Could Subaru Discontinue Manual Transmissions in the Name of Safety?
The manual transmission is a dying breed. That’s not news. Modern cars are slowly killing off three-pedal driving in favor of more efficient automatic transmissions. Subaru still offers a manual transmission option on several models but that might not be the case for much longer.
In Subaru’s non-sports car offerings, the Impreza, Forester, and Crosstrek can still be optioned with a six-speed manual (five-speed for the Impreza) but not the Outback, Legacy, or new three-row Ascent. Additionally, the manual option can only be equipped on the lower trims and Subaru’s EyeSight package of driver assist safety features cannot be equipped with a manual transmission—the reason the automaker is likely considering having an all-automatic lineup.
According to a report from Auto Express, Chris Graham, Subaru Managing Director for the U.K., said, “There are certainly no rumors we’ve heard that manual will continue, or Eyesight will be [offered] with manual. My gut tells me it will be Eyesight with Lineartronic [CVT] ongoing and long-term.
Graham continued, “[Subaru wants] to steal the mantle of the safest car in the world. I think if they do that, then they say ‘here’s a manual without Eyesight,’ they’ll just ruin that [message].”
“We’ve spoken for many years about [the safety granted by] boxer engines and symmetrical all-wheel drive,” Graham said. “We’re now talking about safety that’s not just underpinned by the chassis, but by Eyesight, boxer, and symmetrical all-wheel drive. All these things are reinforcing the safety message. The safety message is the thing Subaru will want to take forward.”
Subaru’s EyeSight system consists of adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, and pre-collision throttle management—a feature that reduces engine power before a possible collision.
Like most automakers, Subaru plans for an autonomous future, led by EyeSight technologies that are compatible with automatic transmissions. Some automakers offer driver assist technologies on manual-equipped cars but Subaru might not see the benefit in spending the time and effort on that when a low percentage of buyers opt for a manual, and higher levels of automation will soon require an automatic transmission.
Does this mean the upcoming WRX and WRX STI models will be automatic-only? It might, especially with rumors that the next STI will have a hybrid powertrain. Graham didn’t hide his enthusiasm for a possible upcoming hybrid STI, saying, “For me an STI has to be a manual in the guise it is today, however if you look at [auto-only] M-series BMWs, I don’t think this is the end and I’d be very excited if they had a hybrid petrol STI. That would be phenomenal in terms of its acceleration,” he said.