We want to save the manual transmission, but should we?

Interesting | September 26th, 2015 by 14
2012 bmw 3 series 461 750x500

We all know that manual transmissions are on their way out of the door. It’s happening whether we like it or not. Customers don’t want …

We all know that manual transmissions are on their way out of the door. It’s happening whether we like it or not. Customers don’t want them and cars are faster without them, so automakers just aren’t putting them in cars as much anymore. This is nothing new, however, as it’s been a long time coming and enthusiasts are fighting tooth and nail to keep save them. But the real question is, should we try ?

There are so many “save the manuals” campaigns out there. There’s almost never an article about a modern performance car without a reader comment proclaiming their displeasure with the car for not having three pedals. It’s clear than enthusiasts want manuals to stay forever. It’s also a pretty universal feeling amongst enthusiasts that this is the right way to feel. Manuals are just better right? I always thought so. But what if they’re not? Maybe I was wrong.

bmw manual transmission 750x500

In a recent article by Road & Track, they spoke with the head of R&D for Lamborghini, Maurizio Reggiani,  about manual transmissions. Lamborghini was one of the first automakers to completely ditch the three-pedal gearbox in the first place. The high performance of its cars required faster shifting automated manuals and its very wealthy clientele base would rather not have to shift themselves if they don’t have to, so the manual Lamborghini died some years ago. But Lamborghinis have always been about passion, flair and the experience of driving, not necessarily performance numbers. So you’d think a Lamborghini would be the perfect car to keep the manual transmission which isn’t the best gearbox for performance but does give you that pure and emotional experience. But according to Reggiani, manuals are dead for Lamborghini and unfortunately should be.

“Unfortunately I must say yes,” he told R&T. “All the systems that are integrated in the car need to have a dialog with one another. The clutch is one of the fuses of the system, whether you’re engaging or disengaging the torque. This creates a hole in the communication between what the engine is able to provide and how the car reacts to the power of the engine. For this reason, unfortunately, I must say I am sure that in a premium supersports car like [the Huracán], we will only do a semiautomatic.”

2015 bmw m4 paddle shifter 750x500

That’s an interesting take on why the manual isn’t offered and it’s one that most people don’t bring up when talking about manual vs automatic. The fact that the modern automotive systems are so well integrated, having human interaction with the clutch creates a hole in the communication, therefor messing with the car’s systems. “Unfortunately, it’s the demand of the control of the chassis,” he said, “If you want to control the chassis, you must control the power. If you want to control the power, the clutch must be under the control of the brain of the car, not your brain.”

Lamborghini Huracan LP 610-4 Spyder-images-25

But that’s not all, Reggiani says that manuals aren’t as connected or as “pure” as you’d think anyway. “Remember, when you put a servo system between your feet and the clutch, you have already put a filter in there. For me, the most pure expression of the manual transmission is when with your foot you push all the load that is necessary to disengage the clutch.”

“In all the latest manual transmissions, there is a servo that reduces the load [of the clutch pedal],” to which he continues “I’ve been working for Lamborghini for 20 years. I started at the time of the Diablo, [which had] a clutch without a servo. You needed 40 kilograms of force to disengage the clutch. At that time, we were making 450 N m of torque. Now we are at 690. It’s a problem to manage the closing point of the clutch. If you have hesitation, with this torque you’ll burn the clutch immediately.” So not only are manuals not the pure experience they used to be anyway, they can’t be or else they couldn’t handle the power of modern performance cars.


Apparently, Reggiani has a 1966 Alfa Romeo Duetto that he drives when he wants to get the pure connection of a manual transmission. This is the best way to do it, it seems. Modern performance cars just aren’t the right cars to have manual transmissions and it seems as if us enthusiasts are pushing the matter when we should no longer be. The next BMW M3/M4 could possibly be a hybrid and it’s a good chance it won’t have a manual transmission anymore. This might make enthusiasts sad, but if it does, buy the new M3 with the DCT and get an old E30 with a 5-speed to indulge in your manual transmission fantasies. If an Italian can get over the passion and emotion of the manual transmission, you and I can too.

