Of all the questions that Xtreme Xperience gets, this has to be the one that draws the largest amount of collective sighs, eye rolls, and guffaws.
Now, we already know where your head is at on this hot button topic but please, do us a favor and hear us out. Trust us when we say that there are few things better in the world to us than driving a manual transmission-equipped vehicle. However, the fact remains that the ever-increasing trend in the motoring world to move away from manual transmission-equipped cars has not only made it incredibly challenging to find a supercar with a manual, but automated manuals like those found in our cars have rendered the three-pedal set up nearly obsolete.
We know these seem like fighting words but we think by the end of this article, you’ll have a new appreciation for automated manuals and you’ll be itching to hit the track sooner than later.
First, let’s explore why the manual transmission seems to have all but disappeared.
Source: Auto Evolution
The Death Of The Manual
If you’re an enthusiast that’s been on this earth a fair share of years, then you’ve no doubt had the joy of driving a manual transmission vehicle. Sure, they’re full of compromises, but the driving connection between man (or woman) and machine is simply unmatched. Up until the early 2000’s, a manual transmission also had another major advantage over their slushbox rivals; they were also quite a bit faster.
The difference comes down to gearing, and the number of gears in total. Up until the mid – 00’s, automatic transmissions were rarely seen with anything more than 4 speeds, while competitive manual gearboxes typically had 5 speeds or even 6 speeds. More gears = more aggressive ratios and consequently more aggressive acceleration. For a perfect example of this, let’s take a look at the distant cousin to our C8 Stingray; the C5 Corvette.
This generation of Corvette could be had with either a 6-speed manual, or a 4 speed automatic. Publications from the day note that the automatic-equipped Corvette ran to 60 in around 5.3 seconds, while the 6 speed could easily pull 60 in 4.5 seconds. That’s a HUGE difference. Keep in mind as well that while running a vehicle around the race track, being able to properly select the right gear for proper corner exit with a 4-speed automatic that has absolutely no selection capability is near impossible.
As time went on, however, things started to change.
The irony of the automated manual (dual clutch, single clutch) is that it’s roots are definitely in motorsport, yet choosing an automated manual over a stick shift will undoubtedly get you ridiculed by the car-loving community.
So, why did motorsport adopt the automated manual as their preferred transmission? Less room for error, and faster lap times. Proper manual driving requires a perfected dance of launch, upshifting and downshifting. Mess up any of these elements on a track, and your race could be completely shot. Automated manuals launch with brutality, and allow their drivers to easily shift down for proper corner entry by automatically matching the proper RPM. Upshifts are also accomplished in mere fractions of a second. All this adds up to a seamless shifting experience that allows drivers to focus on the racing line, and braking.
In super car land, one of the very first vehicles to get an automated manual as an option was the Ferrari 360 Modena (the distant cousin to our very own 488). Yes, you could get the Modena with a 6-speed manual but the real wizz bang feature on the Modena was the automated, single clutch manual pulled straight from their F1 efforts. The idea was simple, rather than having a person control the clutch, and row the gears; let the computer do it. From shift speed, to launches; here, human error rarely was able to outdo the computer and 60 came up QUICKER in the automated manual version of the car. Not by much, but enough for enthusiasts to take notice.
That moment in time was effectively the end of the manual transmission as we know it. Now drivers could have the convenience of an automatic, with the speed of a manual and be able to select the proper gear easily from paddles or buttons behind the steering wheel. Just like a race car.
Lap Times and Shift Times – Oh My!
Over the next 2 decades, manufacturers from Porsche to Lamborghini (and basically everything in between) would begin to phase out their manual transmissions, in favor of ever more aggressive automated manuals, with higher and higher gear counts.
Remember that C5 we talked about? Well, it’s younger cousin (the C8) utilizes a Tremec 8 Speed Dual Clutch that is absolutely, earth shatteringly good. Not only is it 2 gears up anything a manual transmission can offer but it’s lighting-quick shifts and launch control make it a joy to drive at the limit. Beyond nostalgia, there’s just really no reason for Chevrolet to include a manual transmission as an option in their lineup!
Since automated manuals have gotten so good, consumer interest has also waned. Less and less people see the need for manual transmissions, which means less and less people can even drive manual transmission vehicles. Most new young drivers on the road have never sat in a manual, let alone learn to drive one! For a company that caters to a wide variety of drivers, this leaves us in a difficult position because we want to please every single enthusiast out there. The desire of a select few to experience a manual unfortunately doesn’t overwhelm our goal of putting anyone in the driver’s seat.
Coming to a track day with Xtreme Xperience is all about going fast on a track, and automated manuals make that goal easier to attain than anything a manual transmission could offer. Just learning the clutch/shifter set-up would take up several laps of time just to begin to get used to. With an automated manual, you just hop in and take off. We know you may WANT to do it the hard way, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better for the goal of getting around the track quickly.
Just Enjoy The Speed
Like we said, we love manual transmission vehicles. Many of us own, or have owned all manner of manual-equipped cars but driving a properly sorted supercar with a race proven automated manual, well, that’s a compromise we’re just willing to accept. If you don’t believe us, why don’t come to an event near you and try one of our fire-breathing supercars out for yourself! Let our team of tame driving instructors strap you in for the ride of your life and show you first hand why banging off shifts in fractions of a second is just something you need to experience to understand.
Save the manuals, sure, but don’t forget to just enjoy the speed too!