Daft Question – Whats It Like Driving An Automatic?

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  • Daft Question – Whats It Like Driving An Automatic?
  • As above really. Never driven one but we’re looking to change our car very soon and an auto is a requirement. As yet we’ve not test driven anything but I was wondering, is driving one basically the same as driving a manual but forget about the gear changes? What about when you come to a stop on a hill? Left foot or right foot on the brake?

    Like I said, daft question which I’ve been pondering over whilst eating chocolate and drinking tea at my desk this morning…

    allthepies
    Member

    Wierd initially, you don’t know what to do with your left foot (a couple of times I used it on the brake pedal – not good! 🙂 ). But it only takes minutes to get used to it IMO.

    shifter
    Member

    It’s like Sega Rally.

    clubber
    Member

    You use your feet the same as a manual – there’s usually a ‘foot rest’ or similar where the clutch pedal would normally be.

    In most automatics, the engine and wheels aren’t directly physically connected (there’s oil in between) so the engine can turn but you can hold the car still – that’s how you do hill starts, etc. If you take both feet off the pedals, automatics typically roll forwards slowly.

    Torque converter (this is the equivalent of the clutch)
    http://auto.howstuffworks.com/auto-parts/towing/towing-capacity/information/torque-converter1.htm

    Premier Icon Simon
    Subscriber

    Right foot for braking. Just put your left leg out of the way and forget about it!
    Never had an auto before we got the Bongo, I like driving it, relaxing on long journeys and much better than a manual in stop start traffic.

    Premier Icon stilltortoise
    Subscriber

    Your left foot basically does nothing. You can of course attempt to left foot brake but if this is something you’ve not done before I guarantee you will be VERY heavy footed 🙂

    When in stop-start traffic an automatic is ACE, but you still have a reverse gear, you have a parking gear and if you live somewhere hilly and snowy you do use the lower ratios rather than simply leave it in Drive. You still change gears, just (considerably) less frequently.

    Much like manual cars, there are good ones and bad ones, so test drives are essential.

    jaymoid
    Member

    Pretty similar, right foot on the brake as per normal (most people if they try and use their left foot it’ll hammer on the brake!). They are a bit less fuel efficient sometimes, I think more modern ones are addressing this.

    These videos you see on the internet of cars looking possessed and driving into houses or reversing all over the place, most are automatics that have been left in Drive or Reverse.

    Gary_M
    Member

    We used to have an auto v6 rover 75 petrol as a pool car in work, I loved driving that car, the kickback was fantastic 🙂

    jaymoid
    Member

    You can of course attempt to left foot brake but if this is something you’ve not done before I guarantee you will be VERY heavy footed

    Haha, yes remember to extract your teeth from the steering wheel after you try this.

    Premier Icon unknown
    Subscriber

    I got one as it was mega cheap, got used to it in no time and it’s not even much hassle switching between that and a manual.

    Tried left footed braking before a couple of times. Both times nearly beeped the horn with my forehead so will remember not to do that.

    OK so it sounds as simple as it should be in my head 🙂

    clubber
    Member

    My parents have always had automatics. Switching has never been an issue (or when driving in the US).

    They are horrible on twisty roads though or at least many are – changing at awkward moments or not changing when you’d like them to. And they feel quite mushy (due to the indirect connection between engine and wheels).

    I wouldn’t personally unless it was a real bargin but some people do love them.

    clubber
    Member

    smurfmat would never drive an automatic. End of thread 😉

    Trimix
    Member

    Great in town, shite on roads that would allow spirited driving. But given the level of traffic now there are few of those left.

    Premier Icon verbboy
    Subscriber

    Auto generally far better and relaxing that manual especially in traffic, get a DSG box and have the best of both worlds.

    Just beware some cars (audi / bwm spring to mind) low profile tyres and 2wd are rubbish in snow and even slightly wet fields.

    munrobiker
    Member

    You get used to it quite quickly. If you’re getting an older automatic they can be a bit grim but the newer DSG type boxes with a million gears are great.

    johndoh
    Member

    The experience really does depend on the car chosen as there are many versions of auto out there – for example, Audi have three versions alone! (Multitonic, Steptronic and Tiptronic). And again, some also have things like brake assist (auto switches on the handbrake when you gently push the brake pedal)

    But essentially you put your left foot away when driving an auto.

    We have one of each and I don’t have a problem switching between the two (FWIW, I have a StepTronic Audi with brake assist (and a Quattro, V6 3 litre 240bhp diesel 😈 )- which is why I know a bit about the Audi variants).

