5 Features That Make Manual Transmissions Easier Than Ever To Drive
Driving a manual transmission is an involving process that's becoming harder and harder to sell to new car shoppers. In an effort to combat our aversion to extra work, car manufacturers have spent a great deal of time making it easier to drive a manual transmission car.
#1 Hill Start Assist
Hill starts are one of the manual transmission's biggest annoyances. This precise dance requires a quick but calculated engagement of the clutch to prevent the car from rolling backwards into the car behind you. It may be difficult for new manual transmission drivers to learn this process and scare them away for spending money on a car they don't know how to drive well.
To combat the difficulty of hill-starts manufacturers have incorporate an auto braking feature to prevent the car from rolling back. Even cars like the track focused Mustang GT350 we drove use an auto braking feature which is set in the car's menu system, while the Civic Type-R uses the auto hold feature from its electronic hand brake for a similar effect. Both of these systems can be turned off if they hurt your pride but it's a great feature to have if we are to attract more manual transmission drivers.
#2 Auto Rev Match
A rev matched downshift is one of the most satisfying actions you can perform in a manual transmission. Down shift a gear, blip the throttle, and perfectly select a lower gear before you take on a corner and feel the beauty of a manual transmission. This process takes some practice and can be difficult to confidently use during a track day for example when stakes are at an all time high.
To empower drivers to get the maximum enjoyment from their cars, manufactures have introduced an auto rev match feature. This idea was introduced on Nissan's 370Z and has spread to other performance cars from GM and the Civic Type-R. This system can be turned off if you prefer to modulate the throttle on your own but it offers an option for all skill levels of drivers.
#3 Stall Assist
Stalling is all part of the manual transmission driving experience. It happens to the best of us and it's never a fun experience. Ford agrees which is why they debuted their Stall Assist system on the Focus RS and Mustang.
The system is very simple, stall the car, press in the clutch, and the car's auto stop start system restarts the engine. No more fumbling to turn the key or find the start button, the car has your back to get you back on the road.
#4 Digital Gauge Display
Ever forget what gear you're in? Well, today's manual cars will let you know with a digital display usually located in the gauge cluster. This display will also coax you to shift to the next year, usually in the name of fuel economy. A system like this is good for a new driver unfamiliar with a car's gearing or someone who needs to save some fuel. Also if you don't like it, ignore it, you can do what ever you want!
#5 Lower Gear Lock Out
Money shifting a manual transmission car is the worst thing you car do for your wallet. If you accidentally select a lower gear and over rev your engine prepare yourself for a hefty repair bill and serious blow to your pride.
In effort to save your wallet and ego, manufacturers have put a sort of lock out in their transmissions. For example, in the new ND Miata, once your reach a certain speed there's a lot of resistance to shift into lower gears letting you know you may be on the verge of a huge mistake. Little things like this help us to make the correct decisions while driving and possibly save you from buying a new transmission.
What Does This All Mean?
Manufacturers are making strides in a effort to make the manual transmission a more approachable proposition for the new car shopper. Sure an experienced driver may not want the interference of the car making their job easier and that's fine because all of this can be turned off. If you don't want hill assist, hit a button. Don't like auto rev matching? Well then turn it off. Anything that can entice people to buy cars with a stick is great in my book and we should support innovation like this.