2012 Ford Fusion

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If you like the current Ford Fusion, now’s the time to get serious about snapping one up. Because an all-new Fusion is on deck for model year 2013 – which will be introduced before calendar year 2012 is over.

The ’13 Fusion will be a major re-do and will offer features the ’12 does not – including an optional 237 hp turbocharged 2.0 liter Ecotec four-cylinder replacing the current car’s optional 240 hp V-6. But you’ll pay more for these new features, too. The word is the base price of the ’13 Fusion will be $21,700 – about $1,000 more than the base price of the ’12. And – if the word is accurate – a top-of-the-line ’13 Fusion will crest $30,000 – vs. $27,225 for a loaded 2012 Fusion Sport.

There’s more to consider than just the higher sticker price of the soon-to-be-here 2013s. Dealers will want to deal on the remaining stock of ’12s. But the ’13s will command top dollar – until the newness wears off, at least.

But money isn’t everything, of course. The relevant question is simply this: Is the current car worth the coin?

Let’s take a look.

WHAT IT IS

The Fusion is Ford’s “bread and butter” mid-sized sedan, similar to – and a competitor of – models like the Hyundai Sonata, Chevy Malibu and, of course, the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

It comes standard with an economy-minded four and offers two optional V-6 engines, as well as all-wheel-drive. Base price for a FWD S model with the four-cylinder engine and manual transmission is $20,705. A well-equipped SEL with the first V-6 (3.0 liters) starts at $25,425. A top-of-the-line Sport model with a 3.5 liter V-6 goes for $27,225.

There is also a hybrid version of the Fusion, which will be reviewed separately. It starts at $28,775.

WHAT’S NEW FOR 2012

Very little, as this is the final year of the current Fusion before the “all new” 2013 version comes down the tunnel not too many weeks from now. Here’s a sneak pic:

WHAT’S GOOD

Still looks current, feels current. No obvious “sell by” stink to it.

More sporty-feeling than Camry or Malibu.

Multiple engine choices, including powerful (263 hp) 3.5 liter V-6.

Available AWD (not available in Sonata, Malibu, Camry or Accord).

$1,300 less to start than a new Camry ($22,055).

$775 less than a new Accord sedan ($21,480 to start).

WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD

Not as slick as Sonata – or nice as the new Malibu.

V-6/AWD versions are gas hogs – as bad as 17 city – which is why the V-6s are being retired after this year.

Hyundai Sonata costs $1,000 less to start – and comes with a much stronger standard engine that also gets slightly better gas mileage.

Only base S models with base four cylinder engine are offered with a manual transmission; all other trims come only with a six-speed automatic transmission.

UNDER THE HOOD

The current Fusion is available with three engines, starting with an economy-minded 2.5 liter four rated at 175 hp. It’s a bit behind the pack leaders both power-wise, performance-wise and efficiency-wise – but not by all that much. It delivers an EPA-rated 22 city, 32 highway (with the manual transmission; with the automatic, the numbers go up slightly to 23 city and 33 highway). This isn’t quite as good as the class-leading Hyundai Sonata, which comes standard with a 198 hp engine that rates 24 city, 35 highway – but it’s only 2-3 MPG off the pace.

The Hyundai is less expensive, though – only $19,975 to start – and about 1 full second quicker, zero to 60: 7.9 seconds vs. 8.9 for the Ford.

On the other hand, other competitors cost more – and don’t really give you that much more. For example, the Toyota Camry. The standard engine makes 178 hp – only 3 more than the Fusion’s – and returns 25 city, 35 highway. Again, only slightly better economy than the Fusion. The Toyota get to 60 in about 8.1-8.2 seconds – quicker, but not all that much quicker, than the Ford.

But the Camry’s starting price of $22,055 is $1,300 higher. It’d probably take at least four or five years of driving to amortize the Camry’s higher sticker price in down-the-road fuel savings at 2-3 MPG a tankful.

