Hyundai’s iMT is a real manual transmission, but clutch duties are done automatically

The death of the manual transmission has been lurking for some time as laziness kicks in and sales continue to decrease. But, what if there was a middle ground where you can still shift on your own without dealing with finessing a clutch pedal? As it turns out, Hyundai has a solution for that, and it’s called the Intelligent Manual Transmission. That’s right; Hyundai now has a manual transmission that doesn’t have a clutch pedal. How the hell does that work?

Hyundai’s Intelligent Manual Transmission Explained

First of all, I’ll happily point out that Hyundai claims that the idea of the iMT is rather simple. I don’t believe that for a minute and, as it seems, there’s a lot going on behind the curtains to make this thing actually work. The transmission itself still has a clutch, but engagement and disengagement of that clutch automated. The car’s computer system picks up when you’re about to shift via an “intention sensor” in the shift lever. The computer then tells the transmission control unit to hydraulically manipulate the clutch. Once you’ve selected your chosen gear, the system will disengage the clutch and you’ll be in gear.

There is a bit of safety and self-preservation built into the iMT, too. As you shift from gear to gear, the car’s computer system will read from other sensors too, like engine speed, wheel speed, and the like. If you try to shift into a gear that’s too low – like you accidentally move into second gear from 6th on the highway, for example – the transmission will remain in neutral.

Hyundai's Intelligent Manual Transmission Means You Can Row Your Own Without Pressing a Clutch Pedal
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Technically, it sounds like this isn’t all that different from the way clutch packs are engaged or disengaged in automatic transmissions, so I can see why Hyundai would say it’s rather simple – all they needed to do was add an extra hydraulic output to the TCM to control the clutch slave cylinder on the transmission. There are still a lot of unknowns about this transmission, though. There is absolutely no information out there about that “intention sensor”. Is it an accelerometer-based sensor? Or is it some kind of other motion sensor? Can the car’s computer understand the difference between accidental applied pressure as you hold the shifter and when you’re actually shifting? It seems there’s a lot that could go wrong here. And, a failed sensor would make it absolutely impossible to drive.

Hyundai's Intelligent Manual Transmission Means You Can Row Your Own Without Pressing a Clutch Pedal
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Fun Fact: You can shift a standard manual transmission without using the clutch as long as you match the engine speed and wheel speed for your chosen gear perfectly. The synchros in the transmission will lineup perfectly, and the transmission will slide right into gear. If you’re off by just a few RPMs, though, you’ll hear that dreaded grinding noise, so it’s probably best you don’t give this one a try.

Hyundai's Intelligent Manual Transmission Means You Can Row Your Own Without Pressing a Clutch Pedal
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Hyundai claims that the iMT is actually cheaper to build than an automatic, but here’s the kicker – right now it’s only available in India. Hyundai is offering it first on the Indian-market Venue with the 1.0-liter turbo engine. Here in the states, we only get the choice of an old-fashioned six-speed manual and a CVT. However, should the iMT turn out to be a hit, it just might make its way to the U.S. market sometime down the road. It wouldn’t be a bad thing – without having to learn how to control the clutch pedal, it just might make people – especially new drivers – realize how fun it is to row their own and the demand for manual transmissions might go up once again. Here’s to hoping, right?

Robert Moore
Editor-in-Chief and Automotive Expert -
Robert has been an auto enthusiast his entire life. He started working cars at a young age, learning the basics from his father in the home garage on the weekends. As time went on, Robert became more and more interested in cars and convinced his father to teach him how to drive when he was just 13 years old. Robert continued working on cars in his free time and learned as much as he could about engines, transmissions, and car electrical systems, something that only fed his curiosity more and eventually led him to earn a bachelors degree in automotive technology with a primary focus on engine performance and transmission rebuilding.  Read More
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