What are some cars with "semi-auto" transmissions?

GlassBullet

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jul 7, 2009
114
0
Ventura, CA
So I'm turning 16 in a few months and my parents are willing to buy me a car (yeah!). I wanted to get a manual, but my dad and his crazy reasons says I can't get one. He said I that could get a car with one of those semi-automatic transmissions that you can use (the ones where you just hit up (+) or down (-) to shift). So my question is: what are some cars to look in to that have this? We're mainly looking at mid-sized cars that are a few years old. And not some high end model. I found the Mitsubishi Galant has this feature on some of the years (i think starting in 07). Any other cars you know of? Thanks!
 

GlassBullet

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jul 7, 2009
114
0
Ventura, CA
I know but I'm talking about the ones like in this picture:


Where you can set it do Driver and just go like normal automatic, or it's made so you can easily shift gears like in a manual
 

swiftaw

macrumors 603
Jan 31, 2005
6,310
21
Omaha, NE, USA
I know but I'm talking about the ones like in this picture:


Where you can set it do Driver and just go like normal automatic, or it's made so you can easily shift gears like in a manual
Yes, most modern automatic transmissions are like that. The few times I have driven automatics like that I have always found it a very poor substitute for driving a manual.
 

steve2112

macrumors 68040
Feb 20, 2009
3,023
6
East of Lyra, Northwest of Pegasus
There are really two versions of this. As others have said, many automatics offer an option for this, either through the console, or shifter paddles on the steering wheel/column. The effectiveness of these vary widely. Some autos will still shift on their own, regardless of driver input, while others will hold their gears. These are all still true automatics, however, with torque converters and no clutch.

The other option is clutchless manual, or semi-automatic transmissions. These are manuals, with no torque converter. In modern designs, the car's computer controls shifts instead of the driver with the clutch and shifter. While they may seem like automatics, they aren't. It's just that the computer is doing the shifting. F1 and Indy cars used this setup for years before the systems filtered down to street cars. They are mostly used by higher-end brands, such as Porsche, Audi, Ferrari, etc. VW does offer a version called DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox) on most of their models. I think Mitsubishi offers it as well. It seems like more manufacturers are starting to offer this technology.
 

Rodimus Prime

macrumors G4
Oct 9, 2006
10,136
4
I know but I'm talking about the ones like in this picture:


Where you can set it do Driver and just go like normal automatic, or it's made so you can easily shift gears like in a manual
oh those wanna be manuals.....

Sorry but they are no where close to the real thing. The shifting is still just as sloppy as with an auto and still has the lag issues. I drive a manual as my daily driver and I have driven those Autos that and a ability to choose your gear.

Those "Semi-Manuals" are crap and you will find yourself never using it.
 

GlassBullet

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jul 7, 2009
114
0
Ventura, CA
There are really two versions of this. As others have said, many automatics offer an option for this, either through the console, or shifter paddles on the steering wheel/column. The effectiveness of these vary widely. Some autos will still shift on their own, regardless of driver input, while others will hold their gears. These are all still true automatics, however, with torque converters and no clutch.

The other option is clutchless manual, or semi-automatic transmissions. These are manuals, with no torque converter. In modern designs, the car's computer controls shifts instead of the driver with the clutch and shifter. While they may seem like automatics, they aren't. It's just that the computer is doing the shifting. F1 and Indy cars used this setup for years before the systems filtered down to street cars. They are mostly used by higher-end brands, such as Porsche, Audi, Ferrari, etc. VW does offer a version called DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox) on most of their models. I think Mitsubishi offers it as well. It seems like more manufacturers are starting to offer this technology.
Would this (what i'm talking about) be the first one of those or the second? I assume the first. If so, doesn't it shift the same way a full auto does, just that it does it when the driver tells it to (for the most part)?

oh those wanna be manuals.....

Sorry but they are no where close to the real thing. The shifting is still just as sloppy as with an auto and still has the lag issues. I drive a manual as my daily driver and I have driven those Autos that and a ability to choose your gear.

Those "Semi-Manuals" are crap and you will find yourself never using it.
Im not saying you're wrong, but you gotta admit that is a bit biased seeing as you drive a manual yourself. And I don't plan on using this all the time, but i thought it might be fun to be able to use it. For me at least.
 

djellison

macrumors 68020
Feb 2, 2007
2,229
4
Pasadena CA
Well - we collect a Seat Leon with a DSG gearbox on tueday.

Some Audi's, VW's and Seat's offer the DSG gearbox. It's a manual but with two clutches, one does 1-3-5, the other 2-4-6. You can have it entirely automatic, or - knock it to one side and shift up and down very quickly, far better than a normal automatic with +/-. I've found autos with a selector to be more like a suggestion box rather than a direct command to the gearbox. This DSG box - you're in charge unless you're asking it to do something stupid.

