GM's TapShift technology shows why automatic transmissions may soon replace manuals


February 24, 2012

Muscle cars may have been built on manual transmission technology, but automatics have caught up

Muscle cars may have been built on manual transmission technology, but automatics have caught up

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The 2012 Chevy Camaro ZL1 - the most powerful production Camaro ever - will make use of the latest iteration of TapShift technology. This automated transmission option allows drivers to move through gears using paddle shifters. The updated 2012 TapShift system creates faster shifts, that make the automatic Camaro quicker to 60 mph ( 96.5 km/h) than the manual version. While the transmission choice for a muscle car as fast and powerful as the ZL1 would traditionally have been obvious in the past (manual all the way), GM's updated TapShift technology makes a strong case for the automatic.

On the latest episode of Top Gear (US edition), the boys went head to head in a muscle car competition pitting the Dodge Charger, Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro against each other. Co-host Tanner Foust took a lot of ribbing for the flamboyantly colored, automatic-equipped Camaro he arrived with, but was able to upset the pack with a win in the first challenge, despite having the handicap of an automatic transmission.

While the fact that Foust is the host with the deepest resume of car racing credentials certainly helped, the automatic transmission isn't the anchor it once was ... and it's only getting better. In the new Camaro ZL1, the six-speed paddle-shift transmission delivers a 0-to-60 mph time of 3.9 seconds - a tenth of a second faster than the manual transmission.

GM explains that the upgraded TapShift system released this year includes a software algorithm update that boosts tap response times by as much as 60 percent over the outgoing TapShift. This algorithm predicts shifts based upon the current gear, throttle, torque and speed. It then stages hydraulic pressure in the clutch for the next gear, reducing delay for the 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, and 4-5 up-shifts by 200-300 milliseconds.

Newer automatic transmissions with manual modes are becoming so convincing, in fact, that a Porsche engineer predicts the 911 will lose its manual transmission in less than a decade, even though Porsche just designed a new seven-speed manual for the 2012 911. Michael Schätzle, project manager for the new 911, told Automobile magazine this week that the manual has no more than "one or two generations" left to live. He said that 78 percent of global 911 buyers already choose Porsche's seven-speed PDK automated transmission over the manual option.

Other European exotic carmakers have already eliminated manual transmissions on some cars. The new Aventador LP700-4 will be sold exclusively with Lamborghini's new automated seven-speed single-clutch transmission. Lamborghini plans to phase out the manual transmission option on the entry-level Gallardo, too, and we certainly don't expect to see it on its third model. Ferrari has also eliminated manual options in models like the 458 Italia and FF.

Chevy anticipates up to 50 percent of ZL1 buyers will opt for the automated transmission - about the same as percentage of US buyers that go PDK in the Porsche 911. The Camaro ZL1 Coupe will go on sale this spring as a 2012 model. On the other end of the gearbox, it features a 580-hp supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine. The convertible version will hit the market this summer.

In addition to the ZL1, the automated manual transmission with upgraded TapShift will be an option on other cars like the 2012 Corvette. The video below shows the TapShift system in action on the ZL1.

Source: General Motors, Automobile

About the Author
C.C. Weiss Upon graduating college with a poli sci degree, Chris toiled in the political world for several years. Realizing he was better off making cynical comments from afar than actually getting involved in all that mess, he turned away from matters of government and news to cover the things that really matter: outdoor recreation, cool cars, technology, wild gadgets and all forms of other toys. He's happily following the wisdom of his father who told him that if you find something you love to do, it won't really be work. All articles by C.C. Weiss

i\'ve never seen someone get the terms automatic and manual so mixed in the own minds or that of the readers.

automatic transmissions replaced manuals (replaced as in the predominate, normal, default type) about 30 years ago. Of course, manuals are still around and is still an option on many makes and models but it is usually not the default and usually not chosen.

automatic = you crank the car, you take the car out of \'park\' gear and put it into \'drive\' gear. no more gear shifting until you turn the car off.

manual = you hold in the clutch and the brake, put the car in neutral and crank it up. while you are driving, you have shift gears from 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.

this TapShift technology sounds like an automatic transmission that lets you choose when the car shifts from 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. sort of like a \'power, manual transmission\' analogous to \'power brakes\' or \'power steering\'.

Enlightened Wookie

Anybody who visits the pits of any dragstrip will soon find out that virtually nobody drag races a car with manual transmission: it\'s just too slow! Too unreliable as well.

I used to own a 1970 Dodge Challenger with a \"slapstick\" 3 speed transmission. This technology, though in a slightly more primitive form, has existed for decades. Frankly, it boggles my mind why anybody would deliberately buy a car with manual transmission (yes, I know many Europeans; and yes, they have other quirks). More and more big rigs, for example, are being purchased with automatic shifting transmissions.

