Automatic transmissions with "tap shifting"

I’m not sure what the correct terminology is; maybe it’s “paddle shifting” or something like that. The gist of it is that you have a car that has an automatic transmission, but you also have the capacity, via upshift and downshift levers, to work the transmission like a clutchless manual. I remember when that sort of feature was pretty rare and exotic, but I’m seeing it more and more in new cars. I test drove a Pontiac Grand Prix GTP that had that kind of transmission, and it was pretty dang cool. My question is this: is this kind of transmission eventually going to replace the “automatic or manual” options in cars? It seems to me that if manufacturers being to equip all of their models with this kind of transmission, they could save production costs associated with coming up with separate auto and manual transmissions. Is there any reason why you wouldn’t want that capability built into the car, provided that the cost is not greater than either of the traditional choices?

I wouldn’t want it - or at least, I’d want the ability to go fully manual. I like using a clutch, particularly on country lanes or when parking.

I’m manual guy myself, but accepted (read: settled for) the automatuc in my '05 Altima V6 because it had the touch shift, or whatever they call it.

Eh, it’s not so bad, but it doesn’t replace the joy of clutching and shifting. Mostly it’s of use in town, at stop and go, residential cruising. At very low speeds, like in a parking lot, the automatic seems to hop around a bit trying to find a good gear for you, this stops that and keeps you in a low gear nicely.

I don’t know about the others, but Nissan’s will decide to downshift for you once you fall below a certain speed. I guess this would be necessary in order to avoid lag, but it’s still kind of disconcerting if it happens before you would have chosen to make the downshift yourself. I believe it also has a limiter capability so you don’t over-rev, and foces upshifts, but haven’t tested that yet, and no, don’t plan to.

One other thing is unless you come to and hold a dead stop for a second or two at a stop sign, the car will get moving in 2nd instead of 1st. Which seems ok, the V6 has enough torque that you don’t notice or care, just something I noticed.

Don’t confuse what you experienced in the Grand Prix with true clutchless manual transmissions. The former is still an automatic transmission, complete with a viscous power coupling (which transfers power to the wheels from the engine via friction of automatic transmission fluid). The paddles or shifter on these automatics give you some of the benefits of a standard transmission (i.e., keeping the engine revs higher and thus, theoretically, in the “power band”), but are typically far short of manual transmission performance in terms of speed of shifting. My car, for instance, has a five-speed automatic with a “speed shift” mode; downshifting for passing on the highway can take half a second or more. Compare that to tenths of a second for a good manual transmission.

Is this the same thing as a “slap shift”, like the torqueflight 3-speed automatic that Dodge/chrysler/plymouth used in 1971?

Manumatic is as generic a term as I’ve seen.

Nope. The old single lever shifters (seperate from the transmission, btw) used a mechanical ratchet arrangement to advance only one gear at a time. Hurst also had a multiple lever system (Lightning Rods) with a lever for each gear but outside of mid-80s Hurst/Olds Cutlasses the only ones I’ve seen were for Lenco pneumatic transmissions, something exclusive to drag racing and never seen on the street IRL.

The new manumatics are electronically operated. The shift lever is just a switch.

The OP is looking more for opinions, so lets move this from GQ to IMHO.

samclem GQ moderator

Likely the grandfather of these would be the Mercedes-Benz hydrak from the late 50’s and early 60’s. Motion of the shift lever would cause disconnection of the fluid clutch as you moved from one gear to the next. Think of a stick without a clutch pedal.

“Paddle shifting” via a clutchless manual transmission has been the de facto standard in F1 cars as well as high-end exotic automobiles since the late 1990s, so yes - for one extremely high performance class of automobiles, the automatically shifted electronically controlled manual transmission has effectively replaced the automatic and manual options. High performance cars are also offered with electronic sequentially shifted (think motorcycle trasmission) manuals, but American buyers have generally been slow to pick up on the benefits of electronically controlled shifting systems, choosing manual transmissions much more often when purchasing performance cars.

