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Buying NSX: automatic or manual?

2 June 2001
Boston, MA USA
Ever since the NSX was released, I have longed for one of these cars. I'm finally in a position to be able to purchase one (preferably used to save cash, as they seem to be good deals now). The main issue is... sportshift or manual? Some background:

-While I'm an avid video game player and general gadget fiend, I am embarassed to admit that I've only driven automatic cars (in real life at least
I'm not at all opposed to learning to drive stick; I just don't know if the NSX is the best context in which to learn this...

-I live in New England, and would like to drive this car on a regular basis during the non-snowy season. This includes stop and go commuting.

How much more "fun" is driving the manual 5or 6 speed compared with the sportshift? Does the sportshifter really do a good gob of simulating the fun of a stick, or is it primarily used to help you downshift when you need more torque?

Is an automatic NSX like a plastic-framed Monet? Should I just learn to drive stick for god's sake?

Given an automatic, would my best price point now be around 95 instead of 97?

Your advice will be greatly appreciated and will have a major impact on my buying decision!

Thanks for your time.
Hmm, well for me, stick is the only option. I can not imagine driving an automatic NSX, but that is just me. As too whether the NSX is the car to learn on, I dont see why not. I have driven many a stick shift and the NSX is quite friendly. My wife even likes to drive it. Stop and Go commuting will be a pain, no question, but any other type of driving will be much better with a stick. Take care and good luck in your search.

My car is stick and I've never driven an automatic. An NSX is one of the easiest cars to drive in stick. However, you ought to search this forum for discussions because many who own one like the automatic a lot. Also, the performance difference is not that great.
Unlike most sports cars with manual transmissions, the NSX is no harder to drive in stop and go traffic than a Civic or Accord with a stick. That said, some people just don't like to drive ANY manual transmission in traffic. Personally, I think it is difficult to truly gain the full driving experience in a sports car without being able to select the gears.

My .02.
Originally posted by drliu:
I am embarassed to admit that I've only driven automatic cars (in real life at least
I'm not at all opposed to learning to drive stick; I just don't know if the NSX is the best context in which to learn this...

I guess I was in your position 3 years ago. I knew that I wanted a manual box and the auto was a non-issue. Unfortunately, I didnt know how to drive stick.

I walked into the dealer, bought it, and (to the horror of the dealer) just drove home afterwards. It took me about 5 minutes and a dozen laps around this one residential block behind the dealer before I got the hang of the clutch, but I was OK after that. I didnt stall it until 3 days later on a slope in front of a stoplight.

Looking back, I would have done it a little differently. My advise would be to go take a few lessons first to get a general feel for it. I would say the first few miles are probably the worst -- save these for the instructor's car. When you feel comfortable enough to drive home, go and buy it.

Overall, the clutch and gearbox are very easy to use on the NSX. The shift gate pattern is very distinct and the correct gear is incredibly easy to find. The clutch pedal is fairly light, but doesnt quite "bite" as well as others Ive tried. I also recall my left leg getting really sore after that first night (I couldnt resist and drove for another 3 hours after I brought it home.)

Also, if you intend to drive it home yourself that first day, look at/buy the car during the DAY (so you can spot defects easily) and then go and pick it up at NIGHT after the traffic has died down. Avoid stop and go traffic until you feel comfortable enough with it.

It might also be a good idea to get someone you trust to test drive the car for you. I didnt do that and had to trust them that everything felt right (I rode shotgun while I had the sales rep race around).

Good luck and hope everything works out.
I've recently owned both an automatic and a stick. In fact, I sold the automatic and bought a stick to be more precise.

I simply wanted a manual transmission and I also wanted another color than the Berlina Black.

Having said that...let me also add that the automatic transmission was neat in a way. It shifted crisply and it allowed one to concentrate on the handling and steering response of the car. I didn't own the SportShift version so I imagine that might be even a bit more engaging than the older models.

Even though the automatics have less HP, I have to admit my new car doesn't seem to be significantly faster than my old one.

I would offer this advice, if you're planning to do performance modifications I would think you might be better off with the manual.

