Audi drops manual gearbox on A4, A5

The 2018 Audi A4 is equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 that generates 252 hp.

Graham Kozak is features editor at Autoweek, an affiliate of Automotive News.

The Audi A4 and A5 are perfect examples of how a good manual transmission can transform a solid, fundamentally decent piece of transportation into something really fun. We called the six-speed manual in the A4 “the real clincher” last time we drove one, and our recent A5 review listed “offers a manual” as one of the pros.

But the party is just about over: According to Car and Driver, Audi will offer no manual transmission option for the A4 and A5 starting with the 2019 models. This means no manual Audis will be offered in the United States, at least at new-car dealerships, and that the list of manual-equipped sedans you can buy new is down another option.

How could this happen? you wail. It’s because as much as we love to talk about the joy of manual transmissions, almost nobody outside the enthusiast world bothers to buy them; apparently, only 5 percent of A4s sold recently have been equipped with the six-speed. We’d call Audi’s move to ax the manual a cynical, purely profit-driven one, except that Audi is, you know, in business to make a profit.

Still, it stings more than Honda’s decision to drop the HR-V’s manual option. On the other hand, Audi’s corporate cousin, Porsche, seems to understand that a certain audience won’t take no (manuals) for an answer; even when a slick automatic or dual-clutch does the job better and faster, there’s real satisfaction that comes from nailing a shift manually.

So in the niche market of sports cars, at least, the standard transmission seems to be doing OK. But that shouldn’t lull you into complacency. If you want to see manual-equipped cars for sale in the United States in the future, you have to put your money where your mouth is and buy one every once in a while. New, not used. Or automakers will do what Audi just did and give in to the siren song of automated shifting, and we won’t be able to blame them.