Stick & Move: Today’s automatic manuals

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By now you’re probably sick of stick shifting in heavy traffic. Although fun on the open roads, manuals are much more work for stop-and-go routes, not to mention jumping out of first gear when you’re parked on an incline. Don’t fret. The key is to purchase a vehicle with a manual-matic transmission. Though not new to the industry, manual-matics allow drivers to operate transmissions as automatics, with the option to switch to the clutchless, manual mode, where the shifter can be moved up, down, right or left to upshift or downshift. The 2006 Porsche Cayman S and 2007 Jaguar XK both offer such transmissions.

 2006 Porsche Cayman S.2006 Porsche Cayman S.
As with all German carmakers, especially when it comes to sports performance, Porsche never takes vehicle engineering lightly. Respect on the road is more important than fast food on the go. The mid-engine Cayman sits well in tandem with young Porsche aficionados who dwell in urban atmospheres, are athletic and confident with their product choices. And for $58,900, the premium sports coupe is attainable by a wide swath of the middle class. The Cayman has a top track speed of 171 m.p.h. and runs 0 to 60 in 5.1 seconds. It’s equipped with a stellar 3.4-liter, 295-horsepower flat six; in other words, the engine’s pistons are horizontally opposed to reduce vibration.

Porsche calls its manual-matic “Tiptronic® S.” Mated to a 5-speed automatic, it features steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles, so you can change gears like a race car driver while keeping your hand on the wheel and your eyes on the road.  When selected, the manual component of the gearbox permits quicker shift points and prepares the Cayman for sportier and more aggressive driving. Tiptronic® S will also allow you to decrease your speeds using the engine brake technique, where a driver slows the vehicle by downshifting as opposed to applying the brakes. Upon ignition, the engine purrs softly while the exhaust growls smoothly but methodically, according to gearshifts. Accelerating quickly from slow speeds was reminiscent of the moves of top NFL draft pick Reggie Bush. In layman’s terms, the Cayman S burns. You even get 28 highway miles and a cool 20 in the city.

2007 Jaguar XK Coup/Convertible2007 Jaguar XK Coup/Convertible
Jaguar is looking to attract the attention of its core buyers with its new XKs. Women represent 30 percent of this mix, with the overall group being very affluent and usually old enough to know the words on any Sam Cooke track. Of the new XKs, 70 percent are expected to be convertibles, which will retail for $81,500. The coupe goes for $75,500. On the performance side, the ‘07 gets a good 5.9-second time from 0 m.p.h. to 60 m.p.h. and tops out at 140 m.p.h. The pending XKR model will be far superior once it’s unleashed. When accelerating you should use the gearbox’s Sequential Manual shift mode to control r.p.m.’s for maximum thrust. You may also set the transmission in Drive Auto and Sports Auto. In Sports Auto the transmission will hold your selected gear until you redline. This will give you more power and flexibility.

The vehicle I test drove in South Africa wore Pirelli 19-inch ZR tires (18-inch base with 19-inch and 20-inch options) and reacted to road maneuvering via its Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS) and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC). All of these work in tandem to keep the vehicle on level playing ground. From behind the wheel the XKs are phenomenal! The South African roads were like autocrosses, swirling around mountainous terrains while showing off the beauty of the ocean. Third gear was my favorite as I chased other Jags like squirrels in the woods. An attempt by two sports bikes to overtake me proved futile as the Jag clawed the swooping corners of our route. I retired both of them!.   

Kimatni D. Rawlins is the publisher of Automotive Rhythms and host of “The Urban Automotive Experience.” Visit www.AutomotiveRhythms.com