A lot of people have asked me since getting a Nissan GT-R how I’m finding it coming from my last RS4. The two cars are incomparable really but what people are actually asking is “do you miss the manual?” The answer is yes wholeheartedly. I’ve loved cars and driving for as long as I can remember and changing gear is part of that. How thrilling it can be wresting a car round some twisting and crested back roads. One-handed while heel and toeing and slotting in a perfect downshift all the time trying to modulate your steering input for the perfect line.
Having a manual box and 3 pedals gives cars a unique persona almost, it adds not only engagement but it helps you to connect with each other. Have you ever slightly mistimed a gear change when you’re tired and ground a gear slightly? You feel awful like you’ve stepped on your dogs tail and they’ve cried. my B5 RS4 was a brute of a thing. It had a really heavy clutch a clunky gearshift and a thick Alcantara wheel. This was a car you had to be firm with especially when it hit heavy boost. The excitement came up the top of the Rev-range when you’ve masses of torque to all four wheels. You felt like you were holding on for dear life as if you’re on the back of a wild stallion. Not forgetting you’ve got to take a hand off the steering wheel, move a foot co-ordinate that with your left hand to select the next gear and continue your rampant journey onwards at great speed.
Automatics are great don’t get me wrong. But for the opposite reason, if I’m tired and I just wanted to get home the auto is great. But for fun I just feel a little bit awkward. The GT-R astounds me at the speed it devours corners at but it should? My hands are never off the wheel when driving hard so it’s easy to pick the perfect line with the correct amount of input. It’s all a bit easy, your thumbs and three fingers wrapped around the wheel one finger each side extended to “click” the paddles when required it’s a dieted down experience of driving in my mind. I admit with the current power and pace of the new hyper-car elite yes only a dual clutch automatic will do. You simply wouldn’t be able to keep up with changes while sh*tting yourself to death never mind in a twisty back road with a little moisture underfoot. You can now get hot hatchbacks with automatic gearboxes which to me defeats the point entirely. You’ve maybe got 200-300bhp horsepower. You’re going to want to ring it’s neck , blip down shifts and left foot brake that’s what driving fun used to be anyway.
I’m not one to stifle technology but I think a lot of manufacturers are killing involvement for drivers. I’ve been an Audi guy for years and I can’t buy any of the RS models with a manual box there’s not even an option. I massively respect BMW and Porsche for indulging the dinosaurs amongst us, by still selling us manual gearboxes in their performance cars. I love driving and I crave enjoyment, my GT-R is immensely capable but truth be told I would happily trade off some performance in order to change gear myself. I would love a 991 Porsche 911 in the future as I think they’re an immensely capable platform and certainly one of the newest things around with 3 pedals. I really hope I’m not witnessing the last models to ever have 3 pedals as technology advances with each passing year. Do you miss manual gearboxes? Or are you happy with some of the latest dual-clutch offerings?