Does An Automatic Transmission Accelerate Faster Than A Manual Transmission?

If you are a regular visitor to the car dealerships for the last few years, you will definitely notice that the number of cars with manual transmission is slowly declining. Most of the manufacturers and consumers are showing their love for automatic transmission, despite the popular belief that auto cars are less efficient than ones with the stick shifts. Is it true or just a myth?

Can Automatic Transmission Accelerate Faster than Manual Transmission?

In terms of car transmission, lots of people who know a bunch of driving tips believe that manual gears help a vehicle move quicker and accelerate better. It might be true at some point in the past when the traditional automatic transmission was sluggish, especially when you make the engine work under heavy load. However, is automatic faster than manual nowadays?

The automatic models these days are more advanced and innovative than their old counterparts. Some of their variations can easily surpass the stick shifts in terms of speed.

1. Which Automatic Transmission Type Is Better?

The automated manual transmission and the continuously variable transmission (CVT) are definitely better than the traditional automatic and stick shift. Especially, CVT is considered as the standard gearbox for the modern vehicles that not only deliver faster performance but also good fuel economy.

shift stick
Shift sticks are losing their popularity in terms of acceleration (photo source: The Truth about Cars)

2. How An Auto Car Gets Better Acceleration?

It’s possible to explain it in two ways. Let’s have a look:

1# Explanation

An automatic car accelerates quicker than a manual when starting the engine from a standstill. It is because when accelerating, the driver does not need to step off the gas for shifting gears. It puts the engine in proximity to its torque sweet spot.

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A manual gearbox still performs better when driving downshift. A good driver knows where the vehicle will be in the next 3-4 seconds. Hence, he can apply the right gear exactly when the car starts moving downhill. On the other hand, the gear changes automatically in an automatic car. Then, the gearbox will take a few seconds before moving to the downshift.

2# Explanation

As we’ve already know, automatic cars don’t change gears. For this reason, the energy transfers from the engine to the driving wheel more smoothly and quickly. The time wasted for changing gears is minimal in these cars, especially in the newer models. Therefore, a car with an auto gearbox accelerates faster than a manual transmission.

manual transmission
Racing cars still use manual transmission. (photo source: The Verge)

You might be thinking that the swiftest car would be the one that does not have any gear at all. Well, that’s true. For this reason, the F1 cars are bound to have gears. After all, the drivers have to have some control over the wheels, right?

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3. What made the difference?

As we know from the explanation above, manual transmission used to take drivers by storm but as time passed by, automatic transmission has overcome its technical drawbacks. Nowadays, most car manufactures favors automatic transmission and even semi-automatic transmission for new lineup of future models.

We all hold some unreasonable love for manual transmission partly because we mistake more exorbitant cars for higher performance. As the matter of fact, common cars use automatic transmission and hi-end cars such as sports cars use manual transmission. However, historical records of automatic transmission developments have proved the other way.

In the past, automatic transmission mechanism used a fluid torque converter. It was this old convert that was inefficient and thus made the gear shift in automatic cars prevent effective acceleration. Moreover, past automatic models had only 1-4 gears compared to manual ones with 5-6 gears of transmission.

In the present, modern torque sensor detects the roughly same spinning speed between impellers and the turbine or it can detect the stabilizing torque output. The modern sensor then lock up the torque converter mechanically with suitable gear. At this point, the whole plate is push together to form a mechanical link, faster than any human driver can shift gears manually. The more modern the automatic car is, the closer the lock-up ratio. In a more understandable explanation, right after the torque sensor feel the need to shift gears, the computer system in modern automatic cars tell the torque converter to lock-up. Thanks to the sensor, the converter has become much more efficient.

Torque sensor is the key to modern automatic car’s acceleration (photo source:

However, this is not so true when it comes to racing cars. Racers are expert at feeling speed and manipulating engine, thus they can switch gears manually with extreme ease and effectiveness. Therefore, racing car acceleration becomes much less dependent on the car itself but more on the driver’s ability to swift gears without reducing momentum.


It’s hard for the stick shift lovers to accept that their favorite gearbox is not the most efficient and fastest option anymore after understanding that automatic vs manual which is faster. In fact, some high-end manufacturers such a Ferrari and Lamborghini have dropped the manual entirely! So, just get over it and enjoy the blessings that the automatic transmission has to offer.