Today, the decision between automatic and manual transmission is no longer just a “sporty” driving style. Automatic transmissions have a few disadvantages, but also many advantages.

Prejudices of the gear type

Common preconceptions include high fuel consumption and poor driving performance. But this is only partly true. Whether these points still hold true depends primarily on the type of transmission – because not all automatic systems are the same. To shed some light on this, let’s take a closer look at the variants.

Automatic transmissions – what types exist?

There are very different approaches to building an automatic transmission. Each type differs in its advantages and disadvantages compared to the manual transmission, but also among themselves. To do this, you first need a very rough understanding of the differences between the different types of transmission.

THE MANUAL TRANSMISSION

The manual transmission is known to most people and in Germany it is much more common than the automatic transmission. An advantage of this type is the high efficiency. This results in good driving performance and low fuel consumption – although of course this also depends heavily on the driving style itself. The manual transmission also scores with its compact dimensions and – in comparison – low manufacturing costs. A disadvantage is the uncomfortable operation with manual gearshift and clutch. Although this is of course also a matter of taste. However, the interruption of tractive power during shifting cannot be denied.

THE AUTOMATIC TORQUE CONVERTER

The automatic torque converter transmission is the most original form of automatic transmission and is mainly found in higher priced vehicles. This type of transmission has a high number of gears – usually 7 to 9, sometimes 10. With manual transmissions it is usually 5 to 6. The many gears allow the engine to run at low revs even at higher speeds. This saves fuel.

Other advantages of this transmission are the high driving comfort and the low-wear technology. The high torque when starting up is particularly advantageous for heavy vehicles and when starting uphill. The disadvantage is that they are usually heavier, larger and more expensive than manual transmissions.

AUTOMATED MANUAL TRANSMISSION

It is very similar in design to the manual transmission. But you don’t have to shift and clutch by yourself. These processes are controlled hydraulically or electrically. This type of transmission is mainly used in small cars and commercial vehicles. Mostly you can choose between manual shift, selector lever or automatic mode in this case.

Advantages compared to the automatic transmission are the lower costs and the smaller dimensions. The consumption depends of course on the shift strategy. If you choose it wisely, you can even save fuel. However, the shifting comfort is rather moderate. This is partly due to long shifting breaks and noticeable interruptions in traction.

Due to the advantages of the dual-clutch transmission, this product range has tended to decline in recent years.

DUAL CLUTCH TRANSMISSION

The dual clutch transmission is similar in nature to the automated manual transmission. However, it consists of two sub-transmissions instead of one. Put simply, these partial transmissions alternate when shifting up and down. This smooth transition means that there is no interruption in tractive power and the shifting processes are jerk-free. Good acceleration values are also achieved. The problem with this variant are the clutches. They are efficient, but not as resilient.
The advantages of this type of transmission are the high level of comfort, the fast gear changes, and the fact that there is no interruption in tractive power. Compared to the automatic torque converter transmission, they are better suited for high revving engines.

The disadvantages compared to the manual transmission are the higher space requirement and the higher weight. Compared to the automatic torque converter transmission, the worse starting comfort and the higher wear are the main drawbacks.

Conclusion

The old prejudices like high consumption and poor driving performance are no longer true. Above all, modern automatic torque converter and dual clutch transmissions achieve good fuel consumption. They are also increasingly losing their “unsporting” reputation. Many sports cars today are only delivered with automatic transmissions.

Especially with small cars, however, one should also consider the disadvantages. The automated manual transmissions, which are usually installed there, are often inexpensive and not ideally tuned. This results in slow gear changes and especially the “speedy” driver is better off with the manual gearshift. With the dual-clutch transmission, the higher wear and tear must be taken into account. In the end, everyone should weigh up the advantages and disadvantages for themselves during an extensive test drive.

manuelles Schaltgetriebe im Auto

And in the future?

Number of people in Germany whose car is equipped with an automatic transmission from 2014 to 2018 (in millions):

  • 2014: 7,14 million people
  • 2015: 7,8 million
  • 2016: 8,48 million
  • 2017: 8,65 million
  • 2018: 9,55 million

Source: IfD Allensbach © Statista 2018 | Further information: Germany; 2014 to 2018; from 14 years; German-speaking population

Market share of automatic transmissions increases

The market share of automatic transmissions in Europe is steadily increasing. Whereas in the past they were only installed in high-priced vehicles, they are now found in all classes. And the market share will continue to grow. This is mainly due to the increasing spread of electric and hybrid vehicles. Moreover, many modern assistance systems work best with automatic transmissions. The closer we get to autonomous driving, the more important this type of drive becomes. And who knows? It is possible that we will hardly have any cars with manual transmissions in the future.

Author of the article

Arianna Blittersdorf

Arianna Blittersdorf

Social Media Manager

Born in Cologne, she now lives in Bochum, in the middle of the “Pott”. At work it is all about mobility, at home there are game nights, a good book and somewhere there is always a reserve of chocolate.

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