If your Ford had a Matthew McConaughey, it would be a Lincoln

A Startling Demonstration Of How Far The Automatic Has Come (and how far the manual hasn't)

I have been playing with this program called CarTest for probably over a decade now. It is a decent simulator of car performance, mainly in a straight line (though it does have a lap time simulator lmao).

To me its best feature is that it allows you to modify cars as you wish. Want to double the horsepower? Go for it. Change/delete/add gears? No problem. Change tire size? Sure! All the parameters it shows are open to change.


Over time one thing the creator added was more transmission options. Back when it was a DOS program they allowed for 6 gears and either manual or conventional automatic. With each iteration more gears were allowed, and different transmissions (CVTs and dual clutches) were also enabled.

As a former Maxima owner one thing I lamented about the 4th gens were the abysmal transmission option. After driving various MT Nissans and Hondas I’m convinced Nissan cannot engineer a good shifter/clutch setup (which is part of why I went auto with my G37). But the 4AT sucked all the damn life out of that excellent engine, probably adding another 1-1.5s to the 0-60 time. Now one option would be to just engineer a better manual, but that wouldn’t affect performance much. What if we fit an old 2000 Maxima with the 222HP VQ30 with a modern 8AT?

Well again this software allows that easily, so I went for it. I took the original 4AT gear ratios and did the following:

  • Kept original final drive and gear ratios
  • Squeezed a ratio between each of the original gears
  • Added a short AF 1st gear for that off the line rip

This program has a crap load of great plots which is awesome for a data geek like me, with the ability to export values as well. Anyway, here’s what the outcome was:


The regular SE is the 5MT version which was also 100lb lighter. The 8AT version was nearly a second faster to 60 and through the quarter, and over 2 seconds faster to 100 (vs the manual version). Much of those gains come from that super short first gear which prompts a shift before 30MPH and accelerates the car at close to 1g. That’s like an AWD clutch dump, but without the drivetrain damage.

Is it possible this software is a bit optimistic? Maybe. The 4AT Maxima was good to 60 in the low 7s with this engine, so perhaps the 8AT would be good for the low 6s rather than the high 5s. But even still, just looking at the road torque plots is telling.


Again, that 8AT first gear delivers nearly twice the road torque. And then from there, you’re squeezing in more area under the curve, which translates to more acceleration (and better fuel economy).


Now obviously if you enjoy rowing your own there is no substitute for a 3 pedal setup. Though I will say not all manuals are created equal. But with automatics like this, only the best manuals deserve to survive.

Side note, I ran the test with 8 manual gears... it did improve performance from the manual but it was nowhere near as dramatic. It split the difference between the 5MT and 8AT due largely to the longer shift times. 6-7 gears spaced at about 30-35MPH is still ideal for manuals. I didn’t bother with CVTs because in real life they are limited in their ratio spread, though Nissan’s CVTs are excellent.... the CVT in the latest Maxima is the best auto transmission I’ve ever experienced.

Share This Story