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Guest Opinion: I Am Never Buying An Automatic!

“I am never buying an automatic.”

So the teenaged Bill used to say. My parents drove automatics as did the uncool kids in high school. I needed to feel absolute control over a car, though some would say about my driving habits, there is no control. I wanted to make the decision regarding when to change gears – the very idea of leaving it up to the car to decide made my blood boil. It’s a conspiracy! How DARE they even invent such a contraption!!

Flash forward to 2005. Every single car I’ve owned has been a manny-tranny with the exception of two cars. This was over a period of 21 years (GASP!), 11 or so VWs and 2 Mazdas. The exceptions were a 1998 Jetta GL and a 2000 Mazda MPV LX. Those really don’t count because they were originally bought for my wife (bless her uncool soul!). I had the distinct displeasure of driving her Jetta for a year and a half when I gave up my 1995 Passat GLX Wagon (a 5-speed, of course) to buy the MPV (more on Speedy, the Jetta in another story).

Hmmm… okay, back to the present. Guess what? I’m older now. My daily commute is an 85-mile round trip. Most of the driving is on the turnpike but I have to do a lot of city driving as well. This summer has been particularly rough with a ton of traffic jams. Do I even have to mention the snarl of traffic leaving Waterfest this year? My poor left leg was trembling after that one.

Over the past year, I have rented/borrowed numerous cars and all of them were automatics. B5.5 Passats, Touaregs, an occasional A4 Jetta and my dad’s Mercedes E320. Just this past weekend, I borrowed my brother’s 2001 BMW 330ci automatic. I have to admit… my transmission stroker view is changing. WOW! A transmission that shifts itself? What will they think of next?

Traffic jams? No problem! Stop and go traffic? No problem! Drinking my morning 24-oz French Vanilla Cappuccino and changing radio stations all while hurtling down the turnpike? No problem!

With a plethora of “manual” shift automatics such as DSG, SMG, Tiptronic etc. available, one can have a choice of deciding when to shift gears, all while doing what I have mentioned above.

Have I gone insane? What in the wide, wide world of sports is goin’ on here? I used to follow the quote by Abbie Hoffman – Never trust anyone over 30. Or was that Pat Boone? And how the hell would I have known if it was Pat Boone?!

My God… it has happened. I have grown old. My priorities have changed. I am happily married to my beautiful but hapless wife, have two wonderful boys, am an officer of a midsize bank, have a mortgage, two car payments, a cat and a dog. I am the definition of Suburbia. Shudder.

Gone are my carefree days of youth. Gone are the times I would wash and wax my car at least three times a month – my car is now lucky to get a wash/wax once a month. But also gone is my bias towards automatic transmissions. You might as well hand me a cane or a walker because I am old.

Yup… gonna seriously think about buying a car with an automatic transmission next. There. I’ve said it. BUT… it’ll have either a DSG, SMG, Tiptronic, etc. in it because while I may have no control over my boys, my wife, or even my own ever-changing physique, I’ll at least have the option of controlling what gear I’m in. Perhaps I’m not quite ready for the old folks home just yet.

I’ll part with these golden words – STAY OFF’N MY LAWN, YOU YOUNG WHIPPERSNAPPERS!!!


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