NSX automatics, replacement parts and qualified technicians to work on them are rare. In fact, when it comes to technicians, Mark Basch is the only one to come to mind.

I know, for example, that my dealer, the highly respected Davis Acura in Langhorne, PA (home of Bernie) doesn't touch or rebuild automatics at all. Manual trannies are much, much more common and therefore enjoy better support in this regard.

It's up to you. If you like driving an automatic and feel comfortable doing so, you'll find that the NSX is still the best automatic sports car you'll find (IMHO). If you are in fact going to drive the car in congested stop and go traffic a lot, then you might want to consider it.

Of course, the ideal thing to do would be for you to arrange a test drive somehow. You might want to rent any manual car first and become a bit more proficient with a stick before learning on someone's NSX.

Good luck!


1992 NSX Red/Blk 5 spd #0330
1991 NSX Blk/Blk Auto #3070 (Sold)
1974 Vette 454 4 spd Wht/Blk
Looking for a 76-79 Honda Accord
I would not really recommend the NSX as a learner for driving a manual transmission for three reasons:

1. The increased clutch/tranny wear inherent in learning how to drive it is more expensive than most other cars

2. To make the fairly hihg-power NSX easier to drive, it has a fairly soft clutch engagement. This can lead to bad habits or slipping the clutch without realizing what you are doing. I see/smell several NSX owners slipping clutches like crazy any time there is a big NSX event because many of them didn't have much manual transmission experience until their NSX and never really learned the right way to operate it, they just figured out how to make it go.

3. It has enough power that you can do it wrong and still get away with it just by giving it more throttle (see #2 above...)

I personally think compact pickup trucks or cheap imports make good learners. They are fairly low power, cheap to repair and the clutches usually tell you exactly what is going on (assuming they aren't worn out).

Just my opinion, but I've never owned an automatic car in my life and have never worn out a clutch in any car I've owned.
Wow-- thanks for the advice everyone.

Joe-- you are braver (crazier?) than I
Driving a new NSX home as your first stick experience... whoa ^^

I'm hoping someone can tell me the difference between using the sportshift and using a manual stick shift in terms of:

-Fatigue while commuting (I assume the SS wins here)
-"Feel" of controlling the car (I assume manual wins), describing specific differences
-Controlling the speed/torque of the NSX (I assume/hope they are comparable in this regard).

I don't plan on racing this future NSX, as is probably obvious from my comments already. I'm a huge fan of the artisitic, which is part of what draws me to the NSX.

Thanks again!
Well, let me first say... I'm no expert.

But I do own a 95T Sportshift. I purchased it in April of this year and love it. I have previously owned a 95T 3 years ago with a stick... so I've owned them both.

I have never driven a "pre SportShift" Automatic but assume that it drives just like my 95T in "D" Drive. I almost never drive in "D". I drive in 3rd which is the "SportShift" auto shift mode.

When driving as "Sportshift" you literally take off in first gear as fast or slow as you like... to shift to second, you simply let up on the gas as you would if you were pushing in the clutch and reapply the gas and you are in second. This "auto shift" only works between first and second. To shift to third, you flip a little lever up behind the steering wheel on the right. It crisply shifts and is the same for forth.

To downshift, you have two choices... either flip the lever down one gear at a time or simply come to a stop or slow down to less than 10mph... the SportShift will automatically reset itself in first gear.

It's all the fun of a stick with the convenience of an automatic...

Now I don't race, and I don't have a whole lot to prove when it comes to showing off how fast my car is, but it's plenty quick and I have a blast. I've had both and I love my SportShift.


By the way, check out: http://www.nsxprime.com/ubb/Forum1/HTML/001862.html
I was perfectly fine driving autos until I finally bought a manual on a 96 vette.
I can never go back. It's not that autos are bad. Manual sports cars are just one of those things once yout try it, it's hard to go back. Just too much fun.
Either choice will make you happy. However, I'd be willing to bet that if you learned stick on a regular car. Then, you found a friend with a fast, manual sports car. You'd be like a kid in a candy store. The choice would become obvious. It's not a performance thing for me... just a blast tearing through gears at 8K RPM. Not much else quite like it.
Originally posted by drliu:

Joe-- you are braver (crazier?) than I
Driving a new NSX home as your first stick experience... whoa ^^

I think "young and stupid" is a better description.

