"Semi-Automatic" transmissions?

Are these automatic/manual transmissions any good? I’m looking at another Subaru and their “sportshift” transmission makes me wonder about future repair bills vs. a good old manual and the clutch repairs that will follow.

I had one on my 64 bug. Never had a problem with it. Not sure about the newer ones.

I never worked on the VW version, but from driving them, I am guessing that they used a manual transmission with a power-actuated clutch rather than a clutch pedal.

Various newer cars have different types of ‘shifters’ attached to automatic transmissions. Different brands have an array of names for these configurations, but what they have in common is they encourage you (through zeal or carelessness) to abuse the automatic transmission. Hence, most of them fail sooner than an automatic transmission that is simply put into Drive and driven.

As far as I can tell, this is just another version of a regular automatic with manual control. It will have the reliability of a normal automatic, which, these days, is pretty good. There are other types that are more like manual transmissions with automatic control. This is not one of those.

The old VW autostick was basically a 3-speed manual transmission that automatically engaged and disengaged the clutch when you moved the stick. It also had a torque converter that allowed you to idle in gear as well as smoothing out the clutch engagement. It was sort of the worst of both worlds because you had the reduced fuel economy of an automatic and you still had to shift and deal with a clutch that wore out, but if you really hated having to use the clutch they were fun little cars to drive.

The modern version is basically a computer-controlled automatic transmission that has the option of manually selecting gears. It’s as reliable as any modern automatic, which on most makes seems to have gotten pretty darn good in the last 10 years or so. One nice thing about the manu-matic is you can start out in a higher gear, which can be really handy in the snow.

[i] I never worked on the VW version, but from driving them, I am guessing that they used a manual transmission with a power-actuated clutch rather than a clutch pedal.


You win the prize. When it felt the pressure of your hand on the shifter it clutched.

They were famous for vacuum problems.

A SportShift(ability shift yourself) automatic has no significant difference in reliability vs a regular automatic.

I will say driving a SportShift vs classic manual transmission is not the same. It never will be. If you get a SportShift tranny you will likely do what nearly all owners do, use it a few times and then leave it in automatic mode.

Drive both.

So would y’all buy a new subaru with the good old manual or the new “sportshift”?

Take a long test drive in one. I have rented couple of cars with the sportshift tranny. As much as I love standard shift cars I ended using those as a regular transmission. Kind of a waste IMHO. But reliability should not be an issue, unless damage is inflicted by enthusiastic driver-you can do that even without sportshift!

I’ve always driven a stick (except when I broke my left leg), but I wouldn’t be adverse to going to an automatic or a manumatic in my next car. With the number of gears they offer and the vastly improved economy, performance, and reliability over what automatics used to be, it’s difficult to justify a manual any more. Stop and go traffic every day is just murder with a stick. The computers are getting pretty smart about when to shift, but I suppose the ability to override their gear selection once in a while is good. About the only advantages of a manual are when driving for pleasure, easier to tow, and maybe they get stolen less often.

I once drove a 1950 Dodge that had a standard transmission, clutch, and a fluid coupling between the clutch and transmission. You could engage the clutch completely on an idling engine just like putting an automatic in drive and then just give the car gas to accelerate. I guess it gave you the disadvantages of both automatic and manual transmissions.
Now if that fluid drive was only used for first and reverse gears, that would be a great idea to re-introduce. Hill holding and trailer backing like an automatic but the efficiency of a true manual in the upper gears.

Just comes down to personal preference. Maintenance costs are not an issue to me. Age old auto vs. manual question, up to you.