That's my wife, and despite the two thumbs up and big smile on her face, she just stalled our long-term 2010 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT for the sixth time in a row. Turns out that the Legacy is not an ideal practice car in which to learn the fine art of cog swapping. It's too bad, too, as tomorrow the Mrs. and I are heading off on a 2,000+ mile road trip vacation to Bar Harbor, Maine in the Legacy. While I love a long road trip behind the wheel and prefer the driver's seat to the passivity of riding shotgun, it's going to be a long trip and I wouldn't have minded a copilot to take over when my eyelids get heavy.
The problem with learning stick in the Legacy is its clutch. The take-up point comes on quickly, after only an inch or so of pedal travel, so you have to be very nuanced in the application of your left foot within that span of space. Experienced manual drivers can get the hang of it, though it still takes concentration not to make your passengers buck back and forth when shifting gears. As for my wife, she just couldn't get the hang of the Legacy's manual tranny. Her left leg just didn't have the degrees of control necessary to pull away from a stop without letting the engine bog down and die. She actually did it the first time she tried, but couldn't duplicate her success on the second or eleventh try.
Now, I shouldn't fault the Legacy alone, as my lesson in shifting began with highly technical expositions of how the accelerator and clutch pedal were affecting the car's mechanicals and ended with me shouting "Give it more gas. More GAS. MORE GAS!" Our next lesson will be in a friend's 2002 Ford Focus, which we're assured has a suitably mushy clutch that's perfect for beginners. If you've got any tips on how best to teach someone manual driving, let us know in the comments.
PS: Thanks for the response from readers on my update about the Legacy's backwards E-brake. Since then I've tried to consider the E-Brake as more analogous to ye olde foot brakes and am having success. I've also discovered that if you're in gear and have your seatbelt on, the E-brake will disengage as soon as you apply some gas. Yes, electronics can be your friend.