The Fusion’s base engine is the only Fusion engine that’s available with either a six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic. As noted above, the six-speed automatic is more efficient. However, it’s an extra-cost option (eating away at the nominal fuel savings) and – subjectively – the manual’s more enjoyable to drive (more on that below).

Now for the optional engines – a pair of sixes.

The first, a 3.0 liter six, ups the ante to 240 hp – and gets the Fusion to 60 in a much speedier 7.3 seconds. The downside is sub-par fuel efficiency – not just relative to the four-cylinder but relative to competitors’ optional (and often better-performing) engines. With FWD, the 3.0 engine returns 20 city, 28 highway; with AWD, this dips – and not a little bit – to 17 city, 24 highway.

For some perspective as to how bad this is, last week I tested the new Subaru Impreza. Even with AWD, this car is capable of 36 on the highway and 27 in city driving.

Now, to be fair, the AWD Soobie has a much smaller (2.0 liter) four-cylinder engine – and is much slower than the V-6 Fusion.

So how about something more even-Steven, like the Camry V-6? You get 3.5 liters, 268 hp, 0-60 in 6.6 seconds – and 21 city, 30 highway. The even stronger Hyundai Sonata turbo (2.0 liters, 274 hp), comes in at 22 city, 34 highway.

The Ford’s ace in the hole is that it’s the only car in its class that offers a powerful V-6 and AWD. In fact, none of its direct competitors offer AWD at all.

You could also just skip the 3.0 engine and go with the larger, more powerful (263 hp) 3.5 liter V-6. It’s available with AWD, too. Surprisingly, this engine’s EPA numbers are the same as the 3.0 engine’s numbers: 17 city, 24 highway with AWD. You’ll also get the quickest Fusion this way: Zero to 60 in about 6.6 seconds.

But the gas mileage thing has sealed the fate of both the 3.0 and 3.5 liter engines. Next year’s Fusion will be a four-cylinder-only Fusion. Like the Hyundai Sonata, there will be a base, non-turbo four (the current engine will carry over). Optionally, there will be a new 2.0 liter EcoBoost engine, in the range of 237 hp – about the same as the current 3.0 liter V-6 – but capable of 30-plus MPG on the highway. There will also apparently be a high-economy 1.6 liter version of the Ecoboost engine capable of almost 40 MPG on the highway.

Might be worth the wait.

ON THE ROAD

The Fusion is a nice-driving car, and a sportier-driving car than several competitors – in particular, the Toyota Camry and Chevy Malibu – which are both tuned more for sedate A to B driving and so get unhappy when driven from A to B at a not-sedate pace.

In terms of road feel and response – the way it tracks and deals with lateral forces in cornering – it’s most like the Sonata and the Accord: Minimal body lean, pretty much goes where you point it without having to constantly re-point it, etc.

The base four may be a bit underpowered relative to newer rivals like the hot-shoe Sonata – but if you get it with the manual transmission, it’s still peppy enough to make the drive enjoyable. Equipped with the top-of-the-line 3.5 liter V-6, the Fusion is only slightly less quick than the V-6 versions of the Camry – and the turbocharged Sonata.

Ford could have enhanced the sportiness of the current Fusion by offering a six-speed manual with either V-6 instead of only with the base four-cylinder engine. Maybe the 2013s will be different – no firm word yet, though, as to whether the new Ecotec fours will be available with a manual transmission.

The chief difference you’ll notice on the road between the 2012 Fusion and its rivals is fuel economy.

If you buy an AWD Fusion with the 3 liter engine and drive it enthusiastically, you can expect your gas mileage to average high teens. The bigger V-6 does about the same, so it’s worth choosing it over the 3.0 liter engine given you get 23 more hp and a more class-competitive 0-60 time without incurring a fuel economy penalty.

Still, it’s lucky for Ford that summer gas prices have unexpectedly ticked down.

AT THE CURB

The conservatively styled ’12 Fusion will look a bit dowdy in a few months when the Aston-Martin emulating 2013 Fusion arrives. But it’s debatable whether middle-of-the-road family car buyers want flash – and the higher price that usually comes with it. From the pictures I’ve seen of the 2013 Fusion, it seems to be a near-Lexus or almost-Audi. What’s known inside the biz as an “aspirational” model. Ford is very definitely upmarketing the Fusion – which is fine if the market can support that – and wants that.

