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I love manual transmissions but... In its current form, in passenger cars, yes there is a chance it will go extinct before the gasoline powered car does, because of fuel economy requirements. Specifically, it's worth recalling that the CAFE standard for 2025 is 54.5 mpg, and I expect fuel efficiency standards to go up one more time after that while we still have gasoline powered cars. That corresponds to a window sticker EPA rating in the 40-50mpg range, when today's non-hybrid cars almost all have a sticker showing 30mpg or less. (graphic from Car and Driver showing the fuel efficiency standards vs. the CAFE ratings for cars today...you'll notice every single non-hybrid falls under the black line, including all the diesel cars, and if you plotted some bigger hybrid cars like the Lexus GS450h or Acura RLX hybrid, they would also be far below the line) Many of these data points are models equipped with the latest automatic transmissions. Automatic transmissions today are employing tricks like coasting in neutral, using a taller gear while slipping the transmission at low speed (google Porsche PDK "virtual gears"), and it's only a matter of time before electrical systems get a slight upgrade and we start getting cars that will turn off the engine while coasting rather than just idling, just as a Prius does. With smaller engines and forced induction, fuel economy might climb another 10-20%, which you can see is still inadequate for meeting that black line. So let's put the manual vs. automatic question aside for a minute and examine the question of how are manufacturers going to meet these targets? Let's look at some of the highly efficient cars on the market today to answer that question. The Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is perhaps the most highway-mpg optimized sedan out there today, with an incredibly low drag coefficient and small turbocharged motor paired to a very efficient 8 speed transmission. It is rated at 38mpg highway for the tougher EPA estimate, and as you can see in the chart, 40mpg CAFE. If our CLA250 example received a 10% boost in both city and highway fuel economy, it would still not meet the 2025 requirements. (see Appendix 1,2 for technical details why 10% is as much as we can expect) What this means is that nearly every car will have to be a mild hybrid or full hybrid by 2025. The problem with hybrid drivetrains and manual transmissions is that a manual transmission removes the low speed advantage of a hybrid (M/T cannot move under electric power alone in traffic), does not allow coasting with engine off, and is not nearly as effective at regenerative braking. This doesn't necessarily spell death for the manual transmission, but it makes it very difficult for higher power and heavier manual transmission equipped cars to exist. By the next round of fuel efficiency standards sometime around 2035, it is possible manual transmissions will be dead, because so few cars can be equipped with one that manufacturers may decide it's not worth it. My thoughts on the future of the manual transmission: Today, manual transmissions test worse than automatics for EPA fuel economy tests, largely because they have a silly shift schedule that keeps the car in each gear until 15, 25, 35, etc. mph, which are the default EPA thresholds. If shifted to higher gears more often, the gap can be closed a bit. The car manufacturer is allowed to specify their own shift schedule, which generally improves the numbers a lot. For example, high displacement V8 American muscle cars with manual transmission have rather high fuel economy ratings because they use very tall cruising gears to improve the highway number, and specified shift schedules to improve the city number (sometimes forcing skip shifts, like on the Mustang, which makes you go from 1st to 4th). The issue is that under EPA testing this is likely the best you can ever do, because the car has to be in gear. A good hypermiler does all these things with a manual transmission, and can achieve extraordinary fuel economy, but it takes a lot of work, and I suspect it would raise quite a few eyebrows at the EPA if the manufacturer specified that you should step on the clutch and turn the engine off during the highway portion of the test :) The survival of the manual transmission in higher powered cars and heavy cars depends on an increased regenerative braking capacity and low speed fuel savings. One way this can be done is with a very powerful electric motor which can provide braking torque far