Are manual gearboxes worth saving? THE BIG DEBATE

2y ago

182.8K

THE QUESTION

Are manual gearboxes worth saving?

One side of the argument

Is there one?

Ok, alright, maybe there is.

Let's be clear though, we're not anti automatics. Can you imagine changing gear in an S-class?

Rather, the push towards having just two pedals in the footwell is apparently down to the fact that most owners of performance cars don't want a manual 'box. Go for two pedals, and the car is faster in a straight line, which is a selling point, a bragging right.

And as enjoying your car becomes ever harder in the current climate, the feeling of a trick gearbox nailing an upshift at blink-and-you'll-miss-it pace, or delivering a perfect blip on the throttle as it downshifts, is an emotion to replace that feeling of changing gear with your arm and your legs.

My opinion - are manual gearboxes worth saving?

Yes. Yes they are.

Ah, you want more than four words? Ah, ok. Let’s talk about manual gearboxes. And let’s start without taking about all that fluffy stuff like involvement, interaction, perfecting your technique and the joys of executing the perfect heel-and-toe-enabled downshift. Otherwise James May will get angry and say something about helmsmen.

So here’s a great reason why manual gearboxes should be saved and celebrated: they slow you down. Here’s another: they make sure you’re concentrating and stop you from mindlessly crashing into people.

I have no statistical evidence for this but it stands to reason, doesn’t it? Because you have to match your gear to your speed and operate a clutch pedal as you wend your way to your destination, surely that means you’ll read the road ahead more attentively and will notice those great big blazing red brake lights?

The Aston Martin V12 Vantage S, complete with a manual gearbox.

Now, that bit about slowing you down. They do. Simple as that. I’m a lucky bugger and get to drive lots and lots of cars with all sorts of gearboxes. And over the years I’ve noticed that PDK or M-DCT, DSG or S-tronic, they all essentially make extracting a car’s performance much, much easier.

They also do their very best and most exciting work right at the rev limit. And once you’ve felt them bang in a flat-shift at 8399rpm or whatever that point is, you just want to feel it again and again.

You forget the engine’s character, response and lovely rumblings at lower revs and just seek out that moment of pure mechanical perfection. From 2nd to 3rd. Oh, and why not just try it from 3rd to 4th? Oh my… that was fun, might as well just keep going…

This pattern is repeated again and again and with cars getting ever faster, grippier and more stable the chassis gives you the freedom to drive like this without feeling like the world might end unless you slow down a bit.

The Porsche 911 R, complete with a manual gearbox. Which it has also now donated to the new 991.2 GT3

So, while dual-clutch gearboxes undoubtedly help lap times and cut acceleration figures, they also detract from the enjoyment of driving at sane speeds on the road, where 0-60 times mean absolutely nothing.

That’s why manual gearboxes are A Very Good Thing. They help you to appreciate the car as a whole, not just how it feels when the engine is delivering everything it has to give. Plus there’s the sense of involvement and the amazing satisfaction of executing that perfect heel-and-toe downshift…

Ok, I’ll stop now. So what do you think? Manual gearboxes forever, right?

Your opinion

Am I a luddite? I know Richard Hammond prefers the PDK gearbox in the 911 GT3 RS to the manual those Porsche GT cars used to have, but me, I'm a three-pedal kind of guy. What about you…?

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