At Ultimate Drives we have the opportunity to see all kinds of people, cars and roads. This diversity is what makes the job interesting. We recently went out as the pace car for a bike tour (a foray to the dark side) around the Black Forest, our pace car we used the Audi A5 S-line convertible with some interesting results.
The car did look a bit of a “hairdressers afair” due to the light blue color mainly (black and it’s a whole different ball game). The performance though is reasonable as was the handling (it was the quattro). This said there was one thing that bugged us during the 400 km tour around Germany on a Sunday. Personally I am used to a manual which means to overtake you drop down and you are away, no lag, no problem. The Audi was an auto with sport mode, and overtaking was, interesting at the best of times, scary at the worst. The Lag between putting your foot down and the actual acceleration was not only too long but also random, ranging from half a second to 2 seconds depending on the situation, also, go at the wrong speed and the box can drop too low, red line almost instantly, requiring two changes when one would do.
This brought me to the question, what is better when touring around somewhere like the Black Forest, Manual or Auto?
Now I fully understand if you have a double clutch DSG system as with most of our super cars, then this problem does not exist – these do seem to now offer the best of both worlds. However, not everyone has the luxury (unless they take a break with us!) to drive or own these cars. This leaves us with the sort of car we took yesterday.
The advantages of manual gearboxes are evident to the true drivers driver, the feel of control, engine breaking and the rest are not possible if you hand these responsibilities to a computer. They are of course also lighter and often more fuel efficient (no torque convertors etc). In years gone by, all cars with a sporting aspiration were manual and until very recently it was the best option by far. The disadvantages however are equally important, Speaking from personal experience in my Porsche 911 if you tried to pull away at over 6000 rpm then the clutch would actually physically not engage, causing a surge of power to the rear axle that had nowhere to go, effectively causing huge damage, my point being that you really have to know how to drive before even trying. Furthermore, a day up and down changing, round the turns you can find yourself requiring a new left leg for clutch duties on your return run.
The advantages of the automatic are slightly less well known, apart from the obvious advantage on long journeys and the cruise factor. With the technical advances that have been made, a good automatic gearbox is close to a manual in every way (this one even «attempted to blib the throttle on downshifts), and better in most. That said if you are thinking of buying a mid range saloon, if you like your driving, you are still infinitely better off with a manual, due to the lack of response and the sometimes alarmingly slow delay from even some of the best auto boxes out there. Of course if you can tick the DSG button option, our recommendation is to do just that, not only does it offer the best of both worlds, it can actually make you look (and sound) like a half decent driver to boot.
Coming soon – so who really manufactures the best DSG/F1/Flappy Paddle whatever you want to call it, gearbox out there ?