These 10 sports cars still offer manual transmissions (and are faster with a stick)
Many car enthusiasts are concerned that the world of H-shaped manuals is dying and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Well, that’s just not true. Automakers know how much we love to drive around a car, choose each gear, and control the clutch itself! Nothing says “manly” (or feminine) like a double clutch. And the market does not appear to be dying. Manufacturers are caring enough to focus their attention on manual cars more than automatic cars, resulting in 0 to 60 times the speed of the “oh-so-perfect” computer.
These aren’t just rare purist sports cars, kit cars or even special cars. These are machines built in the factory specifically to be driven and enjoyed by hand … with the automatic as a handicap for uneducated millennials. THESE ARE NOT FLAG CARS, this is not a manual! In fact, they can have serious problems. It doesn’t require any skill, it doesn’t have a clutch, and the car doesn’t push itself into a corner when you suggest via little soft buttons which gear it should shift to.
No, in this world we stomp like real men (and women). We move like the bad-A’s of our childhood, and we roll if we can’t keep up! We tell the engine exactly what to do and how much to do, and no rev limiter or CVT can stand in our way! These are the modern cars that allow us to take life at bat!
Subaru WRX STI (4.8-4.7)
Subaru is not too complex a manufacturer. True to the Japanese form, they remain simple and master one thing at a time. Their market is younger, more racing oriented, and likes to modify their cars.
Taking Subaru’s rally history and smothering it with an automatic makes no sense, so most STIs on the road today are manual. Even though it doesn’t have a dual-clutch transmission like so many people would like, which makes commuting a bit harder and adding power a bit harder, the overall setup is so simple and proven that it is difficult to get away from it.
Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat (3.9 to 3.8)
When the new Hellcat came out in 2015, it was a legend for its 6.2-liter, 807-horsepower V8 engine. Due to its extreme power, the automatic had to make serious compensations, which is not common in other cars. Although the manual is just as delicate, once mastered, it is clear that the human outperforms the machine.
When a pro gets behind the wheel and takes control of the stick, that mentioned 3.8 second time is a low bar. NHRA riders took the 0-60 Show Hellcats in 3.2 seconds with a little familiarity with the quick changes.
Honda Civic Type-R (5.0)
While the Type-R might just be front-wheel drive (which can help on the track), it’s still designed to impress seasoned racers. It would be laughable to see one try to drag and drop and yet … it’s not slow.
Better yet, the manual is the only version, with the automatic not being available in the US.
Mini Cooper S (6.0 to 5.9)
After a purely automatic break, Mini decided to bring back the manual for this year. Maybe that’s how it balances frightening fans with their electric car version, the Mini Cooper SE, but the point is … the manual is just faster!
John Cooper Works Hardtop 2 Doors offers a sophisticated “8-speed sport automatic”, but the manual option saves you $ 1,500 and 0.1 seconds! Having such a small car with 228 horsepower can only be really Mini-Cooper-style fun if you can pretend you’re on the Italian job stealing bricks of gold.
Aston Martin Vantage (4.8 to 4.2)
Surprisingly, this big and powerful British luxury car company stopped racing in the future against its German rivals and realized that for the manual it was “No time to die”.
Their legacy has been tied to the James Bond franchise since DB5 in Goldfinger, and how can you feel like double-oh-seven when you’re stuck with delicate little paddles? So with the Vantage, they made the manual standard! They even made a limited edition “Vantage 007” sports car to celebrate the new James Bond movie.
Mazda MX-5 Miata (6.4 to 6.3)
Anyone who knows Miata knows that you can’t take the manual without evisceration the quintessence of the small coupé. A Miata isn’t made for high performance, it isn’t meant to be easy to drive, and it certainly isn’t for the elderly at heart. In fact, Miata is touting the MX-5 as something for rugged single men, a gentleman’s race car.
It’s nothing but a cheap, fast and sleek little two-door convertible that appeals to hairdressers as well as their teenage sons. If the manual didn’t outdo the automatic, the new Miata would be just another lame attempt for an automaker to use its past success to sell new cars. Instead, its new Miata keeps pace with the old one and will likely age as well.
Nissan 370Z (4.9-4.85)
While the times are almost exactly the same, the 370Z gets a quarter-mile faster by 0.1 seconds, likely simply because it weighs a lot less. Since we can tick the “faster than a manual” box, the Nissan Z can stay in our good graces as a very cheap and powerful little race car that will impress us on paper if nowhere else.
Critics don’t like the car, and Car and Driver reports it as “dated, lacking in reviews and showing its age.” I would say it’s like that by design, as a competitor to the 86 / BRZ. Z’s are made to be customizable and inexpensive, and if they were too great, they’d cost too much for you and people like me to really like them.
Volkswagen Golf R (4.7-4.5)
When Volkswagen saw the AWD hot hatch industry grow in 2012, they released the Golf R in response, and while it has checkered seats, this thing shouldn’t be underestimated. CNet’s review said: “The 2022 VW Golf R wants to have fun 100% of the time.”
Really, a car designed for thrills can’t run like a go-kart. The manual of this one makes an impressive 0.2 seconds better time than the automatic, making it the obvious choice, even if you have to learn how to throw gears.
BMW M2 CS (4.1 to 3.9)
This is one of the times the automaker insisted on making a perfect car for the kind of people who are picky about their gears. From the bucket seats to the coupe’s layout, BMW knew that one type of person would drive this and man! Did they nail it. The new BMW M2 CS looks amazing, stays true to some classic racing car feel, behaves like a beast and still great for everyday driving!
Need a good first car for a son or daughter in a few years when the price of the BMW? Here’s a great way to get them involved in the race while teaching them your old manual driving skills. All kidding aside, the manuals are definitely here to stay! They are even available in electric cars!
A lot of Americans don’t realize that Europe has been making truly amazing cars with muscle car qualities for decades.
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