But I keep hearing a little voice in my head that whispers… remember the Phaeton…. .

Now, the 2013 Fusion is not going to cost $80,000. But – as mentioned previously – it apparently will crest $30,000 – the first time a Fusion has entered what amounts to entry-luxury pricing territory. It will inevitably face stack-ups against prestige-branded cars such as the Infiniti G, Lexus ES350 and BMW 3 sedans – all of which start out not all that much higher. The question: Will buyers pay almost-BMW or Lexus money for a Ford? – will be answered a few months from now, I guess.

THE REST

This is one of those situations that’s both an opportunity and a potential pratfall. The opportunity is obvious: Here’s your chance to buy a perfectly nice 2012 Fusion at probably a much better price than you’d pay for a more trendy (because “newer”) Sonata or Camry. Certainly you’ll pay less for a 2012 Fusion than you can expect to pay for the pending 2013 redesign.

On the other hand, while the 2013 is going to cost more up front, the prospective down-the-road savings via the expected 8-10 MPG improvement in fuel efficiency could rapidly make up for the higher initial purchase price. If by next summer gas prices are back up to $4 a gallon – and you’ve got a 17 MPG 2012 Fusion – you may be kicking yourself each time you fill up.

So, it’s something of a gamble. There’s the sure bet of saving money right now – potentially several thousand dollars, if you haggle yourself a sweet deal -  against the gamble that you may end up paying more for fuel sometime down the road.

THE BOTTOM LINE

As Clint Eastwood once put it, do you feel lucky?

Throw it in the Woods?

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  55 comments for “2012 Ford Fusion

  1. jason
    June 13, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Thanks for the review. I was looking at one of these. I did not know the gas mileage was that bad. How do you measure that? I usually fill up all the way, drive it for a bit, then use the same pump to fill back up, so it gives me a pretty good approximation. I have been thinking about a Toyota Camery.

    • clinton
      June 13, 2012 at 3:01 pm

      The computer on the car does a good job at calculating the gas mileage. I currently have a 2011 Fusion SEL with the 4 cylinder and I get about 29-30 mpg in my mixed driving. FWIW, I had an ’08 with the smaller 2.3 liter and manual transmission and got about 3-4 mpg less. I’m getting an 2012 Fusion in a couple weeks because of the extra mileage I’ve been piling on my lease after moving. The lease deals on the ’12 are amazing right now; cheaper than the Focus even.

      • June 13, 2012 at 5:21 pm

        “The lease deals on the ’12 are amazing right now; cheaper than the Focus even.”

        I’m not surprised! My bet is they’re anxious to clear out stock. The 2013s are going to be here very soon….

    • June 13, 2012 at 5:24 pm

      You bet!

      On mileage: There’s the EPA’s numbers, which are an approximation – and your actual mileage, based on how you actually drive. This can be measured by the car’s computer, or if you don’t trust the computer, just do the math at fill-up time.

      • jason
        June 13, 2012 at 9:53 pm

        Yeah. It amazes me that people can’t do simple math. Instead they judge gas milage by how they feel it is instead of actually measuring it.

        • mithrandir
          June 13, 2012 at 11:23 pm

          Today the trip meter makes it easier, although I used to write the odometer number down for calculating mpg.

        • June 13, 2012 at 11:25 pm

          Maff is hard!

          • June 14, 2012 at 3:14 am

            Now now… Don’t mock me and my smoovee…

      • Rob
        June 14, 2012 at 12:19 am

        I checked the mileage twice on my wife’s Ford van when we bought it a few years ago, each time it came out to 12.2 mpg. Haven’t checked every again. I know it sucks so why bother. Not gonna alter my driving habits, just gonna make me cry.

        • June 14, 2012 at 10:35 am

          Wow, that’s terrible!

