Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Slushbox Automatic

     Modern day cars come equipped with more features than we could have ever dreamed of ten years ago.  Blind spot warnings, rear view cameras, massaging front seats, refrigerators in the center console, etc. That's all fine and dandy if you're spending hours each day commuting from home to work and back.  I can see why people would like that kind of stuff.  However, what happened to our transmissions?

    It seems like a majority of the cars being produced today were designed with so much effort put into all of the extra features that the engineers ran out of time for the transmission and half-assed the build process to fit the car with whatever would change gears, no matter how sluggishly it would do it.  Even if a transmission is built right, it seems like everyone is still preferring an automatic!  Cars like the Taurus SHO and Dodge Charger SRT-8 don't even have an option for a manual transmission yet they can reach 0-60 in 5 seconds or less with a mid-12 to 13 second quarter mile.  Acceleration statistics like that deserve a 6-speed manual transmission and not some automatic slushbox.

     Every time I come across a sports car parked out in the street or in a lot, I come up to the window to check out what kind of transmission the driver as opted for.  It saddens me to say that a majority of the high-end cars I have seen in the past few years have come equipped with automatic transmissions.  I don't care if it has a paddle shift option, a "manu-matic" or "slapstick auto" option, or a 7-speed dual clutch.  It's still an automatic.  In my opinion, that takes away from the entire car.  Even Ferrari and Lamborghini have outfitted their new models with only a paddle shift option!  If I am getting a high-end car like that, I want a stick.

     The issue with making all types of high performance cars from Ford Mustang GT's to Ferrari 458's is that it eliminates the exclusivity of owning a top-of-the-line sports car.  If they only came with a manual transmission, the only people who would buy them would be real car enthusiasts and not wealthy high-class snobs with no real interest in the car itself.  Obviously having an automatic option on sports cars allows companies to sell more vehicles, I understand that.  I would just prefer if we would stop sacrificing the drive for extra profits.  Some cars don't deserve to be insulted by being equipped with an automatic transmission.  Some cars simply deserve to be driven the correct way.

     The real art behind a manual transmission exists because it allows a driver to feel like he/she has complete control over the car they are driving.  Take the Viper for example.  No traction control, no ABS, no automatic.  It's pure car.  Owning a 600 horsepower beast like that without any electronic assistance puts you above even the Lamborghini owners who use paddle shifters simply because you actually control your car.  I respect companies like Ford who have decided not to make the Mustang GT500 in anything but a 6-speed.  Dodge and Chevy should follow suit with the Challenger 392 and Camaro ZL1.  Hell, if high-end car makers like Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Lexus did the same, we wouldn't have Paris Hilton driving around in a $400,000 LF-A.  I suppose it's going to be impossible for car makers to revert back to the origins of true sports cars with a majority of the population not knowing how to drive a stick, but I do hope they will always have it as an option on high-performance cars.  The control you have through a 6-speed gearbox attached to an engine with enough power to rip the tires clean off the rear wheels is a feeling you cannot replicate.


  1. i go on automotive forums and blogs and i hear this complaint every day. the truth is even in stock tcm/pcm configuration, these autoboxes shift faster than most drivers including enthusiasts like us. there is really no market case for sticks as the people pining for them are not the same people ponying up for new cars. yes, they should be optional especially in the Charger as they can just port it from the Challenger.

    if you live in places lke new york, houston, DC, YOU START TO SEE QUICKLY WHY THERE IS NO MARKET FOR manual boxes. i have lived in all 3 cities mentioned and i dont miss manuals.

    maybe on purpose built race cars, not on touring sports sedans

  2. To the original post- bash on the manumatic/ bs paddleshifted autos, but the true dual clutch paddleshifts are not meant for the driving experience, but to go damn quick; and they do. Manual for the fun and some quick, dual clutch for LOTS of quick, and a slushbox for neither.
    To the above comment: you say autos shift faster than humans, which may be true, but irrelevant. They can shift as fast as they want, but they will still slip their way through the gears inefficiently. They will always be trash. Once new technologies can make it affordable to completely replace autos with dual clutches, we can solve your city driving problem as well.

  3. I agree with you. The dual clutch paddleshift system is definitely the most efficient and performance-oriented option we have to date. However, you'll always see me opt for the manual just for the driving experience. I don't mind if it knocks a few tenths off of my 0-100kph. I prefer the feel. You're right about our current technology in automatic transmissions. We have a long way to go before we trim the inefficiencies of these systems. Dual clutch systems will most likely become a larger segment of the market within the next decade.

    1. It's the feel of just being able to shift instantly, there is no lag, no wait, and no human error. I love that about DCT, it just feels so amazing being able to downshift into lower gears at highway speeds, no jerkiness, and just hear the car roar. If you felt a DCT, you wouldn't say that about automatics, it's crazy.