In hindsight, I would have taken 2-3 hours of lessons before undertaking such a thing again. On the other hand, I was afraid as hell of burning the clutch so I figured that part out extra quick

-Fatigue while commuting (I assume the SS wins here)

This is probably the only quality of the auto that I like. You can just slip it into gear and stop and go your way home after a hard day's work.

Again, I would recommend taking a few hours of training to see if you enjoy the extra degree of control. You might find it so rewarding that it overshadows your traffic concerns.
I was in a similar position as you when I purchased a Type-R a few years back. I bought an old pickup truck for everyday and bad weather use, and learned to use a stick. I have a'91 silver NSX now, and I am so happy with the 5 speed transmission. Definitely a blast to drive. You won't regret it! I live right outside of Boston if you need any help... [email protected]
I grew up driving stick shifts and couldn't imagine it any other way. I am constantly shocked by how few cars are available in manual transmission as I consider driving stick safer (it forces you to concentrate on driving). Plus, being in control of the delivery of power on a car like the NSX is a pure joy.

Though I too was shocked how easy the NSX clutch is when I first drove mine home, I wouldn't recommend learning on it. On my first Celica, I wore through my first clutch fairly quickly...call it a valuable learning experience. I wouldn't teach my wife how to drive stick on my NSX

--akira3D ('00 NSX-T red/black #113)
"Reality is better than the dream..."

Plus, being in control of the delivery of power on a car like the NSX is a pure joy.


Are you saying someone that drives an NSX with a "Sportshift"
is "not in control of the delivery of power"?

The bias against the "Sportshift" continues to amaze me...

95T SportShift

[This message has been edited by jag (edited 04 June 2001).]
Originally posted by jag:
The bias against the "Sportshift" continues to amaze me...

There's an unexplainable joy that comes from rowing your own gears. Its that sensation you get when you pull past a car reving to 8KRPM after double clutching a 4-2 downshift. There's always this big grin on my face.

I used to own an integra with an auto tranny and I was happy as hell when I started to shift into D1 and D2 to keep the revs up (fun... but probably bad for the tranny). Its not quite the same as the sportshift, but the tranny responds in a similar fashion. Getting the 5 speed box was like another level of fun on top of that. I drove a rental integra (auto) last month and was back to my usual D1/D2 behavior... and something just seemed missing. I didnt get that same satisfaction.

(My 2 cents anyways)
Whether the bias toward manual is founded or not, remember that it exists. Most people buying an NSX are looking for the manual. That will make an auto more difficult to sell when the time comes. I saw a number of beautiful autos when searching for my NSX, going for thousands less than equivalent or worse condition manuals. They must have been having a hard time selling them. Believe me, there was a BEAUTIFUL red auto with very low miles that I would have bought on the spot if it wasn't auto. I'm sure I was one of many. Most who love manual will not consider auto, whether it's better or not and that greatly decreases the potential pool of buyers. Not so with a vette. Very much so with an NSX. just something to remember.
Well here's my 2 cents...

It's obvious that most die hard "stick" people have never spent any real time behind a "SportShift" NSX so their "perspective" is somewhat "limited".

Second. I would agree, a Sportshift in an NSX does not command the same price as a similar stick of equal condition... but I don't quite understand the mentality...If I can pay less now, doesn't it kinda wash out if I have to sell it for less later?

I mean I bought a 95T with 11,000 miles 2 months ago for low 40's... in perfect condition, that's 5 to 10M less than I would have paid for a stick, so aren't I just that much ahead... let's see if I invest that 5 to 10M for 5 years... oh that's right, the market's in the tank... I guess I should have bought the stick...

I've had sticks... Corvettes, 911's, 993's, 996's, NSX's... and you know what? I've also owned and driven a SportShift... It's funny how perspective makes all the difference in the world.