greater than the engine's. My personal crackpot idea is to use one motor spinning with the engine and one motor attached to the input shaft of the transmission. Instead of starting the car using the clutch, slightly releasing the clutch pedal will shunt electrical power from the motor attached to the engine to the motor on the input shaft, moving the car along with no clutch wear, and high fuel efficiency. Instead of using the synchronizers in the gearbox to synchronize gear shifts, the electric motor will slow down or speed up the shaft as necessary. This would save synchro wear. The reduced clutch and synchro wear is a huge advantage because those are extremely expensive items to replace, which today is tipping the maintenance cost equation in favor of automatic transmissions. I hope someone builds a car with this system, but I'm not holding my breath. Appendix: As far as aerodynamics go, the CLA250 has a 0.22 Cd, and the very low drag concept cars that still look like normal cars with normal sized tires and a normal sized length instead of a giant tail have only gotten to maybe 0.19. Mercedes Benz says they are targeting a 0.2 Cd across their fleet but this is likely the lowest you can ever get on a car. Let's remember that going from a steel frame to a full aluminum frame can only save a few hundred pounds, which is usually only 10% of a car's weight. For example the Audi A8 aluminum space frame concept saved 100kg on a rather large car, which is only 220lbs, on a car that weighs nearly 2 tons. The energy consumption due to road load and braking in the city test can thus only be decreased perhaps 10% due to weight savings, and that's a highly optimistic figure. Many cars already have start-stop systems today which increase the city rating by ~10%, which covers the majority of wasted fuel during city driving.
The all-new Audi A6 has been launched in the market in June 2018. This cool-looking alternative to the likes of the BMW5 Series Touring and Mercedes E-Class Estate comes with a range of new hybrid engines and plenty of infotainment features borrowed from the uber-luxurious A8. Its bold creases, broad grille, and sharp new headlights all take inspiration from this range topping four door. The clever mild hybrid system helps boost performance, cut emissions and reduce fuel inspiration. Overall the car looks impressive. To keep the vehicle in a good running condition, take it to the Audi Greensboro service center.
Top Gear's top 10: luxury cars We put our sensible hats on to bring you the 10 best luxury cars out there 1.Jaguar XJ Jaguar’s futuristic range-topping saloon remains a striking car, even three years after launch. For 2014 it was tweaked, with subtly honed suspension settings, better sat nav, a standard eight-speed auto with stop-start plus big improvements in diesel efficiency. Now it’s been facelifted again, with revised engines and interior tech, full-LED headlights and more distinctive ‘J-blade’ daytime running lights. The XJR is still around, with its 550bhp supercharged 5.0-litre V8 and Merc-AMG-like attitude. But now there’s a R-Sport model for those who want the looks but not the fuel bills. There’s a new top-of-the-line Autobiography trim too, for those who like to spend no less than six figures. 9.Porsche Panamera The all-new, second-generation Porsche Panamera. Yep, really. All of its parts are new, even if it does just look like a facelift. Albeit a very successful one: the Panamera has finally grown into its skin, and wears its 911 styling cues better than ever. You may disagree, but we think it looks pretty darn good. 8.Bentley Bentayga £133,100 – £196,590 It’s what happens with the might of the VW Group megazords together to combine all its tech and toys in one ultimate SUV. The Bentley Bentayga is the Crewe marque’s first SUV, and if you we’re being cynical, you’d immediately point out that underneath, this car shares some of its roots with the likes of the Porsche Cayenne, the Audi Q7, the Lamborghini Urus, and indeed the VW Touareg. But being a Bentley, it has to be faster than the Porsche, more luxurious than the Audi, more refined than the VW and better off-road than the Lambo. Excess all areas. And you know what? Bentley has succeeded. We can debate the morality of two-tonne-plus SUVs versus their popularity forever, but there’s no doubt that the Bentayga is a tour de force. It’s been around since, so there have been several models of Bentayga so far. The original was the standard W12, powered by a 6.0-litre bi-turbo engine good for 605bhp. That’s now been superseded by the