QOTW #77 – What’s the 7 speed manual really like to drive?

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Welcome to BamfordRose and another question of the week. This week it’s what is a seven-speed manual really like to drive.

Obviously, this is going to be the seven-speed auto-shift manual gearbox, which was adapted into a conventional manual fitted to v12 vantage S. If you’re a manual purist, then you won’t even entertain the pedal shift.

Perhaps once, I was a manual purist, but now I would just be after which solution delivered the best drive. So the best place to start our comparison is in a v12 VS paddle shift, auto shift manual car.

So essentially, this paddle shift, automated shift manual system is a much-evolved system originally seen in the classic vanquish. And if we think about the paddle shift system on a classic vanquish, it really gives you that supercar sense of occasion where you open the door handle, hear the pump run.

Sit in the car, key through to start, select neutral; it just adds to a sense of occasion, a process of starting up. If the automated shift manual, classic vanquish is then upgraded to a manual gearbox, which sometimes is something some people go for.

You totally lose that supercar sense of occasion when you get in the car and don’t go through any of that process to start up. And you have to put your foot down on the clutch pedal to enable crank mode and for the engine to start.

Crawling in traffic can be a bit laborious, and there’s an awful lot to be said about the ease of jumping in the car, foot on the brake, press the start button, pull the paddle, got first gear, and pull away.

Unlike the automated shift manual system on the classic vanquish, this much-evolved sport shift gearbox on this v12vs is pretty much fault free in terms of pump ASM pack magnetic position sensor. It’s not going to go wrong frequently on this evolved car, as it does on the classic vanquish.

Let’s go for a spin and appraise the auto shift manual on the v12 vantage S. Okay, so that crawl and transition from stationary through to rolling, clutch control was super smooth. The v8 system is criticized for being a bit jerky, but that’s because of the single plate clutch on the v8 vantage.

Whereas on this system, it’s got a twin-plate clutch as standard. A lot of the bad press that the automated shift manual system has got stems from classic vanquish and stems from the jerky clunky drivability of the 4.3 v8.

If they had just come out with this evolved system without any of the previous antiquated systems, then perhaps the automated shift manual wouldn’t suffer any bad press, really, because it’s difficult to criticize this system for clutch control jerky drivability or any aerostat really.

So that pull away was nice and smooth, and the accelerations through the gear, it was a quarter throttle, short-shifting on the paddles through each gear, it was perfect, nothing to criticize the system over. Now we’re cruising along about 40 miles an hour, and we’re in fifth gear.

And this is what I love about paddle shift. If you were going to do exactly the same thing as I’m going to do now on a manual, you’d really have to know what engine speed, what road speed you could shift from higher gears down to lower gears without buzzing a motor.

We’re going to make a bit of progression now, and we’re just going to bang it down the gearbox. Even keep the foot on the throttle, and the ability to go down the box and up the box as you accelerate, just pulling paddles really gives a supercar feel, and it removes thinking about gear changing out of the workload as a driver.

Meaning that you can concentrate more on the road, your position, and that’s where the manual purists won’t want to take that element out of the driving experience because they want to integrate that, have another level of workload and get reward and satisfaction from driving the car close to its limits, and the gearbox being part of that workload.

Now we’ve popped the system in D mode. We’ll allow it to accelerate up to about 40 miles an hour and get it into fourth or fifth gear. We’re in fifth gear now, and this is another part of the sports shift that I really like.

If you’ve decided that you want to overtake something, and you want to make some spirited progression, now it’s just changed into six. We’re doing 50 mile an hour, I’m going to give it full-throttle on the accelerator pedal, and it’ll probably do something like a 5-2 shift.

So again, without thinking too much about gear shifting, we’ve given it a hoof of accelerator pedal, it’s changed from a 5-2, and immediately you’re making great progress. Just then, we were coming down the box decelerating, reducing speed to a roundabout.

We’re on the brakes slightly, and in D mode, it was giving some throttle blips to mimic that heel and toe that you’d do on a manual. Now reducing the workload, having to think about gear shifting, clutch control, which gear to select at what road speed, what engine speed might not be work overload on the actual public highway.

On the track, it definitely would be. Our own v8 vantage gt4 race car is a manual, and around a technical circuit such as Cadwell, that takes some real driver skill to be in the right gear at all times, and select your brake and turn-in points and combine that with gear shifting.

On the track, you just want the fastest lap time you can possibly get. And the sports shift gearbox is a tool to use to achieve that over a manual. Flipping up and down the gearbox like that gives a real supercar feeling. Let’s now jump in the manual and repeat that drive. Welcome, and you join us back in the seven-speed manual of v12 vantages.

So a few things to say about the operation of this seven-speed manual before we take it on the drive. And it’s to talk about a few of its features that it has. First one is a really nice throttle blipping when you press the clutch pedal.