          For perspective: My 1976 Trans-Am, with a 455 (7.4 liter) V-8 and 3.90 gears… and a carburetor … gets about the same!

          • Rob
            June 14, 2012 at 12:29 pm

            Hey I know, that’s in 2008 Ford 15 Passenger Van. Its just a big heavy-ass block on wheels. Both times I checked the mileage it was mostly around town mileage. And around town in the MD burbs ain’t a lot of continuous driving. I need to check it on a highway trip just for yucks…I’d probably be all the way up to 14-15mpg! HA!
            At least with the 32 gallon tank it feels like you are getting better gas mileage. My wife only fills it up every 3-4 weeks. So I got that going for me, which is nice…

          • June 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm

            Yup!

            And, full disclosure: The only reason my TA is out of the single digits (if I am just poking along) is because of the overdrive transmission. In top gear, I can cruise at 70-plus with the engine running just over 2,000 RPM. Previously, before the OD conversion, it’d be close to 3,000 at the same road speed. Huge difference in MPGs! Plus wear and tear….

          • Rob
            June 14, 2012 at 12:57 pm

            A gear-head buddy of mine was talking to be about doing that to my TA. I think I mentioned that it used to be a manual and somewhere along the way it was switched to an auto.
            Anyway my buddy has a ’69 Road Runner (near show car quality) with a big old Hemi in it. He had a 6-speed manual tranny put in it a few years ago. He says he gets around 14mpg now on the highway cruising around 2000-2200 rpm

          • June 14, 2012 at 1:07 pm

            If you are going to drive the car often – especially on the highway – and if it has anything more aggressive than a 3.08 rear – then I hugely recommend going OD. The car will be much more enjoyable. Well worth doing!

  2. Rob
    June 13, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Thanks for the review. In early spring I was looking at buying a car in that class and had settled on the Sonata. Then I started wondering why I was gonna spend all that money on a car (and finance part of it) when I work from home and don’t drive many miles at all. We use our big passenger van when traveling. Personally I drive 5k or less miles per year. So 2 months ago I bought the ’78 TA for $4k and have zero regrets. My sons and I have been redoing the interior. We are talking the carpet and seats this weekend.

    • June 13, 2012 at 5:20 pm

      My personal philosophy toward cars is: Excepting “toys” like our TAs – they are appliances. Buy accordingly. I could afford a new car, but I’d rather have money to spend on my old car!

      • Rob
        June 13, 2012 at 5:43 pm

        Bingo! Our 5 other cars are all basically appliances, Bought them all cause they were at least 2 years old and well below book value. None of them are Bitchin’ like a TA but all function well and were decent values to us. I could have bought a new or near new car but fixing up this old one is a lot more fun. Thankfully I have no commute to work and get away with this plan.

  3. June 13, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    The “price edging into BMW 3 territory” point is technically accurate, but practically speaking, not true. In that low $30,000 range where they overlap, you would be looking at a stripped, almost unobtainable BMW 3. The 2013 Fusion at that price range would be loaded.

    Now, let’s talk about “looks.” That 2013 Fusion looks great! Might have a chance to carve into market share of the Camry, which in its newest design, has gone from “homely” to outright “ugly.” Ditto for the Accord, where the current version is weird and homely. Next year’s Accord may or may not be better. If I were shopping in this segment, would avoid both the current Fusion and Accord, and also the newest Camry, simply because I would not want to be seen in them.

    • Rob
      June 13, 2012 at 6:44 pm

      Right on, the Accord and the Camry are both Fugly

    • June 13, 2012 at 7:07 pm

      True – but the price jump of the new car (if the prices floating around are accurate) is considerable – especially on the “loaded” end (about $2,500 higher than the current car).

      I agree it looks nice, though.

      Now, if only the ’13 Fusion were RWD!

      • Rob
        June 13, 2012 at 7:09 pm

        Speaking of RWD, I heard/read a rumor somewhere that Chevy is coming out with a RWD sedan. Have any info on this?
        Driving the TA the last 2 months has made me realize how much I missed RWD cars.

