Are Ferraris Manual or Automatic? (The Systems Explained)

Older Ferraris often have manual transmissions while the new models are all equipped with automatic transmissions, of some sort.

Let’s dig into the details!

Are there any new Ferraris with manual transmissions?

Yes, Ferraris come kitted with both manual and automatic transmissions. Ferrari has adopted various gearbox designs beginning with the four-speed manual gearbox moving through to the hybrids.

The five-speed manual gearbox was used extensively, but in the latter year’s things have changed a lot at Ferrari. It’s not only the transmission which has changed but the number gears and the position of the lever.

Why do several Ferraris have manual transmissions?

In the past, the automatic gearbox was not at all efficient and the only reason for opting for it was because the driver battled with the stick and clutch.

The manual transmission was the most efficient performing concept at that time.

The five-speed manual was the most popular version and held its ground for a long time, but around the year 1994 things began to change.

On top of that, for some people, there is an inherent joy behind shifting your own gears.

Change was inevitable 

The manual transmission (also called the manual gearbox or standard transmission) is a stick shift which utilizes a driver-operated clutch via a foot pedal when changing gear.

This method of changing gears was used extensively through the early years at Ferrari.

On the opposite side of the continuum is the automatic transmission (also called self-shifting or n-speed automatic) which will automatically change through the gears as the vehicle moves. The obvious advantage is that it frees the driver from having to manually shift the gears and that there is no longer a need for the clutch pedal.

A drawback is the reduced mechanical efficiency of the power transfer between the engine and the drivetrain. This results in lower torque and lowers fuel efficiency.

Until recent years, the manual transmission has been preferred for these reasons. Advances in transmission and coupler designs have narrowed this gap considerably.

Added advantages with the automatic transmission

The overdrive was added to function like cruise control.

This assisted maintaining speed with reduced engine revolutions per minute (RPM) leading to improved fuel consumption, lower noise, and lower wear.

The overdrive became redundant as cars moved to front-wheel drives, and so the separate gearbox required for the overdrive changed to a transaxle which is now featured across all cars.

You should also be reading our article which talks about Are Ferraris Handmade? Here are the Facts

All transmission types in between (on Ferraris)

There were other developments and designs between the continuum of manual to automatic gearboxes.

  • The dual-clutch transmission (also called a twin-clutch transmission or double-clutch transmission) closely related to the manual transmission. It used two separate clutches for odd and even gear sets.

The two separate transmissions had their respective clutches contained in one housing, and working as a single unit. Changing gears could be done in a fully automatic mode, but the driver would often resort to manual changing gear in the semi-automatic mode.

  • The semi-automatic transmission (also known as the clutch-less manual transmission, auto-manual, automated manual transmission, trigger shift, flappy-paddle gear shift or paddle-shift gearbox) combines manual and automatic transmission.

It is the steering-wheel-mounted paddle and does away with the shift stick. This transmission type does not need a clutch pedal because it uses electronic sensors, pneumatics, processors, and actuators to execute gear shifts when either the driver or a computer activates a gear change.

It provides a better driving experience

  • The electrohydraulic manual transmission is a semi-automatic transmission system which uses an automatic clutch controlled by electronic computers and hydraulics. To change the gears, the driver selects the gear with the shift lever and the system takes over and automatically facilitates the clutch and throttle.
  • The kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) is an automatic system for recovering a moving vehicle kinetic energy under braking. The recovered energy is stored for later use under acceleration. It’s stored at either the flywheel or the battery.

The system works in conjunction with a sophisticated ancillary gearbox incorporating a continuously variable transmission (CVT) (also known as a shiftless transmission). CVT is considered as the standard gearbox for the modern vehicles that not only deliver faster performance but also good fuel economy.

The change takes place seamlessly through a range of gears without the need for a

Why does Ferrari move away from the manual transmission?

The manual transmission seems to be a thing of the past for Ferrari.

There seems to be a preference for the hand paddle semi-automatic transmission system. It’s not surprising given the drop-in sales demand for the manual transmission.

Ferrari last offered a manual gearbox in 2012 as an option on the California model. Only three customers took up the three-pedal proposition.

But, that’s not the only reason for the move.

