Nah, modern ones are pretty rubbish as well.
And the further you get away from the test cycle they do to give the headline figures, the worse it gets. Especially with smaller engine outputs. (and the cheaper gearboxes fitted.)
Well, that was the case last week anyway
I drove a "modern" conventional auto for about 10 years. Now true enough, it was in an inline 5 2.5 engine, not the last word in fuel economy. But compared to it's manual equivalent, it was only (official figures) 0.4 seconds slower to 62, and in the real world (given I mostly drove on the open road, rather than stop / start) I suspect not that different in terms of fuel economy. Stop / start and urban driving with plenty of acceleration killed the fuel economy.
Most modern, electronically controlled, planetary gear, torque converter gearboxes, will have lock-up on most if not all forward ratios. When that's locked up, there's no loss due to spinning ATF, and they're probably better are choosing a more suitable, economic ratio than a normal driver - so depending on type of driving and driving style, the difference can be not that great.
As I said, not well suited to smaller engines, which typically means smaller cars - but then, these days, typically more reliable than some of the autos that tend to get used in smaller cars (CVTs, DSG-type boxes) that are either longevity-challenged, or horrendously expensive to do any maintenance on, or both.
Reasonably modern traditional autos are a world away from the hydraulic-computer, brake-band type autos of yesteryear. Electronic control, multi-pack clutches, and solenoid actuation, as well as manufacturing improvements, decent software, modes, and torque converter locking made them a reasonable proposition, given a reasonable torque output from the engine, and either not wanting the absolute in fuel economy, or little stop-start driving.
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