Buying Guide: Manual vs F1 Transmissions

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Buying Guide: Manual vs F1 Transmissions

Buying Guide: Manual vs F1 Transmissions

Here’s a question (and argument) that I hear all the time: What’s better, what’s faster and what costs less or more to maintain? It seems like a simple question to answer, but it definitely is not. Ultimately, only you know what’s right for you – but if you’re in the market for a brand new exotic, you’ll notice manufacturers have plenty of advice for you. I’m going to cut through the marketing to cover the basic pros and cons of each transmission to help you better decide what’s right for you.

Lets start with the manual, 3 pedal transmission – a design that’s been used since Ferrari and Lamborghini began making cars up until just a few years ago. The thing I love most about manuals is the overall control you feel over the car, and the closeness and feedback it gives you. Even when you drive a 308 with less horsepower than a modern minivan, you still experience the liberating pleasure of piloting the car. Navigating your way through the gears, feeling the tingle of a perfect downshift at any given stop sign. It’s “Man vs machine”, the endless satisfaction of improving and testing your skills – without having to race or even push your self to dangerous limits. Manuals do have their shortcomings (stuck going up the 405, anyone?). There’s the lack of efficiency compared to a modern automated tranny. The lack of consistency while racing. And then there’s the learning curve where you risk making mistakes and ruining a synchro or clutch! So, for those of us who love the old-school feeling and pleasure of driving a 5- or 6-speed, there’s just no substitute.

Now, let’s look at the a typical manually automated trans, such as the Ferrari F1. The positives are many: Super-fast, consistent shifts. Even if you could pull off a shift as quick as the 40ml second computer, you wouldn’t be able to keep it up over and over again – especially in a race. Then there’s the ease of driving – anyone with fingers and a right foot can drive one – and fast – with little or no experience (in a straight line, at least)! The downside? The mechanical brakedowns are people’s biggest worries, and rightfully so, especially since the technology is newer, and ever evolving. Although the more modern dual clutch setups are infinitely faster, and more reliable, the early dry clutch versions can still have isues that can cost into the thousands to fix when something does go wrong. Another complaint – the boredom of having a computer stealing the fun out of shifting and driving your car. Anyone (with the guts to do so) can smash the gas pedal and look like a pro, magically making one perfect shift after another! 

I hope this helps clarify which transmission is right you. Regardless, most manufacturers are switching to F1-style transmissions, wether we like it or not. That may perfectly suit your needs, but for the rest of us, you can still pick up Ferrari 550 or Lamborghini Diablo and enjoy the control and pleasure of an amazing machine – even if they are the last of a dying, but timeless breed.99DIABLO-0035

This article was written by Damian