autoevolution

Who is Still With The “Save The Manuals” Crowd?

First and foremost, I have to give diehard Renaultsport fans an apology, since we were talking gibberish when we kind of suspected that the 2018 Renault Megane RS will come as a two-pedal hot-hatch only.
Toyota GT86 interior 1 photo
As it happens, what is likely to become the fastest French hatch ever will be available with either a dual-clutch transmission or a good ol' manual. The factory in Dieppe will thus spare its baguettes of getting tainted by tomatoes and eggs thrown by passers-by.

Oddly enough, those French engineers aren't the only ones who are still swimming against the current, which is something that I have recently started to consider peculiar. Yes, in this day and age, it has become strange for a carmaker to offer a sports car with a manual transmission.

At first, everyone was encouraged to think that supercars are obviously a lot more efficient with only two pedals, and since speed is their main selling point, “faster is better” became the norm. Even Porsche, who in 2010 was selling a 620 PS RWD monster that came strictly with a six-speed manual, switched to a PDK-only 911 GT3 lineup on the 991 generation.

Having said that, the same Porsche made a stew out of all the vegetables thrown their way following the PDK-only decision, and you can now buy the 911 GT3 991.2 in either manual or twin-clutch automated transmission guise.

The 707-horsepower Dodge Challenger can also be had with either a good ol' manual or a two-pedal setup. The Ford Mustang GT350 and GT350R Shelby are available with either transmission configurations as well, while the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and Corvette Z06 can both be bought with a stick shift if your heart so desires.

The Brits are still fans of rowing your own too, especially on some models that shouldn't have manuals in this day and age. Heck, you can still buy a 380 PS Jaguar F-Type with a stick shift.

Aston Martin's head honcho, Andy Palmer, told Car and Driver last year that he wants his company to be the last manufacturer in the world to offer a manual transmission, which is probably the boldest statement from a car brand ever.

Recently I had the distinct pleasure of testing a Mazda MX-5 RF, which is the sexier-looking Retractable Fastback version of the wonderful Miata. Until we publish the actual driving review, I'll just sum up my opinion about it in a short, single phrase: it gave my right hand a callus from how much I enjoyed rowing that comically short shifter.

In other words, I probably had more fun driving a 160-horsepower coupe/roadster with a manual than a 300-horsepower BMW with the otherwise-wonderful eight-speed automatic from ZF. And this happened despite the fact that the German car is the one known as “the ultimate driving machine.”

I don't want to stray too far from the topic, but the MX-5 RF has the exact same 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) acceleration time as the automatic SUV I daily drive, yet feels a lot faster at just about any speed, since speed it's all relative. Of course, most of those feelings happen thanks to a massive weight difference, but some of it is strictly related to the process of shifting gears on your own.

Driving a slow car fast is a tired old truism, but it's almost always accurate when a manual transmission is involved. A DSG, PDK, DCT or whatever you want to call it, will always be faster on paper, but it's also a ticket to dullsville after you get the hang of it. Driving a manual will forever be more involving, so for that, I am grateful that carmakers who still include this transmission on their sports models continue to exist.

It's entirely possible that I won't be able to say this in about a decade or so if things keep on changing just for the sake of efficiency and numbers, whether we're talking about fuel economy or Nurburgring times. I've been wrong before, though.

 
 
 
 
 

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