Tried a manual to compare - and the DSG was just awesome in comparison.
 

steve2112

macrumors 68040
Feb 20, 2009
3,023
6
East of Lyra, Northwest of Pegasus
Would this (what i'm talking about) be the first one of those or the second? I assume the first. If so, doesn't it shift the same way a full auto does, just that it does it when the driver tells it to (for the most part)?
Most likely, it would be a so-called "manumatic", which is the first type (An automatic with options to shift manually). I wouldn't expect the manumatic in a Camry, for example, to be as manual-like as the one in a sports car. Like I said, the true clutchless manual is still fairly rare outside the high-end models. Of the models that use this method, VW is reported to have a very good version. I think Mitsu offers such an option on the Evo and a couple of other models.

I am a bit biased toward manuals, but I wouldn't mind trying out one of the clutchless manuals. My old body hurts when I have to shift a lot now. :)

Edit: Here's a couple of links to help explain things, along with a list of names for the system by manufacturer.

Manumatic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manumatic

Semi-Auto: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clutchless
 

acurafan

macrumors 6502a
Sep 16, 2008
615
0
does it have a torque converter? if so, it's a waste of time.

you want a real semi-manual - get a car w/DSG gearbox. otherwise, wait a few years and get a manual car. the old mitsu you're looking at doesn't have a DSG.
 

r.j.s

Moderator emeritus
Mar 7, 2007
15,011
35
Texas
Well - we collect a Seat Leon with a DSG gearbox on tueday.

Some Audi's, VW's and Seat's offer the DSG gearbox. It's a manual but with two clutches, one does 1-3-5, the other 2-4-6. You can have it entirely automatic, or - knock it to one side and shift up and down very quickly, far better than a normal automatic with +/-. I've found autos with a selector to be more like a suggestion box rather than a direct command to the gearbox. This DSG box - you're in charge unless you're asking it to do something stupid.

Tried a manual to compare - and the DSG was just awesome in comparison.
That's how mine is ...

It will shift itself if I am pushing redline for too long, or slow down beyond the limits of the gear.
 

yg17

macrumors G5
Aug 1, 2004
14,932
2,532
St. Louis, MO
Im not saying you're wrong, but you gotta admit that is a bit biased seeing as you drive a manual yourself. And I don't plan on using this all the time, but i thought it might be fun to be able to use it. For me at least.
I back him up on this. I owned a car with a semi-auto like that, now I own a real manual transmission. There is no comparison between the two. The semi-autos are absolute crap and do not replace a proper manual gearbox. I rarely used the semi-auto mode, it was just boring, dull and had the shift lag that any automatic has.
 

Rt&Dzine

macrumors 6502a
Oct 8, 2008
736
5
My car has it and I never use it. When I first got the car, I played with it a few times.
 

r.j.s

Moderator emeritus
Mar 7, 2007
15,011
35
Texas
How do you like having it in your car? Do you use I often?
I like it, it comes in handy on my way home from work. I have to merge onto the highway, and merging traffic can be quite slow. I can leave it in third, merge then immediately pull into the left lane and jump 20 mph to the speed limit.
 

Rodimus Prime

macrumors G4
Oct 9, 2006
10,136
4
Im not saying you're wrong, but you gotta admit that is a bit biased seeing as you drive a manual yourself. And I don't plan on using this all the time, but i thought it might be fun to be able to use it. For me at least.

No not being biased but telling the truth. The manual mode really adds nothing and jack for the "fun factor"

Yes I drive a manual and most of the time I use it for just shifting and not for the fun factor. But when i want the fun factor it really nice. "Semi-Manual" mode on auto adds nothing to the fun factor and at most just slightly improves the transmission lag for down shifting.
 

RaceTripper

macrumors 68030
May 29, 2007
2,703
23
I back him up on this. I owned a car with a semi-auto like that, now I own a real manual transmission. There is no comparison between the two. The semi-autos are absolute crap and do not replace a proper manual gearbox. I rarely used the semi-auto mode, it was just boring, dull and had the shift lag that any automatic has.
I've had three types. A fully automatic transmission with manual selection of gears (Steptronic on a BMW 2002 530i), a sequential gearbox (what you are all calling a semi-automatic) on a 2005 M3 (SMG II), and I currently have a regular 6 speed manual. I've also driven them all on track for weekends of high performance driving (where I run in the advanced group). In terms of performance the sequential gearbox rules. It's not even close. The torque-converter automatic (Steptronic) is the worst. Now there's a new game in town, double clutch gearboxes (e.g. DSG from Volkswagon, DCG on the new BMW M3). The Mitsu Lancer Evo X also has it, as do several others. The "auto" option on the new Porsche 911 is also now a double-clutch gearbox. Double clutch gearboxes perform even better than sequential: silky-smooth shifts measured in double digit ms. with zero acceleration lag. Nowadays most high-level sports-car and open-wheel racing series use sequential gearboxes or some variant of a double clutch gearbox.

