By on March 27, 2019

2018 Mazda 6 Signature front quarter

Changes come to Mazda’s midsize 6 sedan slowly, with mild — some might say imperceptible — styling refreshes and content changes usually occurring halfway through the model year. Last year saw a big and long-awaited addition to the slinky sedan: an available turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four aimed at silencing, once and for all, enthusiasts’ cries of moar powah.

That mill brought 277 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque to a model often regarded as the most engaging midsize on the market, though buyers couldn’t pair it with the base model’s six-speed manual transmission. For 2019, however, it looks like no one will get their hands on a stick. (Read More…)

By on March 15, 2019

The shouting factory that is Twitter, by and large, should generally not be considered as something that resembles real life. Between trolls and various other bottom feeders, it can be tough to find real information amongst all the noise.

Every now and then, a nugget of information appears that makes weathering the commotion worthwhile. Despite take rates being lower than this winter’s average temperatures, stickshifts are apparently a very popular topic in the Wolverine State.

(Read More…)

By on February 8, 2019

2013 Scion FRS navy winter - Image: © Timothy CainV writes:

Here are two questions from a regular, and grateful, Piston Slap reader:

  1. How long is best to idle a gasoline engine after starting & before driving off: [A] a few minutes? [B] one minute? [C] until the revs settle down? [D] no need, just drive right off? Assume ambient temperature well above freezing; a shifting style on the sedate side; and a car made in the past 15 years so engine has EFI and EGR and all that. Current ride’s engine is naturally-aspirated and direct-injected, but I sure would appreciate knowing the proper protocol for other combinations too, if different. Several sources over the past years have all agreed on [D] for modern engines, but then just a few months back a Car & Driver column said [A], so now I’m unsure again.
  2. Leaving a car (stick shift *of course*) parked: best in gear, best in neutral, or doesn’t matter? Assume the parking space is either not sloped at all, or is sloped and I know enough to turn a front wheel into the curb toward the down slope. (Read More…)
By on January 7, 2019

1953 Pontiac in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsMore pre-1960 vehicles than one might think show up in the big U-Wrench wrecking yards; you won’t find a ’55 Chevy coupe, but I’ve seen Nash Metropolitans, a ’55 Buick, a ’49 Dodge, a ’58 Edsel, a ’53 Willys, and a ’50 Studebaker in recent years, and that’s just a small sampling. Today’s Junkyard Treasure is a ’53 Pontiac Chieftain sedan in very solid condition, photographed in a Denver-area self-service yard last week. (Read More…)

By on November 5, 2018

BMW previously confirmed that the 3 Series would abandon the manual transmission for the U.S. market, leaving many enthusiasts livid. Then there was talk that the M3 might abandon rear-wheel drive entirely, as the new car’s eight-speed gearbox was designed to work with the modern xDrive system.

However, there may still be hope for a manual option. The brand has allegedly not made up its mind on the matter, at least as far as the M3 is concerned. Still, it remains a pretty slim prospect, as BMW has admitted that manual sales are on a rapid decline and don’t really make it a lot of money.  (Read More…)

By on October 2, 2018

Image: BMW

The car’s everything you’d expect a next-generation German sports sedan to be. Lighter, slipperier, more efficient, and slightly larger in footprint. Handling dynamics are reportedly improved — a requirement that, if missed, might necessitate the need for nationwide group therapy.

It still looks like a BMW 3 Series, too, as wary designers employed at German luxury marques aren’t known for their overt craziness, Chris Bangle notwithstanding. But tradition, while seemingly intact in this next-gen 3 Series, goes out the window the minute you search for transmission options. (Read More…)

By on August 17, 2018

The manual transmission continues to die a slow, lingering death. Audi is now eliminating the manual option from its entire U.S. lineup, not that the majority if its customers will actually miss it. While the 2018 Audi A4 can still be had with a six-speed manual, the refreshed 2019 model will not. The same will be true for the less-popular A5 coupe.

It’s a bum deal for enthusiasts but it’s difficult to come down too hard on Audi. The A4’s seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic isn’t exactly a terrible transmission and, considering it outsells the manual by a huge margin, it doesn’t make financial sense for Audi to ship anything else across the ocean.

Applying that logic hasn’t make us feel better about the situation, though.  (Read More…)

By on July 2, 2018

2004 Audi A4 Wagon in Colorado wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Here in Denver 15 or so years ago, the Subaru Legacy Outback wagon was king among car shoppers looking for a vehicle suited for their dog-owning, ski-slope-visiting, REI-shopping lifestyles (that is, most of the population). But what about those who wanted an all-wheel-drive wagon that was a bit less… stolid?

While you could get the Outback with a manual transmission or a six-cylinder engine (sorry, one or the other) back then, only the most rabid Subaru fanatics would describe the driving experience of the Outback as fun. That’s where the second-generation Audi A4 wagon came in, and they sold very well here. Here’s one that looked to be in pretty good condition when it got rear-ended, spotted in a yard just south of town. (Read More…)

By on June 29, 2018

Image: Honda

There’s probably no shortage of eyeball rolling over this headline, as manual transmissions wouldn’t be fading out of the marketplace if buyers actually desired one.

