There’s a solid chance my next car will not have a manual transmission.
A few years ago I would’ve call that an unimaginably frightening prospect. All the cars I’ve owned thus far have had a stick, and I wasn’t planning on deviating from that for the next one. However, the price level of sports cars I can now afford have changed, and along with that the gearbox situation as well.
First I must say I continue to adore the manual gearbox: it provides an analog and tactile connection to the driving dynamics that’s utterly lacking in an automatic, no matter how good of a dual-clutch transmission it may be. The beautiful euphoria and sense of accomplishment in executing a perfectly timed heel-toe downshift is incomparable and irreplaceable.
As all car enthusiasts know, the manual gearbox is being left behind by manufacturers. People aren’t buying stick-shift cars therefore automakers aren’t incentivized to continue development. Often in high-power sports cars the manual transmission - if offered at all - seems to be an after-thought and not nearly as good as the automatic version. In the C7 Corvette for example it’s painfully obvious much of development money is spent on the slushbox. Chevy engineers have actually told journalists the Corvette with the auto is the spec to buy.
Worse, once you start looking at sports cars into the six-figures, the landscape is almost barren for the manual transmission.
Putting the lack of demand side, from a technical perspective it makes zero sense for manufacturers to engineer a stick-shift ‘box: modern automatics have gotten tremendously good. A proper dual-clutch unit can shift faster than any human ever and never miss a rev-match downshift.
But what I most appreciate is the improved gearing: in chasing fuel-economy and top-speed figures, automakers have spaced gear ratios in cars super wide, making life difficult for the standard six-cog manuals. The latest automatics have higher gear counts so the engine’s power-band is better utilized - it's always in the sweet-spot. Driving the latest Golf GTI with a manual was very frustrating because by the end of second-gear the car’s already traveling beyond 70mph. Sacrilege it may be but I'd tick the option box for the 7-speed DSG.
Due to these factors and the fact I will be looking at used sports cars in the low $100,000s, the manual transmission will likely be eluding me for the forseeable future.