Car and Driver: Save the Manuals!

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Annual surveys reveal that less than 10% of new cars sold in America are equipped with manual transmissions, and more and more BMWs are starting …

Annual surveys reveal that less than 10% of new cars sold in America are equipped with manual transmissions, and more and more BMWs are starting to lose their manual boxes in favor of the newer 8-speed automatic, more efficient transmissions.

But are manual transmission really a rare commodity these days? Are the automakers stealing the pleasure of driving?

Car and Driver, shortly followed by Consumer Reports, started an awareness campaign to “Save the Manuals”.

Eddie Alterman of C&D has the first word:

You know what we need? We need a crusade. We need to save the manuals! Not only are manual transmissions often more fuel-efficient than their two-pedal counterparts, you also can’t text while operating one. So let’s lobby carmakers to produce more of these things because they’re safer and more frugal, and let’s not tell them that they’re way more fun. Let’s train our offspring in the ancient ways of the stick shift. Let all of us knights of the clutch pedal drive our manual-equipped cars to Washington and pop ’em in front of Barry O’s house.

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Consumer Reports follows with a list of currently new cars available with a manual transmission:

Acura TL, TSX
Audi A3, A4, A5, R8, S4, TT
BMW 1 Series, 3 Series, 5 Series, 6 Series, X3, Z4
Cadillac CTS
Chevrolet Aveo, Camaro, Cobalt, Colorado, Corvette, Cruze, HHR
Dodge Caliber, Challenger, Ram 2500, Ram 3500, Viper
Ford Escape, F-250, F-350, Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, Mustang, Ranger
GMC Canyon
Honda Accord, Civic, CR-Z, Element, Fit
Hummer H3
Hyundai Accent, Elantra, Genesis Coupe, Santa Fe, Sonata, Tucson
Infiniti G
Jeep Compass, Liberty, Patriot, Wrangler
Kia Forte, Optima, Rio, Sorento, Soul, Sportage
Lexus IS
Lotus Elise, Evora
Mazda B-Series, MX-5 Miata, RX-8, Tribute, Mazda2, Mazda3, Mazda5, Mazda6
Mercedes-Benz C-Class, SLK
Mercury Milan
Mini Cooper, Cooper Clubman
Mitsubishi Eclipse, Lancer, Lancer Evolution, Outlander Sport
Nissan Altima, Cube, Frontier, Juke, Sentra, Versa, Xterra, Z
Porsche 911, Boxster, Cayenne, Cayman
Saab 9-3, 9-5
Scion tC, xB, xD
Subaru Forester, Impreza, Impreza WRX/STi, Legacy, Outback
Suzuki Equator, Grand Vitara, Kizashi, SX4
Toyota Camry, Corolla, FJ Cruiser, Matrix, Tacoma, Yaris
Volkswagen CC, Eos, Golf, GTI, Jetta, Jetta SportWagen, New Beetle, Tiguan
Volvo C30, C70, S40, V50

To take this campaign even further, a Facebook page has been setup where automotive purists can share their thoughts.

We would love to hear your opinion on this as well, so feel free to cast your vote below.

[poll id=”60″] [Source: Car and Driver, Consumer Reports via Automotive Addicts]

43 responses to “Car and Driver: Save the Manuals!”

  1. Auday says:

    The reason companies are stearing away from manual is that bad operation could easily stress the whole drive-trian, while in Automatic and manu-matic this would never happen.
    I think BMW should always keep the manual and maybe charge extra for the power train warrenty, but I doubt they will do so. The new M5 seems to come in Auto or DCT, and I guess the next M3 will be the same. Even Ferrari killed the manual in 458 Italia.

    • kcsnyud says:

      Well Well, times are changing.

      • txdesign says:

        Not so much, just in the US. In Europe the great majority of cars still have manuals.

        • kcsnyud says:

          IMO The automatic gives u more enjoyment cos u have 2 hands on the wheel much easier and u can try really cool maneuvers with the extra hand not on the stick shift :). Thats just my opinion.

          • Shincai says:

            He’s right, In europe most of the cars are still manuals.
            Automatics are too expensive for some.
            I think manuals are more fun when u drive because you can play with the engine’s RPM. And if you try to be quick with shifting that makes you feel like you’re going alot faster.

          • Lennardt says:

            i enjoy shifting manually very much and if possible i would order my car with manual transmission allways

  2. badger says:

    Automatics are for people who live in cities or drive a lot everyday in stop go traffic. Driving a manual in San Francisco is a pain in the butt. Bmw is always stick with a manual in the 3 series. Its a driver’s car!

