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Hi, Rob V

Seeing as you're fortunate enough to have both, I think you'd be the perfect guy to give us an assessment of the two transmission.

I love my 03, but I really miss driving a 6 speed.

Can you fill us in on city driving, boulevard cruising, and running twisty roads?

Thanks,

Ray
 

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RE: Automatic vs. 6-Speed

Ray,

I will start out by saying that I have been a stick guy since I started driving. I have always felt that I "enjoyed" driving a stick more than an automatic. Having said that, and in the sake of honesty, I have the following comments on both:

I must quickly point out that the automatic is in the 04 which has 90 less horses to play with. Another point that I have to make is that I do not have the writing skills that Jim G has been blessed with but will do the best I can to keep it factual. I have about 250 miles of experience with the 05 automatic which will be the basis for my automatic comments because it proves to be more of a heads up comparison for my 6-speed.

The "city driving" is based on the mostly flat terrain in and around Tampa, Florida. The "boulevard cruising" is based on small town events such as the monthly car shows in San Antonio and Plant City, Florida. As for the "running twisty roads" it is based on the roads in and around my home in Blue Ridge, GA whch is located in the Blue Ridge mountains.

In terms of Highway driving, there is really only one point to be made here. Due to the the factory gearing in the 6-speed should you need to pass, you will have to down-shift to a lower geart unless you are running speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour (assuming you are in sixth gear).

Automatic

There are both positive and negative aspects of the automatic. I will get the negative out early. The "drive-by-wire", and "abuse management" systems seem to inhibit ones ability to really let the horses run. I find that when I accelerate hard on one occasion I find myself planted against the back of my seat and smiling from ear-to-ear. On another occasion I will pound the accelerator to the floor and the SSR will wind up like a clock, make all sorts of impressive noise and go nowhere fast. The "controls" will kick in and shift into the next gear 2K before red line. I have not been able to determine the exact situation required to get consistant "stop light to stop light" performance out of this truck.

Having said the aforementioned, when the "controls" let me play, I believe that the automatic is an awesome choice if a majority of your driving will be around town, in traffic, or you need to tow a trailer. In terms of performace, there is very little "seat of the pants" difference between this automatic and the stick.

Six Speed

The six speed also has its positive and negative. I will once again get the negative out of the way. Because of the close ration used for the shift pattern this truck is more prone to mis-shifts. This could also be due to "fuel management" in the form of "skip-shift". The other "big hitter" would be the rear end gear ratio. At 60 MPH, the truck is running under 1400 RPM which requires a down-shift in the event of a grade greater than about 20%.

The great news with repect to the six speed is the fact that the "abuse management" is all but non existent. I can confirm the fact that you control the RPM that the vehicle shifts at as opposed to some computer. Once you get to red-line in first gear the rest of the gears go by quiclky and the performance is awesome. Although this vehicle will never be a 1/4 mile truck due to the weight, it has nothing to apologize for in terms of performance.

city driving

This is where the automatic is the bomb, when you are zipping around town and jumping lanes to get where you need (or want) to go quickly the automatic manages itself like a pro. The "rolling performance" of this vehicle is very consistant and provide a strong degree of confidence that you have the horses in the stable to squeeze into the next lane. In stop and go situations there is no need to leave a car length between you and the car in front of you because you have plenty of power to "keep the door closed" and you have the confidence that your braking system will stop this beast on a dime.

This is where the six speed is really at a disadvantage. I for one love a stick, but when you have gearing such as this you spend so much time shifting that it is no longer fun. Also, I have misshifted enough times that I do not have the confidence to weave in and out of traffic like I do in the automatic because I no longer trust the fact that I will hit the correct gear each and every time. Once again, I am STILL not used to the close ratio nature of this transmission. Maybe over time I will build confidence once again and city driving will be more enjoyable.

Clearly from my personal experienced the automatic wins hands down in this catagory. Once again, my PERSONAL opinion.

boulevard cruising

Okay in this catagory, I would say that once again it is mostly stop and go type driving but with a limited top speed. At least this is my interpretation of Rays heading. In this arena the automatic is a dream to drive given a light touch the factory exhaust sounds awesome and the truck really grabs attention. If you want you can manually downshift the automatic transmission to help slow the vehicle and it sounds just like a stick. The torque converter does a great job getting it off of the line and the stop light to stop light performance is great.