Bentayga Speed, which uses a redeveloped version of the same engine to achieve 626bhp. Too profligate? If you were quick ,you could have got hold of the first and only diesel Bentley ever made: the Bentayga diesel, which used Audi’s 430bhp electro-turbo V8 derv. A magnificently rangey and torque-rich experience, the tide-turn against diesel saw the model killed off in Europe, effectively replaced by a V6 petrol a plug-in hybrid model instead, bolstering the Bentayga’s eco ranks. Sort of. There’s also a V8 petrol model, which is probably the sweet spot of the range, as it is with most Bentleys, truth be told. All Bentaygas are of course four-wheel drive, all weigh north of two tonnes, and all of them seat five people. Apart from the ones optioned like a private jet to seat four instead. Prices? From £130,000, if you avoid the options. As if you would… 7.Rolls-Royce Wraith £251,240 – £288,410 The Wraith is billed as “the most powerful and dynamic Rolls-Royce in history”. The first bit is easily dealt with: a turbocharged 6.6-litre V12 sends 624bhp to the rear wheels, ten per cent more power than you’ll find even in the new Phantom and Cullinan. As for the most dynamic? Well, you’d argue that’s not difficult, given Rolls has long mastered the art of hefty, comfy cars that are designed to soothe not scintillate. But the Wraith is based upon the Ghost limo, so it’s hardly got a sporting chassis at its core, though its rear axle has been widened and its wheelbase shortened. “The car’s suspension has also been tuned to minimise body roll and discreetly amplify feedback when cornering,” says Rolls, “while steering weight is heavier at high speeds and lighter at low speeds adding to the spirited drive.” Achieving those high speeds ought to be a doddle; with two turbos, the Wraith has a ginormous 590lb ft of torque available from 1,500rpm, enough to shift its 2.4 tonnes to 60mph in 4.4secs. Quicker than hot hatches with not dissimilar power-to-weight ratios, and quite startling to experience in something with lambs’ wool floor mats. Indeed, it may be the most sporting Rolls ever, but it’s still dripping in luxury. There are four finely proportioned seats, sumptuous materials across most surfaces and head- and leg-room aplenty, even in the rear. Don’t worry, the front seats electrically whirr forward to allow anyone climbing into the back some extra grace. Its £250,000 starting price really is just the start, too. Few Rolls-Royces leave the Goodwood factory without first having been made fully bespoke to their buyer’s needs; colour-matched inside and out, fibre-optic star headlining fitted, the full works. Half the fun of having a Rolls-Royce isn’t driving it (or being driven in it), but the buying process itself. The Wraith is now one of the oldest Rolls-Royces on sale, having arrived in 2013. The Ghost it’s spun from landed in 2010, and its drop-top sibling – the Dawn – started production in 2015. While the new-generation Phantom is sold only as a saloon, the Wraith is the car of choice if you want your Rolls-Royce to take the form of a two-door coupe. 6.BMW 7 Series Well, it used to be the ultimate BMW. A 7 Series was the undisputed flagship. But is that the case any more? Especially now that the X7 exists – a luxury limo in the (ghastly) shape of a seven-seat SUV. There’s the new 8 Series too, which will spawn a four-door saloon version – with an M badge. Certainly, there are other BMWs vying for the title of boss of the family. Meanwhile, BMW’s been listening to what its customers wanted from the 7 to beat the likes of the Mercedes S-Class (traditionally the class-defining leader in the limo set) and the Audi A8. And, what they came up with was a triple-threat approach. “Make it more imposing, make it look more different to a 3 and 5 Series, and give us more novelty features,” said the customers. Well, we can probably tick off tasks 1 & 2. The new 7 Series is a mildly terrifying looking object, thanks mostly to slimmer laser headlights framing a grille that’s 40 per cent bigger than the last version. No kidding. The whole bonnet is 50mm higher to squeeze in the mega grille, all in the name of giving the car more road presence. Lower down, the bumper now has cleaner, slipperier aero, diverting draughts into the front wheelarches and back out again by newly vertical ‘air breather’ vents, which reduce drag. Boy is it bluff to look at. A BMW caricature. In a hall of mirrors. Round the back, the LED lights are now more angular and their lighting elements animate and ‘scroll’ across the car. Apparently the boss of BMW