The death of the manual

The manual gearbox is shifting towards a fast exit, but Porsche has catered to petrol-heads with the 911 GT3

The manual gearbox is shifting towards a fast exit, but Porsche has catered to petrol-heads with the 911 GT3

The manual gearbox is dead. New technologies have brought this about. Cars are faster, better, safer, more efficient and have features that couldn’t be imagined 10 years ago. They are now standard items on spec lists across the world. Satellite navigation in your Renault Kwid? Heated seats in your C-Class? How about a reverse camera for your Hilux?

Diesels have evolved from agricultural workhorses into silent, fuel-sipping daily commuters that are easy to live with and almost invisible in traffic.

Congestion, peak hour madness and a host of other irritating things all add to a daily commute that can do without the added stress of rowing through a gearbox repeatedly until your left arm and leg look like they’re secretly going to gym without you.

Advances in drivetrain technology have given rise to the modern automatic. DSG, M-DCT, PDK etcetera are all words that are perfectly acceptable in drivers’ minds. The car does the hard work, there are no delays and you are (mostly) always in the right gear. There’s no chance of accidently hurting the car by selecting the wrong gear at the wrong time, which would have previously meant a very costly repair. No clutch, no worries, no stress.

Vehicle manufacturers have caught on too, offering less choice as far as gearboxes are concerned, some doing away with the option completely. The new GTI in manual? “Not today, sir.”

Except not really.

In groups of two or three, people all over the world have been gathering. Gathering and complaining that their choice has been taken away. That they now need to endure these long commutes, with little to no choice as to how they elect to do it.

These people enjoy the feeling of engaging with a car, having to communicate with it, guide it in such a way that requires patience and knowledge. Some call these people mad. Most refer to them as enthusiasts, or petrol-heads.

It’s almost as if their cries have fallen on deaf ears, as the motoring world creeps ever closer to autonomous cars, with massive resources being dedicated by companies like Tesla and Google towards developing technologies to deliver us into a new age of transportation.

If there’s no need for a manual gearbox, where does it leave these enthusiasts?

“There is no substitute.” — Porsche

Never before has a slogan had as much weight behind it than right now. Porsche has indicated that its new 911 GT3 will be offered with a manual gearbox. Six-speed. Conventional clutch. In its purest form.

They listened to those little groups of people gathering and complaining, and have given hope to current and future generations of enthusiasts, who want to be involved in the process. Who need to feel connected. Where ultimate convenience is superseded by a driving experience that is engaging. Where the very same commute that is dreaded by many is seen as an adventure by others.

Will it pave the way for others to reconsider manual derivatives? We hope so. For the very same reasons that people try out recipes from their favourite cooking shows or vote to get their favourite artist into the next round of that singing competition, humans want to be included in the process. They want to go on that date, instead of a video call. They want to sit in the front row even after purchasing all the music.

People want to be involved, and the manual gearbox is one key to that experience. The manual is dead. Long live the manual!