No offence to VW Fan Boy*, but how many more of these are we going to have on Oppo? To be honest, I've become almost completely numb to the whole debate. I've pretty much stopped caring. Yes, I like having a manual gearbox, but its importance is exaggerated a lot by internet enthusiasts. The transmission alone is not the be all and end all of the driving experience. It is just one element. We're now at a point where the class-leading auto/semi-auto gearboxes are so good that the cars they're in can be just as much fun in their own way (and lest we forget, "different" is not "wrong").
Take the 991 GT3. As expected, after a trillion comments about it only having a PDK and no manual gearbox, everyone who's actually driven it has jizzed all over the sun visors, sometimes even more than once. Why? Because it's a brilliant car (I've read). With its rear-steer system and the usual new suspension, wider wheels and so on, it's incredibly agile, and that 475bhp H6 engine revs to nine thousand RPM. That can never be boring! From the outside, it genuinely sounds like the full-on racing 911 instead of a road car, and seemingly-instant shifts are undeniably a part of that. What's more, the gearbox is not the only source of communication between driver and car. How about the pedals and, more importantly, the steering wheel? Y'know, that thing that tells you what the car is doing, what the road is doing and how your inputs are affecting the front or even the back wheels? You can moan about electric systems not always having the same feedback as before, but it's all in the execution. Your precious Toyobaru GTBRZ86 has an EPAS, for example. Ever complained about it? Ever read complaints about it in reviews?
Anyway, this thing about fast shifts brings me onto something that's true of many new performance cars including the GT3. The latest performance cars are now incredibly quick in every direction, to the point where the 5 tenths of a second a manual gear change takes could feel like a great yawning chasm between refined bursts of seamless and often-brutal acceleration. When everything else about, say the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta is so damn fast, from the steering to the engine response to the powerful carbon brakes, long gear changes might make the experience feel disjointed. Old hat. An equally-hyperactive DCT with lightning-fast changes adds to the whole experience of mind-bending speed (it seems - I can't pretend I've driven an F12). The same goes for the 458. For car companies, it also improves all acceleration times, and fuel efficiency as Auto Mode jumps to the highest gear possible as early as possible. In the new 911 Turbo, it even uses "virtual intermediary gears" where the PDK slips the clutch in some clever way to try and get the revs down even earlier for better eco figures, which is necessary when regulations are so stringent these days. Paddle shifting can be exciting too. In the new GT3 you can even pull both paddles at once to put it in neutral, which when moving is effectively the same as a clutch kick and throws the tail end out if you're entering a corner. Insta-drift!
But hey, if you're really bloody-minded about making the internet think you drive like Colin McRae all day e'rry day, then here's a seemingly counter-intuitive thought: manual cars will exist for YEARS, possibly even decades yet. This isn't just because in Europe most people still learn to drive with a manual car, and as part of the circle manual cars are offered at the lower end of the market for new drivers. It's because there will always be specialist car companies making what you are unreasonably expecting mainstream manufacturers to make in abundance in 2013: light, stripped out sports cars for enthusiasts. Ariel. Caterham. Factory Five. It goes on and on. There will always be people who recognise that many keen drivers want manual transmissions, and they or their successors will be there to make them. Mainstream car companies, for the most part, have their hands tied. Ultimately the manual gearbox is dying out in supercars because nobody wants them who is actually buying the cars. Case in point: when Porsche (again) made the recently-replaced 997 Turbo S, they only offered a PDK, because while the standard 911 Turbo offered both, about 95% of buyers weren't interested in a clutch pedal. So why bother? It's not worth it to them. In fact, in a way, for them it's not really that different to tape cassette players getting replaced by CD players, and increasingly CD players getting replaced by USB ports and AUX sockets. Times change, and they have to move with them. So, more and more over the next 10 years, it'll be down to smaller companies to help manual die-hards out. They aren't all kit cars or cottage industry track cars, though. Lotus, as one example, will likely stick to manuals for a long time yet (assuming they stay alive), even if they've started offering a paddle option as well. If you want the classic sports car, how about Morgan with their classic philosophies, offering golden-era styling over either wooden or aluminium chassis that are very light? The Plus 8 is actually the lightest new V8 passenger car... In The World.
Think of it like good music. Just because it's not in the obvious places that much any more, doesn't mean it isn't out there, somewhere. You just have to look for it.
Oh, and lastly, if it bugs you that much, then who says you're betrothed to buying a new, non-manual sports car anyway? Get the old one. Ultimately, if you really want a car that's set up like it's from the 1990s, buy something from the 1990s. You can always use the copious amounts of money you've saved modernising the interior features. Job done.
*In fairness to VWFB, I may have missed his point a bit. But based on the title it seemed like the latest in a stream of teary-eyed posts where someone waxes lyrical about rowing your own (I did read it, but not carefully enough).