Shift or Go Home

By Jimmy Jones, Contributor, US Daily Review.

While growing up, if a person didn’t know how to drive a manual transmission car or truck, they were a bit limp in the noodle, a bit not cool. And if someone drove up in a Corvette or a Jeep with an automatic transmission, they drove a nice car “for an automatic”. Back then manuals were more efficient and much more fun to drive. Perhaps back then we thought such things because we didn’t have Sat/Nav, satellite radio, cup holders and iPhones. Maybe back then we had time to focus on what we as drivers wanted the car to do.  “Gear heads” all over this planet still prefer a manual, but the change is here – an automatic is just as good, and most times better than we, the “gear heads” are at changing gears.

You know that the computer has surpassed the driver when Ferrari no longer offers a manual transmission option. You can get in a Ferrari and it will shift gears with such lightning fast reactions and precision it is unnerving. A driver can row gears manually all his life and still place the car in the wrong gear, still miss a gear all together and can cause major head ache and time loss in a race. Not that you’re always going to race somewhere but the point is humans make more mistakes than computers in a car. We can over think, over react or under react due to many factors, like fatigue, lack of food, our current mood, etc. A car wakes up on the same side of the bed every day as long as it starts its generally in the same mood it went to sleep in, does not care much about outside temperature or what you’re wearing. It’s simply focused on the job at hand, the job of going.

Cars have become wiz kids. Even my wife’s VW Jetta has a racing derived, electronically controlled dual clutch multiple-shaft manual gearbox, with 6 forward gears. It’s a simple family car, not a sports car. It shifts with such quick crisp gear changes that I know on my best days, I could not shift a manual gear box as quickly as it does. Every time. Efficiency is also something that the newer world of automatics can achieve. Since the computer knows via throttle input speed and a million other things it is thinking about — what gear will achieve optimum fuel economy.

You simply cannot go wrong with an automatic these days.

Unless of course, you’re a woman looking for a date. If a man picks you up in a VW Beetle convertible, say no if it is an automatic, you have the right to laugh in his face. There is a time and place for an automatic or a manual. If you’re driving a Miata, it better be a manual. No questions asked. Because if you are then driving a car that is purpose built fun machine, and you checked the “automatic” box when optioning it out, you failed to see the purpose of the car and should be driving a Toyota Solara convertible instead.

Manuals still have their place, yet are a dying breed all the same. The new world of automatics is making it easier to drive one with your head held high. Some of us wouldn’t be caught dead in automatics in some cars, and most of those cars are sports cars. But I am guessing that if I plopped a brand new Ferrari 458 Italia (automatic) in some diehard manual-or-die gear head’s driveways, they wouldn’t kick it out of bed for eating crackers.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.

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