It’s an interesting time in automotive history. Not only are we witness to the zenith of the internal combustion engine in terms of power, efficiency, and fuel economy, but we are also spectators to arguably the largest shift in automotive history—which is the electrification of the car and eventually self-driving vehicles. It’s a great time to be alive, that is unless you’re a manual transmission fan.
But luckily for us, it appears GM will continue to offer a manual gearbox for the 2019 model year. A recently leaked CARB document, uncovered by AutoGuide, shows that the 2019 facelift of the sixth-gen Camaro will bring some upgraded drivetrain options with it. Camaro owners will now be given the choice between an 8-speed auto, 6-speed manual, or 7-speed manual transmission (no word yet on whether the 10-speed will be available in SS trim). Currently, the manual-equipped sixth-gen “only” comes with a 6-speed TR6060 transmission.
And while the 6060 is a capable transmission, and a personal favorite of ours, the TR6070—borrowed from big brother Corvette—gives Camaro fans an additional overdrive gear, bringing the grand total of overdrive gears to three. If you’re asking yourself “why the heck does it need three overdrive gears?” right now, you’re not alone. You see, it seems as if this is largely about the improved emissions and fuel mileage the new transmission brings rather than any performance enhancements.
Sure, the torque capacity for the TR6070 is slightly higher, dependent on its configuration, due to the addition of two-piece gear design; and the overall gear ratio spread can be as wide as 6.33, providing greater, and smoother, torque multiplication throughout the gears with closer ratio gears. But in the grand scheme of things, the biggest take away is lower RPM at cruising speeds.
While the gear ratios are largely tailored to the power output of what’s in front of the transmission, and in part determine the transmission’s torque capacity, the ZL1 has the same 650/650 rating as the Corvette Z06, yet it still uses the aforementioned TR6060–though it seems likely that the TR6070 will supplant it moving forward.
The TR6070, with its very high top overdrive gear of .45, will allow enthusiasts to compensate for any changes in the First-gear ratio by installing a deeper set of cogs at the rear end. Not only will this give better off-the-line acceleration, but with three overdrive gears, the car will hardly even notice the difference.
Both transmissions are very capable and will likely be almost indistinguishable from one another in everyday driving—apart from the little 7 on the shift knob—but either way, we look at it as a good thing. We are witnessing the demise of the manual transmission and GM has just taken a step forward in preventing that apocalyptic scenario.
For years, the manual transmission was the be-all-end-all of transmission choice when it came to a “driver’s car.” Sure, the drag crowd will argue that autos have always been faster, at least in a straight line, but it’s hard to argue with the sheer enjoyment of rowing your own gears—the satisfaction of truly being a part of the machine, instead of just a passenger.
We’d argue that the more skill something requires, the cooler it is—which is exactly why manuals are awesome. They take skill to operate. Unfortunately for us, it seems as if the manual transmission’s heyday is well behind it as sales of the gearbox have been in decline for years. In fact, several upscale marques have already retired manual gearboxes in their vehicles completely—we’re looking at you, Ferrari and Lamborghini.
Unfortunately, however, it makes a lot of sense. In yesteryears, autos weren’t very practical for the autocross and road course. They were too dumb to keep you in the right gear unless you manually shifted them anyways. It wasn’t long ago that if you wanted the fastest lap times, you’d go for the manual. But these days, technology like dual-clutch transmissions and even GM’s own 10-speed automatic have made that a problem of the past.
Now with shift speeds in autos measured in milliseconds and the gear selection problems in the past, the manual transmission seems to be on borrowed time. Not only does the automatic give you greater straight-line consistency, it shortens shift times and multiplies torque throughout the curve, making it the best of both worlds.
We still have hope for the manual transmission, but if you’ve ever considered buying a manual sixth-gen Camaro—or even Corvette—now may be the time to act. Before you know it, cars will be doing everything for you anyway, so why not take one last shot at being a critical part of the machine you pilot?