Sunday, December 14, 2014

Traditional Manual Transmissions - Why? What's so special about it?

What is so special about the cars with traditional manual transmissions that we car enthusiasts can't explain and properly convey to our family members and friends?

I personally owned cars with a traditional manual transmission except the last car that I owned which was a shiftable automatic. I learned how to drive a car on a manual car and I thought it was cool. At that time, the automatic transmissions were not efficient from the gas mileage point of view and from the performance point of view. It was definitely a bad choice that car enthusiasts did not want to make. Then technology improved over the years and automatic transmissions got much better and the number of gears equaled the manuals. Torque converters on the automatic transmissions also improved drastically along with the electrical control over vacuum control. Then came the dual-clutch transmissions that are technically automated manuals that you can also shift without a clutch pedal.

I have driven cars with all these types of transmissions and they can all put a smile on your face. Good automatics and dual-clutch transmission cars will most likely give you more consistent 0-60 and 1/4 mile times, but is it all about drag times and lap times?

There is something about cars with manual transmissions that draws me to them. I believe that word is "engagement". Yes, most of us guys are scared of engagements, weddings and commitments but there is definitely one place where we like engagement and that is behind that steering wheel, clutch pedal and that shifter.

My last car was a Mini Cooper with a 6-speed shiftable automatic; no clutch pedal present. I guess I wanted to be part of this trend that I've noticed in Orange County and I decided to get this car with this type of transmission. I had a lot of fun with this car, but I need to point out that the first thing I had to do when I got the car was stop by a performance shop to install an aftermarket exhaust so that gear shifting can be more engaging. I owned the car for almost three years and you can see a lot of my videos on YouTube under "almirx101" username. I was able to enjoy and maneuver my Mini with confidence in traffic and canyon roads never worrying about mis-shifting or not down-shifting fast enough so that I can get enough power. The car was relatively fast and gear shifts were fast enough for me, but after almost three years I started realizing that it was too easy to drive it. I guess my honeymoon phase driving cars as if it is a video game was over.

I concluded that I was missing the manual transmission and the engagement that used to put a smile on my face even in Orange County rush-hour traffic. I sold this car and moved on, but moving on meant getting a car within a certain budget. There were only a few cars on my mind but 2007 and 2008 model Honda Fit was something I was leaning towards because of the numerous YouTube videos on this car praising it for its chassis and driving engagement. That's how I started my new adventure or should I say continue my old adventure in the world car enthusiasm. I got a 2008 Honda Fit with a 5-speed manual transmission.

I can spend another thousand words talking about handling, suspension, clutch feel and how it translates into engagement, but at the end of the day, you define the word "engaging" for yourself. Have fun driving and be safe.

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#cars #carreviews #manual #dualclutch #automatics #transmission #driving #engaging #gears #shiftknob 

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