        • Clinton
          June 13, 2012 at 7:12 pm

          A version of the Caprice? Makes sense to me. The G8′s seem to be holding their value real well.

        • June 13, 2012 at 7:14 pm

          There is a RWD version of the Impala – but it is “cop only” and not available on the civilian market.

  4. Brandonjin
    June 14, 2012 at 12:00 am

    Fusion is my favorite midsize car right now. Has been since its 2010 refresh.
    The new one looks great, can’t wait to see one in person. I have mixed feelings about Ford laying all thier eggs in the Ecoboost basket, though. I’m sure it’ll work out for them. Soon natural aspiration will be a thing of the past. :/

    • June 14, 2012 at 10:42 am

      This is just me: I’m leery of turbos (except in performance cars). In a family-type car? No thanks. Reason? Turbos cost a fortune when they fail. And they will fail. The Fusion is a family-type “everyday” car. If I bought one, I’d want it to last me at least 15 years and 200k – because that’s the only way any new car makes any sort of financial sense. Will the turbo engine go 15 years and 200k? What if it craps out (the turbo) at 120k? Now you are probably looking at a $3,000 repair.

      That would cause me to wave off a new (2013) Fusion.

      • Willy P.
        June 14, 2012 at 11:56 am

        I agree 100%, turbo’s on regular cars is typically a bad idea, it adds complexity (same thing with SC’s, but I am kindof a hypocrite bc I have an SC’ed MR2)
        a buddy of mine who is heavy into subarus and has an ’04 sti that is his pride and joy. He recently bought a legacy wagon that was 3 years old as a nice grocery getter for his wife. It was the version with the slightly detuned sti motor, something like 275hp from the 2.5L turbo. Within 200 miles we are doing major work to it. Subaru puts a small screen in the oil line to keep debris from getting into the turbo and causing wear, except under normal use this screen gets blocks and starves the turbo, then the bearings go bad, then there is excessive shaft play so then the blades machine themselves against teh turbo housing and now metal flakes are getting everywhere. If you aren’t a subaru mechanic or subaru engineer it is unlikely you will know about this and you have approx 30 miles from teh initial symptoms/sounds to know what is wrong and replace the turbo according to the forums. after my buddy started going on the forums it seems almost everyone that knows about it just removed the part immediatley. Lesson, your wife doesn’t need to have a station wagon that can do 0-60 in something like 6 secs.
        My buddy has owned a few soobies but he has always bought them and was replacing the factory components with aftermarket stuff immediately so he never experienced this issue.

        A piece of shit part that is essentially unnecessary and causes more severe problems than the one it claims to prevent. What is that analogous to???

        • June 14, 2012 at 12:09 pm

          Amen!

          Turbos also add heat and stress – which almost necessarily means an engine that will wear out sooner, or at least one that’s more vulnerable to heat/stress-related wear and tear.

          For everyday “grocery getter” duty, give me an under-stressed, naturally aspirated, low RPM/high torque engine.

          • Brad Smith
            June 14, 2012 at 12:44 pm

            A turbo on a CRX was cool. Honda is also putting out a new civic that burns natural gas. Eight grand extra though.

          • DD
            June 14, 2012 at 11:06 pm

            A TA is a perfect grocery getter.

            The only thing GM Dirtroit does right…Block V8s.

            And most turbo-hydromatics.

            I like low-end torque from a non-fuss V8. These little turbo motors are turning out to be high-stressed gas hogs but they are being used to “game” the EPA mileage system. The V8 Corvette gets better mileage than that stupid little 1.4L turbo Cruze…you have to get-on the little turbos just to get over the inertia.

          • Rob
            June 15, 2012 at 1:38 am

            While my TA is fun to drive to the grocery store, it doesn’t quite hold the 2 carts of groceries we buy weekly. Maybe I could have my wife follow me to the store in her van.

