Automatic transmissions these days are nothing like the slushboxes of yore. Some people still find it difficult to accept that modern automatics can get cars to go faster and be more efficient than manual versions. Some automatics have shift times that a manual cannot match, and having multiple gears allows for more flexible ratios.
But can an automatic with a little less power than a manual car keep up in a straight line? To answer that question, check out this drag race between a six-speed BMW M4 and a self-shifting Lexus RC F. But before we jump into the results, here's what the performance coupes pack under the hood.
On paper, the BMW M4 has a clear advantage over the Lexus. The coupe's 3.0-liter TwinPower Turbo inline-six is good for 473 horsepower (353 kilowatts) and 406 pound-feet (550 Newton-meters) of torque. It also has a curb weight of 3,830 lbs (1,737 kg), less than its Japanese rival. However, the longer gear ratios put it at a disadvantage, and the shift times will depend on the person behind the wheel.
The RC F has a naturally-aspirated 5.0-liter V8 that packs 467 horsepower (348 kilowatts) and 389 pound-feet (527 pound-feet) of torque. It's marginally behind the BMW in horsepower and torque, but the weight difference is more substantial. The Lexus is 128 lbs (58 kg) heavier than the BMW, with a curb weight of 3,958 lbs (1,795 kg). The Lexus will have to rely on the quick-shifting eight-speed automatic to keep up with the BMW.
The result? Despite the power and weight disadvantage, the Lexus did a decent job of keeping up with the BMW. There were even times the RC F got off the line quicker than the M4. However, it wasn't enough for Lexus to overcome the BMW's grunt. Once the BMW was in its stride, it blew the doors off the Lexus.
Of course, there will be those who say an automatic cannot match a manual in terms of engagement. But that's an argument that will never be settled on the drag strip.