Korea hugged the designers when they demonstrated this, so grateful was he that this gimmick – sorry, novelty – had been built in. Oh, and there’s a full-width light bar at the back, like every other German car these days. Are you not convinced? Are you wretching over your screen? Well frankly, unless you’re in China, BMW doesn’t give a monkey’s. In China, the 7 Series has a 40 per cent market share, and the big grilles and XXL chrome is bang-on for Asian tastes. BMW says it’s also had bags of positive feedback about how the car looks from American and European customers. They seem to be quite difficult to track down, though… Inside, the 7 has been gifted a new centre console layout with flush glossy buttons from the 8 Series, and the new digital dials from right across the BMW range. The highlight is the bodyshell. BMW made use of techniques and production methods devised for the i3 and i8 to trim 40kg from the 7’s chassis, which incorporates bits of carbon fibre (some as long as a normal-sized bloke is tall) for added stiffness, strength and lightness. All told, the new 7 is some 130kg lighter than the old car. A net 200 if you factor in all the added kit, which weighs 70kg by itself. Powertrain wise, the biggest improvements come in the 740Le plug-in hybrid, which can now go up to 36 miles on a charge, thanks to a 40 per cent increase in battery capacity. There’s also an entirely new, and utterly glorious V8, in the 750i, which is great news for American customers but of little note in Britain, where it’ll incur more tax than a cross-channel ferry. The M760Li V12 lives on, albeit dropping below 600bhp because of pesky new particulate filters strangling the power a touch. We doubt you’ll notice. 5.Audi A8 £70,785 – £104,590 A big, important barge of a thing relatively few will buy, and a technical achievement few have the resources or engineering might to match or surpass. It’s the new Audi A8 – the cleverest Audi of all. And so it should be, because if you really want to see what a manufacturer is truly capable of engineering, you look at its flagship. And the A8 is and always had been Audi’s, which is why the new one gets a load of tech’ we haven’t seen before, but almost certainly will on future A6s and A4s. Tech’ like ‘Traffic Jam Pilot’, which delivers “conditional level three autonomy” by taking complete control of the steering, brakes and accelerator on motorways and dual-carriageways. Or the new infotainment system, which pairs Audi’s ‘Virtual Cockpit’ instrument cluster with two touchscreens for a largely button-free centre-console. Much of said tech’ can only exist for the 48-volt, water-cooled electrical system that technically makes the A8 an ‘MHEV’, or ‘mild-hybrid electric vehicle’. This all takes some explaining, so more later. More too on the interior, which because the new A8 is bigger than the car it replaces – longer by 32mm and taller by 13 in either short- or long-wheelbase (which adds another 13cm of rear legroom) – is suitably spacious. The car’s heavier too; for all the aluminium, CFRP and magnesium Audi promises it’s used in the more rigid ‘Space Frame’ chassis, it’s almost 100kg up on the old car and lardier than either of its main competitors, the (relatively) featherweight carbon-cored BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class. So in the short-term anyway, it’s not massively quick. For starters Brits get a 3.0-litre V6 in either petrol or diesel. An ‘e-tron’ plug-in hybrid (with wireless charging) will follow along with a W12 and 4.0-litre diesel V8. And the one you want is… 4.Bentley Continental GT There’s a key point in Bentley’s timeline that we can call BC: Before Continental. So vital was the first Conti GT – not only for sales, but setting a template and tone for the whole brand – that you could easily argue that were it not for the two-door coupe Bentley might very well not be with us today. The most successful luxury car of modern times? Quite probably. And now it’s into its second generation. It must sell well, and it must still be the focal point for the whole brand, to embody what a Bentley is while the Bentayga SUV makes the big bucks elsewhere in the range. It’s a handsome thing, the new Conti GT, at least in profile, where the front wheels have been shifted forward to improve the weight distribution and drop the engine lower and further back in the chassis. In fact 55 per cent of the weight still sits on those front wheels, but there’s less of it than before – the body alone is 80kg lighter, helping the new Conti GT weigh ‘only’ 2,244kg. But Bentley