. A decade ago, I could select Drive 1 or 2 for stop and go traffic. Many vehicles today don’t play well in that mode.

    In short, traffic conditions don’t always mimic the CAFE test modus operandi.

  • avatar

    I like to shift my own. I say good for the UK. These automatics with more and more gears reminds me of the increasing number of razor blades in cartridges. Gets to be gimmick after awhile. I overheard a something about a manual being an unintended theft deterrent in the US.. Funny!

  • avatar

    suggesting that the 918 driven in anger requires no input for shifting is absurd.Indeed to get the most out of dsg requires use of the paddles I like dsg as it’s the best of both worlds and in performance applications it is far superior.

    • 0 avatar

      Are you out to win a race, or are you out to have fun? Pulling a flappy paddle does not compare to the thrill of a perfectly executed shift. Takes a large chunk of the involvement out of the whole process.

      Of course this is why if I had $100K to spend on a toy car I would buy an old Porsche over a new GT-R.

  • avatar

    I’m not sure what the average new car buyer age is in the UK but here in the US it is somewhere in the mid-50’s. Americans are getting old and manuals have traditionally been a young man’s game. Older folks like a car that shifts itself and is easy to get in and out of hence the popularity of CUVs.

  • avatar

    can someone show me a high performance car with more than 500HP, 0-60 in less than 11 seconds, AWD and launch control that comes that way STOCK?

    Consider a Subaru WRX STI? 305 HP, AWD, 0-60 in 5 seconds, 6 speed stick.
    New 2014 coming soon.

  • avatar

    I am also discouraged about the wholesale shift to automatic transmissions in the US. Currently we have an 1999 F350 Superduty with 6sp, a 2008 BMW M5 with 6sp, and a 2010 Honda CRV with auto (which replaced a Suby Forester with 5sp).

    I’m ready to replace the F350, but Ford dropped the 6sp in the 2011 model year. Only Dodge still offers the 6sp in heavy duty pickups, and will probably drop option in a few years. Ford claimed there were fewer and fewer “takes” on the 6sp, but failed to mention that they continued to reduce availability every year. In 1999 the MT was available on almost every trim level and wheel arrangement (mine was Lariat, top of line in 1999). By 2008, MT was on available on XL and XLT trims (no Lariat, Cabella or King Ranch) and only on SRW. Therefore from 10% to 15% take in 1999 was reduced to 1% (10% take of 10% model offerings by 2010).

    My preference is for the Ford, but I really want to get the MT. So for now I’m on the fence, continuing to flog the 1999 (with 280K miles) until I make up my mind.

    I don’t begrudge anyone who orders an AT, just allow me the choice of MT.

    • 0 avatar

      My Dad’s 2003 F250 with a 6MT was pretty irritating to drive, IMO. The throws of the shifter covered a 10″ x 10″ area, so hitting the top 2 gears was reaching over to the passenger side. Clutch feel was awful. It made an already clumsy vehicle that much more clumsy. I prefer a manual transmission 9 times out of 10, but that 10th time is usually a large truck or SUV.

      • 0 avatar

        I know it isn’t as large as an F250 but I very much enjoy the manual in my ’96 Bronco. It shifts with a reasonable degree of precision and provides better control off-road and in the snow than an automatic. In some ways a truck is the ideal candidate for a manual: the fat torque curve means you don’t need to shift nearly as often as a car with a peaky high-strung 4cyl.

  • avatar

    People crying about the death of the manual aren’t paying attention. Manufacturers stopped making stickshifts in cars nobody wanted stickshifts in, and started making CARS that were worth putting sticks in. ~12-14 years ago there was no Nissan Z, no WRX, no EVO, no Camaro, no BRZ, no Infiniti G etc etc. But you COULD get a Sentra GXE with a stickshift (rolleyes). No. We are in a golden age of performance AND manual transmissions right now. UK’s stickshift take rate is largely due to the fact that the high costs of ownership force them to try to maximize as much fun and performance from their cars as possible. A stickshift doesn’t make an Opel Astra 1.2 fun; it makes it BEARABLE. I wouldn’t trade our auto market for anybody’s

    • 0 avatar

      I have to respectfully disagree. A stick shift makes any car fun, while an automatic turns pretty much everything into a big bore to drive. I’d take a stick shift Astra over a more powerful car with automatic any day.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s true, OEMs are making a better effort than a decade ago to put manuals in cars that enthusiasts actually want. They’ve become less of a poverty option, and more of a performance one. Many manual options now actually cost more over the automatic because they were put in there to specifically cater to the small enthusiast market.