          • June 15, 2012 at 10:23 am

            I added 3.90 gears to my TA shortly after I got it; pavement-ripping acceleration was the result! But the downside was the car became a bear to drive for any length of time at speeds above 50 MPH due to the RPMs. At 60-ish, it was taching something like 3,300 RPM. Not only did that suck the gas like you would not believe (well, you know what I mean) I also did not like the potential stress on my long-stroke 455 (455 cranks are not cheap!). The OD transmission solved all my problems. I still have the pavement ripping acceleration off the line, but once I’m in top gear, the revs cut to a happy burble and I can drive all day at 70-75 and get not-bad gas mileage (for what it is), too.

            If your tranny is in need of replacement, I strongly recommend going with the OD unit. It’ll cost a little more up front – but not all that much more – and will more than pay for itself down the road.

          • Rob
            June 15, 2012 at 12:38 pm

            The tranny in my TA is fine but the OD one is on my long-term wishlist.
            My boys and I are about 50% through re-doing the interior. Then sometime in the next 6 months its getting painted. After that…..not sure….headers and a new exhaust…..new gears in the rear……maybe the OD.
            My sons are already bugging me to buy another one to work on. The 14 year-old, who has decent savings, wants to buy a fixer-upper 3rd generation TA and work on it over the next 2 years or so. I may actually go along with his plan. The kid earns and saves money well. If i can find a good way to keep the city code nazis from finding out about it, so I don’t have to tag/title/insure it….I think we will do it….

          • June 15, 2012 at 12:52 pm

            Sounds like a plan!

            On the third gen: An even better plan. These are great cars – not over-the-top with electronic BS, but “modern” where it matters. And, dirt cheap. You can pick up a really nice “driver” for less than $5,000 (good luck finding a nice “driver” second generation TA for anything near that!) and a decent project car for much less.

            People rag on the 305 but it was a decent little engine. The four barrel version would be a good car for your son; or even the little (2.8) V-6. I had one (’86) and it was a lot of fun. Very easy to work on and plenty of power for a kid’s first car. Decent gas mileage, too. Easy to find parts. Etc.

          • Rob
            June 15, 2012 at 1:37 pm

            The 3rd gen’s have really grown on me over the years. And yes the prices aren’t bad at all compared to some other older cars out there.
            Plus if we get one that is 25 years old or older I can register it as Historic and don’t have to go thru the MD saftey inspection or the bi-annual emissions testing.
            And yes that car will be plenty fast for a 16 year old, he doesn’t need a 455 big block….yet ;)

            there are plenty of them around for sale, on eBay motors and locally.

        • BrentP
          June 14, 2012 at 1:58 pm

          I can see the meetings that put the screen in.

          If it wasn’t a japanese company I would say there is an engineer who fought against adding that screen for the very reason of oil starvation and lost to some boss’s ‘idea’ to deal with something in a test report. But since it is a Japanese company the edict from some pointy-haired individual likely went right through without question.

          • Willy P.
            June 14, 2012 at 2:31 pm

            very true, makes me think of yesterday’s dilbert.

            http://www.dilbert.com/2012-06-13/

          • DD
            June 14, 2012 at 11:00 pm

            The boss was no doubt a MBA – Moronic Bidnis Asshole.

            American productive competitiveness is being destroyed by these stupid bumbling “perception is reality” morons.

            Have you ever attended meetings with these stupid/obnoxious fraudulent retards? I am shocked that Amerikan cars are as good and reliable as they are with these MBA runts and Fascists running things! At least Toyota is turning around after over a decade of Amerikan MBA Maggots sucking the value out of them.

          • BrentP
            June 14, 2012 at 11:37 pm

            Good technical engineers don’t get promoted into management as a rule.

            Why? Because they are doing the work and don’t have time to play politics and if they got promoted who would do the work?

          • Willy P.
            June 15, 2012 at 11:24 am

            BrentP,
            I agree that technical engineers don’t become managers but part of it isn’t just because of the politics, it is the mindset.
            I would like to think I am a good engineer and have been senior or lead engineer at a few places I have worked but I want nothing to do with becoming a dept manager or eng. manager and made that clear (which is usually seen as not being a “good employee”). The type of person I see in that position or what I have seen good people become is someone who thrives on dealing in politics, making decisions about who is allowed on vacation and when, who gets credit for their work (if at all) and gets to be viewed as the “leader.” Essentially they want to be in a position of power so they can control other people. IMO, the type of person that aspires to do those things is a sociopath.