The six speed is also awesome for this style of driving. The ability to step on the clutch, press the gas a few times (even with the factory exhaust) really gets the crowd going. Of course there is nothing like the light factory popping when you use the transmission to slow you to a stop. I have to say in fairness that the high gear ration is not a factor in this style of driving because you only use the lower gears anyway.

Categorically speaking for this style of driving I will have to call is a draw. Both vehicles perform very well for this style of driving.

running twisty roads

The automatic does an admirable job of shifting to the required gear for twisty roads. Of course these trucks are a blast to drive although I personally believe that the suspensions are set up more for the street than the slalom. The automatic does just fine, but from where I sit that is not good enough. I guess that you could manually shift the automatic into lower gears and drive it like a stick but to be honest I have never tried so I have no knowledge as to whether or not the abuse management would kick in.


The six speed is the king of the twisty road, there is no feeling like the feeling you get when you control the power curve of the vehicle through the use of the transmission. There is enough torque in this vehicle that you can swing the rear end around the corner if you keep the RPM 's around 3000 in first or second gear and then step on the gas as you get halfway through the turn. I cannot express in writing how awesome the feeling is to have this beast on those twisty mountain roads. Of course you have the limited slip rear end so it is very possible to lose control of vehicle if you oversteer it on the other side of a turn.

I would have to say that the six speed hands down out performs the automatic in the catagory.

Closing

In closing, the opinions expressed here are my own. I do not profess to be an expert. This is based solely on my "seat of the pants" experience.

Overall, I believe that the choice of a standard verses an automatic should be based on the intended use of the vehicle. If I was only going to pull a trailer or use it as my daily commuter I would ONLY buy an automatic. On the other hand, if I wanted to go out and play with the vehicles on the back roads over a sunny weekend there is no question that I would purchase the stick.

My Best,

Rob
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks, Rob

Awesome review.

I guess I need two of them also!!!! I'll wait in the wings to see if the Z06 engine ever makes it to the SSR.

We did a 3 week road trip last fall, had a blast doing it. We did the really twisty section from the Napa Valley back to 101 on the California Coast, spending most of the time between 2nd and 3rd on the automatic. I told my wife while we were doing that section that I wanted to come back and do it with the 6 speed.

I knew I had a great run when I washed the truck the next morning - most brake dust I had ever to clean off. :lol

Thanks again. The report was much appreciated.

Ray
 

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I'll second the comments on the 6-speed regarding driving in traffic. Just did that yesterday. A few of us did the DC to OC cruise (see thread under northeast). Rt50 traffic was running bumper to bumper a just a few miles for a long long time. To make it worse, there are sections that go through towns and become traffic light controlled. At times, best I saw was 2nd gear, and constant clutching was wearing me out. We had a repeat later last night on the way back from dinner too. Boy did that suck.

In addition, and I can't speak for everybody with a 6-speed, but the shifter is quite, well, inadequate. I would have hoped they would have sprung a few bucks to engineer a shifter that had better throws and a better feel. When shifting into the odd gears (1,3,5), I pretty much have to extend my arm out fully, and I have long arms (being 6'3")! Also, at times, I feel that it's fighting me to get into gear, and others it glides in smoothly. When I first got it, I hadn't driven a stick in over 5 years, so I was definitely rusty. Not to mention that everything was so new and tight that stalling out was an unfortunate given for my first 2 weeks. I attributed much of this to being new and needing to break in. Now that it's got 1200 miles (and yesterday's DC to OC cruise through brutal bumper to bumper traffic), I would have thought it would start to loosen up. Well, I think it made the problems even more apparent. We'll see if it actually improves over time, but I I am going to start looking for a new aftermarket shifter for it regardless.
 

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Thanks for review

Flassh said:
Thanks, Rob

Awesome review.

I guess I need two of them also!!!! I'll wait in the wings to see if the Z06 engine ever makes it to the SSR.

Ray
:agree

Nice review Rob. Why is it I get a lump in my throat whenever someone mentions the possibility of a Z06 SSR? A tantilizing thought! I have been checking into the possibility of getting a crate LS7 (for a different project) so I guess someone could make their own Z06 (with some other upgrades to handle those extra horses).

Couldn't have said it better about the ease of the automatic for daily driving around town. A 6 speed automatic would be the best of both worlds. Still a lot of fun anyway you slice it!
 
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