Automatic transmission cars often look exactly the same as their manual counterparts from the outside. A closer look inside and you can tell the difference from the gear lever.
Manual transmission cars are now few and far between because of the convenience of driving an automatic. These two transmissions also differ when it comes to performance in a car.
In this article, we’ll be discussing some differences between the two transmissions. We’ll also delve into whether automatic cars or manual cars are faster.
Can You Accelerate Faster in Cars With Manual Gear?
Manual cars were known to be faster in the past before automatic transmission cars were mainstream. That gap is now closed off because of technological and engineering advancements in the auto industry.
With a manual transmission car, the driver can control when it was the right time to shift into the next gear. This allowed efficient and quick gear shifts that made all the difference when it comes to speed.
An automatic transmission car, on the other hand, allows the driver to concentrate on the road and let the shifting be done automatically. The car’s gearbox will decide when the best times for shifting are.
Throughout the years, engineers have developed the CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) to be very efficient. This gearbox is now the industry standard and many car manufacturers have it in their models.
Nowadays, technology and engineering have gotten so good that an automatic gearbox learns about the driver’s behavior. The gearbox will shift gears according to how fast or slow the car is driven.
However, there are still manual car drivers that are good enough to outperform an automatic transmission car. These are often professional drivers that can listen to the car and learn the best times to shift gears.
It is true that most sports cars used to have manual transmissions which were known to be quicker. Nowadays, it is quite rare to find a modern car without some sort of automatic transmission in it.
High-speed car manufacturers are now entirely dropping manual transmission gearboxes from their cars. This has not affected the speed of their models and sometimes has proven to be faster.
It is now common to see an automatic car surpass a manual gearbox in both speed and acceleration. Technology has made it possible for an automatic gearbox to shift much faster and more efficiently than a human.
Efficiency and quick acceleration will always be huge factors when automakers are designing their cars. It might be why supercars and even regular cars are now only available in automatic transmissions.
In everyday driving such as stop-and-go traffic, a manual transmission car can be a bit annoying for some drivers. You have to shift every now and again when the traffic is slow.
An automatic gearbox is much more convenient in this regard and can be a blessing in slow-moving traffic. You don’t have to worry about changing gears every now and again, and this can decrease driver fatigue.
You need to also know how many speed tickets you can get.
How Much Faster Can Manual Cars Accelerate?
A manual transmission car can be faster in just a few seconds compared to an automatic one. This is because an automatic transmission will need a few seconds to decide whether to downshift or upshift.
Manual transmissions need a really good driver to surpass the timing of an automatic gearbox. The driver will know when the car needs to downshift or upshift for optimal acceleration.
In modern times like these, we often see more automatic cars than manuals on the road, especially in the US. However, when looking at Formula 1 driving, we see that the cars are all manual transmission cars.
In the case of F1 cars, drivers are experts at being able to control the car and determining the best shifting times. It allows the drivers a feel of the car and they can achieve more control of the wheels.
We can see F1 driving coming down to seconds in order for the car to win. The driver has to have total control over their car’s performance and manual transmissions allow for this.
On the other hand, the normal, everyday driver will not be able to outperform an F1 driver or a modern automatic. Those two just have the best timing when it comes to gear changes.
Another good example is old cars that are upgraded with high-end engines for street racing. These almost always have manual transmission which allows the owner more feeling of the car.
So in essence, a manual car will be slightly faster than an automatic if it has a really great driver with lots of experience. Other than that, the technology and engineering of a modern automatic car will usually outperform a manual gearbox.
Please also read our article about whether all automatic cars have hill assist.
Do Manual Or Automatic Transmissions Shift Gear Faster?
Automatic transmission gearboxes change gears faster than their manual counterparts. Modern torque sensors now detect and change to the next gear much faster than a manual driver can.
For context, a high-performance car will take around 200 milliseconds to change gears. A normal everyday car can usually take around half a second to complete a gear change.
The quick gear shifting also has a lot to do with the car’s computer system, which senses when the car’s next gear shift will be.
In an automatic transmission, there is no need to step off the gas in order to change gears because of the small time differences between gear shifts.
This close distance between gear shifts makes an automatic transmission much faster than a manual one. The power from the engine transfers much quicker to the wheels.
Another benefit of the gears being so close and ready to change is the smoothness of the gear changes. Automatic gearboxes provide smoother gear changes and, therefore, a smoother ride.
As technology advances, so does innovation in the auto industry, and this is evident in modern automatics. The car is slowly able to learn your driving style the more you drive it.
A car that can anticipate your driving style can then change gears according to how you accelerate and drive the car. This is not possible with a manual and this is also why automatics shift gears faster.
Quick gear shifts are really important in performance or racing cars where those milliseconds can make a big difference. This is why Formula 1 cars are mostly still in manual transmissions.
On the other hand, a modern everyday driver does not really need those quick gear changes in an everyday situation. With that said, it will always be more convenient to drive an automatic in slow-moving traffic.
Another feature you might find in high-performance or sports cars is the flappy-paddle automatic transmission. These are the two paddles you find behind the steering wheel for shifting gears up or down.
These paddle shifters were essentially made for people with an automatic that also want the ability to change gears themself. These are mostly included in car models that have a higher “sport” mode.
Make sure to also read our article about common problems of manual transmissions.
Do Automatic Or Manual Cars Have Higher Top Speeds?
Manual cars were known to be advertised as having a higher top speed than automatic cars. Nowadays, both automatic and manual gearboxes are advertised as having the same top speed.
It is now known that the transmission of a car does not really affect much of its top speed. So a manual car with a top speed of 155 mph will have the same top speed as the automatic variant.
In a racing situation, the manual gearbox might be able to reach top speed quicker, but the transmission car will eventually catch up.
It is also important to note that the normal, everyday driver is not really concerned with the top speed of their car. This is because even highway driving has speed limits that are significantly less than the top speed of the car.
Cars that are able to reach those top speeds are usually racing cars and high-performance cars. These cars are designed to reach top speeds as quickly as possible in a racing situation.
It is cautioned against trying to drive your car faster in order to check its top speed. You can get speeding tickets and high-speed driving leaves less reaction time if anything goes wrong.
You can also check out this article about signs of a slipping transmission.
Do Fast Sports Cars Typically Have Manual Or Automatic Gear?
Older sports cars were designed mostly with manual transmission gearboxes. Modern sports cars typically have dual-clutch automatic systems.
Dual-clutch automatic systems essentially give the driver the best of both worlds. They are computer-controlled for a more convenient and responsive drive.
Technological advances in modern supercars have made automatic transmissions more efficient. This means faster gear changes and therefore faster acceleration to reach lower 0-60 times.
Manual transmission sports cars are not yet completely out of the picture. There are new models released, such as the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S and the BMW M4, that still include a manual transmission gearbox.
The main reason most sports cars had manuals was to give the driver more control of the car. Most drivers felt that the automatic gearbox was making shifts that were different from their driving style.
With a dual-clutch system, the driver has control over the car, but the automatic transmission is also controlled by the computer. This has the feeling of the old style of driving coupled with modern performance boosts.