Looking for an S4 spider. Wondering about how much the driving fun
factor is reduced by having the automatic instead of the manual tranny.
Any comments would be appreciated. How reliable is the automatic
compared to the manual.
Jim, this is a real can of worms you have opened! If you search the board you will find quite a few posts on the subject ranging from offensive to amusing. And often from people who have never driven the automatic version...
I have both and like them both equally, for different reasons. As the saying goes, its horses for courses. If you will drive mostly on nice traffic free open roads get the manual car it will be more fun.
If you plan to use it a lot in traffic get the automatic.
The only real issue I have with the automatic is that it is only three speed and top gear is a direct ratio, rather than an overdrive ratio. So its less relaxed at speed: 20mph per 1,000 rpm vs. 22.5mph per 1,000 for the manual.
In terms of reliability the auto box should be fine if it has been looked after. It is a ZF box, used in BMWs, Volvos etc as well as the Alfa. So parts are available and shops know how to maintain them.
My S4 is an automatic and I enjoy driving it. However, the automatic trans takes some of the "guts" away from its performance, but it is pleasurable to drive especially in traffic. The auto trans is the 3 speed ZF unit that was the same auto trans used in BMW's and other imports of the era. It's a trouble-free unit.
If you want to engage a clutch pedal and shift gears, you most definitely will not be satisfied with the automatic. If an automatic is specifically what you want or need, you'll be pleased.