Column: Death of the Manual Transmission

Aston Martin Gearbox

I remember thinking to myself in the mid-2000s, that automated manuals are going to become the future. It’s inevitable. As technology advances, machines are getting better and better at what they do, and shifting gears quicker than humans has definitely become one of them.

As the years went by, I remember telling myself another cold hard fact; that the day Porsche stops making their flagship GT3 as a raw manual racing machine, is the day my hopes of seeing a manual transmission in a supercar for the future die.

As a purist myself, I have two ways of looking at it that might ease the pain of fellow purists out there: first is that from a technical stance, a double-clutch, paddle shifter, PDK, whatever you want to call it, is absolutely brilliant. With the 2014 Porsche 911 GT3, or in fact with any modern supercar, the shifting times are exceptionally quick, definitely quicker than any human can shift with a manual transmission.

On that note, my second way of looking at it seems that the only reason why manuals in supercars are dying off is because it seems like there is a war going on between companies for the best times. Obviously this isn’t any surprising news to us, but as the technology increases, the more eager companies are to compete and be king of the figures. Their only goal seems to be more quick around the bend, or quicker off the line than the other person, not caring how it’s done. If a machine can do it better than a human can, and if it’ll make us this much better than the other company, why not? Right? Not really. Let me paraphrase Jeremy Clarkson for one second, it’s more rewarding to struggle through a video game on its hardest level, then finish the game on top, than it is putting it on its easiest level, and breezing though it, but still finishing first. It seems that the human emotion and input keeps being limited. Some might find that a good thing, some might not. I can confidently say that 99% of purists don’t find that a hugely amusing aspect of any of the new supercars.

This tends to fall into the category of Formula one, where cars are getting quicker and easier to drive requiring less of the drivers’ input. There is also the fact that politics plays a huge role in F1, but let’s not get into that just yet. Not to say that politics doesn’t play a role in street legal supercars.

In summary, it’s very obvious that these quick shifting gearboxes are the future, no doubt about that, just like hydraulic steering became the future of manual “raw” steering, or ABS became the future of locking up your wheels in an emergency. But the bottom line is that the automotive industry has no choice but to go where the world/people want it to go. Society is aimed at a more convenience oriented way of living and getting around. That means, automated gearboxes, electric steering, night vision, sensors that tell you if there’s anyone in your blind spot etc. These are all amazing technological features, and if you look at it in the business world (which ALL car companies look at it) the only way to go is the way the world tells you to.

Porsche was the last world renowned supercar company that made a street legal racing supercar with a manual transmission, but in the end, they have to make whatever is going to sell. And it’s numbers and up-to-date technology that sell today.

Let us know your comments/opinions below!

Published : March 8, 2013 9:30 am

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