The truth in the manual vs robotised manual obsession ?

The truth in the manual vs robotised manual obsession ?

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carspath

Original Poster:

496 posts

122 months

Tuesday 11th June
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There have been several recent posts on PH and other car forums , in which commentators have decided that the inflated asking prices for manual transmission cars ( versus their identical robotised manual counterparts) are not justified .


This has led me to question what , in the real world , genuinely attracts people to manual transmission supercars .


The off-the-cuff / most common response is that manual transmission cars are more involving ( which appears to boil down to having to use 4 limbs rather than 3 to execute a gearchange ) , and that it must therefore , by default , be the ''enthusiasts '' choice , and so deserves its premium price .


But I wonder if this argument really holds water . I would be interested in your views .


Some points that I would like to make :

1) Those of us who are of a certain vintage , were brought up on manual transmission cars . They are therefore second nature to us . I find that I have to concentrate much more when driving a single or dual clutch robotised manual car cf a traditional gear lever manual car . Knowing which gear you are currently in , choosing exactly when to pull the paddle to up or downchange , slightly lifting off the throttle while simultaneously pulling a paddle , to smooth an upchange , all require more thought , and therefore more involvement . Admittedly this enhanced involvement is mental rather than physical, but it still enhanced involvement .


2) On those very few occasions when I have pulled off a perfect downchange in a manual transmission car , it has undeniably been very satisfying . But it is excruciatingly painful , both to me and the car , when even a single gearchange gets fluffed . And most of us are not expert enough to regularly and routinely get the downshift just right . If you are being honest , and you are sufficiently self-critical , you will acknowledge this simple truth This, after all , together with the speed at which a new gear could be engaged , was one of the driving factors behind racing teams developing robotised manual transmissions in the first place .

3) I can occasionally get a satisfactory downchange in my manual series 1 MX5 , but it is so much more difficult to achieve this in a high power, high torque supercar , whose clutch pedal is necessarily more heavy , and often more recalcitrant . Where is the driving pleasure , when a gearchange is fluffed , and a graunching noise sickens the soul ? A single graunch would not make up for 10 perfect downchanges , would it ?

4) I do wonder if we have been taken in by dealers and speculators , who have identified a rich seam to tap, by selling us the notion that manual transmission cars are the Holy Grail , and because they are no longer being produced in large numbers , that they must be better and more valuable .

5) The line of argument in (4) , would suggest that rarity , peer-pressure , dealer-talk , and resale value / capital appreciation is winning over technical advancement .


6) I don't think that the simple answer - ''go and get more training in heel and toeing / go and get more talent '' is an adequate response to the points above . I say this because supercar manufacturers were only responding to customer demand when they first chose to offer robotised manual cars in the first place . Then , and more so now , the demand for RMT cars far outstrips the demand for gearstick transmission cars . Were these customers just being more honest with themselves ?

7) The sound and feel when a first generation , single clutch robotised manual transmission car engages a new gear can be very mechanical , and very attractive . I accept that the latest dual clutch transmissions , albeit very fast , can lack this involvement .
I also dislike the additional complexity inherent in robotised manual transmission cars - there is simply more to go wrong .
Finally , I find that I can manoeuvre a gearstick car into a really tight parking space with so much more control and precision than I can a RMT car - this is a real world issue when parking a car within inches of another toy , but then , who chooses a supercar for its ease of parking ? !!




Superleg48

699 posts

78 months

Tuesday 11th June
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I have to say, that the single clutch egear transmission in my LP570-4 SL is one of the key plus points of the car for me.

When progressing up through the gears, the process of changing gear is very mechanical and that is what is appealing. Yes, I agree, you do have to think about it to get the change smooth. When you do and you get the lovely shove in the back as the new cog engages, it is exhilarating.

Downshifts on these cars are an utter joy and an event in themselves. I am addicted to approaching roundabouts and down shifting 2 or 3 cogs from about 150 yards out and then pushing through the roundabout and back up the gears again, it makes you feel like the car is alive.

I find that the dual clutch systems are far more sterile and do not have the same mechanical feel. I always liken the Gallardo as an analogue car compared to the PlayStation experience of say a Huracan by comparison. I like that though, it makes the car more involving. More of an event. I prefer analogue watches to digital ones. I prefer vinyl to MP4.

