List: Top Ten Transmissions Of 2011

By John Beltz Snyder

December 27, 2011

2012

2012 Mazda3 Skyactiv: The new six-speed manual developed as part of Mazda’s Skyactiv efficiency program also makes for a really rewarding way to row through the gears. Throw is short, light, and remarkably smooth. Kudos to the six-speed auto, too, for combining the best elements of the torque converter and dual-clutch.

2012

2012 Acura TL SH-AWD: We love the TL’s six-speed manual transmission. The action in this lever is incredibly crisp and tactile, enabling fast, confident gear changes. A must-have item for the model.

2012

2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG: This seven-speed dual-clutch transmission does a fine job of managing the car’s 550 horsepower (with AMG Performance Package). A tick of the paddle produces a quick, synaptic response from the gearbox.

2011

2011 Lexus CT200h: With an electric motor built into the CT’s continuously variable transmission, Lexus’s eCVT delivers power smoothly and quickly, without all the huffing and puffing we often associate with CVTs.

2012

2012 Audi A7: The gear ratios of the A7’s eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission make it easy to tap into the power of the supercharged V-6. Good shift logic and the ability to change the gears yourself are added plusses.

2011

2011 BMW 1-Series M Coupe: This six-speed manual feels perfectly appropriate for an M car. It is rock-solid, and it makes it hard to botch a shift—great characteristics for attacking the track, where focus is key.

2012

2012 Hyundai Veloster: For such an affordable little car, its proper six-speed manual transmission is impressive to use. Lever and clutch have an appropriate heft to them, and are well balanced for both economical and spirited driving.

2011

2011 BMW 335is: This dual-clutch setup offers instant response from the paddles, with correspondingly quick shifts from the gearbox. Left to its own devices, this transmission does a fine job of shifting on its own. It is intuitively engaging, and a great fit for this sporty 3er.

2012

2012 Buick Regal GS: One of the more surprisingly good transmissions of the year, the six-speed manual in the GS allows us to make great use of the car’s turbocharged power. Sourced from Opel, the 6MT’s throws are light and precise. The clutch feels quite natural, too.

2011

2011 Nissan Juke: The high placement of this six-speed manual transmission’s gear lever feels quite unique. It comes to hand naturally, and the throws are relatively short despite the tall feel of the shifter. It’s solid and precise, and makes us feel a bit like a rally hero when shifting.

2012 2012 2012 2011 2012 2011 2012 2011 2012 2011
Not only is a well-executed transmission important for a car to function properly, it is also one of the most important features in terms of engaging the driver. The way a car shifts determines how power is applied, and it also provides a driver with the sort of feedback we look for in an involving vehicle.
 
Now, we—and almost the entirety of the enthusiast driving community—generally prefer a traditional manual transmission to get the job done. There’s something incredibly rewarding about doing it yourself, especially when you nail every shift in a climb up to top gear. Still, there are some automatic, dual-clutch, and—dare we say it—continuously variable transmissions that we’ve driven this year that have helped make certain cars more fun to drive.
 
So, as we anticipate Winding Road’s best cars of the year in Issue 78, here are ten of the best transmissions we had the pleasure of using in 2011.