Today’s performance cars are amazing. They push the limits of a company’s design language and make race-derived technology available to the masses. They can produce performance figures that would have put supercars to shame just decades ago while being as comfortable as a late-90s Benz. Cars like the Focus RS, Civic Type-R, and Subaru WRX STI are examples of the best performance compacts available to the average consumer. These are cars that the average 9-5 Joe can look at and potentially own without having to sell their firstborn.
These three spectacular examples of engineering lack a one feature: they all require you to row your own gears, with a manual transmission being the only option.
“It’s the purest form of driving!” You argue.
“Automatics are no fun!” You say.
“You don’t drive a manual, softie! Go away!” You scream.
I’m not saying these cars should go auto. I’m simply saying they should be offered with an optional automatic transmission since there’s usually an automatic transmission that can be mated to that engine already in production.
I used to work in the automotive industry as an automation specialist, and unsurprisingly, there were lots of car enthusiasts among my coworkers. We would chat about cars over lunch, discuss automotive news at break time, and remember each other by the vehicles we drove before remembering each other’s names.
One of my coworkers had an accident years prior which left permanent damage to his left leg, and as a result, he lost the ability to operate a clutch properly. The pain made driving a manual car unbearable, so when he was purchasing a new car, an automatic transmission was a must. He wanted something new, so he’d have a factory warranty, and he wanted something practical.
As an older car enthusiast and a loyal Volkswagen fan, the obvious choice was the monstrous AWD Golf R, in its 6th generation at the time. If you know anything about the 6th generation Golf R, you’ll know it was only offered with a 6-speed manual, which means my coworker’s condition made it downright impossible to drive.
We get caught up in a selfish desire to feel special. We imagine that car enthusiasts are some unique group and that cars like the manual-only Focus RS and Civic Type-R should be just for us; the ‘pure’ drivers who want a manual, a winding road, and nothing else. The reality is much harsher.
I’ve seen many complaints about the current Golf R and outgoing Evo X offering an automatic option; about how these cars should be manual-only because that’s what enthusiasts buying these cars should drive. When the new Type-R was rumoured to offer an automatic option, the internet went into full raging-psychopath mode. Even when the GT86/BRZ released, the announcement of its automatic option was met with mockery.
If car companies wish to include as many people as possible, they must release even their performance models with an automatic option. There is nothing for us enthusiasts to lose from the addition of an option, and everything for enthusiasts like my coworker to gain