    But I drove a massive V8 people carrier in the States last year with an auto. Horrible, hateful, nasty, painful.

    So be careful to test drive the cars you are considering.

    the kickback was fantastic

    I knew they’d have to be money involved, nobody would drive one of those for free…

    LMT
    Member

    I had a sensordrive system for the last 8 years, first time i tried to pull away from the curb it wouldn’t go, until the realised i had my left foot on the brake thinking it was the clutch, hense the smell of burning brakes.

    Using the paddles in manual was just like playing the xbox, but general driving no real difference.

    Went back to a manual now my knee has sorted itself out.

    Premier Icon midlifecrashes
    Subscriber

    It’s like driving a car should be, no reason in this day and age why you should be faffing changing gear any more than using the advance/retard lever, or cranking a handle at the front to start it.

    However, some manufacturers still manage to botch it. S-max diesel auto idles at about 35 so just driving around in town means stupid unnecessary braking, never mind around all the 20 zones we have now, so not as relaxing a drive as it could be. I test drove a few and gave up and bought a manual.

    allthegear
    Member

    I have a Skoda Fabia with the DSG gearbox. I’ve never had an “automatic” before but it all just seemed very easy to get used to. Mind you, that didn’t stop me trying to use the clutch in the petrol station once or twice – you stop VERY quickly when you hit the brake pedal by mistake! 🙂

    It’s the little things on modern automatics that seem wonderful; things like it stepping down a gear or two automatically on long descents to reduce need to use the brake quite so much – genius.

    I don’t find the gearbox hinders “spirited driving” as such. Probably aids mine if anything – I’d say I accelerate as quick in this Fabia as I did in the Impreza as the gear changes are perfect and stupidly quick…

    Rachel

    Premier Icon stilltortoise
    Subscriber

    I’d say I accelerate as quick in this Fabia as I did in the Impreza as the gear changes are perfect and stupidly quick…

    I second that. I remember test driving a DSG Golf GTi. On paper it wasn’t as fast as other cars I’ve driven, but because the gear changes were so instantaneous and perfect it felt very quick when over-taking.

    [EDIT…but otherwise quite a boring drive]

    samuri
    Member

    If you really, really wantr to see just how bad an automatic can be made, go to America and drive a car there. They have put in a lot of effort to make it a horrible experience.
    A smarter man than me once likened the gearbox linkage in an American car to a mop spinning round in a bucket. It’s *exactly* like that. You’ll pick up a car with 250bhp which in the UK would be a rather nippy vehicle. In America it’ll struggle to get up hills. We hired a car in Denver which looked sporty and claimed to have 300 horse power. We drove it into the mountains and had to turn around because it couldn’t make it up a particularly steep hill.

    But I digress. European auto’s are ok. Generally weaker than manuals IME and dead simple to drive. A bit worse on fuel but that’s probably because I’ve only ever booted them.

    My exception would be the Toyota hybrids. We have some at work as pool cars. They’re a but underpowered but on the motorway at 70mph, it’s claiming over 100mpg on the flat.

    ell_tell
    Member

    As for holding the car on hills, in my experience a rwd car will tend to hold itself on the hill without the brake, but a fwd would tend to roll back so handbrake or footbrake was required.

    johndoh
    Member

    My car is quicker (according to manufacturer specs) in auto by a few tenths of a second over the manual.

    tacopowell
    Member

    Drive a Yaris Automatic, Don’t think I’d ever go back to manual unless I won the lottery and purchased a Sports car.

    Premier Icon tonyg2003
    Subscriber

    It depends. Some are rubbish some are great. Many modern ones are fabulous. More ratios than a petrol (just as efficient as a result), different switchable modes and gear paddles on the wheel if you want to drive like a manual. Most very high performance (Surfmat are you listening) are auto.

    Its a modern(ish) auto I’m looking at (BMW E91 330i Touring) so its like tiptronic (?) in that you can manually knock it up and down gears yourself if you want.

    slowoldgit
    Member

    Like others have said, fold your left leg away, under your right, until you’re adequately used to the auto box. The ones I’ve driven have been mostly boring, ok in town, not so good if you want to think ahead on curving hilly roads.

    @samuri – were you at altitude?

    Premier Icon cheshirecat
    Subscriber

    I’ve had a few automatics, and currently drive a diesel with a traditional (though very modern) 6 speed automatic box.

    Much prefer auto to manual for the kind of driving I do. Most modern autos don’t have the kickdown button on the floor, they just sense the position of the pedal and change gear accordingly when you want to overtake.

