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

Interesting | September 26th, 2015 by 13
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.

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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.”

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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.

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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]

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