All of this and I don’t have a beard, wear socks with sandals or read the Guardian. Odd, I know.

subirg

582 posts

221 months

Wednesday 12th June
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Simple answer - it takes skill to execute a proper heal and toe gearchenge in a manual car. It needs effort to perfect and drive well. When done properly it is fabulously involving.

The robotised manuals and dsg options are more convenient when you want to be lazy and faster on track when chasing a lap time.

Finally... manuals are worth more simply because there are usually less of them for any particular model (especially later Ferrari’s) and they are in fashion.

Personal choice at the end of the day. I like them both and have them both.

thatdude

2,040 posts

72 months

Wednesday 12th June
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I think this is a general question which can be answered by many people, so - whilst not a supercar owner (never have, likely never will unless I have sudden luck on the lottery), I have eperience of manual and automatic transmissions (current car is auto, previous car was manual).

I enjoyed a manual transmission when I was in the mood for spirited driving. The nature of the gearbox meant careful timing in upshifting (2nd to 3rd could be met with some questionable noises and feeling at the lever unless care was taken) was required, and I quickly learned to execute smooth upshifts as quickly as the gearbox would allow whilst still being mechanically sympathetic (as I've alluded to, I'm not a deep-pocketed person, a transmission rebuild would have been a great burden to me financially). Being smooth on upshifts was something I took great pride in, particularly as my wife gets a bit travel sick so being smooth in general was a must.

But downshifts, ooo boy, did I love downshifting. I learned to rev-match pretty quickly - I have been rev-matching on motorcycles since I was 15 or 16 years old. It's easy to do; clutch disengaged, shift lever to desired gear, blip of throttle to get the desired revs before the clutch returns to the "biting" point and is re-engaged. Once I got my feet coordinated it quickly became a second-nature thing. I also learned double-declutching, so I could quickly engage first gear (and when I got that really right it felt like there was no resistance at all, a fantastic feeling). A 1.6 litre, single-cam d-series honda engine really has no bottom end, so occasionally I needed to engage first for a spirited jump across a roundabout, and double-declutching again helped me preserve the internals of my gearbox.

Heel-toe was on another level entirely. I really did make a mess of it at first, I felt the peddles wernt quite right but in fact it was just me with poor technique for my car - you can heel toe in anything but you need to be physically flexible! The distraction of concentrating on what my feet and hands were doing saw me nearly crash my car a few times. I decided I would take a beak form that, and get it much better in my head. I did eventually get it right, and then I started to get better. I probably got about 5% of my heel-toe downshifts spot on, about 70% passible and the rest absolute gobste. But it was fun to do and it was leasing to engage myself with my driving like that. The only downside I had was a D-series singel-cam hona engine wasnt really very pleasing aurally when blipping the throttle. Something with an engine that wuld spin up faster, making those throttle blips come ore with a bark rather than a flat drone would be so much more exciting. I can hear people trhashing up and down the local road near me in summer evenings, all sorts of engines I can hear - V8's, V10's, V12's, straight 6's, and the ones who blip on the downshift (be it an automated process or otherwise) with these engines, it sounds fantastic.

I wuldnt say I'm obsessed with manuals, else I'd still be driving a manual car, but if I had the money for something special, I would like it to be manual so I can continue that enjoyable process of shifting gears and matching revs and putting a smile on my face. For the moment, an auto suits me and the driving I have to do. For fun, I always have the motorbike, and I rev-match on that like I take breaths.

paulmnz

384 posts

119 months

Wednesday 12th June
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I am a big fan of automated manual gearboxes, but dislike DSGs and other 'seamless' gearboxes. a ferrari or lambourgihi with an automated manual doing a full throttle upshift or set of downshifts with the ignition cut and smack of your head as the gear and clutch slams home is a big part of the 'supercar' experience for me in those cars - it's far more violent than a manually changed gear. the Superfast II gearbox on the 430 Scuderia is a huge draw for me and perhaps my favourite gearbox ever. a manual or DSG scud just wouldn't be the same in terms of the visceral experience. I found the gearbox on the later 458 and F12 a massive let down because it was so smooth and unobtrusive. Older cars (F355 and 360) have more antiquated systems which perhaps detract from the experience as they are bit slower, so there is a sweetspot near the end of the evolution of the systems. I've not driven the E60 M5, but I know a few owners who love the system at 'maximum attack' and find it really adds to the driving experience.