    • 0 avatar

      You must be kidding! We get squat here – in most European countries you could personally import anything you want, so everything that is available here is available, PLUS everything available over there. So Joe average can only afford a 1.2L Punto in Italy? Joe Average drives a used slushbox Corolla over here, and I can guarantee the Punto is more fun! If you have the cash, you can get whatever you want. Soo many interesting choices! Here it is 5-6 bland mid-size sedans, and your choice of CUVs. Blech. Heck at least in Europe you can get a CUV with a stick!

  • avatar

    The manual transmission is still popular in most other counties. It’s not just driving tests, it is cost and (correct) perception of efficiency. A manual gearbox is simpler, lighter and wastes less of the motors energy. People elsewhere seem to know this, and rightfully so. Anyone who blames government regulations for automatics in the US is just blowing hot air. Automatics have been the norm here for longer than double clutches and CVT’s have been used main stream, so, nonsense, OK.
    In fact I would go as far as to say there should be regulations that “encourage” Americans to bring a bit more balance back to the market, this is a selfish statement as there are many cars I want to buy but WONT because they only sell it as an Auto… It’s a shame more people don’t vote with their wallet like me.

  • avatar

    Where I live, automatics are perhaps 25% of new car sales. Especially older folks think automatics are for women, invalids and wimps, or remember only the loathsome slushboxes of decades past. Even my father, who has only one hand due to an accident, buys only manual transmission cars.

    Younger people have less aversion to automatics, perhaps because driving is not seen as a macho thing, but rather as operating an appliance.

  • avatar

    I just bought a MINI Countryman and would have LOVED to have gotten the manual. However my wife has hip/knee issues making the clutch a non-starter for her. Anyone that has ever driven a car with a manual will understand how much more fun a car is when so configured. You just have so much more control. In driving my sons Subaru Crosstrek I can see where the manufacturers are headed…CVTs with no power. All due to fuel economy. It really is taking away the fun of driving.

  • avatar

    Brit expat perspective here

    When I was a kid in the UK, the general wisdom was that if you took your test in an automatic, your license was only valid for automatics. That might have been completely untrue but it counted for much of the reason people didn’t want autos.

    Automatics were also seen as luxury – only to be seen in jags and rolls (and *gasp* American Cars) . There was also a deep suspicion of unreliability – an expensive box of magic that might go bang at any time. Whereas a good British Leyland clutch was guaranteed to go bang (or go sliiiip) at 50k miles, so you knew where you stood.

    And finally, automatics have the slight connotation of disability. A lever with D, N, R and a blue permit hanging from the mirror tended to go hand-in-hand. That puts them at a huge disadvantage for an enterprising young man-about-town trying to find his way in life.

    I currently drive a Nissan Xterra with a manual transmission. Before that I drove a Versa with a manual transmission. I will drive manuals until I get my own blue permit, then i’ll get a jag

    • 0 avatar

      That’s not “general wisdom”, it’s absolutely true and still current.

      If you pass your test in an automatic, you have to pass your test again in a manual to be allowed to drive a manual.

      So, because all cars are manual for the most part, and people don’t want to be stuck with a crippled licence, they learn manual, find it’s not that hard, then don’t even bother being an auto when they have money because.. the manual is cheaper. Why not save the money for something else?

      There’s not even the tiniest hint of elitism in it, it has absolutely nothing to do with enjoyment or whatever. For some, it does, for most, it’s simply practical and cheap.

      It has nothing to do with age. All the doddery old people drive manuals too. My parents drive manuals. It’s just how it is.

  • avatar

    I spend at least ten hours a week out of my30 hours a week in NYC bumper to bumper , yesterday 2hours 25 minutes 17 miles for ie so while my summer car is a stick the everyday car that I drive is a DSG auto and I do not mind that at all

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    One underappreciated point is that in the US, even the weakest cars sold today suffer little if any performance loss with an auto versus a stick. That was the primary motivation for 3-pedal sales in days gone by.

  • avatar

    I’m somewhat surprised this point hasn’t been made:

    It has a lot to do with roadways and geography. If you spend anytime whatsoever on anything but motorways in the UK, the roads are curvy, narrow, and rarely flat. It is actually a huge benefit to control the speed and power output of the car using the engine. On any B roads, especially in Devon/Dorset/Wiltshire/Wales/the Cotswolds where I did most of my driving, you absolutely needed a stick shift to help slow you down come a bend or maximize the engine’s capability for a hill. Not having it would have meant endless break usage and just as much foot movement (break/gas/break/gas). This also means that the Brits get away with using less powerful cars that feel just as fast as ours do. As well: diesel feels better than gas, since the low-end torque drags the car nicely out of corners.