So it’s mimicking that heel and toe, and if you’re going up the box or down the box, it will do that. In principle, I find that a really nice idea. But in practice, I’d sooner be doing it myself than the car, so I choose to turn that off. The whole idea of the person buying this car is because they are a manual purist.

And part of the engagement of having a manual is seeking out the art of doing that perfect shift, which is doing the heel and toe process as you go up the box and down the box. So why would you want the robot, the computer, the module to do that for you. The next feature is what’s called flat shift.

So this is where you can accelerate at full throttle, and you can press the clutch pedal as if you were going to do a normal shift. But as soon as you press the clutch pedal, the computer realizes to eliminate the input of the accelerator pedal.

Meaning that you can then keep your foot fully on the accelerator pedal, press the clutch pedal, then select gear, and then release the clutch, and then you’re back on to full throttle or the engine producing torque.

So again, with the flat shift, if we think about this, we are allowed to keep the accelerator pedal fully pressed. As soon as we press the clutch pedal, it eliminates the functionality, eliminates the throttle better working, it cuts engine torque. Enabling us to use the gear lever to change gear.

That’s removing the art, the process, the skill of manually changing gear. And in essence, the gear lever is just becoming a paddle. So if you pull paddles to change your gear up or down, as soon as you pull the paddle, if you’ve got your foot on the throttle.

It’s going to stop the input of the throttle pedal to the throttle blade, it’s going to reduce the blade angle, so the engine is producing no torque. Enabling the clutch to engage, disengage and select gear, and then when it’s in the right gear, it’s going to reinstate the pedal, and you’re producing torque.

So on the paddle shift, you can keep your foot down, and you can paddle up and paddle down the gears using the paddles. If you use the flat shift functionality, it’s removing all the elements of the process that the manual purist would want to do and just turns that gear lever into a paddle.

So it’s a gimmick, it’s fun, but if you’re a manual purist, I don’t think that the flat shift would form a part of how you’d want the car to operate. And again, choose to turn that functionality off.

Whilst we’re stationary, I’ll talk about that gear gate. Now the seven-speed manual has what is called a dog-leg first. This is because the gearbox was legacy carried over from the seven-speed auto-shift manual in v8 vantage S when it was never intended to be a manual.

And to get the seven speeds in, it meant that first gear was a dog leg position. Which didn’t matter in the auto shift manual because it was the robot that was engaging gear.

Now that gearbox is used in a manual; then it’s got this dog leg gate, which you’re going to have to now live with if you’re the owner.

I say live with, and I say that I’ll talk about the gear gate whilst we’re stationary because, with this seven-speed gearbox, absolutely all of your focus has to be on what gear you’re in, what gear you want to go to, whether that’s up the box or down the box.

And if you lose concentration thinking about gear shifting for a moment, you’re going to get the wrong gear. That’s because this gear gate is not as defined as the six-speed.

The six-speed you intuitively can go up and down the box, and intuitively going up and down the box, what I mean by that is that whether you’re going across a gate or four and five, you automatically, without thinking, can get the gear lever in the right position to select whatever gear you’re going in.

It’s pretty difficult to miss a gear on that six-speed manual box. But on the seven-speed, and perhaps because these gear gates are so close, then going across a gate and going forward or after up or down, it’s really a bit pot luck as to which gear you select.

So when you’re in first, you’re thinking that you don’t want to go anywhere near reverse. And the second gear position is quite difficult to find. So a one-four shift is you can have that happen to you.

Where we were in the sport shift earlier, and we were doing about 40 miles an hour, maybe you’re in sixth gear. And just banging it down a few gears on the paddles, get second put a load of throttle pedal in that’s just such a supercar feel.

You couldn’t ever go from six two or five two, and let’s just say that you’re going to use the flat shift. And you were going to go even for a six-four. If you kept your foot on the throttle pedal using the flat shift, you press the clutch.

You went from six down to four, and you then release the clutch, where you better not be in second by mistake because that will easily buzz the motor.

It’s that transition of gears where you use momentarily a low gear just for a few seconds because with the pedal shift, you may be changed down into it, and the engine revs are at five and a half thousand rpm.

And you just use that until 7000 rpm, it’s that enjoyment of driving experience that you can have in the paddle shift that you could just never do in the manual. So now we’re going to go for a drive, and first, off we’re going to just go through the gearbox on part throttle.

So that was a one to two-shift, two to three, I’m backing off the pedal, I’m not using flat shift. Three to four, four to five, to six, to seven.

When you’ve got a bit of muscle memory, and you’re knowing what gear you’re going from and to, and you’ve been very careful about not missing a gate, it’s possible to go through the gearbox without missing a gear.

