Manual transmissions have long been on their way out, and now Audi has helped to shut the door just a little bit more. Car and Driver has reported that both the A4 and A5 model lines will lose their stick shift option in the United States for model year 2019, leaving a grand total of zero clutch pedals in the extensive Audi lineup. Internationally, where manual transmissions often sell much better, will still be shipped stick shifts, however.
Both the A4 and A5 had previously been hold-outs to the strong trend of sports car manufacturer's opting to employ the quicker-shifting, more efficient dual-clutch automatic. The A4 had featured an optional manual trans since its inception in 1994, while the A5's entire history included a stick shift ever since its debut in 2007. But though pure-bred fans of Audi's storied rally history may have loved plowing through mud and snow with Quattro-inspired confidence while rowing the gears, manual transmission sales have slowly but consistently declined over the years, with the result being that stick shifts made up only five percent of A4 sales.
Audi's all wheel drive, including both Torsen-based (for longitudinally-mounted engines) and Haldex-based (for transverse-mounted engines) had traditionally featured stick shifts, as did the mid-engined R8 when it first hit the scene in 2006. But the R8 lost its distinctive gated shifter steadily through significant changes to the model, including the adaptation of the V10 shared with Lamborghini's Gallardo and Huracan, as well as the end of the line for its V8.
Other sports car manufacturers, even those with a history steeped in driver engagement (even Ferrari!) have long since phased out the manual transmission. Besides the improvements in dual-clutch transmissions, the public's lack of interest plays a huge factor in the decisions. But as Car and Driver is quick to point out, the final few examples of the 2018 A4 and A5 could now be a great buy for Audi enthusiasts who want a modern car with what most manufacturers clearly believe to be outdated equipment.
Other changes coming to the 2019 A4 and A5 are relatively minor, including revisions to exterior fascia, differently shaped exhaust tips, and an optional RS-style carbon fiber trim package available on lower-spec cars. Whether other powertrain shakeups are in the mix remains to be seen.