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calendar   Friday - September 12, 2014

Check Your Six. Or your Five.

A Shift In Time



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Another article sounding the death knell of the manual transmission.

When Marlo Dewing went shopping for a car last year, she only had one requirement: a manual transmission.

“Any car that was only available as an automatic was a deal breaker,” said Dewing, 44. “I love to drive. I want to know that I am actually driving, that I am in control of the machine.”

That made her shopping list a very short one. Only around 10 percent of vehicles made in North America now have manual transmissions, down from 35 percent in 1980. And that number is expected to keep shrinking, according to the consulting firm IHS Automotive.

Manuals no longer have a fuel economy advantage. The five-speed manual transmission on the 2014 Honda Civic sedan gets 31 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving, for example, while a Civic with Honda’s continuously variable automatic transmission — which moves automatically to the gear most appropriate for the car’s situation — gets 33 mpg.

The price gap does remain. A Honda Accord with an automatic transmission costs around $800 more than a manual one, while drivers opting for an automatic transmission on a Chevrolet Corvette Stingray have to pay $1,725 more. But that doesn’t seem to have stifled demand.

Driving enthusiasts like Dewing remain manuals’ biggest fans, and ensure that some brands will continue to produce them. Dewing eventually settled on a 2012 Volkswagen GTI with a six-speed manual transmission. It’s a 210-horsepower hatchback that’s popular with enthusiasts; Volkswagen says about half the GTIs it sells in the U.S. are manuals.



Earlier this week I read a news article that told how Cadillac is developing a self-driving car. Are you kidding me? Duh, when Cadillac sold real Caddys, cars you didn’t have to drive had a chauffeur. There is already at least one car on the market that does hands-off automatic parallel parking. And maybe that is a good idea, seeing how tall modern vehicles have become, which limits close-in visibility. OTOH, if your new high rider has power folding mirrors, just tilt them down 45° and ta-da, there’s the curb!

Rear view cameras and back up radar are out there now too. And I can’t say that those are bad things. Lane change warning systems. Fine, great. Low speed front radar braking ... probably a good idea too. It’s almost impossible to buy a new car that doesn’t have computer driven traction control. All of these things make cars safer and easier to drive. But a manual transmission makes a car fun to drive. And that’s what it’s all about. You don’t need thighs of iron to work a clutch any longer either; no matter how powerful the engine is, a modern hydraulic clutch reduces the pedal effort to just a couple pounds.

The old hot rodder argument that automatics are stronger doesn’t fly either; 5 speed manuals from Legend and 6 speed manuals from Tremec can handle 700lb ft of torque, which is crazy strong.

But oh no, manuals suck in traffic!! BS. I’ve been driving manuals since 1983, and I live in NJ, land of traffic. Trust me, it isn’t an issue. Right toe up, a flip of the right wrist, a slip of the left toe up, a touch of gas, left toe down, wrist flip back, left toe up, right toe down: you’ve just let off the brakes, put the car in gear, moved forward 5 feet in the traffic jam, come to a stop, and put the car back in neutral. It’s so easy you don’t even think about it. So is holding the car in position while stopped on a hill. It’s a tiny little skill, and once you learn it you do it for the rest of your life without thinking about it.

But it’s really all about the control. I want to drive the car, not have the car drive me. And when it’s time to go, I want to go. I don’t want to blurble away from the stop light, engine revving away like a buzzsaw with the car going nowhere. Which is what happens with a CVT. Plus a manual simply makes driving more fun.



Here’s Coach to help you through your driving desire to do something with your left foot:




2.97, 2.10, 1.46, 1:1, .74, .50: the standard gear ratios on the Tremec T56 wide ratio transmission (0.80 5th and 0.64 6th available): now your 400hp V8 with it’s 3.90 rear axle can get 20mpg at 80mph.

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See More Below The Fold

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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 09/12/2014 at 08:17 AM   
Filed Under: • Fun-Stuffplanes, trains, tanks, ships, machines, automobiles •  
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Oh, and here's some kind of visitor flag counter thingy. Hey, all the cool blogs have one, so I should too. The Visitors Online thingy up at the top doesn't count anything, but it looks neat. It had better, since I paid actual money for it.
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