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Old 03-12-2017, 10:52 AM   #1
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Manual Transmission Offroad?

It's near time for me to get a new daily driver car and I'm 90% sure I'll end up with a Jeep Wrangler. I have everything spec'd out as far as what I want on the car but am questioning whether to go with a manual transmission vs. the automatic. I really like driving a stick but prefer a shorter throw like the old Miata I currently drive. I test drove a Jeep manual transmission and found it ok but did not like the fact there was no clutch foot rest next to the clutch pedal. No room down there for it I guess.

At any rate, I can deal with a manual transmission in traffic but have never done any trails on one. Is there any downside to a manual transmission offroad? Any benefit? I ride a bicycle for work commutes and most errands so the Jeep won't get a ton of miles and will hopefully get used mainly for weekend fun.

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Old 03-12-2017, 11:56 AM   #2
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When you put it in low range, all of your concerns will go out the window. Even wheeling a 4cyl TJ with a 5spd, it is practically stall proof, a Rubicon with 4:1 low range even more so. Another upside is that you can skip gears when in low range so that you don't get that violent upshift when driving over 5mph. Just start in 3rd when on a flatter section of trail, or even 2nd straight to 4th. Clutch pedal= complete control with shifts as smooth or as hard as you want them.

You can also slip the clutch a bit to get into the meat of the engines power if you need a little extra in a tough spot.

If you're worried about rolling backwards starting from midway up a steep climb, don't be... you can always use the handbrake to hold you while you work the clutch, or "3 foot" the pedals by using your right heel on the brake and right toes for throttle, it's easier than it sounds.

If you already drive a manual, you'll be able to switch between manual/auto without a second thought.

Ironically, all of my current "cars" are automatic, but all of my motorcycles are manual!

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Old 03-12-2017, 02:16 PM   #3
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Agree with the above if, and only if, you have a low gear ratio. A manual trans in my tool of choice and I have one in my Bronco. It can be a lot more work, but far more rewarding in my opinion.

Early in my Bronco life I had a 4 speed top loader trans in my Bronco, and running trails at Big Bear and Anza Borrego were horrible because of my low crawl ratio. When I changed over to a ZF 5 speed and an Atlas transfer case, it made all the difference in the world. No more riding the clutch or having one foot on the brake pedal all the time. On a very technical trail, a clutch can be a challenge, but I wouldn't trade it for an auto for anything.

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Old 03-12-2017, 05:11 PM   #4
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Thanks for the replies! The plan is to go with the Rubicon model with 4.1 gears.

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Old 03-12-2017, 05:11 PM   #5
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I absolutely love wheeling in a manual. If you get a modern Jeep with a 6-speed you'll rarely use first anyway. I rented one for awhile and found it completely normal to launch in 2nd. 1st was wonderful on the trail.

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Old 03-17-2017, 10:09 AM   #6
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Absolutely agree with all above. Every Jeep I've owned has been a manual, as long as the main use is off-highway I feel that's the best choice.
My latest is a 2006, last of the 4.0 straight six engines and famous for it's low end grunt. Never having driven any of the newer ones with the V-6, I don't know how it compares but with the 4.0 I don't have to use low range that much anyway. Unless you're into rock crawling the 4:1 transfer case is overkill, in my opinion. A lot of the times if I do decide that conditions warrant low range I only use 3rd, 4th, or 5th gears because 1 and 2 are just too low. But at least with a manual transmission you have the choice. Couple of the guys I know that have the automatic complain about the jerk when in low range and the tranny shifts in the lower gears.

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Old 03-17-2017, 10:49 AM   #7
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Maybe the low range jerk is a Jeep thing. After owning a few 4by's with manual trannies, I bought a Land Rover w/auto in the 90's and have had three since. I love the automatic. Off roading and even boulder hopping is now so smooth and positive. Yeah I thought the manual gave me the 'total control' we think we need and that manly feeling, but the auto really eases you into and out of many situations that you'd be clutching and shifting and smoking it. There is a constant engagement with auto and no slipping back trying to get going over an obstacle while ascending. Way more time to evaluate your position and route when clutching and shifting are not required.

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