Two of America’s most iconic cars will launch without stick shifts for the 2020 model years. General Motors’ Chevrolet Corvette Stingray features an 8-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT) to handle power from its 6.2L V-8. And Ford’s Mustang Shelby GT500 has a 7-speed DCT handling transmission duties for the car’s supercharged 5.2L V-8. Traditional versions of the Mustang will still be available with 6-speed manual transmissions and automatics with as many as 10 gears.
Manual transmission use in U.S. cars has fallen steadily for decades with big declines in recent years. As take rates dropped, automakers redesigned vehicles to remove the space reserved for a gear shifter in the car’s cabin, opting for electrical gear selectors that use less space. Sports cars and muscle cars were the last holdouts, so the demise of Mustang and Corvette manuals could relegate stick shifts to history.
Corvette Lead Engineer Tadge Juechter says several factors led to GM going with the DCT. Stick shift wasn’t very popular, with fewer buyers selecting it each year; it required cutting a hole in the center tunnel for the stick, creating a potential weak point that wouldn’t perform well in crashes. The DCT, by using separate clutches for even- and odd-numbered gears, was just better.
“Simply put, the DCT shifts gears faster and better than any human can,” Juechter says.
Ford engineers say the DCT in the Shelby also performs better than drivers could with a manual.
“Contrary to popular belief, fast shifts do not always equate to better road performance,” says Ford Performance Powertrain Manager Pat Morgan. “In every driving situation, we emulated what professional drivers do, whether it’s a smooth, precise heel-and-toe shift of a professional track driver or a much more forceful powershift like drag racers. We’ve designed the perfect shift every time.”