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Ford Focus RS - Automatics vs Manuals




A few days ago, Motor Trend posted about the debut of the highly anticipated Ford Focus RS. As with just about every debut of a new performance car, an auto vs manual debate shows up in the comments section. The main argument for auto is that modern dual clutch autos are no longer slow and a detriment to performance so why go for an outdated technology (i.e. manual)? This really annoys me. If someone just wants the fastest, they should want intakes, heads and cams tuned for high rpm for max power, mid range be darned. They should want huge turbos for maximum power with no concern for spool times and linear power deliver. That's not the case, though, those who want autos still want a car that's always responsive and linear throughout the rpm range because it isn't a race car and it won't always be at max boost and rpm.

There are compromises that have to be made for street cars to make them enjoyable and fun to drive as often as possible. A manual is one of these. I won't even use cliches like feeling more connected to the car and being one with the machine. It's about the action. I truly love driving, every aspect of it. I don't want anything taken away. Going to an auto means something is taken away. It's like have an excellent traction control and/or AWD system where you just mash the gas pedal and let the computers figure out how much power to send to the wheels. Another example (albeit an extreme one) is no gas pedals and no brakes, just steering. This is what it feels when I think of getting an auto. Giving up some of the action and letting the car do it for me. Sure, you can put most modern dual clutch boxes in manual mode and it will hold gears but you still lose control over the clutch. And can you get the satisfaction of doing a perfect heel-and-toe downshift? Heck, no!

I agree that a dual clutch should be an option for those who put more emphasis on performance figures or, even more importantly, people that cannot drive a manual because of a physical condition. That's by no means, though, a good enough reasons to say a manual is outdated or unnecessary. The only thing I don't like about a manual is going in slow city traffic. But city traffic IS annoying, with or without a manual. An auto only reduces the effort. Saying no to a manual because of city traffic is like saying no to a stiffer suspension because of discomfort over bumps. Hopefully, manufacturers will keep offering manuals, despite the lower demand.


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