[Source: Road & Track]

14 responses to “We want to save the manual transmission, but should we?”

  1. Mateo says:

    I got over this quite a while ago. Just like I got over new ///M vehicles. I’ll just stick to my manual E34 – I LOVE that machine. I know it’s nowhere near good as F10 automatic (hell, it’s nowhere near as good as e39) but I just don’t care. For me E34 for life…

  2. Shane says:

    Its slower, less effecient, harder to sell, more expensive at $2500 every 50K miles for a new clutch, a pain in traffic, all so I can say I drive a manual? Nobody cares about them except for people that dont want to evolve and are resistant to change. Cant wait for all electrics, then this won’t be a debate anymore.

    • fifth gear says:

      New clutch every 50k miles? Then you don’t know how to drive in the first place. A lot o,f people cares about them. Pretty safe to say millions worldwide like them. Its all about the bottom line for car makers. You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about. I would say you’re another Tesla fanboy..

      • Shane says:

        I drive a 13 m135i. I have driven the entire fleet of exotics in las vegas, I autocross and have a racing license for scca and track days. I very much know what im talking about. You cannot shift a 700hp car in 80ms and a clutch lasts 50,000 miles in any car with more than 350hp. Bmw only rates them for 60,000 if you look up the maintenance plans. And yes, I like teslas too. : )

        • fifth gear says:

          Not every manual car has 700 HP.We are talking about normal high performance cars like your m135. I’ve owned several manual cars with high mileage. My M3 had 85k miles before I changed my clutch. And yes I drive it hard. I also own a f10 M5 with dct only because my wife drive it too and can’t drive a stick..if it were up to your kind,manual will be extinct.

    • Carter Massey says:

      saying that a manual is more expensive than an automatic is hilarious by both a mileage and maintenance perspective

  3. maxnix says:

    Manual clutches with manually activated shifting are rather like manual engine firing advancement control from the brass car era.

  4. Matt Stokes says:

    With these new real world testing proposals for emissions I can see life getting even tough for manuals.

  5. john d says:

    Don’t even know i you could put down an article like this under BMW BLOG ? Driving pleasure ?!
    I would want to react more but i’m bored. Manuals are dead and i hope the 0.2s we wil save with automated cluth will change our lives, and hopefully, next generation of human being will no longer have
    a bigger left foot than the rigth one because of pressing the cluth .
    One last thing: At the launch of the Hurracan, Lamborghini said they didn’t made the switch from NA motor to FI one because NA is better for power delivery AND emotion . So they ditched the manual, but would not make the switch for a technology that would make they cars fasters because of the “emotion” ?!
    What a joke…

  6. john d says:

    We do not longer know how to buid “sports car” in here in europe. We buid “fast car”. Thanks to the grew up gran-tourismo-generation engineers that now works at Lamborghini, Ferrari BMW and all of them.
    If you are looking for a “sport car”, a car that can go very fast, and ask you to work for it, take a look at the U.S market, Corvette,Ford,etc…

  7. Otto says:

    Man, this is really boring. How many articles on MT vs AT did you write ?!?
    Aren’t fed up yet ? Nothing else to write about ?
    Ok, let me give you a tip : manual hand brake vs electric hand brake – no more hand brake drift, etc.
    Come on, you can do it.

  8. kristo says:

    it is easy: you dont like driving or you re lazy= automatic; if you enjoy driving or really like to DRIVE by yourself=manual is the only option.

  9. R Draph says:

    I will drive a manual as long as I can. It’s not about the metrics for me, as I want fun on my spirited drives on public roads over bragging rights of quickest at the ‘ring. However, I admit as our populations get denser and cars go electric, we are on the trend toward “driver involvement” being nothing more than entering our destination into the car’s brain and having the option to pretend we are “driving” like a 3-year old on the kiddie car ride at the carnival and waving to the lesser privileged as we go “weeee, look at meeee in my Lamborgineeeeee!”.

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