GM's TapShift technology shows why automatic transmissions may soon replace manuals
By C.C. Weiss
February 24, 2012
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.