Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Why I prefer driving standard

I'm certainly not the first to explain why I prefer owning and driving a car with a standard transmission. In fact I've read some write-ups on line. There are some humorous ones - and some on the more practical end.

I've been driving for 28 years. All of my cars have been 5-speed standard transmissions. Except for a regrettable span of owning a Mazda, all of these have been Honda or Acura products. So here is why I stick with this.

1.  Commitment to driving well

My philosophy on driving is to strive to concentrate fully on driving when I'm behind the wheel. Now I do change radio stations, and can toggle through the CDs in the CD changer. I don't eat or drink in the car - even at rest. I keep my use of the hands-free/bluetooth to short calls.

Even so, there are distractions when driving - mainly mental distractions - about work, about dinner, about weekend plans, about life.

When driving a stick, one must drive. Not only does the driver need to physically shift gears, he must anticipate and plan the shift. After 28 years, this is second nature to a degree - but it does require more attention that lolly-gagging along in an automatic. This helps keep the driver - if he is committed to driving well, sharp.

2. Fuel economy

Standard transmissions give better gas mileage than automatic.

3. Cost

An automatic transmission will add about $2,000 to the price of a new car. If you buy 8 new cars over your driving lifetime, that's $16,000 - a lot of money.

4. Winter driving

After you've driven standard for a while, and feeling how the car is reacting to the road becomes second nature, you know you to use the gears and clutch to ease the car out of a slippery spot. You can shift an automatic to a specific gear - but it's not quite the same. (And most people who drive automatics have no idea how to do it!)

5. Acceleration

Manual transmissions have better acceleration. Not only that, you have better control of the acceleration - because you the driver decide when to shift into the next gear. This is pretty important when getting on the 401, 400 or Highway 11 - or accelerating when going up a noticeable grade. (This is when you really enjoy ….er benefit from the Honda/Acura VTEC engine!)

Sure you can get great acceleration with an automatic - but your'e paying for a larger engine, and the gas mileage that goes along with that.

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