QOTD: Is It Time We Give Up The 'Save The Manuals' War?

Mark Stevenson
by Mark Stevenson
qotd is it time we give up the 8216 save the manuals war

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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2 of 253 comments
  • PeterKK PeterKK on Jul 09, 2015

    You can always buy used! *ducks*

  • Pete Zaitcev Pete Zaitcev on Jul 09, 2015

    The biggest problem with automatics for me is the difficulties that arise when the car is modified. On a number of cars, one computer controls both the engine and the transmission. This includes Jeep Wrangler since the 2006, and RiPP often has trouble on automatic cars: hard shifts, refusal to shift into a particular gear, etc. Back in the day, you could get an HKS or JET PCM and swap it in. Not anymore.

  • John H Last week after 83 days, dealership said mine needs new engine now. They found metal in oil. Potential 8 to 9 month wait.
  • Dukeisduke An aunt and uncle of mine traded their '70 T-Bird (Beakbird) for a brand-new dark metallic green '75 LTD two-door, fully loaded. My uncle hated seat belts, so the first time I saw the car (it was so new that the '75 models had just landed at the dealerships) he proudly showed me how he'd pulled the front seat belts all the way out of their retractors, and cut the webbing with a razor blade(!).Just a year later, they traded it in for a new '76 Cadillac Coupe de Ville (they had owned a couple of Imperials in the '60s), and I imagine the Cadillac dealer took a chunk out to the trade-in, to get the front seat belts replaced.
  • CaddyDaddy Lease fodder that in 6 years will be on the 3rd owner in a poverty bound aspirational individual's backyard in a sub par neighborhood sinking into the dirt. The lending bank will not even want to repossess and take possession of this boat anchor of a toxic waste dump. This proves that EVs are not even close to being ready for prime time (let's not even talk about electrical infrastructure). EVs only exist in wildly expensive virtue signaling status-mobiles. FAIL! I know this is a Hybrid, but it's a Merc., so it will quickly die after the warranty. Show me a practical EV for the masses and I'll listen. At this time, Hybrids are about the way to go for most needing basic transportation.
  • Jeanbaptiste The bubble free dash on the R32!
  • Dukeisduke A seven-year-old Cadillac, and a front-wheel-drive one at that? Maybe instead title this series "Overpriced User Car Review"?