What vehicle is better with an automatic transmission?

Mack Trucks

Welcome to “According to You,” a weekly prompt on Hagerty Media where we pose a question, collect the answers, and share them the following week.

This time around, we want to know: What vehicle is better with an automatic transmission?

Many of us trumpet the mantra of Save the Manuals, while we endlessly lament the demise of three pedals in sports cars. (I’m looking at you, Corvette!) But as much as we love the freedom and control of a stick shift in any dynamic maneuver, we all know certain vehicles are better with an automatic. I was inspired to ask everyone this question because of the vehicle above. Every Friday morning I either hear the sound, or watch the garbage truck move down my street, grabbing everyone’s refuse at a furious pace.

The garbage truck’s motor and transmission quickly spool up and launch these mighty beasts a full 30 feet from driveway to driveway, emptying every trash can with the precision of a torque converter coupling engine to transmission. The sheer number of times this happens in a single mile of use must make for a miserable experience, if not for an automatic transmission eliminating a few steps in the process.

But not every massive commercial vehicle is better with an automatic, and its a shame that Toyota stopped making the Camry with a 6-speed manual.

I fondly remember many a school bus driver shuttling me to school with a manual transmission controlling either a Ford 385-series big block, or an International Harvester V-8 engine. The sound was exciting, the sensation of speed was entertaining, and the bus drivers seemed to be enjoying their job. Well, that’s provided the kids inside weren’t being disruptive little pricks, but I digress …

  • Garbage trucks? All that starting and stopping makes a manual transmission a miserable notion.
  • Cadillac Fleetwoods, Buick Electras, and Lincoln Town Cars? Commander Cody fans aside, those need an automatic to serve their intended purpose.
  • School buses and RVs? Maybe not as much, especially if they rarely visit the big cities.
  • Ordinary cars of all shapes and sizes? Well, it’s a shame that North Americans love automatics, when the rest of the world drives a stick.

So the question remains: What vehicle do you think is better with an automatic transmission?

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    All cars are better with an automatic. People should bepaying attention to where they are going, insteadof massaging the powertrain just to keep the car going.

    I’ve always liked standard transmissions – in my “fun cars”. Would have HATED a standard on my ’76 Ramcharger 318 with the snow plow – – -. Driving a standard anything in rush hour can be a pain but I bought my Ranger 4.0 5 speed largely because it was a standard and I avoid rush hour driving, particularly since I’m retired. I can’t imagine having had an automatic in the rallye car (1972 R12) or the mini (1960 850) – or a standard in the Chrysler New YHorker Brogham – – That said, I enjoy being able to just drop the Kia Sorento V6 into drive and set the cruise and let it eat up the miles.

    Consider the opposite is actually true:

    All cars are better with a manual. People should be paying attention to driving, instead of focusing their attention on other distractions.

    The reality is most people find everyday driving – particularly on American roads in American traffic – incredibly unengaging. Distracted driving has become one of the biggest risks to safety on the roads today.

    Consider that every convenience feature that gets added, every function that gets automated, every vehicle and road improvement that makes driving safer, actually makes driving even more unengaging.

    Inevitably, people look for something they consider more interesting to focus on – something to distract them from being bored. And there are so many distractions readily available now: make a phone call, have a meal, read or listen to a book, catch up on social media, as well as numerous forms of infotainment built right into the car.

    An automatic allows people be even less engaged in the activity of driving, and therefore, will make people even less likely to pay attention to anything driving related – especially where they are going.

    Have you ever spent any real time driving a stick? It becomes second nature, and is less distracting than talking to a passenger in the car, for example. I estimate I have driven stick-shift cars, pickups, and vans over 200,000 miles, and manual-transmission motorcycles over 40,000 miles, and truly believe any distraction from them is VERY rare, and very minimal when it does occur.

    Postal trucks are suited to automatics.

    Or any vehicle I am driving when I am tired and just want to get home.

    I’m with you, Sajeev. Fleetwoods, Electras, and other boulevard cruisers are better with an auto. Two miles-per-hour, so every body sees you.

    School buses it was to widen the pool of potential drivers.

    Most long commuter vehicles make sense as automatics.

    Back in the first wave of turbocharged cars in the 80s, an auto helped smooth power delivery by keeping the turbo spooled up between shifts, since without heavy computer management they were laggy and peaky. It was noted in one of the buff books that the 280zx turbo was better with the slushbox.