In run-of-the-mill autos, the manumatic feature usually feels tacked-on or lifeless. No matter what the tuning, conventional auto trannies still use a torque convertor, the source of the term “slush box”. In most cases, electronic “Nannies” are ready to intervene, prompting upshifts, downshifts, or both, which may upset the car’s balance in high performance driving.

In general, as long as you’re not spending over 50K, any car worth shifting yourself is still worth shifting yourself, and that will probably be the case for a while. Sequentially shifted trannies might make some headway in the Rally/Sport Compact class, but I doubt they’ll become dominant in the sport luxury class, at least in the U.S.

Stan Doubt, I think you’re a little confused. The vast, and I mean vast, majority of sequential shift systems out there are traditional automatics with an electronic shift control. Sequential-shift manuals, which are what are found on F1 cars and a sprinkling of exotics - most notably Ferrari, are a different sort of box. They are more like traditional manuals in that they have a clutch pedal and must be shifted by driver input. That input is a press of a button, rather than rowing a mechanical lever, but the gear change is still done only at the implicit command of the driver. Manumatics have no clutch and sometimes shift without driver input, like when coming to a complete stop or when the car gets really out of sorts.

I haven’t driven any cars with sequential manuals, but I have driven a Porsche 911 (two actually), a BMW Z4, a Hyundai Tiburon, and a Dodge Intrepid with manumatic shifters. The Dodge was pretty much like the crap you describe, although using the term “slush box” shows that you really don’t know what you’re talking about. The development of lockup converters in the late seventies made ended the behavior described by “slushbox”. Modern automatics can easily exceed the accelleration performance of manuals; no human can shift as quickly and accurately as a computer. The others, and particularly the Tiptronic in the Porsche, the originator of this trend, is a thing of wonder. I have pushed a couple of different “Tipped” 911s hard and I have never been outmaneuvered by the transmission. The computer always did exactly what I wanted it to do, even on a race track under extreme condiditons. And I could just leave it in ‘D’ for the drive back to the City and keep a hand free for a Coke.

Oh, and the Hyundai and BMW? The BMW’s selector is ass-backward (forward to downshift?!?) and I can’t stand it. On the rare occasion I drive that car (it’s my mother’s), I just leave the damn thing in drive. The Hyundai was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t push the car real hard (it only had 800 miles on it then) but it acted as I expected it to act.

I’d not be so quick to condemn the use of this term. I’ve driven modern automatics that truly do have that slushbox feel. It made a 2000 model Misubishi V6 (I drove it new) feel like a houseboat.

This is where these auto vs. manual threads always end up. My cards are on the table as a diehard manual loony, but I have to agree with the above. With a caveat though - automatics can exceed the performance of a manual in shifting respionse time and accuracy. Whether they do or not in the real world is a different story. If I drag race you in a manual Porsche and you’re in an auto, I am pretty certain you would win. Partly this is because I would not be familiar with the car, but also because the auto box is the superior unit. But how many of us have Porsches as our daily drivers? Auto trannies are improving all the time, and they are now superior to manuals, but only at the top end of the market. For your suburban Toyota runabout, and with a driver familiar with the box, the manual is still in front. This will inevitably change of course, but not just yet. The auto units being put into average cars today still have a way to go. My WAG would be it’ll take another decade at least for the bottom end of the market to catch up to the point that all auto transmissions are going to give you better control and fuel economy than the equivalent manual box. The technology is here now though - I don’t dispute that for a moment.

Of course all this is well and good, but people like me just like the manuals because they’re fun. That aspect is hard to replace with an auto box of any sort. On the other hand, people who prefer automatics have their valid reasons too, and they will buy them anyway. Maybe this is why the car manufacturers are reluctant to install the very latest tech if it is only going to increase the sticker price, turning away the average suburban Joe.

To answer the OP more directly, I’d have to say that in the short to medium term, we will still have automatic and manual options as we traditionally know them. In the long term, there will be no debate. My grandkids will be driving cars with four direct drive electric motors in the wheels (powered by God knows what), and I will be explaining to them what a transmission was. Transmissions generally that is, let alone the distinction between auto and manual. There won’t be any transmissions.

