We all know it, the manual transmission is a dying breed, especially here in America. I rue the day the manual transmission goes the way of VHS, floppy disks, and suspenders. But are true, dual clutch hydraulic "semi-manual" transmissions such a bad thing?
Technology is constantly being upgraded and made "better", and thus we lay to rest many a things from yesteryear; flat screens replaced tube TVs, digital HDTV replaced analog signals, cable internet replaced dial up, and soon, automatics will replace our beloved manual transmission. Sadly, it is the logical progression of technology.
As enthusiasts, we will be the dying breath holding onto the antiquated technology that is the manual transmission. As technology continues to advance, the automatic transmission continues to become more reliable, more efficient, and less costly. The automatic transmission war now boils down to two types of transmissions which will prevail in future years. DCTs and CVTs.
CVTs are a great bit of technology, efficient and simple. But efficient and simple is also boring. Pick an rpm range and let the ever changing gear ratio do the rest. Some manufacturers have added 'shift' modes to CVTs, which can be controlled via steering wheel mounter paddles or a push pull pattern on the shifter. While this may seem exciting, its really not as all you are doing is limiting the expansive gear ratios to a select range of five or six gears, while simultaneously killing any efforts of efficiency which the transmission was designed for.
DCTs however, operate very similarly to a manual transmission. There are two separate clutches and all the shifting and clutch engagement is done hydraulically, but the principal is the same.
If the third pedal must disappear in the name of technology, then DCT is what needs to replace it. A true DCT car with paddle shifters, when placed in manual mode, will act just like your manual transmission car. When at a stop the clutches are disengaged and the car should not change gears without your command. Thanks to modern technology, the car can change gears lightning fast, way faster than any mortal man could hope to. And it can be surprisingly fun.
But most of these things we, as enthusiasts, already know, even if we dont like to admit them. So why should more cars come with paddle shifters?
I will start with the most obvious, it keeps your hand on the wheel. If you are on a race track, this is huge as it help you keep the vehicle in control. But we are not all weekend racers. How many times have you driven down the highway and seen someone driving at 11 and 1, or 5 and 7? How about 12 and the window sill or center console? If you needed your left hand at 10 to shift down, and your right hand at 2 to shift up, it would promote safer, more proper driving techniques.
It would also free up the center console. Everything now a days is controlled electronically; so what is the point of the big, hunky shifter? Aston Martin has had push button drive selection for a while. Lincoln has jumped onto this idea as well with the new MKZ. Sure, all these transmissions need a P/ N/ D/ R/ S (or manual), but a nice, clean button set up looks better and frees up so much wasted space.
Finally, it would teach people to understand their cars. I have driven a manual since I was 14. Out of the 11 vehicles I have owned since I got my license, only one has been an automatic. My father and I are the only ones in the family who can drive a stick, and while my mother would like to learn, she just can not grip the idea of a manual transmission. I do not know if it is just sensory overload, too much to learn at one time (an automatic is put it in D and press the gas, a manual requires understanding of the clutch, how and when to use it, proper understanding of gears and why and when to use them, and memorization of a shift pattern), or just inability to grasp the core concept. Yet, I can put my mother behind the wheel of a car with paddle shifters and she understands that she car needs to be shifted at certain times, and that different rpm ranges can be used for different reasons.
The manual transmission is on its last leg, and while I hope it is a long lasting last leg, lets also push to see more true DCTs, because in my eyes, a future filled with CVTs is a hell I want nothing to do with.