Published at Tuesday, April 14th 2020. by Suzette Dubois in manual car.
Hill start assist isn’t exclusive to stick-shift cars, but the feature makes it easier to master one of the tougher skills of driving a manual: starting on a hill without rolling backward. Without hill start assist, quick footwork on the gas and clutch — or a hand-operated parking brake applied in tandem — will keep you from rolling backward, but get it wrong and you’ll stall the engine. Hill start assist grants more time to start off by briefly holding the brakes after you’ve released the brake pedal. It’s a common feature on cars as affordable as the Honda Civic and Ford Fiesta.
Cars need transmissions because of the physics of the gasoline engine. First, any engine has a redline — a maximum rpm value above which the engine cannot go without exploding. Second, if you have read How Horsepower Works, then you know that engines have narrow rpm ranges where horsepower and torque are at their maximum. For example, an engine might produce its maximum horsepower at 5,500 rpm. The transmission allows the gear ratio between the engine and the drive wheels to change as the car speeds up and slows down. You shift gears so the engine can stay below the redline and near the rpm band of its best performance.
The transmission is connected to the engine through the clutch. The input shaft of the transmission therefore turns at the same rpm as the engine, which improves both power output and fuel economy. CVTs became common in hybrid cars because they are considerably more efficient than both manual and traditional automatic transmissions, and their popularity skyrocketed from there as automakers competed for the best possible fuel economy ratings. As of late 2016, one out of every four cars sold in the United States was equipped with a CVT.
The manual transmission is on the endangered species list. Every year fewer and fewer cars are offered with a clutch and a shifter. Why? Americans just don’t want to be bothered with the chore of working a clutch with their left foot and shifting with their right. And sports car manufacturers are the worst offenders when it comes to quitting on the stick shift. Because the newest computer-controlled automatics can shift more quickly than any human can, engineers see the manual transmission as outdated.
Even if you’re among the rare car buyer who prefers to drive a manual, you’ll have a hard time finding one the next time you go to a dealership. Some manufacturers keep the manual around as an excuse to charge more for an automatic or CVT, but the flip side of that is it’s difficult to get a well-equipped car with a manual transmission. If you want options such as engine upgrades or all-wheel drive, those features often come only on models or trim levels that do not offer manual transmissions. Sports cars, which used to be surefire ways to get manual transmissions, are also turning toward faster and more efficient automatic options.
Manual transmissions haven’t seen the rapid increase in forward gears that automatic transmissions have with the rise of eight-, nine- and 10-speed automatics, but cars like the Porsche 911 offer seven-speed manuals rather than the more common six-speed gearbox. What’s the benefit? The extra seventh gear is very tall, which means better gas mileage during highway cruising.
When you first feel behind the wheel of a manual car, it’s good to understand how to use the car’s features that will be studied. Especially the steering system features such as the location of the gas pedal, brakes, and clutch.
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