Acura’s 500,000-mile legend talks about making the miles count. [Read more…]
It used to be that there were one or two choices for gearboxes, also known as transmissions, consumers could purchase in their cars. Today, transmissions are not so simple as they were, but the choices remain largely the same.
The automatic transmission has transformed since its inception in horseless carriages of 1904 (by the Sturtevant Brothers of Boston, Mass.). Where once there was one or two forward gears (and no backwards gears) there’s now eight or more forward gears (and no less than, nor no more than, one reverse).
While technology may have increased the number of gears, the true-blue automatic takes all control out of the driver’s hands. However, there aren’t that many manufacturers doing dead-basic automatic transmissions anymore.
What manufacturers are now doing, is allowing the driver to input the gear selection for the automatic transmission. The new “Manumatic” transmissions can either be left in fully automatic mode or can be used in a pseudo-manual mode.
I say ‘psuedo’ because the driver isn’t actually selecting the gears, they are merely telling the car’s computer (and transmission) which gears they want the car to go into, the car still shifts the gears.
Manumatic gears can be changed either with the selector lever, usually by popping the selector left or right of drive mode and pushing up or down depending on needs, or by using the flappy paddles (selectors usually on the steering wheel) common on many current models.
Many auto manufacturers are including more of these transmissions under other names, such as Sportronic, Shiftronic, Geartronic and more. And, while flappy paddles aren’t the same as a proper manual, they can still be pretty fun.
The Acura TLX The Auto Reporter reviewed a few weeks back had a brilliant manumatic transmission and was paired with a dual-clutch transmission (DCT), making gear shifts blindly fast. A dual clutch transmission has two clutches, rather than one in normal transmissions, and is technology first used in automotive racing.
The (proper) manual
The manual is when the entirety of gear selection is left up to the driver, and is what many car enthusiasts go to when looking for transmissions.
Manual transmissions force drivers to pay attention, not just to the revolutions per minute (RPMs) of the car’s engine, but to driving as a whole; it makes people think about what they’re doing when behind the wheel.
Many vehicles now have hill assist, so Cherry Street in downtown Seattle won’t seem nearly as frightening as it once did. And, unlike even brilliant DCTs, a manual gearbox will give the driver the a feeling like nothing else – of being one with the car, of being man and machine.
The staff of The Auto Reporter prefers full manual transmissions, though the Acura TLX had a system that’s hard to say ‘no’ to.
To select the gearbox that’s right for you, think of how you drive. Are you the kind of driver that enjoys letting the car control the engine or do you want to be the one to have the horsepower under your control?
The TLX is a $45,595 4-door with an intelligent all-wheel drive (AWD) system and adjustable sprotyness through the Integrated Dynamic System (IDS) and plenty of room for your needs, whether they be child- or adult-sized.
The front seats are both heated and cooled, have power seats (10-way for the driver, including lumbar support, and 8-way for the passenger, but doesn’t have lumbar controls). The safety features include airbags for the knees, airbags in the vents, side curtain bags that deploy in case of a rollover and a radar-assisted breaking system.
Safety is key in this car, but so is the engine’s sporty performance and ensuring a comfortable driving environment.
The direct injection 3.5L VTEC V6 engine puts out 290hp and has variable cylinder management that will decrease the number of firing cylinders depending on driving conditions, such as fewer cylinders for highway and more for track time.
While I’m not to keen on push-button shifters, Acura makes up for that with responsive flappy paddle shifting with the dual-clutch transmission and their IDS (Integrated Dynamic System) options to differ engine responses depending on driving. There are four modes: Eco, Drive, Sport and Sport+.
Sport+ is the best. No, seriously.
I had heard of a local car meet that drives some backroads of the Puget Sound area and decided to take this car there. During the driver’s meeting, participants had the option to split into three groups; cruisers, normal and spirited drivers.
On a whim, I chose spirited and the Acura TLX kept up with the likes of Corvettes, Lotus’, and Porsche’s. On a track they would have toasted me, but on the backroads there was no getting away from the TLX.
The soundtrack wasn’t as earsplitting loud as the other engines around me, which is a great thing. While they can’t ‘turn off’ their engine noise, when a driver is done being sporty in the TLX it goes back to a tame, eco-friendly (ish), kid-carrier.
Ready, at a push-button’s moment, to tear into the world via flappy paddle fun.
Recently, a friend (Harvey Sherman with the Aurora) informed me of a group of people who enjoy a good drive, the Northwest Drivers group on Meetup, regardless of what is driven. So I decided to check it out.
The founder of the Northwest Drivers group, Marko “Wolf” Wollschlaeger, has been part of the Jaguar and Porsche owners clubs in the area, but found that they weren’t too much into actual driving.
