2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS: Thank You, Mr. Tremec
January 14, 2010
No mystery about the reason we chose a manual transmission for this Camaro. Every time you move the lever, you're connected right to the heart of this car. The shift lever has the crisp action that reminds you that a car is a mechanism, a jumble of bolts and rods and gears that miraculously work together. In fact, I'd argue that the transmission does more to give a car its personality these days than the engine or tires or anything else.
This six-speed gives you what you ask for, no waiting and wondering what the electronics might have in store for you (aside from skip-shift, though it's easily circumvented). It combines a slick rifle-bolt action with positive gear engagement, yet at effort levels low enough to be manageable at commute hour as well as Sunday mornings. Big biceps are not required, and you pick up the next gear with the smooth, practiced smoothness of a skilled professional.
The Camaro's TTC TR-6060 six-speed has come a long way from the original Borg-Warner T-56 design developed specifically for the 1992 Dodge Viper, where it felt as agricultural as something from an old tractor. It has triple synchros on the first two gear ratios and double synchros for the rest, while low-friction strategies are employed throughout the shift linkage. The reduced shift lever travel required because of the synchros also enables wider gears to be used to handle more engine torque. Overall the TR-6060 is a miracle of refinement compared to the old Muncie M-22 Rock Crusher used in GM muscle cars in the late 1960s.
Now that drivetrains are being even more aggressively calibrated for squeaky clean air emissions, we might be coming to the end of the line of pure manual transmissions. We'll find ourselves driving an eight-speed automatic or a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual, cursing the early upshifts, tardy kick-downs, and hanging throttle between gear changes. Even today, much of what we perceive to be serious drivability flaws in vehicles as disparate as the BMW 750i, Ford Edge and Infiniti FX50 have to do with the electronic programming for the transmission, not the relative goodness of the mechanical bits.
The Camaro's manual transmission is one of the best I've ever encountered. Unfortunately, it might represent the end of the line for the evolution of manual transmissions, just as the Camaro itself might be the end of the line for muscle cars.
Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 10,883 miles