    North American drivers may also be annoyed to find that almost every British driver I encountered was better than the drivers I’ve seen anywhere here (including myself). They are, and must be, incredibly aware of what their car can and can’t do handling wise, much faster, much more confident, and are usually astutely aware of their corners and edges. Also, in general, NA roads are much slower moving.

    As you can tell, I miss driving in the UK tremendously. It’s a sport and an art there. Here it’s mostly a chore.

    • 0 avatar

      A spot on comment with regards to the brake/gas/brake/gas driving style.

      I would say that 90% of US drivers are totally clueless about the benefit of controlling the speed and power output of the car by a downshift. I often see folks enter a downhill curve to fast then see them braking a third of the way through the curve – which would not be the case if they had downshifted prior to the curve.

      As I mentioned above, I find that the programmed shift points are tuned to hold a higher gear that isn’t optimal in my opinion for many traffic and road conditions that can occur.

    • 0 avatar

      Dude, that’s what the (-) paddle is for. Absolutely not an argument for a manual.

      • 0 avatar

        Not every car with an automatic has an (-) paddle to get you further down than the gear below overdrive. Most without the paddle do at least let you opt out of overdrive.

  • avatar

    I have been driving manuals since i learned to drive 61 years ago. I also drove to NYC everyday for work and never got tired of the manual. Another reason for the manual was better gas mileage. My wife has given up on the manuals due to her back condition and now drives a VW DSG. After i retired i purchased two new cars for the wife and myself. To my surprise the VW GTI DSG gets better mileage then the manual. As i have a Miata manual that i drive on the weekend i purchased the VW GTI DSG for both my wife and myself and find the DSG a great shifting transmission. I have driven both regular automatics & CVT and do not like them at all. Now i enjoy the DSG in local driving and the Miata on the weekend. Best of both worlds

  • avatar

    As a Norwegian, like most people here I’ve never even owned a real automatic car, except two old ‘project’ cars that were eventually scrapped. The amount of autos has gone up a lot the last 10 years though, and after my ’03 CRV was totalled two weeks ago I’m having a hard time finding a nice CRV with a manual for sale (even if most sold were manuals, even after 2007 btw) except the noisy (but powerful)diesel engine. Seems people hang on to their manuals more than their automatics, which could mean most automatic cars are just ‘appliances’ that are traded more often. (Yeah, I know CRV isn’t exactly an enthusiast car , especially not in the US, but over here it’s as fast or faster, and sportier than most of it’s competition)

  • avatar

    All I can say to my fellow manual enthusiasts: When you go to buy a new car, insist on a manual – don’t give up. I found my manual because Autotrader let me search dealer inventories, selecting “manual” as a criteria. The dealer had this car on his lot for year and was offering a big discount. If we all stick to our guns then hopefully the industry will see enough demand to keep the stick shift alive.

    • 0 avatar

      Hi Freddie – –

      That sounds like an excellent strategy.
      Some American cars are now offering manuals: Camaro, the new Mustang, Corvette, Cadillac, etc. And I understand that now Buick (yes, you didn’t misread that) is considering one. Big goof by GM: they currently seem not to provide a manual as an option for the new Chevy “SS”.


  • avatar

    OK.. someone explain this to me… if we can have automatics with “manual” shift option regardless how crappy they are, why can’t we have a manual with a automatic option?

    Pipe dream? Can someone that knows transmissions very well; please explain to us how the following works.
    Most modern manuals, in the reverse gear, you don’t really have to give it gas and can kinda just feather the clutch… right? so…… why not do that kinda black witch magic with first gear? … call it iGear, to keep the young tardz engaged…. (copyright, trademark, patent pending. )
    What about Nissan 370z’s rev-matching? what this tells me is that someone already has software written for a manual transmission, that reads road speed vs engine speeds and can decided if it needs more or less gas, tie taht software to a cheapo electo servo thingie and move the the stick for you?.

    (The main reason manual drivers leave their cars for autoboxes is for stop-n-go traffic. If we make that a non issue….right?)

    OK.. now for iGear6S-gold edition
    It should be possible to create a series of mechanical switches that engages the clutch and moves the fly wheel to the next set of gears.
    I’ve heard about this before….
    oh and here’s the kicker…. you can turn this off and regain your original direct mechanical linkage, when you actually feel like driving a manual that day. (jailbreak shifting, yo! )

    Essentially, previous generation of airplanes were prior to the fly-by-wire revolution, all control surfaces were hydraulic, and the autopilot was a computer nonetheless, and it manipulated the various inputs that the human operator would have provided.