  3. Gord says:

    What about things like a DCT, or SMG ? Are those considered manual because they have a clutch (or 2 for the DCT) ?

    • Auday says:

      DCT and SMG are manual, but they clutch is operated by computer and the rev-matching as well, so it’s almost like automatic from the user perspective, except a very important difference, that is Torque Converter in Auto versus an actual clutch in the DCT/SMG, for that difference alone DCT/SMG are multiple times better than Auto with TC.

      • Laszlo says:

        Drive a BMW with the new 8spd auto. you will change that “…multiple times better…” to a “…slightly better in certain conditions and certain times. Yes, its that good !

        • Auday says:

          hmmm, yeah I should. I’ve driven the 335i auto with ZF auto though, and this transmission killed the car, it doesn’t feel like 300+ hp car at all. But maybe the new 8spds are better but I doubt they will come close to the DCT.

          Again the problem is not only shifting, it’s more when you are in gear and push on the gas to see the RPM go up but the car speed is picking up after (although no gear change happen), it feels like driving a boat, and that’s all caused by the Torque Converter.

          In Manual/DCT as long as the clutch is fully engaged, the RPM and the car speed go up/down together, which gives you the real sense of control.

          • wazon8 says:

            Yes, we talked about you case in past. Eighter set up gear box properely, or go to your dealer, because it sounds to me as if you had problems with clutch. I am even inclined that the second is the case. When will you finally learn something about cars?

          • Auday says:

            Wazon, we are talking automatic here, there is no clutch.

            As for learning something about cars, I’m working on it and with bright people like you helping me out I’m sure I’ll get better soon :)


          • wazon8 says:

            No clatch in automatic transmission? That’s interesting. Have you ever seen how it looks like inside. Maybe the fact that it’s called “double-clatch” should give you some clue? Anyway, the fact that clatch is operated automatically doesn’t amount to the fact that there is no clutch in transmission. Otherwise, what’s playing the role of clutch?

            As for your problem, I bet that the problem is not with torgue converter (unless it’s broken), since I drove 335i with autmomatic transmission and didn’t observe this problem, but rather with software. BTW, at the end of a day, you admit that after setting up gear box properly, drive train works as it should.

          • Auday says:

            Wazon, I see where your confusion is coming from. Dual Clutch and SMG are not automatic, they are manual with computer operated clutch. I guess you haven’t read my other responses, but here it is again:

            Automatic boxes have a completely different concept of gears, they use planetary gears with small clutches and bands to hold or release the gears (those clutches have nothing to do with connecting the box to the engine they have a different purpose here). The clutch of the manual is replaced by the Torque converter in automatic.
            SMG, DCT don’t have a torque converter, the engine is connected to the box through the clutch, which is a solid connection. The TC on the other hand is fluid based connection. And that’s the huge difference.
            You need to drive a manual car to see the difference. I drive a manual M3 daily, and I drove hundreds of cars with automatic transmissions before, plus Car engineering and physics is my thing. But don’t take my word on this, just go do your own research, read about it, and try to drive manual and auto back to back, maybe you will get the difference.
            Do a simple test to see what I mean, engage the E-brake in full stop and push on the gas pedal slightly, you will notice the RPM is moving slightly but the car is not moving, in manual if you do that the engine stalls, in auto it’s ok because the TC is loose.

            Hope that helps :)

          • wazon8 says:

            Whatever kind of clutches they have, there are clutches in them. You said that there are no. Period.

            Each kind of clutch suffers on similar problems since they are working under the same principles.

            BTW, why did you talk about torgue converster, since there is only 7speed DTC transmission avaible for 335i?

          • wazon8 says:

            And 7speed DTC is considered as automatic transmission.

          • wazon8 says:

            I drive manual 335i!!! And I have never had my own car with automatic transmission. In Europe they are not so popular.

          • Auday says:

            Wazon, dont get me wrong I’m not engaging in any personal debate, you sound like you like BMWs and enjoy the discussion here which is great. I just asking you a favor, please get informed before you argue and debate, “little knowledge is dangerous” my friend, get more info before you say anything and you will feel much better about your arguments, believe me.

            335i comes with two different 6 Speed automatic both with TC, one comes as a standard the other as a sport automatic option. 7 spd DCT is a new option for the 335i available in North America starting 2010.

          • wazon8 says:

            I didn’t care about what kind of automatic gear boxes are avaible for 335i and I’m not sure whether 6 speed automatic was avaible in my country for 335i e92 at all. 7 speed DTC was offered as option for sure, nobody mentioned about 6 speed automatic.

