Everyone is so busy chasing the clock, they forgot that it feels like to shift gears.
This isn’t a soapbox rant about the loss of manual gears, though it is a rather sad thought, but instead a post about gears as a whole. Modern gears are so unbelievably long, in efforts to chase the glorious 0-60 and 0-100 times, that the consumer was lost in the middle somewhere.
Shifting takes time, and so, to eliminate time lost between shifts. To eliminate this, auto manufacturers first decided to eliminate the slowest part of a shift, your slow-body. Next, they refined and polished the auto shifting trans until we ended with dual-clutch transmission, and DCTs were born. Since VW debuted the first DCT somewhere around ‘08, they have all but took over modern sports cars. Honestly, I’m fine with that. Flicking a paddle is about as fun in a car as it is in the bedroom.
But that’s not the underlying issue here. Do you know what is faster than a DCT? No shift change at all. Reducing the number of shifts creates zero power loss during a timed launch. Longer gears, means it takes fewer gears to get up to speed. Less gears=less time loss. Is this making any sense here?
The issue here, however, lies in those long gears. The long gears mean that anytime you’re trying to actually use your car, you’re stuck to using first and second gear, rather than second and third or third and fourth.
First and second are close-ratio gears, meaning the amount of time spent at any one RPM is minimal. Ever tried heel toeing into first or second? Second is doable, but first requires years of practice.
What all this means is that when we actually get out on the road, and want to find the curvy road on a Sunday morning, were stuck using the least useable, least fun, and most aggressive gears. What’s more, is those two gears alone take you far past the legal speed. Meaning you never really get to even shift your car, which again, even paddles are fun to slap around.
Bombing down a back road puts you either too high into second gear or too low into third or fourth. Being low in third forces you to take the RPM up into the rev range, resulting in you now going 79 mph through your kid’s best friend’s neighborhood. Not a good look for him the next day at school.
“Hey, your dad almost killed me yesterday...”
The long gears meant to capture insane 0-60 times, and worse off 0-100 or 120 times, have left the customers that actually drive their cars in a state of want. There is a surprisingly low number of cars to fulfill that segment.
Cayman, with its horrible sounding turbo flat-four. Alpine, which we don’t get here. Toyota/Subaru 86/BRZ. 370z. I can’t even write that. If you bought a brand new 370z in the last two years you should have your head checked.
The small list that occupies that perfect back road, canyon carving, Sunday drive segment is quickly diminishing as horsepower figures and 0-60 times continue to spin out of hand.
Hell, Lotus is making a 1,000 horsepower electric car. It looks great, I’m sure it will drive great and be insanely fast, but Lotus was once the champion of this segment, and where are they to be seen? In the electric weeds.
Don’t think I don’t love going fast, and don’t think for a second I don’t love launching a car from a standstill to illegal highway speeds in a matter of seconds, but I also like using my cars.
I like driving them, and experiencing them, and every step towards a faster ‘Ring time or a better launch takes us another step further away from driving a car and one more step to the roller coaster on wheels modern cars are turning into.
Also, I can’t get another ticket or my wife will leave me.
That’s what this is really about.