Robert Farago over at The Truth about Cars web site, is saying that the days of the manual transmission are numbered. Well know he's right, but that doesn't make us happy about it. I think it was Cadilac in the late 30's that came out with the first automatic transmission, and by the 50's they were fairly common on American cars. I remember when I first saw a VW "semi-automatic" Beetle for the first time, I guess that was a step backwards. But manual transmissions have held on all this time, in trucks, performance vehicles and smaller economy cars. I remember learning on an automatic and then making the switch to manual shift. It requires a little more skill to drive a manual, but the benefits were always a feel or perception of better control, and of course more gears offering slightly better economy.
But automatics have come a long way from the 2 and 3 speed slushboxes of yesterday. I recall the first time I saw a 4 speed overdrive automatic, it bothered me that you couldn't access all the gears with the shifter. And today, there are even more gears. We went from 2 and 3 to 4 and now 5 and 6, with 7 speed automatics and of course there are CVT (Constant Variable Transmissions) that have an almost infinite number of ratios available with their two pulleys. Then you had "auto stick" and "manu-matic" sport modes and now Farago points to VW/BorgWarner's DSG paddle shift as the final nail in the clutch pedal's coffin.
Luckilly for those of us that like to shift for ourselves, and are lucky enough to find a manual transmission on a dealer's lot, we've got time. These transmissions are going to come first on top of the line and performance oriented models. I've never driven a 6 speed manual and don't want to miss out my chance, so I hope that it wil take time. Click on over and read Farago's article, he's got his finger on the pulse, while some of us have our heads in the sand.