            Don’t get me wrong, there are some really good bosses out there and I work for one right now, but they are not the norm, they are the outliers.

          • BrentP
            June 15, 2012 at 2:34 pm

            All true Willy. That’s a large amount of the detail involved that I stripped away for a couple sentences. But, there’s no reason a good engineer couldn’t be a manager -if- the culture was different. I want nothing to do with the social games played at that level, but that’s a disease of the culture, the corporate culture. It doesn’t have to be like that and wasn’t always that way.

            Old timers were able to move up on demonstrated technical ability alone. Not any more. Technical ability doesn’t even matter now.

  5. June 14, 2012 at 3:17 am

    Speaking of manual transmissions, Eric, maybe an encouraging sign on that front:

    http://rumors.automobilemag.com/report-manual-transmissions-regaining-popularity-in-new-cars-130493.html

    • June 14, 2012 at 5:21 am

      Dear Marc,

      The article said:

      “Ford announced in February that it would make a six-speed manual transmission available on the top-spec Focus Titanium, in response to strong public demand.”

      Strong public demand? I like the sound of that!

      I have owned numerous German cars, Italian cars, and Japanese cars since my college days, but have never purchased a single car with an automatic transmission.

      Those times that I drove friends’ cars or rental cars with automatic transmissions, I have inevitably been bored to death. Nothing to do. Sensory deprivation.

      This is true even for stop and go rush hour driving. Anyone who has really learned to drive a stick knows how to do without thinking. Just like touch typing. Just like playing the piano.

      • June 14, 2012 at 5:07 pm

        I too “used to” be a hard core manual transmission guy, too. My reasons were pragmatic….stick shifts were faster, and generally got better mileage. Modern 6 to 8 speed automatics seem to be at least as fast and economical, if not more so. Therefore, I’m probably done with stick shifts.

        Hopefully, manufacturers will continue to offer manual transmissions for buyers like you, who prefer them simply for aesthetic reasons. And hopefully, you will never experience a bad back, or broken arm or ankle, because if you ever do, with a stick shift, you are going to become a passenger or a pedestrian.

        • June 14, 2012 at 5:19 pm

          Hi Mike,

          You’re right about health constraints with regard to rowing one’s gears by hand…

          But on the other hand, *real* car guys have several extra cars laying around, and at least one of them is bound to be an automatic.

          ;-)

        • June 14, 2012 at 5:24 pm

          One thing that would (does) keep me away from modern automatics is their apparent fragility – and expense. I have a buddy who owns a repair shop and the cost of remanufactured (or new OE replacement) automatics is truly forbidding: Sometimes, $3,000 or even more.

          Remember when a performance-rebuilt TH350 or 400 cost $500?

        • June 15, 2012 at 3:42 pm

          Dear Mike Pizzo,

          Not me. I want to watch the tach and decide exactly when to shift, up and down. I don’t want the transmission taking the decision out of my hands.

          Again, that is the beauty of the free market. We will each vote with our dollars, as Ludwig von Mises said, and the results will be more democratic than political democracy.

          If in the end the car makers phase out manuals due to lack of consumer demand, it is something I can live with.

          I will know that it wasn’t the result of some arbitrary edict handed down by a self-important commissar.

          • June 15, 2012 at 4:41 pm

            I don’t agree that the lack of manuals on the American market is entirely consumer-driven. Yes, the majority — those who buy a car as an appliance — would buy automatics. But automatics became “standard” on many cars for one reason: certifying a car under EPA regulations was expensive as hell.

            Many models lost their manuals not because there wasn’t a cohort of gear-stirrers wanting to buy them, but because when you’re in a competitive market and you have to spend millions of dollars to certify each engine/trans combo in homage to some alphabet-soup government shakedown shop, you have to limit the number of choices you can give your customers.