Once upon a time, a stick-shift guaranteed better fuel economy, but those days are pretty much gone. It was also a great way to reduce the entry price of a particular model, but automakers’ thirst for larger margins and fewer configurations means what few base, stick-shift models roll off the line are often hidden from consumer view in the real world. This only serves to sink popularity even further.

The ongoing trend has apparently reached the Honda HR-V, which undergoes a mild refresh for the 2019 model year. As part of this update, say goodbye to the six-speed manual in Honda’s smallest ‘ute. (Read More…)

By on June 12, 2018

Considering how the popularity of crossover vehicles resulted in the industry-wide genocide of passenger cars, it is both strange and exciting to discuss a new sedan. While we haven’t reached the point where one could describe the situation as a blending of Children of Men and Disney’s Cars franchise, new models with a low center of gravity are becoming increasingly difficult to come by.

That’s why we’re glad Hyundai’s luxury Genesis division built the G70 and saw fit to allow the ability to option it with a manual transmission. You read that correctly; there is an automaker that builds a competitively priced luxury sedan that can be had with a manual transmission. However, buyers need to actually purchase these vehicles for the brand to rationalize that decision in the years to come.  (Read More…)

By on May 1, 2018

You would think that after 34 years of having the same guitar teacher, I would be better than I am. Yet that’s not really an accurate statement. From the ages of 12 to 14, I went weekly to The String Shoppe on the Ohio State campus for weekly instruction that frustrated more than it educated. My teacher, also named John, was a former New York studio musician specializing in big band and jazz music. I wanted to play Judas Priest riffs. The results were lackluster, to say the least, so I quit in favor of racing my BMX bike.

Two decades later, I sought John out again for some help in playing the old jazz standards to which I had finally come around. In the years since, he has suffered through a series of health scares and personal reversals, while my travel and parenting schedule has accelerated to something just sort of Warp Speed Nine, so nowadays when we meet it’s on short notice and it’s usually just to noodle around on a James Taylor song or something like “East Of The Sun” for an hour or so. It has been a long time since any money has changed hands.

When I stopped by John’s home studio on Saturday — rather predictably, the two songs we fussed with were “Anywhere like Heaven” and “Over The Rainbow” — he expressed interest in the Lotus Evora 400 I’ve been driving as a “long-termer,” while I noted that he’d chopped in his 2015 Accord LX for a 2018 Acura ILX. The conversation that followed has stuck with me all weekend.

(Read More…)

By on October 13, 2017

2018 volkswagen jetta gli - image: volkswagenFor the 2018 model year, Volkswagen of America is adopting an entirely different approach to its sports sedan transmission lineup than Honda and Subaru.

Unlike the Honda Civic Si, which is available exclusively with a manual transmission, and unlike the Subaru WRX, which is available with a manual transmission or a continuously variable automatic, the 2018 Volkswagen Jetta GLI will drop the manual transmission option.  (Read More…)

By on October 4, 2017

2011-audi-r8-42-spyder-shifter-photo-416617-s-1280x782Yesterday, Steph Willems penned a little Question of the Day about the manual transmission. In it, he asked what would have to occur to get you, the buying public, back into the manual transmission in a large-scale way.

As of this writing, it’s blowing up the comment counts as everyone lists the particulars of how they hem and haw over the manual transmission. Shifting a vehicle yourself is romanticized and desirable; a bygone art to be treasured and maintained for future generations of drivers.

Except when it isn’t. What would force you from a manual transmission vehicle for the rest of your days?

(Read More…)

By on July 10, 2017

1991 Toyota Camry in Colorado wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
When I poke through automotive graveyards in search of the rare and the interesting, I always take a look at late-1980s/early-1990s Toyota Camrys for the very rare All-Trac all-wheel-drive versions and extremely rare manual-transmission versions.

So rare that its existence in the wild is merely theoretical, however, is the V6-powered manual-transmission Camry… and I just found one in Denver. Let’s take a look! (Read More…)

By on June 28, 2017

BMW 2 Series, Image: BMW

BMW plans to streamline its manufacturing process by providing fewer model variants and eliminating less popular engine or equipment options. The goal here is to free up capital for research and development spending in the coming years, according to a Wednesday announcement from the brand’s chief finance officer, Nicolas Peter.

With most German automakers already pushing heavily into the realm of electric vehicles, BMW’s strong presence in China is forcing it to further bolster its efforts in EV development. The country’s particularly aggressive emission regulations and mandates on electric vehicle sales means any manufacturer hoping to persist within its borders will have to ensure 12 percent of its fleet is electric by 2020 — and BMW isn’t ready.

As a result, the automaker is trimming fat wherever it can find it. Unfortunately, that means eliminating the manual gearbox for the 2 Series in the United States and abandoning certain engine options for models across the globe. While BMW wasn’t explicit as to which motors won’t be returning, odds are good it will be the fun ones that don’t sell as well, plus the diesels.  (Read More…)

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