95T SportShift

[This message has been edited by jag (edited 04 June 2001).]
I've given my thoughts on this subject in the past so I'll be a lot shorter in my response. Naw who am I kidding....

Like JAG I can speak from having driven many (15+) manual NSXs and owning a ShortShift. In the past I've owned manuals with my most recent car before the NSX being a 99 BMW M3. Most people on this forum own manuals because there are very few SportShifters and most people never consider them. Most people on this forum have never driven a NSX with the SportShift. So let's be clear if someone has never driven an NSX with a SportShift then it's pure speculation based on experiences with other autos.

So let me state from my perspective having driven both manual and SportShift NSXes, driving an NSX with the SportShift is NOTHING like driving an automatic TL, Vette, new BMW, or new P-car with an automatic. From my personal experience of owning a SportShift, the NSX is very fast up upshifts and probably puts any driver very close to an experienced driver in the ability to handle turns at high speeds on downshifts. There seems to be some confusion as well. I actually drive my SportShift in "manual" mode all the time. When I'm in "manual" mode I have to select gears just like "clutch" manuals. So what the diff? I don't press my left leg down and push/pull a lever with my hands away from my steering wheel. Buth I am selecting gears just like a "clutch" manual. Racing through gears at 8K... well my redline is a little lower but my torque is higher on the lower end. Trust me I race through the gears and most people would never know I had a SportShift.

An NSX with a SportShift smokes the other autos and for the most part keeps up with the manuals. As the other post on this subject ended up getting to is the difference between the manual and auto is not that much and has more to do with the diff in HP.

The biggest downside on the SportShift is it's only got 4 gears with the first 3 being pretty good up to about 120 with 4th for crusin. So if you're on a tight road course this isn't that big of a problem. Here in Portland at PIR there's really only one straight where you might see over 120 and a second straight if you're not running with the big dogs (open class).

So while I agree a manual may seem to be more fun, it's a different perspective when your able to truly focus on lines. I've had some spirited drives now with a F512 and F355. These guys didn't know I had a SportShift. The F512 was so mad he just waved me by after he couldn't shake me. The F355 guy was blown away (and probably feeling like shit) that an auto could push him in the corners. Where he walked from me was where he's walk from a manual NSX.

So bottom line is I don't think you have to have a manual to have fun. So far I haven't found anything I can't do in my SportShift that you can do in a manual (unless you like smokin the tires but that can be fixed with level 10). The experience in the SportShift is closer to F1 because both hands stay on the wheel and it's blipping the lever to shift just like they use the paddles. Your eyes are always on the road so you're totaly and completely focused on driving.

Just my thoughts. I don't expect many manual owners to ever change their views. But maybe if they get smoked by a SportShifter sometime they may rethink things... at least as long as it takes to make a shift.

Hal Jones
Lake Oswego, Oregon
95T Blk\Blk SportShift

[This message has been edited by hejo (edited 05 June 2001).]

[This message has been edited by hejo (edited 05 June 2001).]
As I was reading this thread, I was thinking "I cant believe Hejo has not responded", then I got to the bottom....

With all due respect, I dont agree with Hejo's comments. To note, my comments are from the perspective of 6-speed owner, but having driven 3 different sport shifts.

There is a major power difference, based primarily on the difference in gearing, and in my case engine size. Given the sportshift is a 4 speed and I have 6, I get through the gears much quicker as the ratio's are tighter. Yes, I can shift as fast as an auto, as can most other EXPERIENCED manual drivers. Regarding engine, you are looking at 3.0 vs. 3.2 in '97 and beyond. That is significant. I didn't find the 3.0 sportshift to be much faster than a prelude.

Regarding clutch, I would learn on a friends car for a couple days, but in the end I agree with David, this is not a difficult car to drive. Reflect back to the accolades the car received at introduction and beyond, "an exotic you can toss the keys to the wife to get groceries". I drive my car as a daily driver (when no rain threat) in traffic, with no problems. That said, I have owned manuals all my life, on the other hand my rover is an auto... who the hell knows, I am rambling...