has made no secret of the fact that a heavy kerb weight actually helps deliver the road-crushing stability and momentum that characterises the way its cars drive. They’re knowingly hefty things. Powerful 48v electrics from the Bentayga are used – among other things – to manage the suspension, with actuators on front and rear anti-roll bars combating body roll. The set 40:60 power split is now fully variable and actually sends 100 per cent of torque to the rear wheels as often as possible to the benefit of fuel efficiency and emissions. There are two engines to choose from. Cheapest is the V8, a 4.0-litre twin turbo offering up 550bhp, a 4.0sec 0-62mph time and 198mph top speed. Another eleven grand upgrades you to the big-boy 6.0-litre W12 engine. Basically two V6s on a common crank, it’s carried over from the old Conti albeit modified enough for Bentley to declare it the ‘most advanced 12-cylinder engine in the world’. It features cylinder shut off under light loads, while also producing 626bhp and a thumping 664lb ft of torque from a mere 1,350rpm, maintaining that through to 4,500rpm. Performance is better: 0-62mph takes 3.7sec and its top speed is 207mph. Both versions powering all four wheels through an eight-speed gearbox and, should be feel like behaving uncouthly, via a launch control system. Standard specification includes full Matrix LED lights, a 12.3in central touchscreen, wifi, head-up display, night vision, a 650w stereo and 21in wheels. Pricing starts at around £150,000, putting this in direct competition with the likes of the Aston Martin DB11, Mercedes S63 Coupe and Ferrari Portofino. But you won’t be spending that. You’ll be spending much more, getting the stitching to match your shoes, the wood to match the office in your third home, and so on. This is a car made for the bespoke treatment. 3.Rolls-Royce Phantom Since the first Phantom appeared in 1925, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has had its ups and downs. When the outgoing Phantom appeared at the stroke of midnight on January 1st 2003, the company even called it ‘the last great automotive adventure’. Maybe that should have been penultimate, because we’ve just driven the new car, and as internal combustion most likely won’t be around in another 14 years’ time, this really could be The One. Rolls-Royce reckons the Phantom is the barometer by which everyone else in the world of expensive luxury goods measures themselves, so the bar isn’t just raised here, it’s bejewelled and platinum-plated. You know when someone claims to be ‘the Rolls-Royce of watches/furniture/granite-kitchen-worktops’? Well, this is the Rolls-Royce of Rolls-Royces. Rolls says the Phantom’s new spaceframe structure is 30 per cent more rigid than the previous model, a figure that rises significantly in key areas such as suspension and gearbox. This new structure, coincidentally, offers sufficient flexibility to underpin the next wave of Rolls product, its SUV included. The chassis gets an all-new suspension setup, with a double wishbone configuration on the front, a five-link axle at the rear, adaptive dampers, and active anti-roll bars. It’s also the latest car to benefit from four-wheel steering, whose three degrees of counter-steer help shrink the car’s heft at higher speeds, as well as improving low-speed agility. The Phant’s air springs feature bigger chambers than on any previous Rolls, and the tyres are specially developed Continentals whose structure incorporates 2kg of sound absorbent material. There’s 6mm-thick, dual-layer double glazing windows all-round. The body-in-white features the largest-ever cast aluminium joints to enhance sound insulation, and overall the Phantom carries more than 130kg of sound-deadening material. There’s double skin alloy within the floor and on the front bulkhead, into which a foam and felt layer is squeezed. There’s more insulating material in the headliner, doors, and boot cavity. All of this contributes to the car’s 2,560kg kerbweight (2,610kg if you go for the long ’un, which adds 220mm to the wheelbase), but that’s surely an irelevance. As well as monitoring body and wheel acceleration and steering inputs, a stereo camera mounted in the windscreen reads the road ahead to effectively erase surface unpleasantness before it’s allowed to upset the occupants’ Dom Perignon. The new Phantom also features so many assistance systems that the heart of its electronic architecture is the single largest component produced by the BMW Group. 