There was a time when automatic cars were only chosen by a small group of people. Besides, the main demographic for automatic cars were the elderly. Almost a decade ago, those cars were inefficient and slow-witted, but things have moved on tremendously.
Many manufacturers are praising their automatic cars, with some dual-clutch systems able to not just shift faster than a person ever could, but are also fuel efficient. Some brands don’t even bother about manuals at all: Ferrari doesn’t sell a single manual model.
So which car should you buy?
Usually automatic cars have been for those who were not really interested in driving. If you want driving fun, you would buy a manual. However, things have now changed. The quick shifts that some cars provide means the likes of the PDK-equipped Porsche 911 is quicker than the manual variant. The gap is only of a fraction of a second during the 0-60 mph dash, but in regular driving the difference becomes more obvious.
When driving fast, whether on a circuit or a twisty road, a manual car needs a lot more effort than an auto. You have to simultaneously shift the level, depress the clutch, brake and blip the throttle with each downshift to match engine and road speed. In an automatic car, the same process needs only a flick of a paddle and everything else is done. This is the major reason why passionate drivers prefer a manual.
More importantly, an automatic gearbox is easier to manage the rest of the time. Nobody likes to drive in traffic; still an auto’s ability to slide by itself combined with no clutch pedal makes the whole hassle much less of a trouble. The very best gearboxes shift very smoothly and in a very few cars, it is usually hard to work out when it is changing the gears.
Previously, an automatic car would damage a car’s fuel economy, but the latest software and extra ratios used in modern systems means this is hardly the case.
When looking a standard model from BMW, the 320i saloon, the manual achieves a claimed 53mpg, compared to the 52mpg of auto. CO2 emissions are very much similar. Some automatic cars provide better economy as compared to their manual counterparts.
Due to their complexity, you will almost always have to pay more for automatic car. Prices differ from one manufacturer to another. Your choice of manual or auto hardly a huge effect on residual values, though some more luxurious brands like Mercedes will be more looked-for on the second car market if you go for auto.
From a financial point of view, manual gearbox proves cheaper, both initially as well as in the long run. If you are a driving purist, then the decision will be simple.
For everyone else, if you are ready to pay high price initially, then an auto is a great choice. They are easier to drive; shift smoothly and there is little to no difference in performance or economy. So, why not make things easier for yourself.