Hejo, regarding your comments about keeping up with 512's and 355's. I would bet this has less to do with the cars, you are likely an excellent driver running with people that are not. Apples to apples on drivers, either of those cars should be able to run away from you.

About learning the lines, I would agree at a general level, but I also reflect back to the first time I was at Thunderhill in the NSX. The first 3 laps I did all in third gear, not one shift, so I could learn the lines. You dont have to have the sportshift to do that. I am not sure the analogy with Karting is accurate as there are both centrifugal clutch and shifter (80 and 125cc) karts.

Also, I dont agree with the statment that the sportshift is like the paddle shifters on F1 cars. In F1, the paddles are on either side, and in the NSX they are on the left and work in an up and down manner instead of front / back as in F1. The up / down only on one side makes shifting awkward (my opinion) in twisties because you always have to have a hand in the 9:00 position.

Now, with all that said, I agree that you dont HAVE to have a manual to have fun, I just think it is more fun. Disclaimer, no flames, opinions above are just that, OPINIONS.
Woah...okay, I should qualify my comments. I was indeed being very general when I voiced my auto vs. manual opinions. And, yes, as many of you expected I've never had any experience with SportShift (or other manual-automatic hybrids for that matter).

I should add that the only such technology I've even remotely been curious about is Ferrari's F1 shifting technology. And as good as it is, I think I'd still miss working the clutch...but that's just me.
I've been uncharacteristically quiet.
Here's my background:

My first sports car (which I took on the track) was an automatic. At the time I bought it, I had only driven stick a couple of times in my life. Frankly, I was afraid to buy a manual, afraid that I wouldn't know how, afraid that I wouldn't like it.

My SO then got a car with a manual trans, which I would drive some times. I found it was easy to learn - once I realized that there was a range in the clutch that was progressive (the "sweet spot"), which no one had told me - I thought there was some magic to getting going from a stop.

I then bought my '91 NSX with the five-speed.

We now have four cars and all four have manual transmissions.

With the benefit of hindsight, I was foolish to be afraid of driving stick. I occasionally drive in traffic and don't mind the manual transmission. If I had to drive in heavy stop-and-go traffic every day, then I might consider an automatic, but otherwise, I'm quite happy with a manual.

And, contrary to the opinions of some folks here, I think it would be as easy to learn how to drive a manual on the NSX as on any other car. It's an easy manual, easy to shift, easy to clutch. However, I would suggest you first drive it a bunch of times with an experienced manual driver along as a passenger so he can give you instructions and help you learn.

To answer the original questions:

How much more "fun" is driving the manual 5or 6 speed compared with the sportshift?

I think that it's mostly a matter of what you're accustomed to. Those who normally drive the manual find it more fun than the SportShift. Those who normally drive the SportShift find that it's as much fun as the manual. But no one seems to be saying that the SportShift is MORE fun than the manual... which should tell you something, if you're willing to learn how to drive a stick.

Does the sportshifter really do a good job of simulating the fun of a stick, or is it primarily used to help you downshift when you need more torque?

Difficult question to answer, because again, I think it's one of those question whose answer depends on what you're accustomed to.

I've driven the SportShift, and I didn't think it simulates the fun of a stick adequately. Does that help?

Is an automatic NSX like a plastic-framed Monet?

The manual NSXers may disagree, but I think an automatic NSX is a high-performance sports car too. You can have a lot of fun with it, and even take it to the track. I think it's an appropriate representation of the breed, if not the highest-performing one. Kind of like the early NSX with the 3.0-liter engine and five-speed, compared with the '97+ with the 3.2-liter and six-speed.

Should I just learn to drive stick for god's sake?

Well... I think that someone who really wanted to keep driving an automatic would never ask this question. Given your apparent willingness to learn stick, I would answer this question with a resounding "Yes!" and recommend that you buy an NSX with a manual transmission.

Given an automatic, would my best price point now be around 95 instead of 97?