    • 0 avatar

      Dual Dry Clutch transmissions are probably the closest thing today to what you’re talking about. They’re basically a manual transmission where the clutch(es) and shifting is controlled automatically by motors or actuators. Theoretically, manual shift linkage and clutch actuation could be designed and installed, and a program strategy made to disable the actuators.

      So far it appears there hasn’t been sufficient demand for manufacturers to spend the resources to do this as most drivers don’t want to deal with a clutch and are sufficiently happy to “manually” shift using flappy paddles to command the acutators.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      This is how the transmission in the smart car works, and most people hate it for not acting like a slushbox and/or not being able to feather the clutch. I drove mine in manual mode almost all the time and usually wasn’t bothered by it.

    • 0 avatar

      A month ago I drove an International rental truck with a single-clutch automated manual just like described above. It works by making the D1/H1 gear very low. There were 6 in total, without a halver, plus 2 reverse gears.

      Also, FIAT Doub… er. Dodge Promaster comes with a transmission like that.

      The difference with a double-clutch transmission is that shifts are slower, but on the upside the transmission is not sequential.

  • avatar

    3/4 of our family fleet has clutch pedals. The one holdout (minivan) will likely be replaced soon with something that has a clutch pedal.

    The manual transmission is simply a more engaging interface.

    I have three pet peeves when it comes to car shopping, and they all have to do with configuration choices that are typically associated with either the low-end or the high-end.

    –Whether a car has a manual or automatic transmission (clutch pedal for me)
    –Whether a car has a sunroof or not (I’m tall so there is no luxury like headroom, but it’s impossible to find a car with leather, heated seats and a high-spec audio system that doesn’t have a sunroof)
    –Whether a car has cloth seats or not (doesn’t have to be leather, vinyl is fine with me, I just really hate cloth)

    I’d argue that these three choices should be completely independent of all other configuration choices.

    • 0 avatar

      “The manual transmission is simply a more engaging interface. ”

      Well worded.

      I know the modern auto can shift as fast and doesnt give up performance like they used to. That matters little to me. They are less engaging and involving, which is why I will always have a clutch pedal.

  • avatar

    I don’t understand how anyone who drives the auto version of a car and then drives the stick shift version would pick the auto.

    I’ve done this twice in 2 different cars at 2 different times. The first was an e39 528i with an auto. What a sled, but with a stick, it becomes more responsive and more entertaining. This was in 2000.

    Did it again in 2010 with an Audi A3. The A3 has that slick DSG auto, and it was impressive, but I gotta say, after going from that to the stick, the stick was just a lot more fun.

    I drove other BMW’s and had similar results. The BMW autos are good, but the stick is just much more entertaining.

  • avatar

    I’ve been a lifelong shift-it-yourself advocate, and although I agree with the rules in some countries that if you’re tested on an automatic that’s all your license is good for, I do worry that could further accelerate the decline in manual demand and offerings. Having said all that, my current daily driver (for a big city, heavy traffic commute) has a DSG … and I’m pretty darned satisfied with it.

  • avatar

    Much of Europe requires extensive driving lessons before a license is granted, which tends to increase the driving skills, including the ability to shift your own gears. Second, most of Europe drives cars with less than 1.5 liter capacity motors, and automatics greatly reduce the performance of low horsepower cars. For example, the most common Fiat 500 in Europe is the 875 cc Twin-Air with 84 HP, while the 1.4 liter that is the starter motor in the U.S. is considered the “performance” option in Europe. DSG gearboxes reduce the performance deficit versus conventional automatics, but tend to be expensive options and bring worries about reliability, so manuals may hang on a while yet in Europe.

  • avatar

    Good for them, horses for courses. A nation of hipsters perhaps. I prefer an automatic along with most other Americans. I suspect most Americans see manual transmissions as more of a cheapskate/quaint old fashioned technology rather than having any advantage. I grew up in a house with a coal furnace that required daily shoveling of coal into a feeder hopper and removal of slag from the fire box. I now live in a house where for 13 years I have had to do nothing more than flick a switch in the fall and the central gas furnace does the rest automatically. Progress you see. My toaster shuts off automatically as well.

    I love automobiles, driving, and roads. My first two automobiles were malaise era Japanese hatchbacks with 5 speed manual transmissions. It suited them more than an automatic would. The auto industry moved past those dark days and now even entry level automobiles have sufficient power to work well with an automatic. I very much enjoy the CVT in my Maxima, though the 290hp has a lot to do with it.

