Oct 01

Lamborghini Cabrera and the case for manual transmissions.

Lamborghini have made an announcement about the replacement for the Gallardo. The car is to be called the Cabrera (yet another fighting bull’s name) LP600-4. Lamborghini’s Director of Communications, Rafaello Porro, has hinted that the car could be powered by a twin-turbo V10 engine.

The most likely donor is the 5.2L V10 from the Audi group with twin-turbos strapped on, ala RS6. Figures of 448kW/600hp are floating around the Lamborghini factories.

The main aim is more power and better emissions controls. The ability to control torque delivery and overall power is made easy by the throttle limiting and boost control made possible through forced induction. I personally believe it will be pegged back a few notches initially so it doesn’t incringe on big brother, Aventador.

Plus, Lamborghini have a history of increasing power and torque levels during a model’s lifetime (of usually 10 years). The ability to create SV, Superleggera and other more impressive versions becomes a very easy process with a boosted engine. Much easier than squeezing any more out of the current strained-to-the-max 570hp naturally aspirated motor.

That all sounds exciting and something to look forward to, but along with this news comes one of sadness. Lamborghini have officially announced that the 2013 Gallardo will be the last ever Lambo fitted with a traditional manual gearbox.

That’s right, as of the release of the Cabrera, possibly as early as mid next year, Lamborghinis will no longer have a manual option.

I can understand the business case, with Lamborghini themselves stating that less than 1% of their current sales are manual vehicles. It makes financial sense to drop the manual ‘box from the line-up. But it’s still sad.

Recently, for World Car Reviews, I was involved in a drive day in which we looked at 12 different cars built in Australia. A drive day that involved technical, challenging roads with lots of tight bends.

The 12 cars were wildly diverse in terms of engines, chassis and body types. Intended purposes ranged from the sporty to the pedestrian and everything in between.

4 of these vehicles were equipped with a manual transmission. Those 4 vehicles were by far the most enjoyable to drive on our test route and they were the ones that everyone kept clammering for the keys to.

In these days of electric steering, fly-by-wire throttles and ABS brakes, the manual transmission provides one of the last vestiges of direct mechanical interaction with the car.

There is nothing quite like the oily slickness and preciseness of a good gear lever in the hand and a clutch pedal underfoot. Especially when you’re approaching a severe decreasing radius corner.

I’ve driven every type of automatic and dual-clutch arrangement out there. Ironically, the only one I haven’t experienced is Lamborghini’s single clutch arrangement. Which has been universally reported as terrible.

A torque converter automatic just cannot replicate the feeling that a manual does when dropping down a cog for the corner and insantly applying whatever power you happen to have on hand on the way back out. There’s too much delay in reactions, even in the very best of them. Plus, even with many more gears, they usually can’t match the economy or performance of their manual equivalents. They also weigh more and require more cooling.

A dual-clutch is really good at these things. VW’s version, for instance, is fractionally quicker in a straight line than the clutch-pedalled one is and it uses less fuel into the bargain. It also responds instantly to changing down on corner entry. All sounds good, but they’re terrible to drive around town. Clunky, undecided and unrelaxed in an urban environment.

In a manual, you as the driver decide the character of the car in a given moment. You can choose whether to be racing and hard edged, or relaxed and cruising, or deliberately getting every last bit of mileage you can from a last bit of fuel in the fuel tank.

You also have a direct connection to the character of the car and that of it’s engine. As a tester, I always put my preference forward for a manual transmission when given the choice, because it is easier to assess how well the engine revs, and how flexible it is in it’s torque delivery. It’s a truer, unmuddied representation of what you are driving.

As a car guy, I mourn the passing of the manual transmission from the product range of one of our sportiest aspirational car brands. You should too.

Michael Adams for Infinite-Garage

1 comment

  1. Jason

    I don’t disagree with anything you said and my daily driver is a manual for the reasons you mentioned. However it’s time to move on I suppose. We are at the point where computers are better and faster then us and they can also shift using less fuel and with less wear and tear on components. That’s important. I think we are also seeing this because largely enthusiast don’t buy Lamborghinis or Ferraris. Now I know that sounds stupid at face value but the reality is your average owner of those types of cars will never drive the car hard, never race it, or never even drive it for that matter. It’s a status thing. Those people are also lazy drivers, they want gadgets and bragging rights and a dual clutch gear box gives them that. It also means they don’t have to learn to drive manual and don’t look like a moron when they stall at the light.

    Because of all of that you have a trickle down effect. Most of what I said is true for say BMW owners who just want the badge and non of the driving experience. That is why BMW was one of the first to adapt an SMG style transmission. Now we are seeing this infiltrate into cheaper cars.

    I will say one thing great about a paddle shift style transmission and that is the sound on downshift. Sure you get a great sound on a great engine with a manual, but for example on the E63 AMG we drove a while back, that downshift into a corner unleashes a noise like I’ve never heard before and it’s so good. I don’t think that little pop and gurgle would happen quite as well on a manual. Maybe if you double C downshifted but with synchronizes there is no point.

    Great topic though and I plan to drive a manual for years to come.

Comments have been disabled.