Owning a car with a manual, however, can literally be a pain. I owned a Saab 900 Turbo when I lived in San Francisco, which is possibly the worst city in the United States to own a manual. You can easily spot a manual owner in San Francisco because they walk with a slight limp, due to the fact that their left leg is twice the size of their right leg. And it’s not from starting on a hills that’s so steep that if you drop your car keys on the sidewalk, they’ll slide into the bay. It’s from the 3-miles stop and go traffic on a 5% uphill gradient that keeps you in first gear for 2 hours. Some days I had to depress the clutch with my right leg, my left leg was in so much pain.
Years after that, I owned a 2005 BMW e46 M3 six-speed. The dream driver’s car, right? Not so much. Maybe I’m asking too much, but 95% of its powerband was in the upper revs – in order to pass the minivan next to me, I had to drive it like I was trying to melt the piston rings, causing many minivan drivers to look out their side window with amusement at the car blowing by them, turning the same RPMs of a leaf-blower at full throttle.
Okay, I exaggerate, but that car had about as much low-end power as my Escort. If I was on the interstate in 6th gear, and I needed to pass someone quickly, mashing the pedal did absolutely nothing. I had to downshift to 4th, while blipping the throttle so the engine braking wouldn’t cause my shoulder belt to lock) Oh, and every 100 miles, I had to pull into an ATM to pay for parts and repairs. Everything that broke costed $1200.
When I was looking for a car to replace it, I thought, “Hey, I’m in my 40’s now. Maybe it’s time for an automatic.” And when I need to unexpectedly accelerate, it goes into the correct gear instantly.
So, I bought a BMW E93 335is – bonus, the previous owner installed a Dinan Stage 2 package. And, it felt quicker than my E46 M3, due to its more low-end torque. It works perfectly. It shifts extremely quickly.
I missed blipping the throttle when I downshifted so my drinks didn’t spill. I missed putting it in neutral and coasting down hills. I’m afraid it the battery dies, I’ll have to call a tow truck, instead of bump-starting it. And, worst of all, I hate the feeling of things happening with the transmission happening underneath me that I cannot control.
I tried using the paddle shifters, and the gear shifter. It’s not the same. It’s too easy. Yes, it up shifts in one-quadrillioninth of a second, but all that was involved was my index finger. I like getting my entire body into it – coasting to a stop, rattling the shifter around neutral, while pressing both the clutch and brake at the same time. It’s like the difference between pedaling a bicycle, and riding the bus.
So, my next car will be a manual, I’ve determined. I know, only 5% (and dropping) of autos sold in the US have a stickshift. If auto importers are still sending cars with a clutch pedal to the US by this time next year, I might even buy one.