Happy Sunday to you all. This is a series I want to begin that will run every Sunday. Unlike news articles I do covering new cars released or big news from a manufacturer, this will simply be a discussion. Something to sit down to on a Sunday afternoon with a cup of tea in your hand and listen to me ramble on about something I thought might be an interesting topic. At least that’s the plan.
For my first week, I will be taking on a subject dear to every petrolhead’s heart. The manual
transmission is somewhat sacred to us. It is more than a way to simply change gears. To some it is a connection with the car, a feeling only we understand, a constant communication between the car’s wants and our ability to provide them. Also it is a way for the car to respond to our input and please our wants.
The reason this came to mind is that recently Ferrari announced that they will never be producing another car with a manual transmission. As a driving enthusiast and a proud member of the Tifosi, this was quite hard to hear. Even though I doubt I will ever be in a position to own a Ferrari, it stings a little to hear one of the most legendary manufacturers and your personal favorite to declare the manual is dead to them.
I do understand why this is however. Ferrari is a supercar manufacturer and they make cars that go really very very fast. New Ferraris have essentially outgrown the manual. Their current ‘entry level’ car, the 488, has a whopping 670bhp. That’s more than an Enzo! In an age now where ‘dual clutch transmissions’ have now become much quicker than it is possible for any human to shift, it makes sense that Ferrari wants the fastest and most efficient way of shifting in their cars, as do all manufacturers. But what about the driver’s car?
Porsche has taken a different direction. When the 991 GT3 RS was introduced it was PDK only and everybody gasped at the possibility that the quick 911 had also outgrown the old fashioned manual. Thankfully, Porsche quickly put our minds at rest. They presented us with whole new model to keep manual Porsches alive. The 911 R is essentially an RS but with a manual. They also reduced downforce and got rid of the incredibly large rear wing. Granted, it’s nowhere near as fast around a track, but it’s not meant to be.
Why can Ferrari not take this approach? A new model is almost needed after all. Since the entry level is now a monster, surely there’s a whopping gap in the market for a smaller, more affordable model. A manual sports car would not go amiss I don’t think. The engine could be very easily pulled from the new Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio. This would surely sell like hot cakes and give the Cayman GT4 something to think about.
Some other manufacturers have also said the manual will live on in their cars such as Aston Martin. But many of the supercar leaders will probably be only placing ultra fast DCTs in their flagship models.
This all begs the question; is it really that big a deal? To me, it is. Granted an automatic is much easier to drive and if you are commuting through an urban area every day you will get sick of constant clutch management, but what about the glorious Sunday afternoons when you head away from town into the country. Not to anywhere, not for anything, just for a drive. Surely on these days you want to be fully in control, changing gears exactly when you want to, rev matching while downshifting for your favorite second gear left hander, getting back on the throttle and letting it rev out until you decide to change somewhere on the upper side of six thousand rpm.
I hope more manufacturers follow Porsche’s lead in keeping the manual transmission alive and producing cars that do nothing nut offer pure driving satisfaction. Let me know your thoughts on this matter and I will be back in a week’s time for another spiel.