Thanks to Volkswagen, I learned to drive with a manual transmission: a girl's guide to cars (2023)

Thanks to Volkswagen, I learned to drive with a manual transmission: a girl's guide to cars (1)


Did you learn to ride the gear stick? NO? Me neither!

The youngest of 4 children in my family, I was the lastlearn to drive. All my brothers learned itdrive with a manual transmissionbecause learndrive the manual gear levermeant you could drive an automatic with ease, but the manuals were plentiful, acheaper investmentfor the first driver. If, like me, you learned to drive a car with an automatic transmission, it was already easier to park, drive up the hill, cross the intersection and pass the driving test. As long as I had my driver's license, that was all that mattered when I was in high school. The less stress, the better.

Fast forward 40 years and hundreds of thousands of miles with an automatic transmission later, I drive and review cars so evolved they almost drive themselves. I love driving to the point that my passion has become a profession, now here I am an automotive journalist. But in all these years I never drove a manual. so whenVolkswagenHe invited me to Phoenix Raceway to learn how to drive a manual, and I was excited. I am always ready for challenges and learning new things, even if they are old things.

Related: Learn to Drive a Shifter? This is what you need to know first

Thanks to Volkswagen, I learned to drive with a manual transmission: a girl's guide to cars (2)

Protecting an endangered species with Volkswagen

You see, in 1980, 35% of cars in the US had a manual transmission. That's about a third of the US market. As of 2021, only 1% of US cars have a manual transmission and only 18% of US drivers know how to drive a manual transmission car. This means we consider manual transmission vehicles to be an endangered species and Volkswagen is determined to protect them.

While performance car manufacturers such as Maserati and Ferrari have stopped producing manual transmissions, Volkswagen cannot imagine a future without them. In fact, Volkswagen continues to produce and offer not one but four manual transmission options:Jetta,Jetta GLI,GolfGTI, yGolf R. And lucky for me, I was able to drive them all.

Related: 5 reasons you want to drive a manual transmission

Thanks to Volkswagen, I learned to drive with a manual transmission: a girl's guide to cars (3)

If you can dance, you can drive a manual

Driving a manual is easy. But not learning to drive manually. The most important skill you must possess is humility. Then patience. You'll choke, you'll wobble, you'll make mistakes, you'll forget where first gear is, you'll crush gears. There's a lot to think about and a lot of embarrassing moments. For me, it was like learning a new dance number.

You have an instructor who tirelessly demonstrates and tells you step by step what you are learning. The next step builds on the previous one and is ultimately fully choreographed. With repetition, muscle memory is activated and you can relax thinking about each step. Everything connects and starts to flow. Soon, driving a manual becomes as fun and easy as dancing. Just as you feel oneness with the music, you feel oneness with the machine.

Related: 10 Affordable And Fun Manual Transmission Cars That Will Fire Up Your Gear Stick Dreams

Thanks to Volkswagen, I learned to drive with a manual transmission: a girl's guide to cars (4)

Rule number one: stop thinking and start feeling

"Search first"
"Top Left, Bottom Right"
"Little by little... little by little... relax slowly"
"Now More Gasoline, Give Him More Gasoline"

My professional manual driving instructor was very patient, more than he let me. I can't count how many times he repeated those sentences. I would think about every little thing. But before I could cry and give up, I made it. Yes. I finally learned to drive with a manual transmission. And it was amazing! My feet danced, my shifts were silky smooth, and I reversed and even parallel parked without jerking or stopping. I crushed it and felt so empowered!

Thanks to Volkswagen, I learned to drive with a manual transmission: a girl's guide to cars (5)

Catching up on the Volkswagen Golf R

It got really cool when I got onto the racetrack and smoothly shifted into a higher gear and started spinning around like I was Tanner Foust. Okay, maybe he was the first one behind the wheel (and what a thrill that was!), but I made some money and went with the instructor for a few laps ... and I didn't want to slow down, let alone stop. Because after overcoming the challenge of starting off in first gear, shifting becomes smoother and smoother. You feel at one with the vehicle, intuitively knowing when to shift up, let go and perform this dance to the max. It's a beautiful feeling. And riding the shifter is all about feel.

Related: I drove a VW Taigun manual transmission around Los Angeles for two days and this is what it looked like

Thanks to Volkswagen, I learned to drive with a manual transmission: a girl's guide to cars (6)

It's never too late to learn: driving with a manual transmission is a timeless skill

Confession: I was invited as part of a group of "fearless influencers" who turned out to be mostly millennials. While I am fearless, I am NOT a millennial influencer - I am a Generation X photographer/writer/mom who also shares on social media. And I love Volkswagen and have been in its history longer than any other participant. So I was very lucky to be invited as part of this amazing experience.

Everyone else who was learning to drive a manual that day could easily have been my children. Oh really. While it was impressive that each of them had millions of followers on Instagram, YouTube and Tik-Tok, no journalist was among them. They admired me, they admired me, they asked me how I got to what I do, and they thought it was cool that at my age I was learning something completely new.

I may not have scored high in overall results that day, but I did earn "coolest contestant" status when they looked beyond my meager Instagram numbers and actually looked at my content. "Do you write car reviews?" They thought it was cool, as well as finding out I surfed. Overall, I came away from the event feeling empowered not only as a new manual shifter, but also as a mature woman who inspires others, especially younger women who are just starting their journey.

Thanks to Volkswagen, I learned to drive with a manual transmission: a girl's guide to cars (7)

A Volkswagen for all generations

You see, Volkswagen knows its people, its fans, its market. They don't just cater to a single age demographic. There really is a Volkswagen for every generation and every type of driver, INCLUDING the endangered 1% of manual transmission drivers in the US. And what better reason than protecting endangered species? Volkswagen's #SavetheManuals campaign is more than just a hashtag. VW covers all areas of the US market with affordable, efficient and enjoyable manual transmission vehicles.

Disclosure: I was a guest at Volkswagen at this #SavetheManuals event; I was provided with directions, accommodation and instructions, but I changed, parked, autocross tracks and track laps myself..

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