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Manual Transmissions Are Faster Than Automatics–Or Are They?

The manual transmission may not be extinct, but it is certainly an endangered species. One only needs to take a look at the current crop of cars to confirm it. This may seem peculiar to those who champion the mighty manual, considering that the world as a whole wants more fuel efficiency, and a manual is more efficient than an automatic, right?

While that may be the case in the past, it’s no longer true today. In fact, in the efficiency race, automatics have left manuals in the dust. You may see this in the km/L readings of models that come in both manual and automatic–these days, the latter always performs better.

Well, that’s okay, you say, because manual transmissions are still infinitely faster–that’s why many sports cars and high-end vehicles still have them, right? Unfortunately, this idea also no longer holds water as well. Case in point–many of today’s fastest sports cars come solely in automatic, such as the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta, Maserati GranTurismo, and Lamborghini Aventador, to name a few.

Hypothesis contrary to fact

Despite provable facts attesting to the contrary, many car drivers stubbornly stick to the idea that a stick shift accelerates faster. It’s easy to see why–with a manual, you instantly feel the reaction of the engine coinciding with your gear shift. With an automatic, you never really know when the gears upshift or downshift, and thus the acceleration can feel sluggish. The bad news is, that sluggishness may be all in your head.

Professional racer Ken Hill adds salt to the wound: “Some people are stuck on the mindset that a driver is faster with a manual box. They (manuals) just aren’t as good.”

The end is nigh

The more the industry moves toward self-driving cars, the more the manual transmission will make less sense. Consumer demand will probably compel car manufacturers to keep having manual-installed variants, but when the when the entire automotive world has gone full AI, expect the manual to go the way of the dodo.

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