C4 Corvette Transmission, is Auto or Manual Best?


If you’re getting a, new to you, C4 Corvette, one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make is whether to get a C4 Corvette automatic or manual transmission. The C4 Corvette transmission choice affects everything from your driving experience to how much money you save at the pump.

My 1985 Corvette if you didn’t already know, is a manual transmission so you could say I’m a little biased. But there are pluses and minuses to each one. A lot has to do with what your expectations are with your C4 Corvette and how you plan on using it.

But what are the important considerations when making this decision?


When it comes to purchasing a new car, the automatic is more expensive than the manual. The main reason for this is that an automatic transmission has a lot of moving parts compared to a manual transmission. This means there’s more that can go wrong and thus more parts will need replacing over time.

The cost of repairing an automatic transmission is also much higher than repairing a manual one because it requires more specialist knowledge and equipment. Repairs are also likely to take longer due to the complexity involved in diagnosis and repair work.

But when buying a used C4 Corvette, the opposite is in effect. The manual transmissions are harder to find thus making them more expensive. Typically, 2 Corvettes that are about equal in condition and mileage will cost more with a manual transmission than an automatic. This is the case whether talking about the Doug Nash 4+3 manual transmission or the 6 speed ZF manual transmission.

Performance and Power

A lot depends on what you are looking to do in your C4 Corvette. Are you just a weekend cruiser or are you looking to do some spirited driving whether it be on the street or the track? A manual transmission is best for performance because it allows for more control and precision over your C4 Corvette. For example, if you want to take a sharp corner at high speeds and your foot isn’t on the gas pedal enough, you can compensate by downshifting into another gear. This will give you more torque that will help pull through the turn. Torque is king, especially on the L98 Corvettes. You don’t get that same feeling with an automatic transmission; because it shifts gears automatically based on what RPMs are called for by engine sensors (and sometimes even in reaction), there’s no way of knowing if there isn’t enough torque being delivered up front when accelerating out of a turn or if another gear might be better suited than what’s currently set by default settings within an automatic system.

The driving experience

Manual transmission is more fun to drive. The manual transmission is a lot more responsive to the driver than an automatic one and it makes you feel like you are in control of your car. You can feel every gear change and they are much more engaging compared to an automatic transmission which feels like there’s no connection between you, the driver and the road.

Manual transmissions are also rewarding as well because you know that every time you shift gears, it was your doing and not just something that happened automatically without any input from anyone at all! The feeling of satisfaction after shifting through all the gears will make any driver happy for sure!

You can manually shift an automatic if you like but its not quite the same as a true manual.

Other things to Consider

As an car lover in my mid 50’s, there are other things to consider when deciding the best transmission for your C4 Corvette.  As I mentioned before my 1985 Corvette has the Doug Nash 4+3. I really love having a manual transmission especially in a a fun to drive sporty car. With that said, I sometimes get tired of pushing in the clutch when doing an all day cruise or drive. I’m not sure how you feel but my left leg can sure get tired after a while. Also, the spring on my clutch sure seems to get harder and harder to push as the day goes on.

Also consider where you live. Here in Colorado the traffic seems to get worse everyday and sitting in bumper to bumper traffic and having to push in a clutch over and over gets tiresome real quick. I’ve gotten stuck in a traffic jam a couple of times. Once I just toughed it out and delt with it, another I just found a spot to pull over and stop until the traffic cleared. Driving in bumper to bumper traffic can also be really hard on your clutch and could wear out the clutch plate pretty quick.

Can’t drive a stick

Another bonus of a manual transmission, it could be a theft deterrent. Not everyone these days nows how to drive a manual transmission. Thieves might stick to the automatics.

Certain C4 Corvettes only came with a manual transmission. All ZR-1 Corvettes are manual as all LT-4 1996 Corvettes.

On C4 Corvettes there is also the option between the Doug Nash 4+3 and the ZF manual transmission. There are a lot of people that stay away from the 4+3 because they are problematic but I have never had any problems with mine. It works well and I get close to 28 miles per gallon on the highway. It comes down to whether it was maintained well.

Another thing is consider is repairs if that is something you thing might be needed.


Ultimately the decision or manual or automatic comes down to you. What are you looking for and what best suites your driving style. I suggest make a pros and cons for each to help you decide on which one to choose. Buy what makes you happy!

One last thing to consider. If you really don’t care one way or the other you should ultimately look for the best condition C4 Corvette for the best price you can find.

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