I dunno about failproof manuals, lazy driving and lack of maintenance will have it needing a clutch every 50k or less, and burn up the synchros in 100K, then just plain bad drivers will chip up the teeth, and they never seem to be particularly strong any more. The linkages wear bushings and pop off, or bend with heavy use and they get balky. Clutches always seem deperately undersized this side of the pond too, I swear the clutch size they put in a 150HP 3500lb car over here would only go in a 60HP 2000lb supermini in Europe, and with the stop-start city driving that's all too common over there, 60K is a normal lifetime for a clutch.
Some models of automatics have their problems, but the good ones go on and on with regular fluid changes.
I quite like the auto in Wile-E it's a 4 speed electronic one, the F4-EAT which gets a bad rap, which I think is all fluid and heat related. i.e. change the fluid and keep it cool and it's a winner. Ford the dumbasses never specified a fluid change interval apart from on the severe service schedule (30K)
Anyway when I was used to it last time he was in service, I got so I could do these little twitches of the foot on the throttle pedal and make it dance up and down the ratios as I liked. Only been driving him a few days again now, so still relearning that, and he might be relearning as well, since battery was off a lot.
edit: BTW when I firmed up Marvin's dumb as a plank hydraulic automatic I began to like that a lot too, became less vague, and more predictable, and thoroughly deslushed. I'm not exactly sure how I killed it yet, it was at 200,000 miles of service, 10 months previously I exploded an experimental LSD traction insert in the poor thing, and it might have been damage/debris incurred from that.
I remember The RoadWarrior..To understand who he was, you have to go back to another time..the world was powered by the black fuel & the desert sprouted great cities..Gone now, swept away..two mighty warrior tribes went to war & touched off a blaze which engulfed them all. Without fuel, they were nothing..thundering machines sputtered & stopped..Only those mobile enough to scavenge, brutal enough to pillage would survive. The gangs took over the highways, ready to wage war for a tank of juice
I just finished a review of the car in the review section. This car with the same engine and 500 pounds more weight beat the Solstice in city mileage coming out with 24 heavy city vs. 18 to 20 for the Solstice. The highway mileage came out to be the same 30, but the city stick vs. automatic just didn't have a chance. My only 2 tricks were shifting to neutral at lights, and feathering the gas, but keeping up with traffic, observing all traffic rules to keep speed down and that was it.
Now this Malibu had the F1 style paddle shifters, so I did do experiments trying to out shift the car to lower shift points in the city. Its rpm range in automatic mode were 1200 to 2000, it would shift to the next gear, and when I would hit cruise at 35-40 in the city, it would keep the rpms around the 1200 range. So I tryed to out shift it at lower rpms and wound up with my early shift putting the engine at 900 to 1000, creating a lug. Left in automatic mode, it just shifted great in the city. I also noticed that at highway cruise it did 2200 rpm at 70, vs. 2600 rpm on the Solstice, perhaps a higher diff ratio.
I have been a stick shift man for years and knew that auto's had draw backs and lower mpg. With the newer transmissions out there, the car companies have made great strides in an efficient automatic trans. So much so, I plan my next car to be an automatic.
Back in the 80's I rebuilt a number of auto trannies in my hot rod days, I rebuilt an turbo 400, power glide, Ford C4 and C6, and a Dodge torqueflight 727B. They are all so similar, in the mid 80's they came out with the lock up transmissions, that got rid of the slippage that occurs on the highway (poor mpg), since then they took the old 3 speed autos and gave them 4, 5, and now 6 speed automatics.
In the old day's auto trans were $800 for a rebuild, with manuals being higher due to the pressing of gears and sychro's taking so much labor. I have have had the newer transmissions costing close to 3000 for a rebuild. O.k. there are more planetary gears inside, but its much the same stuff. Take off the front cover and flip it over and out comes the pan cake. Clean it and put in new clutches and it's rebuilt. Modern transmissions rely on more computer imput than the old days of the transmission being controlled by the valvebody. So it seems to me that, there is less to the manufacture of modern automatic transmissions, with the exeption of a hybrid transmission.
I get what your talking about with the new stick shifts, I think from a production stand point newer manual transmissions are built cheaper. I remember GM's Borg Warner T5, it was a 5 speed, that used transmission fluid. A friend of my had one in a 6 cyl Camero and drove the car like a church lady and broke gear 2 and 4, making a funny 3 speed out of the thing.
