manual or automatic?

The question above pops into my head whenever I think about driving a car – and I’m never quite sure which to pick.  Every man should be able to drive a manual transmission vehicle.  Its sort of a right of passage, and I think if you polled most guys they would be able to.  Ladies on the other hand, I am indifferent about.  If they can, its a bonus, but I’m not too concerned if not.

Here in England, the majority of cars are manual transmission – or what they call “standard”.  Similar to buying a car, you pay a premium to rent a car that has an automatic transmission.  So being poor, and a man, I opted to rent the cheapest van possible a few weeks back when we moved.

I took this picture right when I got into the van.  I was worried because in addition to driving on the other side of the road, and sitting on the other side of the car, I had to learn to shift with my other hand.  Determined to prove to Chelsea I am all that is man, I took it for a test run in the parking lot across the street from the rental place before picking her up from work.  I found it surprisingly easy to drive.  I suppose it helps that the pedals and the gear positions on the shifter are in the same orientation as back home in the US.  And having the wheel on the other side of the car actually made it EASIER to drive on the other side of the road.  I just had to remember that as a driver I am always in the middle of the road, and I only punched the door with my right hand once or twice.

Which brings me back to my original point.  Manual or automatic?  After driving this van, I’m now pushing that our next car be a manual transmission.  Why?  It just feels more like driving when you have to change gears by hand.  I could go into the benefits behind it too, but because we will be moving somewhere warm, I’m not so worried about slowing down a car in the snow/ice by downshifting rather than braking.  Of course I could go with another alternative:

The semi-automatic transmission.  This is a manual transmission of sorts, but is built on torque rather than a clutch.  This means that you can drive it like a manual, and shift on your own, but don’t have to deal with any extra pedals and getting the balance between the clutch and the accelerator correct.  All you have to do when the car is ready to shift, is bump the shifter up toward the “+”.  And these types of transmissions even have a built in failsafe, that will shift for you if you redline too long, or forget to shift.

There also happens to be a more expensive version of the semi-automatic transmission above:

Paddle shifters.  I’ll call your attention to the two little buttons positioned for your thumbs to press on the steering wheel above.  I have never used paddle shifters, but what I can gather from Top Gear, they are the hot new accessory to any high end sports car.  Essentially the manufacturer wants the everyday driver to feel more like a racecar driver, and put shift buttons on the steering wheel, allowing the driver to have video game like control.  (Bonus points if you can guess the emblem on the wheel above).

And now we have our last category, the automatic transmission.  I have only owned an automatic transmission car.  My family only drives automatics.  Why?  Convenience.  I’m guessing Mom and Dad got sick of shifting all the time, and wanted to go with a much more simple way to drive.  I can’t blame them.  Unless of course they decide to buy a car with a gear shift that looks like this:

I think this is what many Toyota’s are set up like, and boy do I dislike this design.  I’m sure it is designed so that you can’t accidentally knock the car from one gear to the next by hitting it with something, but I find it annoying to get the car in gear and make it go.  So annoying that I meant to post on it last time I rented a Toyota, but got sidetracked with moving to another country and lost most of my vitriol.

Well thanks if you have made it this far.  And if you have, why not drop a line in the comments regarding your thoughts or preferences for manual or automatic transmissions.

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5 thoughts on “manual or automatic?”

  1. Nick, you must remember our only manual car was a chevette. That clutch was so hard to push that my left leg must have been bigger than my right. It was a marvel I didn’t walk in circles! Seriously, after that car, I swore I’d only drive automatic again, even when we got the Mustang (much to your dismay!)

  2. Definitely manual transmission. Even Jenn now agrees that driving manual is more fun. Really puts you in touch with the car as you are driving. The only downside is when you are stuck in traffic, like we were several times this weekend, and have to keep drifting into first. And I know Dave posted it above, but that’s Corvette’s emblem.

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