    I have driven a friend’s Tesla and that is progress from a driving pleasure standpoint for me. Supremely smooth quiet power, no shifting of any sort required. I don’t really think that electric cars will become the norm anytime soon, but they may not be as bad as we think if they do.

    Happy driving,


  • avatar

    Going back to the 50s and 60s, the automatic became dominant in the US because the alternative for most domestic cars was not a slick four-on-the-floor but a clunky three-on-the-tree.

  • avatar

    I used to swear only by manual transmissions. Nowadays, I don’t know if that’s because I’m getting older, but I don’t seem to care that much anymore. My daily driver and my summer cars are manuals, but my truck is automatic. It was however available as a manual, but I bought it used and I didn’t care which transmission it had, as long as it worked right.

    I am definitely not a sporty driver, but I like manual if only to enjoy driving and feel more involved. I drive my manuals very smooth. My wife has motion sickness and I’m the only standard shifting driver who doesn’t get her sick during a commute.

    My next car may be an automatic since they evolved a lot since I started driving (most autos were 3 speed dogs), but I’ll always keep at least one manual vehicle (certainly my old Supra) to enjoy cruising around.

  • avatar

    I’m kind of on the fence. On the one hand, I feel that ATs are for old women and you’re not truly a good driver if you use one. On the other hand, I enjoy driving MTs more than just about anything in the world, even in traffic jams.

    Actually, I guess I’m not on the fence.

  • avatar

    Drove VW DSG for 6.5 years and switched to stick shift on a Subie. Really makes you appreciate the convenience in traffic jams and the impressive performance of DSG but I honestly do not miss its questionable reliability (mine sometimes would skip a gear going up or down and a reset using VAGCOM was required a few times a year).

    Massive VW DSG recall globally right now which initially sparked in Australia.

  • avatar

    ‘Discussions’ online about manuals are pretty much the same as ‘discussions’ with otaku about subtitles.

    As for myself, there are times I wish I had a manual, and there are times I wish I had an auto. Each has their advantage. I fully believe that someday soon we will have autos that do absolutely everything a manual can do, and do it better (i.e., have a manual mode that is indistinguishable from a true manual).

    I give no credence to the thought that the rest of the world loves or even prefers manuals. In places where cost is an issue (e.g., India), of course you will see the cheaper manuals, just like you see cheaper everything else. Yes, manuals are well-ensconced in places like the UK, but according to everyone I know who has traveled there recently, autos are becoming much more common, meaning they are on the path to the US condition. (Also note the emergence of small SUVs around the world–just like the US.)

    In regards to licensing drivers based on the transmission, it will not protect manuals’ market share. Instead, it will erode it. Anyone who takes the test with an auto essentially is barred from buying a manual in the future, which effectively destroys an opportunity for the sale of a manual. The more this cycle occurs, the smaller the manual market becomes. If it were the law in the US, the take rate of manuals would likely go from 5% to under 1%, and manuals would not simply disappear from trim levels, but entire model lines.

  • avatar

    ” I fully believe that someday soon we will have autos that do absolutely everything a manual can do, and do it better.”

    If you made that statement you just don’t get it. Its not about how well it does it – its about the beauty of being a DRIVER not a passenger. About snapping off a great 2 to 3 upshift at full throttle, about grabbing 3rd gear off a turn or out of a rolling toll, about downhifting to 3rd ina long right hander and then moving up to 4th as you accelerate out. Its not about how well it does it..its about doing it well yourself and being involved..enjoying the experience…

    A driver can take a manual on a hill off the brake, no handbrake and accelerate without rolling back much if at all. Its a skill..

  • avatar

    I don’t understand why people still drive manuals when automatics can do the same thing automatically for free.

    Likewise, why do people continue to buy pianos and violins? Software allows us to write the music virtually and then it plays it “consistently and accurately” every time. No room for human error, practice, enjoyment, involvement in the process, etc. It’s the future people! Stop clinging to your antiquated mechanical pianos. At least move to a PDK (programmable dynamic keyboard).

    I for one cannot wait for a world without manual transmissions. I just hope all the pianos and violins disappear first because, really, we have computers now and that means everything needs to be computers. I don’t even dial numbers on my phone anymore or text complete sentences because the computer autocompletes it for me.

    Please join the rest of us in the future where we really don’t do anything any more.

  • avatar

    I drive stick shift and quite frankly I find the sanctimonious drivel to be pretentious and delusional. oh it’s an art form and requires a different license. please. If people were buying manuals, makers would be selling them. there’s no conspiracy.

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