Should you be driving an automatic or manual car? That’s one of the most heated debates in the automotive community. Purists are forever loyal to the manual transmission car. On the other hand, new-age gearheads who’ve been birthed in the age of the CVT or the electric vehicle think an automatic transmission or no transmission at all is the best thing to ever happen in the automotive industry.
Both these camps technically have a point. So, when it comes to the purists, you can’t dismiss why they’d rather spend a couple of dollars more on a manual transmission vehicle with an extra pedal. It all boils down to driver engagement. Thus, despite all the arguments you can make up for CVTs or any other auto transmission, pressing the clutch pedal and performing Senna-like heel and toe still stands as the epitome of driver engagement.
And that is why these 10 cars are in this piece. Their powertrains were built for manual transmissions. But for some weird reason, the automakers thought an automatic would be the better option.
10 Acura NSX
The Honda/Acura NSX stepped into the scene in 1990. And from how this car drove and handled, you could tell the little input from Formula One legend Ayrton Senna had gone a long way. This marque performed as good, if not even better, than Italian supercars being sold at the time. And you could buy it for a fraction of the cost.
In 2005, the curtains closed for this marvelous machine. However, Honda went back to the archives and revived this beast as a hybrid supercar with three electric motors and a powerful twin-turbo V6 about a decade later. But there was one problem. There was not going to be a manual option for a car linked to one of the greatest manual Formula One drivers in history.
9 Chevrolet Corvette C8
The Chevy Corvette C8 hit the market with a lot of fanfare. This marque maintained the Corvette’s crown of being the ultimate, value for money, performance machine you can get from the U.S. And for this one, Chevy made the car even more special by finally placing the engine behind the back of the driver, just like it should be in a proper supercar.
But there was one problem. Chevy had no intentions of putting a stick shift in the C8. The company is still comfortable with the car as is.
8 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon
About half a decade ago, it was impossible to imagine a muscle car without a stick shift. But times have changed. The menacing 2020 Ford Shelby GT500 with over 800 hp going to the rear did not get a stick shift version. Dodge did the same with the Challenger SRT Demon, one of the most powerful muscle cars money can buy.
At the front, this beastly machine packs a 6.2-liter Hemi engine that can develop 808 hp with normal fuel and 840 hp with race fuel. But all that power will never be trusted to you with a stick and a clutch pedal.
7 Ferrari 458
A Ferrari with a stick shift? Yes, that sounds like a pipe dream, at least in the modern-day and age. But back in the day, when you could blip and downshift an F40, driving a Ferrari was a wild experience. And that is what it should be with the Ferrari 458.
Don’t get it wrong. The 458 is an incredible Maranello creation. It was even dubbed the greatest Ferrari ever made at its launch. The iconic Ferrari V8 at the back screamed 562 hp when pushed to 9,000 RPM. But, it would have been incredible to have all that power sent through your hand as you pushed the gears and rev limit of this Italian masterpiece.
6 2017 Ford GT
The first Ford GT-40 was not built for a chap in Beverly Hills to expand his expansive motor collection with an American supercar. Rather, this marque was built with one mission in mind, to beat Ferrari at the highly contested 24 hours of Le Mans.
It took Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles for Ford to achieve its American racing dream. And in celebration of the 50th year since that historical event, the Ford GT was brought back to life, redesigned for the modern era. But there was one problem. DCTs had become more famous than the original stick shift this marque used to have.
5 Lamborghini Aventador
The Lamborghini Aventador did a tremendous job succeeding one of the most iconic Italian supercars ever made, the Lamborghini Murcielago. This car had the striking looks to be a poster car and the performance to demand a five-figure cheque.
Under the hood, the Aventador carried the famous Lamborghini V12 engine that could develop up to 730 hp at 8,500RPM. The carbon-fiber monocoque made it a sturdy and safe car to be in, but some purists were not yet completely sold because Lambo had no intention of putting a manual transmission in it.
4 McLaren P1
The McLaren P1 stood at the apex of McLaren’s engineering when it was released. And even when compared to the other two hybrid hypercars launched at the time, the Ferrari LaFerrari and Porsche 918 Spyder, the McLaren P1 could tear a bigger hole through time and space.
This car was filled with character. Over 900 hp was sent not to four wheels but rather the two massive rear wheels to create a car that could spit you out on the corner exit if you were a bit too excited with the throttle. So why not fit a manual transmission then? That’s a mystery we’ll never unravel.
3 McLaren Senna
When gearheads had thought they’d seen the best of McLaren with the hard-charging P1, the British manufacturer had yet another trick up its sleeves. And this one was not just wilder but also more nostalgic. The McLaren Senna was not just built to show that something faster than the P1 could exist. It was built to remember one of the fastest Formula One racers to ever exist, Ayrton Senna.
But in all that remembrance, one thing missed that purists would argue to date deserved to be an option in this iconic supercar. And that is the manual transmission which Ayrton Senna was an expert at using.
2 Porsche 918 Spyder
The battle for the hybrid hypercar pushed the best supercar companies to create a car not a single gearhead would have thought could exist. The Porsche 918 Spyder was the result of this. This car showed off to the world what the best of Porsche’s engineers, locked up in a room, could do.
This plug-in hypercar ran on two electric motors and a naturally aspirated V8 to produce 875 hp combined. 0-60 took a ridiculous 2.2 seconds, as tested by Car and Driver. But one thing was missing. You could, and still can get a Porsche with a stick shift. But this one was oddly an exception.
1 2019 Toyota Supra
The return of the Supra was one gearheads were waiting for like the finale of Game of Thrones. And just like that anticlimactic series, the Toyota Supra didn’t tickle the fancy of most purists. And it was because of one thing, the transmission.
Drivers who’d driven the Supra in its heydays know what it feels like to race this car around the track with a stick shift. It is one of the most glorious driving experiences you can have. Thus, it was a huge disappointment to hear Toyota announce that all that 300+ hp goodness would be managed by an automatic transmission.
Perfectly engineered for crisp shifts, the manual transmissions in these cars will make you feel like you’re part of the car you’re driving.
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