2.Range Rover £81,785 – £177,485 Arguably the definitive big, luxury SUV. Frequently imitated, but rarely bettered or even equalled, the Range Rover has been around since the early Seventies. And even though that means it’s only a couple years shy of its fiftieth birthday, the Rangie is still only in its fourth generation. Admittedly the fact the first-gen (later known as the ‘Classic’) lasted for more than two decades skews that figure a bit. But still… The current car was launched in 2012. It debuted a new aluminium monocoque that cost the company a billion quid or so to develop. So even though it’s bigger than the car it replaced, it’s lighter by in some cases almost half a tonne. That means it’s faster, tangibly better to drive and more efficient. And with the 2018 facelift comes even more efficiency, thanks to the introduction of the P400e plug-in hybrid, which pairs a 296bhp, four-cylinder petrol engine with a 114bhp electric motor for 64g/km of CO2, a claimed 101mpg and 31 miles of all-electric range. The P400e replaces the SDV6 Hybrid (a conventional, non-plug-in hybrid with the 3.0-litre V6 diesel and a small electric motor) in the line-up, but V6s and V8s in petrol and diesel (with up to 557bhp for the flagship, 5.0-litre supercharged V8 petrol) remain available. All are linked to an eight-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive with the deeply clever ‘Terrain Response’ technology that gives the Rangie its peerless off-road ability. Nowadays the Rangie doesn’t just compete with other big SUVs, but conventional luxury saloons like the Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7 Series and Audi A8. It has to rival those cars – traditionally their makers’ technological flagships – on every level. Which is why the new car offers higher levels of luxury and cleverer tech than we’ve yet seen from JLR. For the facelift it’s added the dual-touchscreen infotainment setup as debuted in the Range Rover Velar, ‘Pixel’ headlamps with 144 LEDs and four laser diodes each for more than 500m of visibility and much besides. We’re promised a new seat design - adjustable up to 24 (!) ways - makes the Rangie “more comfortable than ever” in the front, and that the ‘Executive Class Seating’ option for rear-seat passengers gives “the impression of a luxurious wraparound lounge-like interior”. Exterior changes include a new grille and bumper, with larger vent blades. At the side the lower accents and vents have been reworked, while at the rear the updated bumper features integrated tailpipes across all derivatives. Long- and short-wheelbase options are available, with prices starting at £79,595 for the former and £112,900 for the latter, and rising to £177,030 for V8-engined examples of Rangies fettled by JLR’s Special Vehicle Operations division. 1.Mercedes-Benz S-Class Without a doubt the benchmark big luxury saloon, the one Audi, BMW, Lexus, Cadillac and even Jaguar and Maserati must define themselves by and be measured against. This car defines the sector and is the one all others must topple. The latest A8 and 7 Series are both much newer than the S and thus have some exceptionally clever tech on-board, but while both are excellent cars in their own right, neither is quite as special as the big Merc. A facelift in 2017 – this generation’s last before it’s replaced by an entirely new S-Class – gave many new things. Chief among them new engines, Merc’s latest-generation in-line six-cylinder diesels and petrols, plus a plug-in hybrid and the S63 AMG’s V8 bi-turbo petrol. The rare-groove S65 is no more, but you can still get a V12-engined S-Class in the form of the super-luxe, super-rare and super-expensive £180,000 Mercedes-Maybach S650. This update also gave the S-Class an array of semi-autonomous driving technology like Active Speed Limit Assist, Active Lane Change Assist and Remote Parking Assist, most of which debuted in the E-Class. But to make sure the S-Class kept its crown as the techiest Merc, it got a few of its own too. The main one is a kind of active cruise control that, as well as sensing and maintaining gaps to other cars, knows to slow you for roundabouts, corners and tolls using GPS. Of course that particular system has been rolled out to other Mercs now, but it’s reasonable to expect much cleverness from the new S-Class, which could be revealed as soon as this year. Because this particular era of S-Class is so near the end of its life, Mercedes has massively cut back on the number of trim levels/equipment combinations if offers. Now there’s just one trim for the non-AMGs – ‘Grand Edition’ – and only the cheapest S350d is available with the short-wheelbase.