Late Model Manual Transmission Myth

Can’t believe Car Talk actually validates the EPA regarding late model manual transmission equipped vehicles. The article now running says-- “The vast majority of vehicles listed here suffer a slight fuel mileage penalty for selecting the manual.” Spare me, how much does our goverment actually get right?

The EPA test penalizes manuals of what is possible in the real world except maybe @ 65+ MPH . The manual is still superior to anything else out there if driven with just the smallest amount of brain power. Yes, CVT & DSG trannys are catching up, but NOT YET!!

Car manufactures also play the system to make their more expensive to buy & maintain products excel in the test. (Are you listening Volkswagen)

It’s not a myth. I have a 5-speed 2008 Chevy HHR and my brother has a 2011 HHR automatic with the same engine (2.2) as mine. He gets the same gas mileage as my manual HHR and sometimes gets better mileage on the interstate in OD. I didn’t believe it until I went to LA and drove his car. I still have better acceleration than he has but I can’t beat him when it comes to fuel economy. I like a manual transmission but automatics did catch up several years ago in the fuel economy game thanks to lock-up torque converters and the like.

I agree with @missileman, autos have met the manual and passed them. When your 5 or 6 speed manual has been replaced by a 6, 7 or 8 speed auto with a lockup convertor in the same car, the automatic can get better mileage. And does and has for a few years now in EPA ratings and in real life. Sorry to burst your bubble.

Depends on driver skill. With just a hint hypermiling, most manuals can do much better all except at 65+ MPH. Around town with stop & go, a manual CAN run circles around ANY other transmission with the right driver behind the wheel.

Nope. Used to be that way, no longer. Careful driving of a MT can be a bit better, but not ‘run circles around ANY other transmission’. Put that same careful driver in a modern AT car, they’d do well with it, too.

The moral of the story for the OP is that…things change…and the nature of automatic transmissions has changed to a great extent over the past decade or so.

One reason this seems true is that the folks driving MTs who want to get great mpgs will certainly do better than the average driver, whether they’re driving an AT or a MT car.

It’s a matter of brains: man’s brain against an electronic brain (computer). The objective is to use your brain to process the information to know when to shift to compete with the microprocessor controlled transmission that processes the information and shifts the transmission. I personally would rather have the manual and I don’t care if the mileage isn’t quite as good as an automatic.

I agree with @Triedaq I have 2 manual tranny cars and I like them.

I can exceed the EPA rating on those 2 and my automatic trans truck as well. 2 of the 3 have drive-by-wire throttles; one auto, one manual. The drive-by-wire auto is a truck that is identical to a previous model I owned except for the drive-by-wire and it gets 1 mpg better than the previous truck and 1 mpg better than its EPA rating.

You can hypermile all you like with either an automatic or a manual. Both work. The winner these days is the automatic. It is where all the development dollars go and its what 90% of people choose to drive in the USA and increasingly choose in Europe.

Read last week that Porsche may drop the MT the next time a major redesign of the transmissions is required.

It pains me to say this…Automatics have come a loooong way in the last 20 years. I see late-model automatics with 4-cylinder engines these days that have 6 or more gears, and will cruise at 65 MPH with the engine running 2000 RPM. A lot of 4-cylinder cars with manuals that I have driven are geared short to make it easier to pass on the highway without down shifting.

Automatics today do a better job of maintaining the engine speed at optimum for gas mileage than any human can do with a manual. But I prefer manuals, and drove them most of my life until medical issues made an automatic more realistic.

Fun fact: when I was young we called an automatic a “slush”. It was a common slang term where I’m from. Haven’t heard it used in decades.

As for CVTs, they haven’t yet proven the reliability and longevity I seek. Perhaps a decade from now I’ll feel differently.

It’s no surprise ATs have such a bad reputation. Chevy sold their 2-speed ‘Powerglide’ AT from 1950 all the way to 1973. Imagine how much better a MT would do than a 2-speed AT!

Edit - Ford also had a 2-speed, from '59-'64. They put it on their small 6-cylinders. Imagine how slow that made them. 144-170 cid wasn’t very big to begin with.

Thee manual transmissions offered today are geared for performance not max economy, Would you really want a 9 speed manual that you had to downshift every time the interstate went over another highway?

oldtimer got it right. Most manuals today are narrow range 6 speed transmissions with a comparatively low final drive gear. The automatics have a wider gear range and a higher final drive ratio that gives them better mileage.

Older wide range 4 and 5 speed manuals always got better mileage than their automatic counterparts except when the manual was in the hands of a boy racer. Automatics didn’t fair too well with them either.

I can relate to mountainbike when he mentioned “slushbox” transmissions. I will go even further back and say that my grandfather calling the early Dodge transmissions “chewing gum drive.” I asked him what this meant after my dad bought an old Chrysler with an automatic that actually had a clutch. The clutch was used for 1st gear for some reason or another. He said he didn’t really know but other drivers called them that and so did he.

I think “The vast majority of vehicles listed here suffer a slight fuel mileage penalty for selecting the manual.” is referring to the laws of physics, not the laws of the EPA.

The AT version of many modern cars have taller top gears than the manual version of the same car.
That leads to lower engine speeds and higher mpg when cruising.
A very tall ratio in a manual would lead to the undesirable need for more downshifting.
Many sporty cars come with a manual with substantially shorter gears than the auto version, for a more responsive feel.

One thing an automatic can’t do (yet) is anticipate what’s ahead.

keith: Kia cheated. My 2010 Forte SX 6spd MT Has a 2 speed differential. R, 1, 2 final drive is 4.10. 3, 4, 5, 6 is 3.10. It operates automatically and seamlessly. Top gear will turn 2100 rpm @ 65mph and will deliver 40mpg on a long run while crossing 2 mountain ranges. EPA highway is 36mpg but I think it is the old test cycle. Around town and local highways on level ground I don’t need 6 gears. I typically skip 2nd and shift 4th to 6th on the highways. I get 24mpg city which is good enough for me. I also prefer MT and don’t worry if a slush box gets 1mpg better.

Thirty years ago in a fleet of Ford E-150s with 300 I-6 engines there was a significant fuel mileage difference among drivers regardless of what they drove but an insignificant mileage difference between automatics and 3 speed manuals. The greatest end of year fuel mileage I recall was from an automatic in fact. I serviced 13 of the vans, owned 3 of them and drove one of those with a manual transmission.

Ferrari and Lamboghni sell no cars with manual transmissions.