            As for little knowledge following, I’m not a dealer, so I need not to know what options are avaible in 335i. On the other hand, didn’t you say that DTC and SMG are not automatic gear boxes? I guess that you’ve got some outdated conception of automatic gear box, i.e. as containing torgue converter – the very feature that made me sure that I won’t buy car with this kind of gear box years ago. But right now things have changed and double-clutch gear box are replacing traditional automatic gear boxes. I really don’t know how one could say that 7 speed SMG from M5 is not automatic gear box, since it has 4 or 5 automatic programs for changing gears. One can operate manually eighter, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is automatic gear box.

  4. Laszlo says:

    this article is confusing and has a lot of errors. Manuals were more efficient then the old automatics. The new 6spd 7spd and 8spd automatics are much more efficient then the manual. Also the actual frugality is wrong too. The manuals are not more durable just have different troubles. A manual transmission might go for 250k miles before its gone but the clutch will need replacement, the flywheel needs replacement and both of those cost a lot of money on the modern manuals.
    In a long run, a good serviced automatic is cheaper and lasts longer then the manual even with a 150k miles rebuild cycle.
    The manuals are driven when they are already gone, with a noisy gear, a slipping clutch, you can still drive a car, but do you really want to ?
    Also the manuals are not the drivers choice anymore. Drive a good DCT transmission on a track or on a curvy road and then switch into a manual car. The DCT with a perfectly matched revs and heel-toe maneuver will please everybody. Very few people can do a downshift like a DCT transmission will do every time.
    So are they fun ? Sure, but to a point. Most of us will endure times when the automatic will make more sense. More people drive their cars in cities then in rural areas. Also factor in wife accessibility and you are stuck with a DCT anyway :-) .
    I would also choose a DCT over a manual. An 8 spd auto can do about 95% of what a DCT can do and cost less and less complicated. Its awesome in the newer BMW’s so the DCT will be a M models choice but the 8spd will win most people over. Excellent transmission. I have a chance to drive it in the X6 and I also drove the X6M, both are great. A new line of automatics have very little in common with the old turbo undramatic transmissions !

    • Auday says:

      Efficiency wise, more gears means better efficiency for sure. However, the Torque Converter is the main source of wasted energy in Auto because of its viscous connection.

      Automatic will never be as fun as clutch operated transmissions (Manual and DCT), the lag of the Torque Converter takes all the fun from a responsive engine. I know BMW’s new ZF auto locks the TC on high gears but that’s not enough.

      I agree DCT is faster/better than manual on the track, but the fun of learning how to rev-match and to literally heel-toe yourself rather than holding the brake and pushing a button ( or a flappy paddle as Clarkson calls it) is way more fun. In the end it’s not about numbers unless you are racing, it’s all about enjoying your car.

      And for the wife factor marry a driver girl, it’s hot :)

  5. Tom says:

    Manual transmissions are more reliable and easier to service than automatic transmissions.

  6. plaxico says:

    In that mystical place, known as the world outside the US, the manual needs no saving. Probably less than 10% of cars are automatic.

    Anyone who drives while tweets, texts or plays mafia world, no matter what their car’s transmission, deserves to drive into a bridge. Hopefully before they kill someone innocent passer by who isn’t an utter moron. I mean, really?

  7. plaxico says:

    save us from BMW!!!!. Go automatic

  8. Daniel Hoang says:

    Where did the cat come from?

  9. ClintonM3 says:

    I don’t know how to drive an automatic…

  10. Lariv says:

    Depreciation hasn’t been considered here, particularly with large and prestigious cars where manuals are usually worth less second hand.

  11. J.V. says:

    What nonsense. My friend drives a 1999 M3 with a manual transmission. Not only does he still use his phone while driving, but he needs to contort his body in order to do it.

    But that’s not my main point. One day he was driving me somewhere, and we hit an icy patch in the middle of a curve. We were both stone silent. We were not sure what would happen to the car after hitting the ice. I’ll never forget that moment as long as I live.

    But we came out of the icy curve, and the car handled perfectly. I’m still stunned by how well the car took that curve. We were obviously both greatly relieved, and we finally exhaled.

    Then he thought about it, and he said that the car’s active electro-mechanical systems most probably helped navigate the car through that potential disaster. A lesser car would certainly have crashed, or at least hit the guard-rail and bounced off.

    A few days later it occurred to me. This car can navigate its way out of an icy patch without harming a single hair on anyone’s head, and you think you can select gears better than it can?

