About a week ago, our favorite automotive television host Jeremy Clarkson reviewed the new VW Golf GTI for The Sun, which for all intents and purposes, seemed to be the same as the old one. Coming from Jeremy, who thinks of the old Golf GTI as the best hot hatch in the world, that’s high praise.
But this isn’t about that review. I’m sure it was a thrilling read and if you really the full experience, you can click on the link at the end of this piece.
What I want to talk about is a blurb in the middle of Jeremy’s review involving his current thoughts about driving a manual:
“And then I noticed the gearlever. And the clutch pedal. And I thought: ‘No. I’m sorry. It’s pouring with rain.
The traffic is going to be dreadful and life is too short to be using my left leg every time I want to set off.’
It’s strange. Not that long ago, I was very much in the manuals-are-for-men camp. I saw the automatic and the double-clutch alternatives as a sign of weakness.
Now, though, I reckon buying a manual is like buying a television that has no remote control. Who says: “I like getting out of my chair to change the channel?'”
You guys are car guys/gals, and I’m a car guy. I’m sure 9 out of 10 of you, if asked, would say that you prefer a manual (for any variety of reasons). I get it, I’m the same way; there’s something about a manual that just makes me feel more connected to the car, like I’m part of a partnership.
But automatics are getting better and better. I own a manual 2015 Mustang GT, and the auto counterpart is faster on the drag strip. Other than the manual simply being more fun, there wasn’t any reason for me to choose it over an auto, especially from a performance standpoint. Yet I still love and don’t regret my choice.
I take that back; like Jeremy’s concerns about driving a manual in traffic and the pouring rain, I had a similar experience. Not too long ago I headed out to San Francisco to get some pictures of my car at Twin Peaks. About halfway there, it started raining.
Anyone who has driven the streets of San Francisco when it’s packed bumper to bumper with traffic knows what a nightmare it can be even in an automatic transmission car. The part of the city I was driving through was comprised of steep hills; I mean STEEP hills. I’m talking Steve McQueen, Bullit steep.
It was a nightmare. I was stuck for over an hour trying to get to my destination. I stopped on streets that felt like they were pointing straight up into the sky, with the car behind me millimeters from my bumper. The roads were soaking wet, and every time I shifted into 1st and got ready to set off, I prayed that my tires would actually catch hold and propel me forward.
In that moment, I wish I had an automatic. I made it to my destination unscathed, but even as a manual driving vet, I could have done without that experience. It was way too stressful, and my left leg was sore by the time I returned home.
So here’s what I want to know from you readers; not whether a manual is better or an automatic. That’s a debate that’s no better than Mac or PC, 49ers or Raiders, Xbox or Playstation. There’s no right answer to that, especially today.
What I want to hear if what you honestly PREFER and why. Examples of why are encouraged!