I wouldn't choose a manual F430 or E60 M5 even if they were the same price.

I have a number of cars with renowned manual gearboxes and I race manual gearbox cars so I am quite proficient with rev-matching and heal-and-toe gear changing, but I dont really recognise that process as something of particular note - just a process for changing gear like using an indicator or the brakes. the chassis, noise of a car and it's throttle response is probably more important to me in terms of enjoying the driving experience. the act of changing gear does less for me that the resulting noise as the engine howls towards the redline.

For me a car which has a matched driving environment - where the steering, brakes and gear changing all match with similar weighing and feel is part of a great driving experience - more than the gearbox type.

The 430 has a fast-responding engine, alert steering, sharp brakes and a fast automated gearshift - perfect! The manual F430 is a different experience, for me, an inferior one

The much older NSX has slower steering, progressive brakes and a wonderful gearbox and clutch - again, perfect for the application. The F-matic option was, of course, terrible as it was a torque converter auto with buttons on the steering wheel.

In terms of the latest supercars I dont think a ponderous manual gearbox (and it is ponderous as it has less ratios and the shift is a lot slower) works in a modern supercar.. something like a mustang works with a manual as its a bit more relaxed, I couldn't see it working in a mclaren 720s for example. The Porsche GT3 is an interesting question for me - I wouldn't normally consider the manual, but the PDK is so boring in it's delivery - tough call!

I notice some of the supercar makers are adding back in some more violence to the gear change software, so perhaps others agree a 'jerky' change actually added something to the experience and shouldn't be engineered out.

Roof down

186 posts

71 months

Wednesday 12th June
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Simply for me three things, first the gear lever in my 360 looks fab, second so much less to go wrong especially as parts age so more reliable and easier on the maintenance, thirdly beautiful click clack as I go up and down the box and of course very involving.
I think a 458 manual would have looked fab inside, appreciate the reasons against, I also think a DSG gearbox in the 360 would be great, again mainly because they seem so bulletproof and smooth.
Also point noted on early cars ref low speed manoeuvring. Mike

EpsomJames

759 posts

191 months

Wednesday 12th June
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Agree with a lot of the comments in this thread.

While I still like a manual, the robotised manual does bring theatre to the supercars that used them and there is definitely a sweet spot in production around the F430 and Gallardo years. The 360 as above and earlier should definitely be a manual as the early versions of robotised manual were very jerky and looks like an afterthought (silly little T-bar level for the reverse for example).

DSG on the other hand is so quick with so little interaction that the actual shift itself becomes boring. I've found myself leaving DSG supercars in full auto mode when driving 95% of the time as it's just not worth using the paddles unless you are on it.

Cheib

16,777 posts

120 months

Friday 14th June
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I think as these cars get older one of the big issues if that if your daily driver Is a relatively new car and has dual clutch/DSG gearbox then there’s a decent chance its a better gearbox than any super car with a 10yr old gearbox in it. Doesn’t seem right to me that your daily has got a better gearbox than your Sunday morning supercar.

I think that’s a really big issue....the gearbox dates faster than the rest of the car. Also I think when you have a manual gearbox mated to a naturally aspirated engine it’s just a fantastic combination.

WF36

493 posts

103 months

Friday 14th June
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Cheib said:
Also I think when you have a manual gearbox mated to a naturally aspirated engine it’s just a fantastic combination.
Agreed, my F430 manual is very rewarding to drive!

jakesmith

4,730 posts

116 months

Friday 14th June
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Open gate manual is hard to shift perfectly every time as requires precision, looks beautiful, had a wonderful mechanical action & sound to it. All that would be missing in an auto

markst

173 posts

110 months

Sunday 16th June
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oh my word....we back on this again.....lol

it really is personal preference.....I've had all manuals....2 x 430s , a 360 etc plus a few others….and to me its not about money or what can go wrong - its all about the driving experience. I like to change gear.

you cannot drive fast on the road, so I like something I can actually drive ...a manual.
if you are on the track , for sure a dsg or F1 gearbox is going to be quicker, and would be great fun ! but pointless in the real world....not much skill required with a DSG..and if skill is required you are driving way to fast for the road.

