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Why A Manual Transmission Isn't Always Best

Opinion / 18 Comments

We absolutely love manuals, but there are some circumstances when they aren't always best.

Prepare to get your pitchforks and torches, because we have an unpopular opinion to share - manual transmissions are NOT always the best option. There are plenty of cars on the market that are better with an automatic transmission and there are many cars that would be worse if they were offered with a manual. However, instead of focusing on specific cars, we wanted to hone in on why some cars are simply better with two pedals. We still love driving a stick, but here are five reasons why sometimes an automatic is simply the better option.

Limits Options

Since buyers in the US rarely opt for a manual transmission, automakers that still offer it have to make certain concessions to keep costs down. This usually involves limiting the options that can be combined with the manual. Take the new Genesis G70 for example. It will be available with a six-speed manual instead of the eight-speed automatic, but only on the 252-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder model. The more powerful 365 hp 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 will be automatic only. Although we love rowing our own gears, sometimes sacrificing power for a manual transmission isn't worth it.

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Automatics Shift Faster

Manual transmissions used to hold the advantage in speed, but automatics and dual-clutches are now much faster. Enthusiasts who love to set the fastest times around a race track or down a drag strip are opting for the slower car if they buy the manual. Some enthusiasts may be willing to sacrifice a few tenths of a second for the pleasure of driving a manual, but the performance divide is only increasing as automatics continue to get better.

Good Luck Finding One

One of the worst aspects of buying a manual transmission in today's market is simply finding one. Go down to your local BMW dealership and you'll be lucky to find a single manual car on the lot. If you do manage to find the car you are looking for, it is almost never exactly how you want to option it, so you have to wait and order one from the factory. Sometimes you can get lucky and find the one manual car that has been sitting on the lot waiting for a buyer, but these opportunities are becoming rare.

No Adaptive Cruise Control

Driving a manual transmission comes with several sacrifices such as comfort in traffic, and fuel economy. One of the more recent disadvantages to a manual transmission is the inability to use adaptive cruise control to its full potential. When we reviewed the Volkswagen Golf R in Los Angeles, we were happy to have sampled the six-speed DSG instead of the six-speed manual. While the manual can still use adaptive cruise control, it can't bring the car all the way down to a stop, which is a huge benefit of adaptive cruise control.

Automatics Can Be More Fun

Enthusiasts remain dedicated to the manual transmission because it is more fun that driving an automatic. However, we don't think this is always the case. As with automatic transmissions, there are both good and bad manual transmissions on the market. The manual in the 911 GT3 is pretty darn good, but the manual in the Hyundai Elantra isn't anything to write home about. Manual diehards can whine all they want, but we bet the majority of them would rather drive an automatic Camaro ZL1 instead of a manual Toyota Corolla. Sometimes a manual transmission just feels mushy and uninspiring, which is why automatics are sometimes better.