Saturday, September 26, 2015
ARE MANUAL TRANSMISSIONS DEAD IN SUPER CARS?
Source: RoadandTrack.com by Robert Sorokanich
Lamborghinis are supposed to be about raw emotion: the scream of a V12 engine, the thrill of mile-wide tires scrambling for grip, the joy of driving something built without a single care thrown toward convenience, practicality, or the rigors of everyday humdrum life.
You'd think a manual transmission would fit the formula perfectly.
But at the Frankfurt Auto Show last week, R&T sat down with Maurizio Reggiani, Director of Research and Development at Lamborghini. And while the Lamborghini news at the show was the introduction of the Huracán LP 610-4 Spyder, we couldn't help asking Mr. Reggiani a question that's been weighing on our minds: Is the dream of a manual-transmission Lamborghini dead?
"Unfortunately I must say yes," he told us. "All the systems that are integrated in the car need to have a dialog with one another. The clutch is one of the fuses of the system, whether you're engaging or disengaging the torque. This creates a hole in the communication between what the engine is able to provide and how the car reacts to the power of the engine. For this reason, unfortunately, I must say I am sure that in a premium supersports car like [the Huracán], we will only do a semiautomatic.
"Unfortunately, it's the demand of the control of the chassis," he continued. "If you want to control the chassis, you must control the power. If you want to control the power, the clutch must be under the control of the brain of the car, not your brain."
This decision wasn't easy, and Mr. Reggiani understands the yearning among traditionalists for a three-pedal Lamborghini. But he brings up a very good point about modern manual transmissions, one that doesn't get discussed very often among three-pedal evangelists: Today's manual transmissions aren't the pure, directly-connected driver's experience you think they are.
It all comes down to the mechanics of what happens when you push the clutch pedal. "Remember, when you put a servo system between your feet and the clutch, you have already put a filter in there. For me, the most pure expression of the manual transmission is when with your foot you push all the load that is necessary to disengage the clutch."
So when people pining for manual transmissions hold up today's three-pedal sports cars as standard bearers of purity, it puzzles Mr. Reggiani. "In all the latest manual transmissions, there is a servo that reduces the load [of the clutch pedal]," he explains. "If we want to talk about the purist [experience], we must go back 20 years, not 10 years, because already these filters were in place.
Then there's the practical side. "I've been working for Lamborghini for 20 years. I started at the time of the Diablo, [which had] a clutch without a servo. You needed 40 kilograms of force to disengage the clutch. At that time, we were making 450 N m of torque. Now we are at 690. It's a problem to manage the closing point of the clutch. If you have hesitation, with this torque you'll burn the clutch immediately.
"And unfortunately not everybody can be a super expert, but everybody wants to buy the car and nobody wants to appear stupid. For this, you must put the servo in there, and if you put the servo in there you disengage the really mechanical feeling between you and the engine."
In other words, if you want a Lamborghini with power like the 740-hp Aventador LP750-4 SV, you're gonna have to settle for a transmission that's smarter than you. As for Mr. Reggiani? When he wants to get that purist mechanical feel, he hops in his 1966 Alfa Romeo Duetto, with a manual transmission and no servos in sight.