Conventional wisdom has long held that a good manual transmission is always faster and more fun than an automatic transmission: Faster because it directly transfers power without the typical power loss of a torque converter, and more fun because it responds exactly to the driver’s commands with no delay. Fast, direct, fully controllable and predictable – exactly the desired qualities in any “driver’s car.” Moreover, precisely the qualities that describe the new Lexus IS F’s 8-Speed Sport Direct Shift transmission. The transmission is an arrow through the heart of conventional wisdom.
But why go to the trouble of creating an automatic transmission that performs better and faster than a manual? After all, the simple yet effective manual transmission is held in high esteem by driving enthusiasts everywhere.
Engineers love a challenge and when the IS F Chief Engineer dared his staff to build a paradigm-changing high-performance car, the conventional automatic transmission was a ripe target. Why? The IS F would not meet their lofty goals with anything less than a complete rethink of the gearbox. Goals that included scintillating track performance.
You may not care much about the detail and might feel that driving is the only proof you need. If so, you’re encouraged to get some IS F seat time at your earliest opportunity. But if you would like to know how Lexus built the world’s fastest shifting automatic transmission, read on.
Moving from Weakness to Strength
In the process of creating a maximum performance car, Lexus has done nothing less than turn what is typically thought to be a weakness into a solid advantage. To illustrate the point, let’s get right to the qualities that make it so:
• The among the world’s fastest shift time for street legal production cars. At 0.1 second, it’s faster than you.
• Full manual shift control that can be instantly accessed by moving the console-mounted shift lever to “M” and then using either the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters or the shift lever. In manual mode, it shifts only when you tell it to.