    For country roads, I tend to switch across to manual control, and as someone has said above, modern automatics change down a gear or two when going downhill to enable engine braking. I wouldn’t have a manual now (though the wife has one so I’m not totally out of practice).

    American automatics, on the other hand, are absolutely rubbish in my limited experience of rental cars. No torque from the engine and utterly gutless.

    EDIT: to the OP, unless the hill is very steep, they just hold themselves on the hill or creep forward slightly if you don’t have the brake on. Right foot does everything, and it takes minutes to get used to.

    speed12
    Member

    If your looking at that BMW then I believe it has the ZF 8HP ‘box which is about as good as you are going to get – and it is very very good. Smooth, quick changes, not slushy, and (as long as they’ve calibrated th shifts correctly) it is pretty good at not changing ratios at really annoying moments.

    As for actually driving one, as others have said, you will get used to it very quickly. Bit weird with your left foot to start with but make sure it’s firmly pressed on t foot rest or tucked under your right leg and you’ll soon forget about it.

    Premier Icon MoreCashThanDash
    Subscriber

    We have 2 Skodas with dsg boxes as MrsMc is disabled. Didn’t take long to get used to autos when I met her, you soon forget about your left foot. It is harder switching back to a manual, often stall in hire cars for the first few miles.

    Worth bearing in mind that not all autos are created equal. We particularly like the 6 & 7 speed dsg boxes used by VAG. Make other manufacturers with 4 or 5 speed boxes seem rough and clunky. Test drive different ones to see what you like, and compare the fuel economy, as not all autos now are so thirsty as they were.

    Make sure you really want/need an auto though. You pay a premium to buy one and repairs aren’t cheap if they break.

    Premier Icon beej
    Subscriber

    I switched about 2 months ago to an Audi with S-tronic seven speed DSG thing. I’m very impressed, the changes are very smooth when bimbling around in D, equally so using the flappy paddles. The sport mode is quicker to change and holds lower gears longer. It’s very easy to get away quickly from a standing start, e.g. nipping out at a junction or roundabout.

    I’ve barely played with the manual mode – very little need really.

    Handbrake is an electro-mechanical thing that auto releases when you press the throttle.

    Having said all that – I’ve also driven some truly terrible old-school autos in the US.

    Yeh, heard the DSGs are meant to be very good but VW don’t make a car I want, I don’t really want another Skoda and S-Tronic Audi A4s are a bit out of my price range…

    Auto is for a few reasons – a good mate went from manual to auto a few years back and swears by them now. I quite like the idea of lazy driving as well but going for the 330 gives me the option for ‘fun’ if I want to! Also ditto, Mrs DBW has a health condition that might make having an auto a bit easier for her if she needs it.

    Premier Icon coolhandluke
    Subscriber

    Make sure there’s enough power otherwise it will be very very dull.

    My mate got a cheap Rover 820 auto. It had a kick down button beneath the accelerator but he called it the loudness button as when you hit it, the engine dropped a cog and just got louder!

    retro83
    Member

    Does anybody have shift paddles on a slushbox e.g. the new ZF 8 speeder?

    Thinking it’s the best of both worlds. Totally automated in for when in traffic, and manually controlled when you want.

    I don’t think I can consider DSG at the moment as all the ones I’ve tried (VW) have had horrid lag when trying to quickly pull away from stopped.

    Premier Icon tonyg2003
    Subscriber

    Yep both are cars are autos with paddle shifters. Maybe use them less than 5% of the time.

    I rent US autos maybe once every 3 weeks and as above some good and some poor. Plenty of torque (turbo or tdi) seem best with autos in general use.

    butcher
    Member

    Autos are great. Dead easy to drive. The brake pedal tends to be massive, so on big hill starts you can use it like a clutch, but the car will generally hold itself.

    Fantastic in traffic. Sit back and relax. All you have to do is steer.

    Beware of the lack of engine braking. It’s the one thing that will catch you out a bit initially.

    johndoh
    Member

    I switched about 2 months ago to an Audi with S-tronic seven speed DSG thing. I’m very impressed, the changes are very smooth when bimbling around in D, equally so using the flappy paddles. The sport mode is quicker to change and holds lower gears longer. It’s very easy to get away quickly from a standing start, e.g. nipping out at a junction or roundabout.

    Does yours have the ‘pull the lever towards you’ feature to quickly switch into Sport mode (then flick it again to go back into standard ‘D’)?

    It took me a few weeks of owning it before I found that feature but I love it – use it all the time now 🙂

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