But when I say "we," what I mean is "we journalists." It was the motoring press (particularly in the U.K.) that persistently dissed anything other than a proper manual gearbox. And the voices of dissent are starting to go quiet as manufacturers continue to refine their hardware. The fact that practically every competition car out there only has two pedals hasn't harmed the cause of the sequential, semi-auto transmission, of course. But it's really the application of the technology that's changing deep seated prejudices.
If you're fortunate enough to experience a current Jaguar XFR or XKR then you won't ever miss using your left foot. Use your right one to squeeze the throttle and unleash hell, then hang on for dear life. You can even select the exit ratio well in advance of that looming hairpin and the car will simply knock itself down through each gear when it's safe to do so. All the while, once again, both hands get to do that all-important steery thing. It's quite liberating and not the least bit emasculating.
Yet the one company that got it wrong is the one that really has no excuse: Porsche. Its PDK dual-clutch tranny is in so many ways race-bred perfection, yet the way you're forced to change gears is all wrong. I've driven new 911s, Caymans and Boxsters fitted with this thing, covering a couple thousand miles, and I STILL can't get my head around it because of the infuriating wheel-mounted rocker switches. If, after all this time, I still end up selecting the wrong ratio by accident, it shows a serious flaw in its design. So instead of feeling involved, the driver feels alienated by a company with monumental ego problems.
The slow death of the traditional manual gearbox is nothing short of a stealthy revolution. Led by Europe, the world will eventually forget they ever existed and even motoring journalists will revel in this intuitive, safe and involving way of driving an automatic. Unless it's in a Porsche, where you'll still be wishing you could "drive stick."