If you're looking at the automatic, the advantages of a '97 automatic over a '95 automatic are minimal - primarily the extra structural rigidity. But the price difference is probably significant (primarily a carryover from the significant differences between the '97 manual and the '95 manual cars).

HTH - feel free to ask more questions. And good luck with your decision.
i own a 97 ecplise spyder turbo, it's an automatic. over the years i had to endure much heckling from friends. for some reason there is a non-masculine stigma attached to automatics, esp in sports cars. i made sure i bought a manual when i got my nsx just so i could shut them up.
as for the level of fun... i suppose you feel like you're interacting more with the car when you're shifting. but i, unlike 99% of the nsx owners apparently, am not a world class lemans champion super driver. flipping the turn signal up and down is too much interaction as it is. i like driving from point a to point b, while doing it in style. at times i have regreted getting the manual. but then again, i guess that is the price one must pay to look like a world class lemans champion super driver.
I'm happy with my auto. I drive it daily (except when it rains) and basically, traffic sucks around here so I'm glad I have an auto in that respect. It will be interesting whenever the time comes for me to sell it...I didn't think when I bought it I would have a problem if I had to sell it. Actually, I didn't know that autos usually sold for less than manuals so I think I overpaid a little. Before I bought it, I did as much research as possible and there wasn't much price info on auto NSXs (or probably I didn't look hard enough). If others have problems selling autos, I would maybe thought twice about buying it.

I don't care because I am enjoying the car now! I have no regrets!

'94 blk/blk, auto
1 of 12
...and in the NSX they are on the left...
...you always have to have a hand in the 9:00 position.


Ok, so here I go again... stressing my point that many people who have an "opinion" on the "Sportshift" don't neccessarily have the "knowledge/exerience" of a "Sportshift".

Justin, the "Sportshift" lever is on the right at the 3 o'clock position... not the left...
I know that can confuse you "stick" guys. Isn't it wonderous how people can drive a stick with one hand on the wheel and one hand on the stick but us "SportShifters" aren't "coordinated enough" to have one hand or two hands on the wheel and be able to flip a lever 1 inch behind the wheel without becoming "twisted" (that's what my wife calls me).

What will it take to get "stick" NSXers to quit kicking us "SportShifters"...

And I used to think "superior" was a lake in northern Minnesota... shows how naive us "Sportshifters" are.

As my mom always said... can't you just get along?

95T SportShift

[This message has been edited by jag (edited 05 June 2001).]
Originally posted by jag:
Ok, so here I go again... stressing my point that many people who have an "opinion" on the "Sportshift" don't neccessarily have the "knowledge/exerience" of a "Sportshift".

Justin, the "Sportshift" lever is on the right at the 3 o'clock position... not the left...
I know that can confuse you "stick" guys. Isn't it wonderous how people can drive a stick with one hand on the wheel and one hand on the stick but us "SportShifters" aren't "coordinated enough" to have one hand or two hands on the wheel and be able to flip a lever 1 inch behind the wheel without becoming "twisted" (that's what my wife calls me).

What will it take to get "stick" NSXers to quit kicking us "SportShifters"...

jezus dude, you need to relax. take a chill pill. I am OH SO FREAKING SORRY that I made the mistake of left vs. right (or 3 vs. 9) about your little shifter. as I said, I drove the sportshift model on 3 different occasions. I neglected to say that was over a year ago. the impression it left is the same.

as far as coordination goes, I am not a "world class lemans champion super driver" but I did play NCAA Golf, and am still a scratch golfer, so I think I am fairly coordinated. With that said, I personally found it awkward to exit a corner with my RIGHT hand going down needing to shift into the next gear, but my hand was going in the opposite direction that the shifter needed to go. my profuse apology if I somehow got this example backward as well. again, over a year ago, but general principle still applies.

everyone, my opinions were not intended to be an attack on our automatic, or sportshifter, whatever, friends. in the end, we are all driving NSX's. as my last sentence read (did you notice it jag?) I was just stating an opinion based on my EXPERIENCE.

[This message has been edited by justin hall (edited 05 June 2001).]