    Cars can navigate the ice, they can pump the brakes, and nowadays they can parallel park by themselves, but somehow they can’t manage to figure out how to shift as well as a human?

    C’mon. For Pete’s sake. Give up already.

  12. Peter Jackson says:

    Manuals are not popular in the US because a lot of people spend their time drinking coffee, texting and talking on their phones. All activities that are quite difficult on a manual transmission car. Driving is a full time occupation and a lot of the drivers in the US do not realise this.

    I live in Texas and the driving standards here are appalling. Poor road discipline, lack of care for other road users (they actively keep people from merging for example). I drive 60 miles a day. I have been driving for 43 years in more than 10 countries and this is the worst driving I have ever experienced. I have a 6 speed Z4 3.0Si Coupe and I love it, however it is becoming increasingly difficult to feel safe in my world of pick up driving, phone using, texting and drinking road compatriots.

  13. JakeM says:

    Actually, manuals are also becoming less popular in Europe. Many cars, even lower-end BMWs, are specified with automatic transmissions simply for convenience and resale value.

    Modern automatics are also more efficient than manual transmissions. There’s simply no denying that.

    Now, the aspect of “fun” is a highly subjective topic. “Fun”, like “design”, is simply a subjective matter. I have fun driving my manual BMW 325i but I also have a lot fun driving my mom’s ’04 Mercedes E320 Sport, which has a 5-speed automatic transmission. Hell, I had fun driving my buddies ‘automatic 79 Plymouth Volare, to! I think the fun factor of a car is not only limited to what kind of transmission it has.

  14. GaryS says:

    The BMW Performance Driving School in S Carolina teaches M School classes with automatics. That is so sad.

  15. M///POWER says:

    at home in french one learns has to lead with one limps manual it must have 10% of limp there car, and people who lead automatics are generally those which do not arrive has to lead a handbook ……… me j’ led a 325i e36 convertible car j’ used much of brake

  16. badger says:

    Manuals are fun. no Doubt. But in the future a DCT or auto will have a higher resale value. Manual drivers in the US are decreasing cause no one cares about driving anymore. They just want to get from point A to point B. Everyone would choose the manual if they had the choice to, but in reality, the automatic wins.

  17. BIMMER1 says:

    Guys…the facts (or lack there of) in most of these comments are ridiculous.

    1. M cars do not and never have come with auto transmissions

    2. A SMG or DCT tranny is not an auto. It’s a manual with a hydraulicly operated clutch. That does not make it an auto, although I’m still not a fan.

    3. There have been three different trans options to date in the 335’s, full automatic (steptronic), DCT, and 6 spd. manual.

    4. The 135/335/535 autos are actually slightly faster than their manual counterparts due to the fact that the auto’s never bleed the boost during shifts, where the manuals do. That means the manual cars have to rebuild boost pressure after every shift when the auto’s do not. You can talk all day about tq. converter loss but the fact is driveline loss in today’s automatics is basically the same as their manual couterparts.

    • Auday says:

      Right and Wrong
      1. M Cars did and do come with Automatic, the E36M3 US version with the infamous S52 had an auto option (that is Auto with TC not a SMG), that’s in the past. Currently the X5M/X6M both are strictly Auto, again they are auto with TC.

      2. Right.

      3. Right, although there are 4 actually, there are two auto options one of them is sport with faster shift time.

      4. Right, The Torque converter keeps the engine in the higher RPM range during and after up shifting and that maintains the turbo boost giving the auto an advantage over manual and DCT. However for that same reason Auto is lame because you lose the feeling of connection between the engine RPM (and engine sound pitch ) and the car speed, and that also makes the car less responsive.

      So unless you are going for a straight line drag race, manual is more drivable and would be faster around the track. DCT will be faster than both around the track though.

  18. Joe says:

    Just save the manuals and make them better. Auto makers keep throwing in the same junk from years ago. Outside of Nissan’s rev matching and BMW’s shift lights I don’t see a push for anything new out there. My household only has manuals and my kids will only learn manual both on cars and bikes. Countries and car companies are in it together to make driving boring and drone like – they don’t want us to have fun. Slaves of the technology – its BS! Save Manuals !

  19. Ralph Pollock says:

    I’m with the previous by “Joe”. The BMW arguments are not very specific to the main question here. I have driven manuals forever, including a BMW 700 coupe, and several other BMWs. Let’s have an argument over the 700 Coupe and see if anyone on this forum has ever even seen one. This is not a criticism, just a statement about the forum, which so far is less than a forum and more of an attitude place.

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