“So I was like, I’m going to found my own thing so that anybody can join. The main purpose was any brand or make, it doesn’t matter what you drive,” said Marko “Wolf” Wollschlaeger, owner of a 2014 Porsche Boxter S.
The drive started at 9 a.m. in the parking lot of a QFC in Redmond Ridge. So, I got up early (for me), put caffeine in my belly and headed out in the Acura TLX I’m reviewing (more on that in another article).
Arriving with several minutes to spare, I pull the TLX into a space next to a Porsche and, I’ll be honest, there seem to be doubters about my choice of car – me included. I hopped out of the sport sedan and started schmoozing with the owners of Nissan GTRs, Fiat 500 Abarths, a ’90 Miata from the Miata Club where I purchased my own MX-5, and more.
There was a car for everyone, or near enough that it makes no difference. One duo came from as far away as Port Angeles just to come and drive with other car enthusiasts on nice roads.
“We don’t really have too many people into car culture out there, so when I found this group online I thought it would be a fun trip out to Seattle,” said Dallas Derma, who drove his 1999 BMW 328i from Port Angeles. “I was pretty surprised. I was just really surprised how many cars there were.”
Derma came out with his car-loving buddy, Brandon Meyers; both are 16-year-old high school students.
“I’ve never seen this many cars like this in one area, usually the car shows in port Angeles have one or two really nice looking cars, but this is really good,” Meyers said.
What a great way to start the weekend.
After a quick drivers’ meeting, the group of around 40 split up into three driving classes: Cruise, Normal and Spirited groups. Now, that’s not by car, but by how a driver wishes to drive; cruisers were out for a leisurely drive, normal drivers were out for something quicker than leisurely, and spirited drivers were out to have a little bit of fun on the upcoming curves.
I stepped out on a limb and chose the spirited class. I figured, “Hey, I’ve got a V6 AWD Acura with ‘Sport+’ mode. Let’s do this!” complete with a mind-sized Joe Swanson from Family Guy.
I couldn’t have chosen better. Also in the Sport speed group was a Mitsubishi Lancer, a VW Golf R32, an Audi S5, the first Porsche, a Nissan GTR, two Honda S2000s, a Lotus Elise, another Porsche (targa), an Aston Martin Vantage, a Corvette, the Acura, and behind me a Porsche Cayman S.
What a train of cars to be among!
“I love to do the drives… I love meeting new people and driving my car,” said Joe Macri, 2009 Porsche Cayman S (driving behind me). “…A little spirited, [but] I’ll come back. I thought it was really fun and, going with a lot of people and meeting new people is really fun too.”
The drive was sporty and fun. I was the tallest car in the group and, between a Corvette and Macri’s Cayman S, I looked seriously out of place.
But, the dual-clutch transmission (DCT) manumatic in the Acura was responsive and clean in the corners and on acceleration, so I didn’t make Macri in the Cayman’s drive dull.
People were safe; not taking things too quickly, but still at a very nice pace.
“We’re a bunch of guys [and gals] trying to have a good time, trying to be safe,” Wolf said.
Brakes would be applied into the corners and then, upon exit, a chorus of climbing rpms rose to the sky. On the hairpin corners, taken at an unbelievably careful pace given the powerhouses under some hoods (complement, not complaint), the reward was a cacophony of engines as drivers stretched the cars-legs upon exit, the engine vocals resounding in my heart.
The Aston Martin Vantage’s belting out a monstrous growl, the Lotus Elise pouring a high-pitched scream into the air and the Acura TLX’s V6 gave me a smile at every gas pedal tap. It may not have had the same tone as those around it, but it was still a blast to hear (and drive).
It sounded glorious. The other cars sounded glorious. The roads were glorious. All around glorious.
So glorious, that I wished it was longer.
Luckily for me, and all the other enthusiasts out there, this wouldn’t be the only time they gathered. The Northwest Drivers group is open to all people with all makes of vehicles – cars, trucks, whatever your flavor of wheels – and only requires that one likes to drive.
“Join, by all means. We have been very lucky so far, we haven’t had any idiots or any people that are rude or unfriendly,” Wolf said. “There were a couple [of people] we had to say, ‘hey take it bit easy’ and they did and it was fine.”
The next event has an added bonus of starting at the end of the June 6 Exotics at Redmond Town Center and heads up into the Cascade Mountains for a bit of Bavarian fun at the end.
The Northwest Drivers group has also gone up north to Lummi Island, out west to Lake Crescent, down to Mount Saint Helens, held track days at local motorsports parks and more. Because: Why. Not.
“I’m tickled, obviously, it’s nice. The community aspect is a big part of it, for me, and I love all the cars,” Wolf said. “While I am biased toward German cars, being German, I love them all.”
So, until next time Northwest Drivers, thank you for the wonderful drive and the earful of fantastic car sounds.