I appreciate that knowing to drive a manual car well is rewarding in the sense that rollerblading or skateboarding is rewarding: your body has to precisely respond to complicated stimuli from experience. But I’m personally fine seeking those experiences elsewhere!
I like adaptive cruise control and modern safety features on recent cars (lane centering etc.). Since I got my license five years ago, I haven’t owned a car and I also don’t intend to at the moment. But I’ve driven and rented a large range of cars, both manual and automatic: big vans, tiny hatchbacks, hybrid sedans, family cars, SUVs.
Every time I enter back in a manual, it takes some getting used to. For an irregular driver like me, shifting properly is a mild attention drain, and the less attention I have to spend on operating the car, the better & safer I think.
I’m now traveling through the US for the first time. I’m noticing a difference in the offering of rental car companies. In Finland, most cars available will still be manual, and automatic cars are rented for a small premium. In the US I haven’t seen a single manual car in listings. I wonder why!
I've got a crossover which is probably the most boring vehicle there is but having a six speed manual makes it a blast to drive. I'll definitely be mourning the loss of the stick shift. Electric cars at least have the snappy throttle response that you get with a manual transmission, but it's still not anywhere near as fun with only two pedals.
My wife is a die-hard manual shifter -- an even more rare, dying breed, the stick-shifting female. Many years ago I did practice on her old Honda Accord stick, but it's one of those things where you really need to drive it for a long while to get used to it.
I understand this writer's lament, but I'm afraid I'm firmly in the automatic camp, in every sense of the word. I understand the pleasure of driving -- just the other day I was listening to the new Beyonce album, which was disappointing. "You wannt hear proper dance music? Here you go." And I put on Black Box's "Strike It Up" and blasted Martha Wash's crazy amazing vocals and the band's electronic drum machines and there was no other place I wanted to be.
But those are rare moments. If I could transport myself via Star Trek technology, I'd do it in a heartbeat; I'd happily never get back in a car. Don't fool yourself -- the reason why cars exist is because it's the fastest thing we have to get us from point A to point B. Of course there is the attraction of harnessing the mechanical beast, but that's a wonderful byproduct. The true purpose of the machine is one of speedy locomotion.
You really want to feel one with the road? Run. No, scratch that. You'll miss way too much because you are running. So walk. No, scratch that. Your body won't feel enough. So crawl. Yes, crawl. That's how you become one with the road. ;)
Let me share one more thing with you -- last year I upgraded my ancient Gen2 Prius to the current Gen4. It's the nicest car I've ever driven, and it isn't even that nice (or new -- bought it used, luckily before the pandemic inflation), but it has one amazing tech -- adaptive cruise control. It's got radar sensors so it keeps pace with the traffic ahead. I adore this tech, and an amazing, unforeseen, beneficial side effect is that it has made me a calmer driver. Because it's great in traffic, i.e., crawling at 15mph in a terrific slowdown on the highway due to congestion or an accident, I just set it and forget it and relax. The car takes over the acceleration and braking 100% and I don't need to deal with the hassle. If I'm on a 40mph single-lane road with no chance to pass and the guy in front is driving 35mph, this used to drive me nuts -- but not anymore. I set it and I forget it, and I'm very much happier to be as disconnected to the road as possible.