Sunday, February 23, 2014

Learning to drive stick shift makes you a better driver

Sports Car Six Speed Shifter
Posted Feb 21st 2014 12:00PM



Maybe, just maybe, it's safer and better for every road user if we all know how the gears that make the wheels go round ratchet up.
There are an increasing number of endangered species in this turbulent world of ours, but none is rushing to extinction faster than the driver who can get from A to B in a stick-shift car. The art of mastering how to navigate through the H-gate is almost completely lost on the latest generation of car buyers. It's a troublesome and worrying thing.

Today's story, dear reader, is not a rant about how stick is the purest form of driving and needs preserving at all costs – like someenthusiast magazines who like cars and drivers might banner wave over – this is a thought that maybe, just maybe, it's safer and better for every road user if we all know how the gears that make the wheels go round ratchet up.

You don't learn to ride a horse without knowing how the reins work and you don't sail a boat without understanding the rigging. Yet we see a driving license as a birthright, and it's an automatic assumption we can drive a car.

If you have a teenager learning to drive right now, wouldn't you prefer they were taught to be more like the pilot of that mechanical masterpiece rather than the autopilot passenger?


Geoff Day has been called the "Pied Piper" of the auto industry, leading auto journalists on wild rides around the globe in his position as former director of communications for Mercedes-Benz USA. Before that, he worked at DaimlerChrysler UK on its PR efforts, and rubbed elbows with the Queen of England in his role at the Buckingham Palace Press Office. His phone is filled with the numbers of the great, the good and the bad. His head is filled with dirty little secrets hiding in many corners of the auto industry.


I can still vividly remember riding shotgun with my dad as an 11-year-old boy and being utterly mesmerized by the way his feet could dance across three pedals in perfect synchronization with his left arm pushing and pulling a metal stick. (I was raised in the land of right-hand drive, remember.) I thought there was no way I could ever learn how to so dexterously coordinate my limbs in a way that could ever get me out of the driveway and off into distance.

Perhaps you get a better appreciation of time when you know how the watch works, and so I believe, it is with cars.
That skill set seemed like an Olympic task to me, yet a few years later and after many hours of gear crunching and clutch mashing, I walked into a Scottish driving test center and emerged 30 minutes later with a license to thrill. I had cracked that the left hand connected to the gear shift, the left foot connected to clutch pedal and the right foot connected to the other two – ah, dem bones, dem bones.

My concern here is that the way we currently teach our youth how to move a two-ton piece of hardware around our neighborhoods should be based on the fact that driving is a skill of degrees, where you learn the process of what's going on underneath the hood first. It's about an appreciation of how the thing works, not just the result of what it does. Perhaps you get a better appreciation of time when you know how the watch works, and so I believe, it is with cars.

A good dose of healthy respect for the mechanicals and developing a one-on-one relationship with them makes for a better, safer and more considerate driver. If your first driving skill is easily being able to go straight to D and have the old girl do all the work, then it makes for very lazy and selfish drivers. A little ability in automotive foreplay, where you learn how to feather the clutch, slickly slip your stick in and out of the gate and then push a little harder on the precious pedal to get her turning over surely makes for a more organic driving experience.

Having gears to play with also means you need to concentrate more, which means less time to text, adjust makeup or daydream about a bathing-suit-clad Kate Upton in outer space.
Having gears to play with also means you need to concentrate more, which means less time to text, adjust makeup or daydream about a bathing-suit-clad Kate Upton in outer space.

Think about it, we should require our new drivers to learn on a manual transmission and to pass their test with a stick-shift car and then spent the first year of driving in three-pedal heaven. If we did, then perhaps they would see the car not as a moving clubhouse, where you tweet, text and twerk 'til you get there, but as a tamed beast to treat with respect during the journey.

Those crucial first months are when teen driving accidents happen t. And given that 23-percent of all car accidents – that's a staggering 1.3 million a year – are texting-related, then doing something else with your hands might just save a few lives. Oh, by the way, that's how it's done in most European countries and their accident stats are reassuringly lower than ours.

A part of me thinks that changing our driving ed and testing rules would be welcomed by our learners. After all, they are thrilled to go watch actors work a manual tranny in Fast and Furious 57or put the gearbox through its paces in the Need for Speed Rivals video game – it's cool and clever. Surely if you can buy a fake stick shift for your video driving game, why would you not want to learn how to do the real thing?

If we mandated licenses linked to stick-shift cars, I can guarantee there would suddenly be plenty of choices on the forecourt.
Getting a driving license by only ever driving automatics is a bit like learning to ride a bike with training wheels on, expect most drivers never take the baby wheels off. It's time to learn to read the manual. And car companies, please don't give me the guff about nobody wants manuals, which is why even Ferrari doesn't offer one anymore. If we mandated licenses linked to stick-shift cars, I can guarantee there would suddenly be plenty of choices on the forecourt.

We just need to get our act in gear. Perhaps the Oval Office should be more concerned with how the next generation get a true driver's skill set than whether or not to deport Justin Beiber back to Canada. (He's a person who perfectly examples the "if I have a license, I can drive a Lambo" mentality.) It's time to buckle up for a manual revival, and not because of an elitist enthusiast agenda but because it will save lives, make our roads safer and, alright, yes, it's way more fun diving into the gearbox than paddle shifting around the steering wheel.
News Source: Getty Images



Tuesday, February 18, 2014

VW Scirocco

2014 Volkswagen Scirocco R
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Posted Feb 16th 2014 2:58PM



The Scirocco is undoubtedly one of the better-looking models in the Volkswagen lineup, but introduced back in 2008, it's now been on the market – some markets, anyway – for the better part of six years. VW is said to have an all-new replacement in the works, but before that arrives, the German automaker has announced a facelifted version with revised styling and a new engine lineup.

Set to be revealed at the Geneva Motor Show next month, the new Scirocco benefits from updated styling front and rear, high-tech exterior lighting, a revised cabin space with some throwback retro touches, some new technologies and, of course, an array of fresh wheel options ranging from 17 to 19 inches.

The updated Scirocco will be offered with a wide array of engines right from the get-go, including four gasoline options and two diesels, spanning from 125 horsepower all the way up to the 280-hp Scirocco R. The 2014 model hits European showrooms in August, but unfortunately isn't any more likely to make the transatlantic voyage Stateside than the version it replaces. Still interested? There's plenty to see in the high-res image gallery above and details in the press release below.
Show full PR text
News Source: Volkswagen