With the 2019 Ram heavy-duty trucks abandoning the G56 six-speed, the manual transmission is gone from full-size trucks. Many tears have been shed by enthusiasts; manual transmissions in pickup trucks used to be the less expensive, stronger, more efficient and more reliable compared with their automatic counterparts. What led to the manual transmission’s demise?
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As the torque wars wage on, engine output surpassed the capability of manual-transmission clutches. GM dropped the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra’s manual transmission by 2008, followed by Ford for the 2011 Super Duties and then Ram HDs for the 2019 model year. With new buyers opting more and more for automatic transmissions, investing research and development time and money into manuals stopped paying off.
Sure, truckmakers could easily design a strong and smooth-shifting manual transmission with a heavy clutch to handle today’s torque outputs, but the demand is so small, it’s not worth the investment.
How Automatics Took Over
Automatic-transmission efficiency has vastly improved and the likelihood of overheating significantly decreased. We were happy to see GM’s new Allison 10-speed automatic transmission can lock the torque converter clutch in 1st gear, helping to keep the transmission cool.
Improvements have been made in fluids, materials and design, making automatic transmissions so strong and reliable that there are no longer worries about using them in heavy-load conditions. Today, automatics are often preferred in heavy-load applications for their ability to quickly and smoothly upshift and downshift while pulling heavy loads uphill or slowing the vehicle when descending grades. Many also automatically downshift to provide engine braking when the brake pedal is pressed.
Automatic transmissions are also typically easier on the rest of the drivetrain than manuals. With the slip allowed in the torque converter, automatics aren’t as likely to jerk and cause shock loads to the drive shafts and axles as much as someone dropping the clutch on a manual. This, paired with quick upshifts and downshifts, makes an automatic great for towing and off-road purposes (aside from low-speed crawling).