What really interests me, however, is high-efficiency, high-durability CVT technology. A solid, reliable continuously variable transmission ought to render all other transmissions obsolete.


\"automatic transmissions replaced manuals (replaced as in the predominate, normal, default type) about 30 years ago. Of course, manuals are still around and is still an option on many makes and models but it is usually not the default and usually not chosen.\"

Might be true where you are, but you\'re not \"the world\". In many places - like here in the UK - manual transmission is still by FAR the predominant option.

Tapshift is just another example of the kind of \"manumatic\" transmission that has been available for years in one form or another - VW/Audi/Skoda have Steptronic, BMW has Tiptronic, Alfa Romeo has Selespeed...

It\'s nothing new, and certainly nothing unique to cars from the US...

Keith Reeder

It\'s nice to see GM is using our \'bailout\' tax dollars for something nobody wants and nobody needs. Way to go GM (Gummit Motors)!!


I can\'t stand these \"pseudo manuals\"/paddle shifters/semi-auto transmissions. It takes the fun out of really driving a sports car. I doubt the manual transmission will ever completely go away in higher end \"drivers cars\" For example.... they mentioned the Porsche 911, but I bet the 911 GT3 will Always be a manual tranny, cuz its a true drivers car.

Eventually I think all the controls will be \"by-wire\" meaning no physical linkages, and even then I can see true \"drivers cars\" with simulated cluthes and shifters complete with force-feedback.... so even though its all electronic, it will feel just like your pressing a real hydraulic clutch in.

The other thing is (and my experience is only with cheaper cars like mazda8, and some others) Those paddles shifted cars don\'t act like true manuals because although you can selectively shift... if you don\'t, it will do it for you. So you cant rev it up and burn out, or drop it down a gear for some instantly improved acceleration (at least not at the same levels possible with a true manual)

in short... its garbage


Manuals will continue to exist for the sole reason that they are less expensive than automatics, and that won\'t happen for a while.

Joel Detrow

Joel Detrow: Here in Argentina auto transmissions are offered at the same price as manuals (they are trying to change our customs!). I still got a manual. When you shift manually, you are FEELING the engine\'s revolutions and power, and the wheel\'s speed, and there is no fancy electronic gadget that can mimic that. The audi A6 with a CVT has a simulated 7 gear mode, with discontinuous acceleration and all, but just doesn\'t feel right. There is no clutch to press, you don\'t move the crank sideways , there are no actual gears that make a bad noise and vibrate in your hand (through the crank) when you don\'t match the engine\'s speed with the wheels... For the guys who never really used manual transmission, well... you just don\'t get it. Keep thinking those triptronic will please everyone. Now, don\'t get me wrong. For my wife\'s car I bought an automatic, because she needs to keep her attention elsewhere, with the kids. But for a sports car...


@Enlightened Wookie

It only happened in America. In Europe, automatics are still a minority.

Anyway, choosing between automatic and manual is also a matter of driving experience. With manual the experience of controling the machine is much more profound and rewarding.

BTW, anyone ever tried shifting without a clutch? Not that you really need it (except if clutch breaks for some reason), but it's an interesting challenge. Automatic is just dull...

And lastly, driving manual is also a demonstration of skill. If you can handle manual, you can handle many things.

Short Fuse

@Short fuse If recall correctly, the cars of the Indicar racing category didn't HAVE a clutch!


It's sad to see writing on a supposed engineering advance by a non-engineer. Same goes for most of the "expert" comments here. A computer controlled shifter can be operator selected (paddles) or "automatic" in an idiot mode where accelerator and brake challenges the intellect and abilities of the driver.

That said, there is one aspect of a clutch that everyone has is a continuously variable transmission/ torque multiplier. The amount of slip is determined by fine control by an experienced driver, giving the operator an advantage over fixed algorithm clutch engagement, because the amount of torque applied to the wheels can be infinitely controlled for traction conditions. In a dragster, the slip control is more important yhan gears. I raced a Ferarri 360 with paddles against my 2001 'vette Z06 at the dragstrip, and beat it with clutch slip...he also got sidelined on the next run with a "clutch overheat" where the car refused to even move.

No thanks....we men like to play with our sticks.


What's funny is that the "paddle shifter" has been on cars in Europe for over a decade...and it has been so over-done, the majority of the super-car makers are going away from it...yet here in the USA, we are only just now finding out way into wonder the rest of the world is laughing at us!


With a manual you need a clutch only to stop and start. The rest of the time you can use your left foot for the brake. Works from Mini's to semis. And for John Deere's also, except you just stick it in whatever gear you want and leave it there.


What is this a playstation controller?

Istvan Buda
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