That always seemed to me to be the correct way round :confused:

It’s backward compared to the Tiptronic and to all the traditional American muscle car ratchet shiters (which are based on regular automatic floor shifters) so, yeah, I’d call it ass-backward. The only traditional shifter that is close is the crappy old J-matic Jaguar shifter. The less said about that one, the better.

What year Z4 was it? IIRC (don’t quote me, but I think I read about it in Car and Driver) they switched the shifting direction in the later model years.

2003 or 2004. Like I said, it’s my stepmother’s car; I’ve only driven it a handful of times and don’t ever attempt to borrow it. Dad has a 1994 Porsche 911 Speedster (one of less than 10 in the US with a Tiptronic) that we take out for drives once in a while. After one drive to determine that it doesn’t make a pimple on the ass of a 911, I’ve lost interest in the Z4.

I’ve no idea what that’s like, the only time I had a chance to drive an XJ8 Dad decided I wasn’t good enough to get behind the wheel (even though he couldn’t get into it or get it started till I showed him how :rolleyes: )

But for me, spirited driving is done though gears 3-4, so a downshift is to 3rd for more power and then 4th when you’re nearing the red.

I think you are the one who is confused. I wrote:

The fact that you think Ferraris, F1 cars, and the few Sequential Manual Trans sports cars (e.g., BMW, Toyota) have clutch pedals shows this pretty clearly.

Some links that might help:

I stand corrected on the pedal thing. I had thought that the new rules in F1 dictated a pedal but it appears that the new manual clutch for launching (no more launch control this year) is a hand-operated lever behind the steering wheel. A friend who has driven a Maranello told me he had to hold the pedal to utilize the reverse lever. I had inferred a clutch pedal but a quick inquiry just now informed me that he meant brake pedal.

From your cites, it looks like the sequential manuals are starting to blur the line more and more. The latest systems generally offer a fully automatic mode as well as manual shifting. It’s going to be interesting to see if sequentials can make any further headway in the market. Having driven Porsche’s cars, I’d say the bar is set pretty damn high.

Originally posted by sewalk

Actually, again, you are the one who does not know what he’s talking about. This board is about fighting ignorance. Lock up torque converters did not and do not obviate the term “slush box”. Is there a fluid coupling between the engine and the gears? It’s a slush box.

The fact that you even bring up the lockup torque converter in this discussion shows that you do not understand how one works or what it does. Lock up torque convertors only operate at cruising speeds in the higher gears. Try these links:

The term “slush box” originated with drag racers to describe the behavior of automatic transmissions when coupled to high-performance engines. The torque converter (and crappy clutch packs and loose bands) allowed the transmission input shaft to spin slower than the crankshaft, even at high rpms. On custom built engines, the slippage would occur almost all the way down the 1/4 mile run.

Your links leave out some details:
Lockup torque converters don’t just operate at highway cruising speeds. Whenever engine speed exceeds the stall speed of the torque converter clutch, lockup occurs and slippage is eliminated, along with the fluid linkage you mention. The road speed of the vehicle is immaterial.
Slippage is not necessarily a bad thing. A car with a manual transmission uses slippage between the clutch and pressure plate to allow a vehicle to accelerate smoothly. The alternative is to spin the tires. A little clutch slip is much better than a smoky burnout. NHRA pro class cars use clutches with a very specific slip factor; too little slip and the run goes up in smoke, too much and optimum acceleration is not acheived. Dialing in a clutch is considered the ultimate skill a NHRA crew chief can possess. Even in road racing, a little clutch slip can be handy, as in hell-and-toe driving.

“Slushbox” as a generic term for automatic transmissions has persisted after the behavior the term was used to describe was engineered out. To imply that it still describes a specific behavior in a modern performance car is simply not in concordance with reality. I don’t know of a single modern automatic transmission made without a lockup torque converter. Lockup converters can even be added to older transmissions that weren’t originally equipped with them.