The automotive marketplace is on the move! It is the usual practice that rather than make 'major changes,' automakers make 'useful improvements' to their vehicle gearbox offerings.
For example, direct fuel injection, electric water pumps, internet and electronic interface systems, and cutting edge transmissions to name just a few. And once something is offered by one vehicle manufacturer the very competitive nature of the business demands that the others quickly follow to maintain sales.
Most all vehicle manufactures are offering or will very soon offer automatic transmissions that can be shifted manually with buttons or paddles on the steering wheel. Not only are such transmissions responsive and enjoyable to use but they offer excellent fuel mileage that equals or betters even the current six-speed manual transmissions. Oh, some manufacturers are still providing some 5-speed manuals, however, the six-speed gearbox will soon be leaving the 5-speed in the dust.
So which transmission choice is better for you? In the past, enthusiasts and performance junkies almost always preferred the manual gearbox with a clutch pedal because of its driving involvement and fuel mileage. However, the manumatic automatics provide many of the manual's benefits but the convenience and ease of use in urban traffic.
How do the two transmission stack up at the test track? Cars equipped with manumatic automatic transmissions and five and six-speed manuals were compared at a short and tight autocross track that included many curves. The comparison focused on shift times, ease of operation and how well the transmissions met drivers' expectations.
The cars tested included a pair of 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions equipped with a 5-speed manual gearbox and a 6-speed sequential twin-clutch (but no clutch pedal) that could be left in automatic mode or manually shifted with paddles on the steering wheel or with a console-mounted shift lever. Additionally, a pair of 2009 Porsche Cayman S cars with a six-speed manual and a PDK dual-clutch (no clutch pedal) system. Last, but not least, a pair of 2010 Lamborghini Gallardo Balbornis equipped with a six-speed manual as well as a six-speed dual clutch (no clutch pedal) system.
The results indicated that the manumatic automatic transmission Mitsubishi was about one second faster getting around the 50 second race track than its manual transmission brother. The data also showed that the manumatic automatic was quicker during all the hard acceleration points on the track. With this transmission, the driver did not need to focus simultaneously on the steering wheel, the clutch, and the shifter. Additionally, through the turns, the driver was able to keep both hands on the steering wheel as the transmission could be shifted at the steering wheel.
The results were also the same for the Porsche Cayman and the Lamborghini as the manumatic transmissions came out on top. On average a manual gearbox took the driver about .40 second to shift and the manumatic automatic took .25 second or almost one-half the time to shift! This is understandable when you realize that in a dual-clutch semiautomatic transmission, when the transmission is being driven in one gear, the other bank of the gearbox is preparing the next gear. Thus, when the driver hits the steering wheel paddle, the other clutch hydraulically engages and the clutch being used disengages at the same time. On the manual transmission, however, after the clutch pedal is pressed in, the driver needs to push the shift level forward or pull it back and then let out the cutch. Such movement indeed takes time!
Of the manumatic automatic transmissions, it must be mentioned that the Porsche and the Lamborghini shift times and shift quality (some shifts become a bit lazier and sometimes the computer shifted earlier than optimal) varied somewhat as the units heated up. Regarding these 'variations,' such transmissions are quite new and these small glitches should soon disappear. Another aspect of these 'new and future' transmissions is the great number of parts including computers needed in their operation. If one of these transmissions goes out, what will be the cost to have it repaired? The (CVT) continuously variable transmission has a much simpler design and only a few parts compared to the manumatic automatics.
To summarize, the new manumatic automatic transmissions offer the quickest time at the track (this is why all Formula 1 cars are equipped with such transmissions and the manual gearboxes in this sport have long disappeared). Additionally, such transmissions provide no sweat in stop-and-go traffic.
Many younger drivers cannot drive a manual transmission (I started to driveone successfully without being taught. I worked at a machine shop when I was asked to make a delivery in a manual transmission truck and off I went!).
If you are a driver that likes to be involved in driving and interacting with your machine to the greatest extent, the manual transmission may will provide the most driving pleasure. I guess it comes down to what driving experience 'you' want!
As it is difficult for one vehicle to do everything well, I maintain that a driver might want to have an automatic transmission when he will be doing mostly stop-and-go driving and a manual gearbox for open road and interstate driving. It would be similar to having an all-wheel drive crossover for carrying cargo, towing, or winter driving, and a manual transmission car for summer driving. It would be the best of both transmissions to be enjoyed to the fullest extent.