There’s just that sensational feeling that comes with driving a car with a manual gearbox. And when appropriately applied to a winding backroad, all risk, reward, control, and care lead to quite the exhilarating experience.
Even though many of the best modern performance cars come with automatic transmissions and can outperform manual cars, there’s still something exciting about driving a stick and being in control. The more connected someone feels to their vehicle and the road, the more engaging the driving experience. That said, here are some incredible sports cars that would do better with the three pedals and a stick shift.
10 Audi R8
The R8 is one of the best Audi sports cars ever made, on paper at least. Although it looks ultimately stunning, its driving does not match its looks entirely. It’s based on the Lamborghini Huracán and shares its powertrain with the more expensive Lambo wedge – over 600 horsepower output from a 5.2-liter V10.
As for the transmission, the R8 is less great, especially for drivers who like the row-your-own gearbox. The 7-speed S Tronic dual-clutch is insanely fast for the R8, but somehow limits driving engagement. In all, this car is only suitable for the guys in shorts on their way to a country club, not for someone cruising through a curvy canyon road.
9 Aston Martin DB11
All sports and grand touring cars deserve a manual transmission. The Aston Martin DB11 is one of the biggest movie star cars, thanks to the James Bond marque, and its 5.2-liter V12 or a 4.0-liter V8 engine sounds like heaven. But, for a price tag worth a quarter-million dollars, it should also offer a manual transmission to match its choice of engines.
Although its eight-speed automatic transmission is on par with other cars in its class, there’s just something that seems amiss. Try picturing James Bond accelerating in anger with both hands on the wheel, no shifting, while bad people shoot at him. It’s just not the same.
8 Ferrari Anything
It’s astonishing to see Ferrari, one of the world’s leading sports car brands, abandoning the stick shift throughout its lineup. From the 488 Spider to the F8 Tributo and the 812 Superfast, their sole transmission is the 7-speed F1 DCT. It seems like Ferrari is chasing numbers more than driving thrills and pure sports car feel.
The LaFerrari may be better with a paddle shifter, but the 488 GTB would be much more engaging if it came with a 6-speed manual transmission.
7 C8 Corvette
The C8 Corvette is among the most revolutionary cars. It stands out from its predecessor in every aspect. It’s globally praised for its legendary supercar performance, handling, and mid-engine layout. However, it’s the first Corvette to be offered as an only automatic. The Tremec-sourced dual-clutch unit can shift faster than a bullet, enabling new performance records.
Although the C8 offers a lot to love, the DCT architecture won’t provide the ‘one with the car’ feeling. However, the three pedals and ‘shift your own gearbox’ would be a lot of fun to drive.
6 Ford GT
Ford fans cringed when the second-gen Ford GT debuted in 2015, as they’d replaced the supercharged 5.4-liter V8 that made incredible sounds with its 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine. However, the new car added 100 horsepower while dropping some weight; thus, it’s a stellar performer.
Unfortunately, purists looking for a manual transmission Ford GT, the first-gen is the way to go. The newer GT comes equipped with a 7-speed dual-clutch from Getrag, an excellent unit, but it keeps both the driver’s hands on the wheel. Maybe that’s the reason John Cena sold his GT as soon as he bought it?
5 BMW M4 GTS
The BMW M4 is a stunning car, and with the optional F82 Competition Package, the M4 becomes even more formidable. In addition, the M4 GTS is another stellar performer, with an extra 50 horsepower, less weight, and track-focused suspension.
It laps the Nürburgring in the same time as the Porsche Carrera GT supercar, meaning it should be a winner. But unfortunately, its 6-speed manual transmission got dumped like a bad prom date in favor of the fine-tuned 7-speed dual-clutch. In such a case, the automaker chases lap times over driving engagement.
4 Porsche 911 GT3 RS
The track-focused Porsche 911 GT3 RS looks great, sounds incredible, and goes at thrilling speeds. Moreover, its interior looks and feels high quality, it’s better in the corners, and the massive brakes bring the stunning supercar to a halt impressively. With everything to love about the GT3 RS, we dare to say it would be more thrilling with three pedals and a gearbox that lets you shift your own gear.
The GT3 RS comes equipped with a Porsche Dual-clutch transmission, so to enjoy the stick transmission, one will have to get the Cayman GT4. It seems Porsche’s catchphrase should be “No option” when shifting gearboxes.
3 Mustang Shelby GT500
The new GT500 is the pinnacle of muscle cars in its class. The Shelby GT500 is truly a work of art – from looks to customizable options and performance. And although its seven-speed dual-clutch transmission has received high praises, this land missile has no manual transmission.
Well, today’s DCT will indeed smoke any manual transmission, but it’s not all about numbers – driver’s engagement with the car should be considered. Other muscle car rivals in its class like the Challenger Hellcat and the Camaro ZL1 offer a stick shift option, and the new GT500 would be much better with the manual transmission.
2 Toyota Supra A90
The Supra A90 is an excellent car with more power and less weight than its predecessor – the A80 has a more excellent interior and better handling. And since it shares both chassis and drivetrain with its Bavarian sibling, the BMW Z4, the new Supra leaves the factory with a snappy eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Although the automatic transmission is excellent, it would be greater if Toyota considered the manual gearbox for driving purists out here.
1 Acura NSX
The Acura NSX is one of the most loved and revered Japanese cars ever created. The first-gen NSX was given a 6-speed manual transmission, which was fun to drive. However, its new counterpart offers a nine-speed automatic transmission, which may be because it comes equipped with a hybrid drivetrain.
But still, it would be really satisfying to see the automaker combine a hybrid powertrain with the classic three pedals and a stick shift. It would be a perfect tech combination of the old and new.
Some say manuals are a dying breed but we beg to differ, and so do these car makers. In fact, they’re faster than ever!
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