I know the Solstic at 60K is clunking going into 2 and 3, I asked the Gm guys and they said Normal Wear and Tear. I hope this trans makes it to 100K.
Shifting to neutral at lights I believe is a gas saver, I once heard that to generate the 500 psi oil pressure required by an automatic, takes 15 to 20 hp, that relates directly into mpg and waste sitting at a light. Now you have to be carfull, always predict your lights, never shift an auto into drive while reving the engine. Time your lights, see if you can see the other street lights, when they turn yellow, go into drive. Or if your back in a pack, pay attension to the cars moving, so you give 3 seconds for drive to engage and prematurly wearing aout your drive clutch pack.
One thing I do with an automatic to relieve stress on my feet when driving for hours in heavy city traffic is double foot (left foot brake, right foot gas). I used to drive a van for deliveries and when I broke my foot in 93, I had to drive left foot for 6 month until the bones healed. It's been a while since I did that and took practice to get the braking right. If you want to double foot, practice in a residential till you get used to the brake pressure on the left foot. If you drive a clutch and double foot, the first time you hit the brake with your left foot, you'll send yourself right through the windshield.
So I am in love with the idea of getting a fuel efficient auto, with luxury. Now I would call it my Cadillac years, but Cadillac does't make a four cylinder. Yes I want to wear Hawaiian shirts all the time and have drinks with little umbrella's. Im really enjoying the idea of taking a break from all that shifting.
Shifting to neutral at lights I believe is a gas saver, I once heard that to generate the 500 psi oil pressure required by an automatic, takes 15 to 20 hp, that relates directly into mpg and waste sitting at a light.
That just HAS to be an exaggeration. I can't (and won't) believe for a second that the engine has to create anywhere near 15-20 more hp if the car is in gear vs neutral.
In fact, if I remember correctly from my data logging on Tracker, calculated load was mostly unaffected(+-1%) by neutral vs drive. However, turning on the a/c yielded a 15% increase in calculated load.
Also remember that automatic transmissions do not disengage the hydraulic pump when it is in neutral. There are plenty that do in park, but not neutral so you are still having to create pressure. (That's why you can neutral coast in automatic cars but not all of them can EOC) My old Cressida did disconnect the hydraulic pump in park and if you revved the engine up and switch between neutral and park you could hear the difference... barely.
Just to clarify on pressure requirements I'm going to take numbers from my factory service manual for the Tracker.
Line pressure at engine idle:
Reverse range - 79-86psi
Drive range - 53-58psi
Line pressure at TC stall speed:
Reverse range - 188-233psi
Drive range - 136-156psi
maybe theyve changed alot since 97 (newest car we have, tranny pisses me off 3.0v6 tarus) can accelerate lightly and you would expect ti to shift around 2-3K no this thing loves to hold onto gears(always have since we got it with 30k miles, now has 100k+). doesnt engine brake at all (well does but takes a friggin mile to do so)
the one car i loved and would have been my first car the tranny died a year before i got my license. car wasnt worth enough to get it fixed (1977 chevy caprecee) first reverse went out, drove it around for awhile like that till drive went out(ever try to push around a 2 ton car? )
our van 96 aerostar it behaves like a manual (in the sense of engine brakeing) let off the gas almost instantly starts to brake same deal with it with the slow shifting.
the junkmobile (86 chevy celebrity) that thing doesnt know when to downshift lol speed drops it just starts bogging the engine down.
i do know the chevette auto trannies are horrid (break often and kill what little getup and go the car has).
the manual trannies are pretty tough tho.
i belive my s-10 has the t-5 tranny in it. it hasnt given me any problems, still on the origional clutch (145K miles)
now the model AA tranny or shall i say trannies(does have 2 seperate ones) those are going to take some getting used to with the double clutching (straight gears, no synchros at all) then the dual high (1:1 ratio then something that slows it down even more) that you pretty much set it before you move (used on the commercial model A's hence why you can use about 35hp to move 1.5 tons)
i dunno i guess while im young i like being in control of all aspects of the car (hence why i hate ABS TCS whatever else) that manual trannies make 4 cyl cars fun and make em seem fast lol. when my dad buys cars he expects to keep them till they blow up (literally sometimes) or a major repair is more than the cars value. so when theres all these electronic trannies and all sorts of stuff that uses servos or actuators that will fail with time rather just have some mechanical linkage setup...or since we like to do our own service work that when a computer buggers up or something fails and throws the SES light were SOL since we dont own a obdII scanner or anything...