How bad is the automatic transmission? - Pontiac Solstice Forum
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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 07:42 AM Thread Starter
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How bad is the automatic transmission?

Ok - here's the deal: for the most part, I prefer auto transmissions. I do know how to drive a manual, but it's been about 20 years since I owned a vehicle with a manual transmission (and that was a small Ford Ranger pickup).

I've been really wanting a Solstice lately and had actually decided that since it will be a fun/weekend car (I've got a Chevy Colorado crew cab as my daily "practical" vehicle), I might as well get it in manual, but as luck would have it, one that has popped up for sale locally for a very good price has the auto.

So in your guys opinions - is the auto something to completely avoid, or would I have just as much fun in one?

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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 09:21 AM
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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 09:49 AM
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It comes down to personal choice, and that's something that only you can answer. Obviously having a manual means you become part of the car, and for some sport car owners that is a deal breaker. For those with physical limitations it isn't.

The GM 5L40 five speed transmission is perfectly fine, there's been some cases of hard downshifting, but replacing the actuator solenoids solves the problem. GM recommends using 4 for around town driving, and D for highway driving due to 5th gear being overdrive.

Choose the type of transmission that you believe will give you the most enjoyment with the car.
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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 10:24 AM
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Per Dave Gilbert at Performance Auto Werks the auto tranny is quite beefy. The auto transmission is also used in the Cadillac CTS, STS and SRX. The SRX is a SUV that tips the weight scales at 4,442 lbs and considering our Kappa cars are just a little under 3,000 lbs the transmission should hold up fine up to 400hp in our cars.

There is a transmission tune that allows it to shift harder and at higher RPMs than stock, if an even sportier drive than OEM is up your alley. There is an "i" gear (1st - 3rd) that's a blast to use on a twisty mountain roads, 3rd gear really has balls. The auto tranny has torque reduction software built in (that can be removed by the tune) that prevents it from using as much torque as what the manual tranny can use (or at least that's how I assume it works).

I've read of manual tranny users that can peel out in 1st through 3rd in their cars; don't expect to do this with an ain't gonna happen (although I've read of the TCM tune allowing a chirp of 2nd gear).

Auto transmissions are typically a hair faster in a drag race (at least with other cars).

I had to get an auto because my wife wanted to drive the car. I've been happy with it (even though I would have preferred a manual).
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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 12:07 PM
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when I bought my sol I was looking for a manual but found a good deal on an automatic and bought it. I have been well pleased with the automatic from the dependability and the performance aspect.

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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 02:55 PM
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Can you test drive the car? I mean take the sales guy and find a twisty road with altitude change, drastic if possible. Find a road where 45-50 and then drops to 10-15 are the normal speeds with the turns, as many as possible.

Put the auto in I gear and drive it. I mean drive it as hard as you can, shift to 4th when you need to, but keep the car in I gear. It will not only amaze you, it will terrify you. Incredible. I would never drive a manual because the auto is sooooooooooooo much better and way more fun. Driving a stick on long runs, our runs are around the 250 mile area. The stick become way more of a labor, The wife has a stick, and I drive it when I absolutely have to. Not as fast, not as quick out of the corners for me, not even close. But you have to use the I gear, running in 4th or drive it is just like any other auto. You will have control of the car, or you better. It is soooooo much fun.

I drove a stick for 40 years, then moved to SoCal. Sticks not so much fun in our stop and go world. Wife likes driving her car in the mountains, but she will not drive it to the mall or to get groceries.

And most on both of the Kappa boards have no knowledge of the I gear or have ever driven a car with it. It is a very strong transmission that works extremely well in our cars. I got rid of Mallett because I hated driving it. If it had been an automatic I might have kept it.
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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 06:01 PM
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I've never owned a car with an automatic. After 50+ years, it's become muscle memory and my arm shifts gears without me thinking about it.

My wife drives a Cadillac SRX with the same transmission as the Solstice. It is a very nice transmission, smooth fast shifts up and down. Has close to 100,000 miles and other than one fluid change, no maintenance or issues. It has a gizmo to manually shift.

When I occasionally drive the SRX, I find myself pushing down my left foot and reaching for the gear lever. It is a blast to stomp on it from a stop and accelerate without shifting.

Last edited by syjos; 03-08-2019 at 07:58 PM.
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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by mgmorden View Post
Ok - here's the deal: for the most part, I prefer auto the auto something to completely avoid, or would I have just as much fun in one?
Sounds to me like you should get the automatic. Not something to avoid in the Solstice. Keep in mind the Solstice manual trans is not one of the slickest shifting ones around.
In stop and go traffic you will have more fun in the automatic. In the mountains there is a good chance of more fun with the manual.
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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 07:42 PM
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All my other cars are auto and I wanted a change. Somehow a 2 seater roadster should be a manual in my opinion. I tried an auto and it was okay but the manual just felt right. It reminded me of my first car, a 1972 MG Midget. As mentioned before, it's all down to personal choice. Go with your gut!
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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 07:57 PM
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I think it comes down to what you really like. I drove an auto and in my opinion it probably is a little nicer transmission than the stick. The manual they used in our cars is a little notchy and clunky for my tastes. With that being said I have always always preferred a manual, especially in a sports car. I couldn't bring myself to buy an auto so even though the auto is probably a better transmission I bought a stick. If I were someone who didn't have a strong preference I would buy an auto and that's what I personally recommend to someone else who doesn't have a strong preference one way or another.
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post #11 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 11:23 PM
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when I was looking to buy I first drove a stick. I found that I had to grip the shifter in a certain way to avoid hitting the radio knobs when moving the stick forward when "speed shifting"; I decided it was a bit annoying (although I might have figured out a better way....). soooo, problem solved with the automatic
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post #12 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-09-2019, 12:14 PM
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You would be alright with an auto especially if your a bigger person. The seating position is low so you legs go deep into the engine bay. Not much room to move around in there stepping on pedals. Cant even see your feet. You will get enough enjoyment from just driving it swapping from a truck/suv it will feel like a go kart and put the top down too hard to beat.

Though getting a stick was more major for me as I wanted a stick car. The more modern muscle cars are too brutal for a stick. I agree with the stick cars have to be more connected. Dinkey motor better be in the right gear no lugging or skipping gears when you get bored. Part time car of either trans would be fine. Color and motor and condition is a buying factor also
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post #13 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-09-2019, 06:13 PM
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Since my Solstice isn't my daily driver... manual was the way to go for me. I haven't heard about any chronic issues with the auto tranny in our Kappas, so you're pretty safe either way.

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post #14 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-10-2019, 08:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Saveaux View Post

There is a transmission tune that allows it to shift harder and at higher RPMs than stock, if an even sportier drive than OEM is up your alley.
I have a 2007 GXP auto and didn't know there was such a tune. More info on this one?

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post #15 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-10-2019, 08:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Pepolleke View Post
I have a 2007 GXP auto and didn't know there was such a tune. More info on this one?

You can start here;


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