            As with so many things, the death of the stick was *driven* by government edicts.

            Some see it as a good thing — the market has standardized around automatics.

            I agree with Eric — the biggest problem I see with automatics is the expense of repairing them.

            The only way to fix *that* is to get them standardized further — like to force manufacturers to settle on ONE automatic transmission package built by a single supplier, and make no changes to that design for several years.

            But besides the fact that I oppose all government force and fraud (well OK I oppose *all* force and fraud whether or not by government), even that “solution” would bring in a whole host of other issues.

            For instance, I’m sure there are one or two transmissions that last half a million miles with normal maintenance — but would they be cheap enough for a econobox? And how would a single trans package allow for different body styles where different powertrain layouts are necessary?

        • June 15, 2012 at 3:50 pm

          Dear Mike Pizzo,

          Also, don’t forget, the newer cars have much lighter clutch pedals, often power assisted, as well as power steering and power brakes.

          I really don’t see that as a problem. If one is so seriously injured one can no longer drive a stick, then probably one can no longer drive an automatic either.

      • Scott
        July 15, 2012 at 2:56 pm

        Dear Bevin -

        I was a member of the hard core manual transmission school until I bought a 928 in 1986, then everything changed. The car was faster and more responsive in an automatic (I’m bound to draw fire from manual transmission shark owners for that but it’s true, even if only marginally). The Porsche “triptronic” transmission was a real miracle, it gave you full manual control when you wanted it, but in a simple up/down pattern, and you could still just put it in drive and forget about it on a freeway. It’s the best of all possible worlds; all they did was get rid of the clutch.

        Back then it was pretty miraculous, nowadays you can get the same performance from most automatics I’ve been told, in fact my wife’s ’03 Chevy K3500 has an Alison transmission that’s very similar.

        • July 15, 2012 at 3:35 pm

          Dear Scott,

          “… and you could still just put it in drive and forget about it on a freeway.”

          But that’s just it, Scott. I don’t want to forget about it on a freeway! Or anywhere else.

          I want it to always be in exactly the gear I left it in last. I like having to shift up when I need to go faster. I like having to shift down when I need to go slower.

          I do not consider being relieved of that obligation a favor. I consider that a deprivation. I consider being forced to deal with gear changes part of the challenge of driving. I consider it pleasurable.

          It’s sort of like shelling peanuts. Part of the enjoyment of eating is the shelling!

        • July 15, 2012 at 3:56 pm

          Dear Scott,

          I hasten to add that I’m not a hair-shirt stoic in every realm.

          For example, a former co-worker was into Revolutionary War muzzle-loading rifles such as the Pennsylvania/Kentucky rifles.

          I told him in no uncertain terms that although I was a fellow gun nut, I drew the line at muzzle-loaders!

          Only breach-loaders using brass ammunition for me. Preferably repeaters. Preferably semi-automatics!

          There. I’ve said it.

        • July 15, 2012 at 4:02 pm

          Hey Scott,

          Absolutely. Modern DSG-type (and even conventional fluid-drive) automatics are superb. They are also often more efficient than a driver-controlled manual, and more consistent/quicker shifting as far as performance goes.

          That said, I still prefer the manual just because I prefer the act of working the clutch/gearbox for myself. Probably most enthusiast drivers will agree with this – even if optimal (and repeatable) performance is better with the automatic!

  6. Brad Smith
    June 15, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    I truly do not like automatic transmissions. Probably the single biggest reason is snow and ice on the road. I live in Northern Michigan and with ice and snow on the road a manual transmission is ten times better. Letting off the gas is NOT the same as pushing in the clutch. Same thing for if you get stuck, having a manual is much better.

    • June 16, 2012 at 12:11 am

      Dear Brad,

      Good point. Forgot about that!

      I lived in Washington, DC, then in Ottawa, Ontario, during junior high and high school. Lots of snow and ice during the winter months.

      A manual allows one to rock the car back and forth when stuck in a snow bank more easily than an automatic. It allows one to feather the clutch to prevent spinning the wheels.

      More control is always better than less.

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