can an automatic car ever be faster than a manual?
Sure, lots of drag cars use them to be able to shift faster. But define "faster". Faster means a lot of things to different people. Sure the manual takes up less HP or drag, but if your talking 0-60 times, it also depends on who's shifting the car.
lets just say general cars, not drag...say for example a ford fiesta auto against the same but manual. with the right modifications, with 0-60 times
Then again it comes down to how fast you can shift the manual. The Auto's have come a long way in recent years. The 0-60 for the fiesta's will be within tenths of a sec. You might get that seat in your pants faster from the manual, but it's all personal preference. If I were buying a small 4cyl vehicle like the Fiesta, I'd find one with a manual. If you look at the MPG's, the auto actually is better by a MPG or 2, based on the shift pattern controlled by the PCM.