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When Ferrari made the move to drop its iconic gated stick shift the Italian automaker boasted that its transmission technology had become so impressive that shifting your own gears was, at best, antiquated and at worst, robbing the car of its performance.
With the launch of the new Huracán and retirement of its Gallardo model, rival Lamborghini has now also sold its last stick shift. Their reason: no one cares.
It’s a new week and that means it’s time for another installment of Ask AutoGuide. As the Motor-Vehicle Problem Solvers we never stop working for you, our loyal audience… as long as we’re punched in and Samantha down in HR has approved the overtime. In any event, small cars are becoming the automotive industry’s next big thing as people trade in their first-generation Toyota Sequoias for more efficient transportation, and that’s precisely the theme of this week’s episode.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears is a lighthearted fairytale highlighting the adventures of a cute little girl and a trio of cuddly bears… or is it? A closer examination of this innocent-sounding narrative reveals that it’s actually a gloomy tale that glorifies breaking and entering, trespassing, vandalism and theft.
You Know You Want One
Your grip on the steering wheel tightens. Your eyes fixate on the yellow line. Your brain screams about the trees just beyond the shoulder. Wait for it… wait for it… ok, NOW! You pounce on the clutch as your right foot stabs the accelerator. A wrist-flick completes the downshift. Feather the brake, turn into the corner and scrub off some speed; the radius decreases slightly. You nail the apex, tires howling like a bloodhound on the trail. You roll back on the throttle for a speedy exit and dive into the next corner.
It’s unwise to purchase a home without having a qualified expert give it a thorough going over, why should new cars be any different? Top-to-bottom, front-to-back, inside-and-out, the 2014 Subaru Forester is on the receiving end of AutoGuide’s weekly Five-Point Inspection.
Counterintuitive as it may be to think that demand for manual transmissions may be increasingly in demand among U.S. consumers, sales numbers are showing just that.
Just when an earlier study suggested that teenagers today prefer owning smartphones and electronic devices over owning a car, a local study by news channel Sacramento News10 revealed that there is a resurgence of manual transmission automobiles for young drivers.
Worried about teen drivers texting and driving, parents have started a trend of purchasing stick shift vehicles for their teens in hopes to keep them focused on the task at hand rather than diverting their attention away from the road. The DMV also provides useful stick shift tips for first time drivers including “don’t panic.” News10 started a discussion via Facebook on the resurgence of manual transmission vehicles and viewers have responded positively. One perk stick shift owners said they enjoyed was the better fuel efficiency their vehicle can achieve.
While manual transmission vehicles have remained popular in Europe and Asia, its market in North America has shrunk to approximately 5.5 percent, a number likely made up of mostly driving enthusiasts. If the appreciation of manual transmission vehicles are rekindled within younger drivers, then not only would more Americans pay attention when they are driving, but perhaps the joy of driving might be rediscovered as well. Show your support and join other drivers in the “hang up and drive” movement here at News10.net.
Sadly, manual transmissions are a dying breed. For many, the convenience of an automatic far outweighs the many advantages of driving stick, from the lower cost of the car, to improved driving enjoyment and vehicle control, to better fuel economy (although those pesky dual-clutch units are starting to make this argument obsolete).
Several months ago MINI announced the launch of a new “Manualhood” marketing campaign aimed at getting drivers to choose three pedals over two, while simultaneously building up the brand’s enthusiast appeal. More recently, the quirky British automaker followed up with its “Becoming a Manual” PSA video.
At the recent launch of the new MINI Coupe (review here), brand boss Jim McDowell didn’t provide any specifics on how the new campaign is going but he did point out just how popular stick-shift transmissions already are with MINI drivers. While total sales of manual transmission models make up just five to six percent of all vehicles sold in the U.S. each year, the take rate for MINI buyers is vastly higher at 34 percent. Depending on the region, that number can be even higher, with roughly half (49%) of all MINIs sold in New England being manuals.
Long live the stick-shift!
As automotive technology and innovation continue at breakneck speed, car enthusiasts and traditionalists have been quite outspoken in their opposition against sequential gearboxes and dual clutch systems, arguing that there’s an irreplaceable purity from rowing your own gears.
To the men and women who love to drive, don’t despair. Porsche has been listening. According to Porsche CEO, Matthias Muller, the 911 will offer a manual transmission for as long as it is in demand, which loosely translates to forever. Moreover, an all new, world’s first 7-speed manual was introduced just for the latest Porsche flagship sports car.
The good news doesn’t stop there. Muller also confirms that the 911 GT3 will still be manual as well, denying past allegations of otherwise.
Driving enthusiasts rejoice! Go Porsche!
GALLERY: Porsche 911
Ford has made a few changes for the 2012 Fusion. The American automaker decided based on low sales numbers that the six-speed manual transmission will only be available on the base Fusion S for 2012.
Fuel economy wasn’t much of an improvement with the manual transmission anyways. With a manual transmission, the Fusion was rated 22/32 mpg while the automatic six speed was rated at 23/33 mpg. There is a general trend currently, to eliminate manual transmission midsize sedans, with Mazda doing so with their ostensibly sporty Mazda6.
The other ‘major’ change for the 2012 Fusion are the 17-inch alloy wheels are now standard on the Fusion SE. In fact, Fusion SEs came with 17-inch steel wheels and plastic wheel covers, an odd choice given that the base Fusion S came with 16-inch alloy wheels.
Car and Driver’s campaign to “Save the Manuals” campaign is spreading, with Consumers Reports doing their part for the movement by compiling a comprehensive list of all new cars available with a manual gearbox.
A few years ago, you could find some real oddities with a stick shift – a BMW X5 for example. Now, the list is largely what you’d expect; compact pickups, economy cars, the occasional luxury sedan with sporting pretensions, and of course, performance cars.
But there is one totally-out-of-left-field choice on the list that stands out from the others; the Mercury Milan (though not the hybrid pictured above), which can be had with a stick like its Ford Fusion counterpart. Better act fast if you want one.
Hit the jump to see the full list of cars that will let you shift for yourself
[Source: Consumers Reports]