Manual transmission just isn’t as popular nowadays.

Where manual transmission used to be more efficient, that has changed since the development of a more efficient automatic gearbox has worked its manual cousin out of a job. The sluggishness of the older design automatic gearbox has been improved and manual transmission remains just because of demand.

New technology has been given a chance to show its stuff.

Ferrari is driven by design, performance, and state-of-the-art technologies so, when moving toward the more modern dual-clutch transmissions, the team realized that not even a well-shifted manual can match its speed.

For decades, manual transmissions had a performance advantage over those without clutch pedals, but the more modern dual-clutch transmissions had erased that advantage.

They shift faster, and they help carmakers snag customers that might have been discouraged by having to master a manual.

Ferrari was one of the first manufacturers to jump on the paddle-shift-for-the-track bandwagon, using the argument that Ferrari’s “Superfast” semi-automatic transmission helped provide faster lap times.

It seems the idea of shift gear or even the older automatic models, have become a practice in frustration, realizing that a computer can do it better than you.

It’s much easier and safer to operate paddle when passing another car on the road.

How hard is it to drive a Ferrari with a manual stick?

Stick shift does require a greater level of skill, but with practice that skill is acquirable. The blending of throttle and clutch can get interesting when driving a performance car.

It is more complex than driving a conventional sedan because everything is a lot more sensitive in the performance car.

The older Ferrari’s are particularly difficult because of the cramped foot space around the clutch and accelerator.

It’s also difficult to hear the car unless you are driving one of the raw models (no soundproofing). If you have a gated shifter, that will also slow down your gear changes. It’s something drivers need to get used to when purchasing a Ferrari.

But once you get the hang of it, you will wish all your cars had the gates.

Do Ferraris with manual transmissions accelerate faster?

The automatic car will accelerate quicker than the manual when starting from a standstill because the driver doesn’t need to step off the gas for shifting gears.

The automatic gearbox will put the engine in proximity to its torque sweet spot without the human intervention.

Is automatic cheaper than manual to insure?

It costs a little more to insure cars with automatic transmissions, it doesn’t seem to be a huge difference in premiums, but there is a difference none the less.

Automatic cars experience more break downs and those repairs cost more than the manual car. The insurance companies look at a whole lot of factors when quoting a rate. Make, model, year, and yes, type of transmission.

But the type of transmission is a small factor in the decision making.

Rates are more impacted by:

  • The age of your vehicle
  • Your driving record and incident history
  • The area you live in
  • The make and model of your vehicle
  • The value of your vehicle
  • The type of insurance you’re buying (basic liability, comprehensive, collision, etc.)
  • Your deductible (also called an excess payment)

The argument remains that the cost to repair and insure a manual car is lower, but the risk of an accident in an automatic car is lower for some people.

Manual v automatic transmission reliability

Automatic gearboxes are inherently more complicated than a manual gearbox. This means that more can go wrong with them. The increased complexity also makes them more expensive, and heavier.

Through normal use, a manual transmission should far outlive an automatic transmission with regards to absolute lifespan. Manual transmission requires the use of a clutch that will wear out quickly relative to an automatic transmission life-cycle.

It is also dependent on how good the driver is.

Heavy use on a clutch can cause earlier failure in a manual gearbox, but this can be repaired, at a cost.

Manual v automatic car accident rate

The automatic transmission does seem to be more pleasurable to drive and is safer just because the driver can focus more on the road.

Performance vehicles allow for greater focus because certain actions are normally controlled by the car’s computer.

Manual vs automatic transmissions (pros and cons)

In conclusion, there has always been tension between the performance offered by a manual transmission and the ease provided by automatic gear change.

Manual transmission

Pros Cons
Fun to drive

Easy to maintain

Fewer issues

Less complex

Fuel economy

More control

Steep learning curve

More work when driving in traffic

Shifting can cause fatigue on long drives

Requires a higher level of concentration

Automatic transmission

Pros Cons
Easier to drive

Both hands can remain on the steering wheel

More comfortable for long drives

Easy to drive in traffic

Reduced risk of stalling

Easier to drive on hills because it won’t roll back

Costs more in the long run

Needs more maintenance

Fuel economy can be poor

Not as good for towing


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