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Manual vs Automatic

A majority of us have always believed manuals transmissions offer superior fuel economy to automatics. It makes sense, you have greater control over gear selection, less mechanical power losses and a lower weight from your gearbox. However, the automotive industry has progressed significantly over the last few decades. Car design and technology has been through breakthroughs on all fronts, including transmission systems.

With fuel economy becoming a more crucial factor for car buyers, manufacturers are always trying to squeeze out improved MPG. So where does this leave us with automatics, have they caught up with the manuals? Continue to find out which transmission you should choose for your next car.

3 and 4 Speed Transmissions – Long Gone

As automatics first became popular in the mass markets, 3 and 4 speed transmissions were the standard. At this stage autos were already at quite a disadvantage with a shorter range of gears. The ratios would have to be spread further, resulting in a need to rev the engine higher to progress up through gears. Even once up to the cruising speed on motorways, the engine would need to be revved higher than a manual to stay at suitable speeds. In the beginning it’s no surprise they could not match their manual brothers for economy.

Fast forward to present day, automatics have held the test of time, revised, refined and updated. Now automatics usually have the same number of gears as manuals, levelling the playing field. Recently we have even seen the release of up to 8 speed automatic transmissions! With a friendlier spread of gear, its safe to say that autos are no longer cursed with always over-revving.

The Torque Converter - Dreaded

A torque converter is the heart of an automatic transmission system, linking the power from the engine to the drive at the wheels. Admittedly our first attempts at using this technology with autos resulted in reduced efficiency. Slippage in the converter caused a small loss of power and increased fuel consumption.

Once enough time was spent on development, automatic transmissions began to use locking torque converters. By securely locking at high speed, slippage is prevented and economy is brought back up. When driving around town at lower speed a minor slippage returns and with it a minor dip in economy.

Modern autos now feature super low friction clutches and electronically controlled engagement. Computer control enables a superior connection between transmission, engine and braking. You can relax whilst your car automatically performs the optimum gear changes. With this technology there is no noticeable reduction in economy, in fact its capable of beating many manuals.

Heavier Weight – Still Relevant

In spite our best technological break-through, the heavier the car is the lower the fuel efficiency. These more sophisticated transmission systems come an increased weight over a manual in most cases. This will be contributing factor to the vehicles overall weight and resultant economy.

How Do You Drive? – Most Significant Factor

Consider this, when driving a manual car are you focusing on optimal gear changes? If not, you may find modern automatics will provide you with matched or even improved economy. Your driving style has a tremendous impact on your vehicle’s economy, regardless of the transmission systems. Now remember, we can no longer preach that manuals give improved economy over automatics.


Driving Advice  11/09/2015 09:15:08

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