There is an underground war raging in our lives today. Forget Mercedes vs. BMW, red vs blue and even dark vs light. This is a war that has raged since the beginning of the motor car. Well at least since the day that the automatic gearbox arrived on the scene many many moons ago.
Prior to that, manual was the way, and the only way at that. I was fortunate enough to be born at a time when the auto box was already in existence, HOWEVER…. They sucked! I remember back then, my mum driving her brand new 1986 Nissan Micra with the manual gearbox. I so wanted to drive it, but just looking at the 3 pedals and 4 speed gear stick poking out of the rather sparse centre console, the expected coordination required to drive were mind boggling.
Around the same time, my step father had gone and purchased a shiny umm.. beige’ish (if anyone remembers that colour) Granada Scorpio 3.0i. and that was it! The beginning of a war that would rage until 2015. Mum was pro manual and outright refused to drive the big ol Ford. Step daddy was pro automatic and err... drove a manual like this... crunch, crunch, crunch, "damn", crunch. So not sure if he just didn't like them, or like me, whether he just couldn't figure out that extra pedal :)
Fast forward to 1996 and my first car.. A 'W reg' (yes that's old for all you millennial folk) yellow Austin Metro 1.3ltr rocket! And yes, with a manual gearbox. I really enjoyed driving back then and still do. Didn't have a problem changing gears and clutch control... I had it nailed. I could park that car in a space no wider than the car, even on that hill outside college.
So all was good and fine...Until I sat in my friends Mercedes Benz 190E and got a taste of that experience. Wow, so wait, this is what automatic is about? Why is he so chilled, why is he only moving his fingers, how come he hasn't put that coke can down since we left? It certainly got me thinking. Fast forward a few more years and I finally got to drive my fathers now 2.0i Granada Scorpio (he was a patriot to the brand and model). Silky smooth for the time, solid and just a nice nice car to drive. I was leaning back like I owned it, and feeling great. The car was clicking through the gears with ease and I was just pointing the car along the road! This was nice...
That was pretty much it for me... Auto's were in. Dihatsu Charade 1.0 auto, C200, C200 again, SLK 230, C320, CLK430, E500, Audi TTS, C63 AMG... The list went on and all automatic. There was no going back.. That was, until I was luckly enough to own a second car. You see, I had driven an Audi A1 with around 180 ish HP, (automatic still) and had so much fun I decided that I wanted the S1 when it arrived. So to my word, I got a 2015 "MANUAL" S1. not because I wanted a manual car, but because that was the only option for the four wheel drive pocket rocket. This was another turning point for me. I loved it. So much fun to drive and throw around. It was great to drive, it was engaging, it was what all those flag waving manual nuts had been raving about... Whooooooooop. That was until I started hitting traffic. Start, stop, start stop, clutch, 1st, clutch 2, wait, clutch, 1st, clutch 2nd, stop, neutral, clutch.... aaaaaarggh!
It was all becoming clear to me, and I flashed back a few years, where I had managed to turn my angry, fire breathing, ex Manager into what seemed like the calmest, coolest, most chilled, zen Master in the world. How? by convincing him to switch from his manual tradition to automatic! That was it. He actually thanked me massively a few years later for his new inner peace! You are welcome! :)
So what's the answer? Automatic or manual? Well sadly, I have to say that, 'it depends'. There are definitely times when a manual gearbox will be a very very rewarding thing. But you have to remember that not all manual gearboxes are created equal. You might jump into a Corsa and conclude something, that you will later disprove in a Cayman GT4. Different worlds of course.!
but my advise on this is the same as what I tell everyone with a car decision of some kind to make.... drive them and see what you prefer! There is definitely a good chance that manual will win when blasting down all kinds of roads or even for those that want that extra something to do when driving. Although now, even my dear momma has switched to the dark side with an automatic Audi Q3 that I never see her switching back from! There is definitely something to driving a manual and I am sure the purists amongst you are swearing at your phones as we speak, but given that some of even the hardest of hardcore cars are switching to auto boxes! Given that cars like the Macan and 911 with their PDK automatic boxes can switch gears in fractions of seconds! Given that some of the new electric cars like the Teslas do away with the whole concept, I have to say that maybe, just maybe, we are moving towards the end of this war, and in this particular case, no one wins the day!
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