    I purchased the truck I have specifically to get a manual transmission. That said, I’ve driven lots of vehicles for work and for personal use. The only one I ever really thought would be better with a manual was a 3/4-ton Ram with a first year 6.7L diesel making about 350 hp. When unloaded, with the turbo, a heavy foot, and 6 gears from which to choose , it always felt like you were shifting too soon to enjoy the power. Now when you put a load in or hooked to the Dodge, it was MUCH more enjoyable to drive with a stick. But that truck is part of the reason why my daily driver truck (empty half the time) is a stick shift but not a diesel.

    As a former Army tanker, who drove both us auto tanks & Russian manuals in the late 70s, I can emphatically say the switch to an auto trans in tanks was a huge improvement in driver control & stamina. American tanks went to automatics in the late 40s/early 50s, while the soviets retained manula thru the early 80s. Driving a manual tank of any vintage, most with steel friction plates vs fiber, and some with non-helical gears & no synchronizes in lower gears, was like constantly doin Indian left leg wrestling while u drove! Double clutching was taught & mandatory for smooth operation & most had hand tillers to manual brake 1 track side to turn. Long term tank drivers had to have strong lft clutch legs, knees, wrists, arms & back to operate these beasts. Auto us tanks & their NATO brethren were a breeze to steer(auto hydraulic brake ctrls for each track pt of the trans), accelerate, brake & manuever.

    Any vehicle I have to drive in Tallahassee, FL, or while commuting. Had a 1976 Plymouth Feather Duster with a Slant Six and a 4-speed OD tranny the first time I lived here (1979-1982). and will never have a manual again while living here or commuting. Some streets have a traffic light or stop sign (feels like) every 100 feet, and way too many are on hills.

    Snowmobiles and sxs vehicles work amazingly well with what could be considered automatic transmissions (cvt).

    I have a Honda Goldwing Tour with the DCT transmission and in auto mode it shifts so much better than me, I love it.

    Most any car with a dual clutch transmission is better than the manual version. I’ve had a number of Porsche 911’s over the years, and our current 2010 C4S with 7 speed PDK is faster, more responsive and easier to drive. Launch control allows me to embarrass serious drag racers at the strip and the stoplight drags. Also our diesel Jetta with a 6 speed DSG was much better than the manual version from performance and fuel mileage standpoints.

    The Allison automatic behind a Duramax diesel is a fantastic set up in my HD 2500. I don’t miss a manual, especially when towing and in stop/go traffic.

    Now, from a “fun” standpoint, its the Boxster S 6 speed or the Chevelle SS 502/Tremec 5 speed.

    Back in the 70’s I wrote away to the Aston Martin dealership in the big city. They sent me their sales brochure on the then new Aston Martin V8. I wish I could afford an Aston Martin, because the dealership is still in business, and I’ve always thought it was a kind gesture on their part.
    My father and a friend of his were paging through the brochure one day, and his friend remarked, “They’re gonna charge me $25,000 [about $130,000 today] and I still have to shift gears?!” My dad pointed out that automatic transmission was a no-cost option, which made my dad’s friend feel a little better, though not much. My dad had read the brochure before. Clearly, he had been thinking along the same lines.
    I pointed out that the Aston Martin came with a ZF 5-speed transmission, something really special at the time. A lot of car makers were still offering base models with 3 on the tree. My dad’s friend wasn’t impressed.
    He was a dentist, and had put himself through school delivering milk. The milk truck he had had to drive had a manual transmission with no synchromesh, a heavy clutch and a long throw shift lever. No tachometer. To him, shifting gears was work, and a car with an automatic transmission was a luxury he was going to make sure he had. I’ll bet that with every milk bottle he delivered he dreamed of the day when the only gear shifting he’d do was from park or neutral into drive or reverse. And after he became a dentist that’s exactly what he did.

    Back when I was in Middle School (grades 6,7, & 8) we had a bus driver that used that Blue Bird 5 speed as an instrument of torture because she in her own words “hated public school kids”. It got so bad that every kid on the bus reported her. I’m sure she would have been able to torment us with an automatic, but it might have been harder. That woman was the worst adult bully I ever encountered in the entire school system.

    Any Mopar from the pushbutton automatic era is better with that feature for the sheer coolness factor especially since the 3 pedal alternative was generally a 3 on the tree.

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