For those of us that get a thrill
from wringing out a manual gearbox, things are getting both better and worse. Better because antiquated slush boxes or automatics are giving way to faster and better units. Time was when all automatic gearboxes wheezed and sucked engine power, chopping into your power output mercilessly. But the new generation twin clutch gearboxes are lightening quick and the power loss is negligible too.
And where as three speeds autos, that made cars sound like local trains accelerating, were common a decade ago, today six and seven speed units are the norm. There’s a gear ratio for almost every driving situation and this makes getting to the right part of the powerband easier.
Then come the paddles, or buttons, that give you similar control over the motor as a good ol’ manual. Left for a downshift, right for an upshift, your hands stay on the wheel through difficult corners and there’s sometimes a tactile feel associated with clicking down the box too. Most of the paddles however are located on the steering wheel, an easy fix. But the most comfortable paddles to use are the long eared ones that are stuck onto the steering column. They don’t turn with the steering wheel and your hands always known just where to find them. So there’s no sudden and unexpected upshift, instead of a downshift, before you shoot forward in a corner and become a part of the scenery. Car makers like Ferrari and even Nissan with the GTR understand this and the driving experience is much better as a result of this. Some automatics today aren’t really a bad thing, far from it