To cover my bases, let me state that I am not calling for the death of the manual transmission, even though I also wrote this. There are manual cars on sale I absolutely love, such as the Fiesta ST, 500 Abarth, 135is, and Mustang Boss 302, to name three (out of a relative few). But there are times when presented with a manual option over the automatic, it's probably best not to tick that box.
As fun as manual cars are to drive, there are still reasons not to buy one. It's not the best choice for stop-and-go traffic. It may sometimes affect resale value (if it's not a BMW). The cost of clutch replacements may negate the manual. (Though in all fairness, our Odyssey has gone through a transmission and then a rebuild of the replacement in under 180,000 miles.) A car may not have been specifically engineered for the manual that got placed in it. In the interest of balance to the pro-manual rhetoric on Jalopnik, I've chosen five cars that are probably better served without a manual.
Author's Note: In the interest of self-preservation, if you take offense to the first image, I apologize. I also wanted to cross out the electronic parking brake, the iDrive controller, and the Sport/Comfort selector as well. I'm totally against the first two, but the last one has its benefits from time to time.
Here's how I imagine a manual Matrix gets sold: teenage car enthusiast wants to buy a manual car with his/her sub-$5K budget. Parents think "no car is safe at that price" and decide to buy a new car for junior. Head to Toyota dealership. Mom sees the Matrix and thinks it's perfect. Kid puts his/her foot down and states he/she has to have a manual, or else. Parents are moved by argument because price is lower (ignorant that future clutch replacements will make up the price difference).
Meanwhile, the salespeople are ecstatic because moving a new manual car happens once in a blue moon at a Toyota store. This means the legendary Toyota resale value won't apply and it'll take a while to sell.
Volkswagen Jetta TDI
Let's face it. The Jetta TDI is bought mostly as a commuter car. So that means stop-and-go traffic, checking e-mail on the smartphone, and grooming/applying makeup. Why bother with a manual that'll get in the way of all that? The fuel economy is also the same between the manual and DSG, getting over 40 mpg consistently. You're even saving money by avoiding the future clutch replacements on the manual.
And it's not as if the driving experience will be significantly worse without the manual, since the DSG can provide the shifts even more quickly while helping maintain sanity in traffic. And even resale matters with this one. Manual VW TDI cars tend to stick around on lots longer than the non-manual cars.
This one makes me want to facepalm. I have no doubt that this car with a manual and 2-liter turbo engine is fun, but at the end of the day, it's a Buick. A car whose driver is more likely to have grandchildren than know who Gucci Mane is. Whose driver is more likely to know Hedy Lamarr than operate Windows 8. (I'll stop now.) A manual won't bring the younger customers of Buick's desire. A manual makes more sense if a Verano GS existed.
So when Buick offers a manual on the $29,065 top-of-the-line Verano Premium Group (the only way to get the turbo engine), I have to wonder how the product planners made that call. There are better manual cars that can be had for that kind of money, like the Jetta GLI and Acura ILX. A BMW 320i isn't even that far off in price.
As a rule of thumb, any BMW with a manual should be fun to drive. Such has been the case since the 2002. The current 535i is the exception, since it was never specifically engineered for the manual, and it shows. However, it's the only midsize luxury car that offers a manual. But the current one doesn't handle like past 5-Series cars, being noticeably heavier and having terrible steering feel for a BMW. (The steering in the GS F-Sport is better.)
Meanwhile, a ZF 8-speed automatic can get the job of good fuel economy and smooth shifting accomplished much better than the driver can. Also, a manual is probably not the best call with iDrive being standard. And getting a manual deletes the cupholders in the center console ahead of the gear stick.
Yes, folks. Apparently Sergio Marchionne thought this warranted a manual instead of any car in the Ferrari lineup. It seems that's a benefit of a division run by a man named Reid Bigland. For years, Ford and GM haven't offered manuals on heavy-duty pickups for the ten people who might buy one. But not Ram. You can still get a manual with the Cummins diesel.
Now, I'm going to get many comments telling me the virtues of a manual tranny in a heavy-duty pickup, and I actually want to know them. (In addition, enlighten me as to the differences between the 2500 and 3500 versions of the Ram, Sierra, and Silverado as well as the F-250, F-350, and F-450.) Coming back to the point, I'll bring up the Jalopnik dream of the rear-drive manual station wagon. It does exist, in the form of Ram 2500 4x2 Crew Cab with the Cummins diesel, manual transmission, and canopy. But would you buy one?
Satish Kondapavulur runs Clunkerture, named because "Clunker.com" was $82 at auction and would've taken 30% out of the balance of his Eagle Vision for LeMons fund. In between contemplating cross-country runs, he spends much of his time attempting to convince others that his MkV Jetta 2.0T Wolfsburg is indeed a sports sedan.
First photo courtesy Car and Driver. Rest of the photos per the respective manufacturers.