I sold my last 430 manual at the top of the market.....would I buy another definitely, and if one comes along at the right price I might be tempted.
I would buy a new Ferrari.....but non are available as a manual......so I bought a 718 as a daily.....

but, it really is a personal choice.....me - would rather buy a classic manual than an auto supercar.
...so that's a 246 then lol

no offence intended to anyone ...lol

sparta6

1,329 posts

45 months

Sunday 16th June
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I agree with the OP's observations.

I would also suggest that manufacturers / dealers have been very successful in selling us paddle shifters as we can shave off "a few tenths" .
Unless we are racing for points or prizes it doesn't really matter.
As a tactile species we tend to enjoy experiences that are as immersive as possible. For some drivers 3 pedals and a stick fits that requirement, and slipping a manual clutch can be a bit of cheeky fun.

PantsFire

519 posts

25 months

Sunday 16th June
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As others have said, it's a preference, and one people like to express. I love the ratios of manuals and the immediacy of flappy paddles, heal & toe is fun but I love Porsche's auto-blip, which is why the GT3 Touring is a dream car, if they kept every aspect of the gearbox but rather than a stick & peddle it had flappy paddles with the speed of a duel clutch I'd be a pig in poop.

Edited by PantsFire on Sunday 16th June 23:09

Kyodo

582 posts

69 months

Monday 17th June
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Cheib said:
I think when you have a manual gearbox mated to a naturally aspirated engine it’s just a fantastic combination.
I agree. The 1980 Datsun Cherry I learned to drive in was simply magical and I'll never forget it.

bertie

8,051 posts

229 months

Monday 17th June
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I think it's horses for courses.

My 575 is Manual and in a big GT that you're not trying to hustle too much there is something magnificent about a V12 and a manual box.

However in the 458 and 812 things happen so fast there's no way I'd want it manual, the DSG is absolutely the best choice IMHO

I've nothing positive to say about single clutch robotised manuals, sorry.

NewNameNeeded

2,293 posts

170 months

Monday 17th June
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A slight aside - but essentially the same robotized manual in two different cars gets very different responses from the motoring press (and hence those that repeat what they read, without experience)!!!

The Gallardo eGear and the R8's R-Tronic are basically the same thing (as far as I understand). But the eGear seems to be well regarded and appealing, whilst lazy journalists generally say to stay clear of the Audi's R-Tronic. Suggesting journalists reviewing the Audi were after a different experience to those getting behind the wheel of the Lambo. Personally I love the R-Tronic and the feel of the gear change - it suits the car, and I think it's a shame it has been replaced with the much, much smoother S-Tronic.

Gregor-lun1d

17 posts

42 months

Tuesday 25th June
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Perhaps a daft aside, but if its scarcity that drives up the price of manuals, then surely the most scarce transmissions of all will be robotised manuals. there were myriad of them pre-1997 (or whenever) and by 2011-ish the world had converted to PDK/DSG.

Just a thought ..

bertie

8,051 posts

229 months

Tuesday 25th June
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Gregor-lun1d said:
Perhaps a daft aside, but if its scarcity that drives up the price of manuals, then surely the most scarce transmissions of all will be robotised manuals. there were myriad of them pre-1997 (or whenever) and by 2011-ish the world had converted to PDK/DSG.

Just a thought ..
Robotised manuals were just an early technical cul-de-sac until a better solution arrived.

The appeal of a manual is the greater interaction and control, not because they're better or rarer.

IMHO

av185

9,135 posts

72 months

Tuesday 25th June
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Kyodo said:
I agree. The 1980 Datsun Cherry I learned to drive in was simply magical and I'll never forget it.
Not sure if serious.

andrew

8,781 posts

137 months

Tuesday 25th June
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av185 said:
Kyodo said:
I agree. The 1980 Datsun Cherry I learned to drive in was simply magical and I'll never forget it.
Not sure if serious.
yeah, there's nothing quite like your scoring first cherry