So for best performance, the order is
1. double-clutch gearbox (direct-coupled)
2. sequential gearbox (direct-coupled)
3. manual gearbox (direct-coupled)
4. torque converting automatic gearbox (fluid coupled)

I drive a 6 speed manual now (MINI John Cooper Works) and my technique is just fine (i.e. I can heel-toe downshift shift all over the place), but given a choice I much prefer a sequential/double-clutch gearbox. If I don't have to push a clutch pedal, that's just fine with me because I can focus more on other techniques: braking, throttling, race-line, steering, etc.

There are a lot of "manual" snobs out there, but that's all it is. There is no technical reason to prefer a manual of a newer type direct-coupled gearbox.
 

yg17

macrumors G5
Aug 1, 2004
14,932
2,532
St. Louis, MO
I've had three types. A fully automatic transmission with manual selection of gears (Steptronic on a BMW 2002 530i), a sequential gearbox (what you are all calling a semi-automatic) on a 2005 M3 (SMG II), and I currently have a regular 6 speed manual. I've also driven them all on track for weekends of high performance driving (where I run in the advanced group). In terms of performance the sequential gearbox rules. It's not even close. The torque-converter automatic (Steptronic) is the worst. Now there's a new game in town, double clutch gearboxes (e.g. DSG from Volkswagon, DCG on the new BMW M3). The Mitsu Lancer Evo X also has it, as do several others. The "auto" option on the new Porsche 911 is also now a double-clutch gearbox. Double clutch gearboxes perform even better than sequential: silky-smooth shifts measured in double digit ms. with zero acceleration lag. Nowadays most high-level sports-car and open-wheel racing series use sequential gearboxes or some variant of a double clutch gearbox.

So for best performance, the order is
1. double-clutch gearbox (direct-coupled)
2. sequential gearbox (direct-coupled)
3. manual gearbox (direct-coupled)
4. torque converting automatic gearbox (fluid coupled)

I drive a 6 speed manual now (MINI John Cooper Works) and my technique is just fine (i.e. I can heel-toe downshift shift all over the place), but given a choice I much prefer a sequential/double-clutch gearbox. If I don't have to push a clutch pedal, that's just fine with me because I can focus more on other techniques: braking, throttling, race-line, steering, etc.

There are a lot of "manual" snobs out there, but that's all it is. There is no technical reason to prefer a manual of a newer type direct-coupled gearbox.
When I was buying my GTI, I test drove a DSG one, and it was by far the best automatic I've driven (and yes, I still consider a DSG an automatic. If it can shift gears for me automatically, it's an automatic) but I still don't think it has the fun factor of a real manual transmission. I have a manual GTI and love it, but if I lost one of my legs or arms and had to buy an automatic, I'd go with a DSG.
 

djellison

macrumors 68020
Feb 2, 2007
2,229
4
Pasadena CA
and had the shift lag that any automatic has.
You've not used a DSG box then :) DSG gearboxes will shift faster than you could ever do so in manual without mashing it damn hard.

I tried the exact same car - one with DSG, one manual. And I'm a petrol head, I enjoy changing gear, but I preferred the DSG massively.
 

yg17

macrumors G5
Aug 1, 2004
14,932
2,532
St. Louis, MO
You've not used a DSG box then :) DSG gearboxes will shift faster than you could ever do so in manual without mashing it damn hard.

I tried the exact same car - one with DSG, one manual. And I'm a petrol head, I enjoy changing gear, but I preferred the DSG massively.
You must not have read my post above yours ;)

I've driven a DSG and yeah, it's faster than a human in a manual. Still not as fun though IMO.
 

harperjones99

macrumors 6502
Nov 3, 2009
497
0
Gimmick...it really has no practical purpose as modern automatic transmissions are very effective. Adds unneeded complications to the transmission and costs more to fix when it breaks.
 

Sun Baked

macrumors G5
May 19, 2002
14,859
57
Gimmick...it really has no practical purpose as modern automatic transmissions are very effective. Adds unneeded complications to the transmission and costs more to fix when it breaks.
Yep, ask a few people with them how often they use it.

Likely not too often, besides boy street racers with the paddle shifter upgrades.

A manual is often much cheaper to buy. Depended on the manufacturer and the "required" options for an automatic upgrade and the semi-auto upgrade you'll probably save thousand(s). Unless you buy used and stick the previous owners with the initial pain of the upgrade.
 

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