The manual transmission, there is nothing truly like it. Rowing through the gears of your machine on the open road is an enjoyable experience. There is something about being one with the machine, and commanding its every move through the use of the steering wheel, accelerator, brake, gearbox, and clutch.
Whether we like it or not, manual transmissions are a dying breed. Manufacturers find that an automatic is just more efficient than having a human row through the gears himself. No matter how efficient a conventional automatic, DCT, or CVT get, one cannot help but feel a little bit detached when piloting a vehicle nowadays. So, let’s make a case for manuals, and why it is still a viable option.
Some cars can come with paddle shifters, which allow the user to select the gear or simulated ratio. The clutch cannot be controlled, however, meaning that if the transmission jerks, it jerks and you cannot do anything about it. A computer might not understand the context, but a human will.
Manual transmissions allow the driver to complete control over the behavior of a gearbox. Whereas some automatics can be a little unpredictable when it comes to shifting, having a manual leaves upshifts and downshifts completely up to the driver. You can be as smooth as possible and expect your car to accelerate and decelerate whenever you want. When going up an incline, you can hold the lower gear to ensure that you are in the optimal power band so you won’t experience a loss of power going up a slope. Since most automatics are designed to save fuel and lug the engine, an upshift on an incline may leave a driver dumbfounded.
While you have control over how the car behaves, you also have control how light you want your wallet to be after you next fueling session. While we understand that modern automatics have become more efficient than before, there are reasons why a manual just cannot be beaten.
Going back to the first portion, you can control how fuel efficient you want your drive to be. The driver can keep the engine RPMs as low as he wants, and he can even shift to the highest gear from anywhere in the H-pattern.
If you have ever driven a CVT and placed it into low gear, you will notice that the engine brake is not as strong as a transmission with hard gears. Going into low gear can put less stress away from your brakes when going downhill or even when slowing down.
The manual transmission, on the other hand, has true engine braking. Going down a hill will be so much easier because the car will really slow down when a low gear is selected. Unlike CVTs with an L position on the lever, deceleration is even more substantial when selecting a low gear in a manual.
The manual transmission is literally just a box full of gears – a gearbox. It is as simple as it can be. Nowadays we have a bevy of transmissions to choose from. DCTs, CVTs, and traditional automatics may be as simple as two pulleys and a belt in the case of a CVT, but these transmissions are on average more complex than that of your H-pattern gear lever.
The fact of the matter is that you need a supplementary system in a vehicle’s ECU to govern the behavior of an automatic. Couple that with different modes and configurations that a driver may select at a touch of a button, and you have yourself a transmission that you have to ask permission first before actually getting a bit of oomph out of it.
When you step on the gas, the engine responds. You don’t have to wait for the transmission to catch up or realize that you are stepping on the gas. In a manual, you just have to make sure that you are in a lower gear first before expecting your car to accelerate.
Since the transmission is not tethered to the ECU, you can tell the engine to rev whenever you want to. There is nothing stopping you from lugging it or hitting the redline, albeit, we don’t recommend the latter.
Manuals are slowly disappearing, but there are passionate enthusiasts who love the feel of rowing through gears and downshifting whenever they want. Having control over the behavior of a car is also a huge benefit.
These transmissions can also teach drivers the value of mechanical sympathy. Knowing how to operate a manual transmission is character building and fulfilling. It also teaches you skills that you would not normally learn in an automatic such as heel-toe downshifting, and efficient upshifting. Driving a manual is a dying art, but with worsening traffic conditions there are fewer and fewer people opting for this transmission – sadly.