Subaru Exec Spins Frightening Vision of a Stickless Future

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
subaru exec spins frightening vision of a stickless future

Is Subaru, a scrappy-but-approaching-the-mainstream automaker, about to ditch the manual transmission? That’s what some are gleaning from comments made by Subaru UK managing director Chris Graham on the sidelines of the Geneva Motor Show this week.

Speaking to Auto Express, Graham mused about the brand’s EyeSight driver-assist technology and Subaru’s desire to include the suite of safety aids on all of its cars. The trouble is, EyeSight isn’t available on Subarus equipped with manual transmissions. If you’re looking for goodies like automatic emergency braking and lane departure warnings, a Lineartronic CVT had best be on your wish list, too.

Graham’s comments point to a Subaru that’s prepared to weaken the bond between driver and car in the name of increased computerized control.

“I’m not sure if it’s compatible at all with a manual gearbox,” he said of the automaker’s EyeSight technology. “There are certainly no rumours we’ve heard that manual will continue, or Eyesight will be [offered] with manual.

Continuing, Graham said, “My gut tells me it will be Eyesight with Lineartronic ongoing and long term. They want to steal the mantle of the safest car in the world. I think if they do that, then they say ‘here’s a manual without Eyesight’, they’ll just ruin that [message].”

Is there nothing the future can’t do to piss off traditionalists? For now, Subaru remains something of a three-pedal holdout, offering a six-speed manual on a number of cars — including the vaunted WRX and its musclebound STI twin. BMW s, I don’t think this is the end and I’d be very excited if they had a hybrid petrol STI,” he said. “That would be phenomenal in terms of its acceleration.”

Well, if Subaru goes the hybrid route for its next STI (and why would Graham mention this?), we can certainly kiss the stick — in that model, at the very least — goodbye.

Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT isn’t much to get excited about when encountered in, say, a low-end Impreza or Crosstrek, but it certainly holds its own in hotter models. The CVT’s natural inclination for rapid, paddle-actuated shifting makes it a better choice than a traditional automatic in sporty models, and less trouble-prone than its quick-shifting, dual-clutch cousin.

Still, shifting into “M” or “S” while keeping your left foot firmly planted against the dead pedal is not nearly the same experience as working the clutch and giving your right arm a workout. Being one with the car, in a sense. If Subaru eradicates manuals, the brand would find itself moving dangerously close to the center of the mainstream.

Of course, buyers might disagree. And these days, Subaru’s beating a growing crowd of buyers off with a, um, stick.

[Images: Subaru]

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  • 6250Claimer 6250Claimer on Mar 09, 2018

    Here's what I don't understand - why can't Subaru offer this "EyeSight" stuff with a manual? Our '17 Mazda3 has all this stuff - autonomous braking, lane departure warning, plus radar cruise control - and it's a 6MT. My Golf R also has all this stuff on a manual. Sounds like a BS excuse to just move away from manuals, hiding whatever their "real" motivation might be.

    • Eliandi Eliandi on Mar 12, 2018

      i was wondering when someone mentioned a manual and automated safety features do not contradict each other, same as a manual and a hybrid do not contradict. What you are hearing is marketing justification, not engineering capability. That said to buy a manual you have to be persistent. My wife and i drive only manuals. I buy used cars so it is just a matter of shopping around. Hopefully that does not change else I just have to keep buying older and older cars. My wife buys new cars. The previous one they had a manual car to test but to get the car she wanted she had to special order from factory and wait. The last one there were no manuals to test drive, but they found what she wanted in another state and shipped it.

  • Dima Dima on Mar 10, 2018

    I do not have much experience with traditional CVT, I do have experience with eCVT. I can tell you on my Cmax hybrid it performs GREAT! Better then manual or traditional 6 speed auto. So give technology chance.

  • Jeff S Corey Lewis--GM designed those cars shortly after the 1978 oil crisis caused by a reduction in oil production in Iran and the eventual over throw of the Shah and the Iranian hostage crisis. GM anticipated gas would be $5 a gallon and up and that there would be shortages of oil. By the late 80s the supply of oil stabilized and gas and diesel prices stabilized. Ford didn't have the resources to completely redesign all their cars and except for the midsize, compact, and small cars that were front wheel drive and that is why Ford held onto the Panther platform for so long. GM just on the X car design and development spent 2.5 billion dollars and spent at least another billion on the C platform that was used on those 1985 full size front wheel drive cars.
  • SilverCoupe I am one of those people whose Venn diagram of interests would include Audis and Formula One.I am not so much into Forums, though. I spend enough time just watching the races.
  • Jeff S Definitely and very soon. Build a hybrid pickup and price it in the Maverick price range. Toyota if they can do this soon could grab the No 1 spot from Maverick.
  • MaintenanceCosts Would be a neat car if restored, and a lot of good parts are there. But also a lot of very challenging obstacles, even just from what we can see from the pictures. It's going to be hard to justify a restoration financially.
  • Jeff S Ford was in a slump during this era and its savior was a few years away from being introduced. The 1986 Taurus and Sable saved Ford from bankruptcy and Ford bet the farm on them. Ford was also helped by the 1985 downsize front wheel drive full sized GM cars. Lincoln in 1987 even spoofed these new full size GM cars in an ad basically showing it was hard to tell the difference between a Cadillac, Buick, and Oldsmobile. This not only helped Lincoln sales but Mercury Grand Marquis and Ford Crown Victoria sales. For GM full size buyers that liked the downsized GM full size 77 to 84 they had the Panther based Lincoln Town Cars, Mercury Grand Marquis, and Ford Crown Victorias that were an alternative to the new GM front wheel drive full size cars that had many issues when they were introduced in 1985 and many of those issues were not resolved for several years. The Marks were losing popularity after the Mark Vs. 1985 was the last year for the rear wheel drive Olds Delta 88 and rear wheel drive Buick Lesabre the rear wheel Caprice and Caprice Classic 3rd generation continued till 1990 when it was redesigned. B Body Buick Estate wagons continued thru 1990 as the Olds Custom Cruiser wagon and both were redesigned. GM held onto a few rear wheel drive full size cars but the Lincoln ad really brought home the similarly looking front wheel drive full size cars. Lincoln's ad was masterful.