I will come back down the box, six. I went for five, consciously trying to get five and about seven, let’s start again in seven. Seven, six, five straight up to four that was easy, three that was easy, two, yes got two okay.

And you really have to think about it? So at that 50 miles, an hour condition in fifth gear, and a really good thing about the paddle shift is going from five two, giving it a welly on the pedal, and making some good progression.

That five two felt like getting; I wasn’t confident to push it through the two Fortunately, because gear position is flashed up on the digital display, you can see what gear you’re actually in.

So if you go through a process of selecting your gear, and just as you’re easing off the clutch, you look at the digital display. Then you could probably prevent a miss shift.

But on a spirited drive on country roads, paddling on the paddle-shift up and down the gearbox, and playing with the car adds to make that drive experience really enthralling.

Doing a seven three-shift, or a six-two, five two shift on the manual. And after a few times doing that with probably limited success, means that you’d remove playing with the gearbox in the way that you would do on the sport shift. And lose that part of the enthralling drive.

So that means in comparison with the pedal shift if we now compare it to that track situation on a technical circuit like Cadwell. This seven-speed manual gearbox is going to be super difficult to live with.

The other thing that makes selecting gear on this car difficult will be that I’m sure it’s going to be your second or third car. Now, if you have another manual in the family, it’s going to have a conventional gear layout.

And no matter how accustomed you become to this seven-speed, there’ll always be that time in your head where you have to double-check that the gear you want is actually in the position that it is.

But because then I do like manuals, I find myself having to check myself that I’m being over critical.

It’s a six-liter naturally aspirated v12 with a manual gear shift, that’s something that isn’t going to exist going forward. This manual gearbox was always going to be bought by the niche buyer. So perhaps it’s fine that it’s got a few quirks.

So it’s a credit to the factory that they actually made this car because it couldn’t have been the most profitable for them based on the low sales volume. And because of its rarity, the v12vs with a manual gearbox is always going to be collectors.

And perhaps in the future, it’s always going to be worth a little bit more than a pedal shift, who knows. If you miss a gear when you’re going up the box, it’s not the end of the world.

This v12 motor has got a ton of torque.

So if you were in the wrong gear, too low, engine rpm, you can always use the torque of the motor just to get you through.

And as soon as the engine revs pick up a bit, then you’re producing quite a lot of torque and making fast acceleration anyway. However, if you miss a gear going down the box, then you’re not forgiven, I’m going to buzz the motor.

And it’s just that question that if I had a pound for how many times someone had phoned up and said, I’ve missed the gear on the v12 vantages, do you think I’ve damaged the engine?

So now we’ll do a full-throttle acceleration through the gears, and we’ll show the flat shift functionality.

Now I’ve been driving around in this car for a little while; I’m quite familiar with its gear gate. I’m very conscious of selecting the right gear always at the right time, let’s just see how we get on.

Well, that was a 3-6, and I was totally focused on hitting the fourth. There’s first fourth, first fourth, so you’re so conscious of not trying to go into reverse that you miss that little window in the gate for seconds.

See, if you just casually go through the gears, then it’s absolutely fine. It’s when you introduce that element of having to do it hurriedly.

Oh, it’s great, and I’m thrilled to bits that I’m in a manual. It’s just if you want to push the car; this gearbox is a hindrance. If you want to take a Sunday drive out, and you don’t mind missing the odd gear.

Having that lull in acceleration as you pick up engine revs and make up the speed difference, then it’s fine. I would definitely choose not to take a seven-speed manual on a track day.

As you are rolling, any shift down from seven, six, five to either two or one takes some real bravery and commitment. So that’s my overview and appraisal of what it’s like to really drive the seven-speed.

On paper, as a tick box spec sheet, which one would I like to buy? It would probably be a manual, ease of driving. Performance driving, which gearbox returns the better driving experience and ownership experience overall? I’d have to say it was the paddle shift.

Because of all those clever software features that help you drive this manual, I don’t know for certain, but I would think that the clutch is going to get a tougher time in this manual than it would do on the paddle-shift car.

So on the paddle-shift car, we’ve got the ASM pump actuator pack magnetic gear position sensor and clutch; those are the fundamental parts of that system.

Now the system is so bulletproof on that car that really it’s only the clutch, a wear item that you’re going to have to worry about. I would say a clutch on one of these manual cars will probably need changing lower mileage than the clutch on a paddle shift.

Could be wrong about that one, but that’s just my initial feeling. Gearbox, type, and someone’s interaction with a type of gearbox is highly personal. And each person will have a different experience, and that’s just mine.

Be really good to see your comments on how you drive the seven-speed and how you rate it. And I hope you like that question of the week, really helps us if you can like, comment, and subscribe, and we’ll see you on the next one.

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