July 21, 2024

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13 Cars That Didn’t Offer Stick Shift For Some Reason (And 12 Of The Best That Did)

13 Cars That Didn’t Offer Stick Shift For Some Reason (And 12 Of The Best That Did)

Since the first days of horse-drawn carriages, incremental technological improvements have resulted in a steady path, onwards and upwards to the supercars and hypercars of the world today. Some recent technological developments have arguably led to cars that are less fun to drive, though. Features like electronic stability control, which saves lives to be certain, function by preventing a car from living up to its fullest potential. Computer regulated throttles often result in dull engine response, while lane assist and adaptive cruise control seem to lull drivers to sleep.

Updated April 2022: If you’re a real driving enthusiast, you’ll be happy to hear that we’ve updated this article with even more information about these awesome cars – whether they have a manual transmission or not.

One of the largest steps in the history of automotive engineering is the automatic transmission, which allows anyone to drive a car without having to worry about ruining their clutch, shifting into the wrong gear, or stalling at a stoplight. As a result, sales of manual transmission cars are way down, with sales of stick shift cars only representing 3{7b5a5d0e414f5ae9befbbfe0565391237b22ed5a572478ce6579290fab1e7f91} of the total market. But there’s a wonderful feeling of engagement when driving a stick shift car and every true enthusiast knows that sports cars especially should only come with three pedals. But thanks to the lack of interest and the increased speed of automatic shifting, even many sports cars don’t come with a clutch. Keep scrolling for 12 of the best stick shift cars still out there, and 13 that require a serious explanation from their manufacturers.

25 No Stick: Nissan GT-R


via caranddriver.com

The modern incarnation of the Nissan GT-R is the culmination of a long line of upgraded Skyline models that was never sold in the United States. Fans of The Fast and the Furious movie franchise may remember seeing Paul Walker drive a right-hand drive Skyline GT-R, which featured a twin-turbo engine paired to all-wheel drive, and of course a manual transmission. A fair number of the older GT-R models have actually made it to American shores lately, thanks to the 25-year importation law.

Nissan preempted the 25-year law by introducing a new GT-R for 2007 and actually sold it to American consumers, as well, this time around. But for fans of the impressive older cars, the new GT-R had one glaring flaw – it was not offered with a manual transmission. Nissan apparently didn’t have a manual trans at the time that could handle the new GT-R’s torque, which was rated at 434 lb-ft at only 3,200 RPM. The sad fact is that the automatic couldn’t handle that much power, either, and Nissan was forced to revise launch control settings due to common failures.

Related: 10 Best Manual-Transmission Sports Cars Of The ’90s

24 Stick: Porsche 911 GTS


via motortrend.com

Porsche’s long line of 911 models has always remained at the forefront of performance, thanks to the classic combination of rear-mounted engines and transaxles. Over the years, the design of the 911 line has evolved with the times, with angular taillights, bigger wheels, and an overall much larger size, but the core principles have remained the same. Porsche enthusiasts will happily spend their whole lives arguing that one era of 911 represents the pinnacle of Porsche’s engineering, whether it be the classics of the 1960s, the divisive debut of water-cooling in the late 90s, or today’s cars which add a turbocharger even to the base models.

And yet, throughout all the changes that have come to the 911 in the form of technology and engineering, one thing has remained constant: there is always a 911 with a manual transmission. Even though higher-spec Turbos may not be offered with a stick shift, either a GT3, GTS, or base 911 Carrera can be had with a third pedal to satisfy drivers who require that their sports car offer the pleasure of rowing through the gears while enjoying the rest that Porsches have to offer. An impressive seven-speed transmission is now the norm, and hopefully Porsches continue to keep up this important piece of their heritage.


23 No Stick: Mercedes-AMG GT Coupe S


via autohausonedens.com

Though Mercedes-Benz has a long heritage of racing success with their consistently impressive sports cars, in the last few decades the brand has led the charge in the fight at killing the use of the manual transmission. Benz clearly believes their luxury-oriented customers, even when buying one of the world’s premier vehicles, don’t want to go through the hassle of shifting their own gears. Their recent GT Coupe makes the sad fact all the more troubling, as its enormous powerplant under that long hood offers serious power in a sleek coupe that clearly hearkens back to the original 300 SL Gullwing (as well as its more modern iteration, the SLS AMG).

Benz’s GT Coupe in S trim makes 515 horsepower and 490 lb-ft of torque at only 1,800 RPM. That much power makes for a potent driver, with a 0-60 time of only 3.7 seconds for a big car that weighs more than 3,500 pounds. An electronically controlled rear differential, magnesium and aluminum construction, and adaptive suspension further increase the overall attractiveness of the GT Coupe S, but Mercedes surely could have created a true classic in the same vein as its predecessors if they would rethink their position and offer a manual transmission to help make the car more fun.

22 Stick: Chevrolet Corvette ZR1


via cnet.com

Chevrolet has an impressive lineup of sports cars available these days, from the recent reboot of the Camaro to their range-topping Corvette. And even though automatic transmissions probably make up the majority of purchases regardless of whether the car is a minivan, crossover, or sports car, Chevy has stayed true to their roots with the Corvette which thankfully is still offered with a stick shift, which especially in ZR1 trim makes for one mean-looking, and even meaner performing, monster.

All the fascia, trim, that huge rear wing, and the venting on the hood are added for the ZR1 package, which also comes with a seven-speed Tremec TR-6070 manual transmission with rev-matching technology which helps to put car’s incredible 745 horsepower to the ground through the rear wheels. Even more mind-numbing is probably the low-end torque, rated at 715 lb-ft of torque, created by the 2.6-liter Eaton supercharger that’s added to the 6.2-liter V8 on the ZR1. With a base price over $120,000, the ZR1 with its manual transmission is definitely not going to make any consumer think it’s an entry-level, cost-saving inclusion, rather that it’s a holdout from an era when the driver’s fun was of the highest priority.

Related: Dodge No Longer Making Challenger Hellcats With Manual Transmissions

21 No Stick: Porsche 911 Turbo S


via youtube.com

Though Porsche seems dead set on including a manual transmission on at least one model of its 911 lineup, the fact that the Turbo S only comes with an automatic is truly a crying shame. A Turbo S can sprint to 60 miles per hour in under 2.9 seconds thanks to mind-melting torque figures (up to 553 lb-ft in overboost) paired to all-wheel drive traction and a PDK trans. Almost everything about the current 991-era Turbo S is more impressive than its predecessors in every way – except that a 996-era Turbo from 2004 came with a six-speed.

Road and Track advised drivers of the Turbo S that when they “…tear into a curve on the brakes, and you feel all that weight in the rear move forward to rotate the car. No need to rush the correction—let the thing slide for a while, then stand on the gas…” In a car that handles like the current Turbo S, not much could be more fun than a day in the canyons (or on the way up to the ski slopes) blasting around the turns and rowing through the gears as the engine and twin-turbos wail. Which only makes it sadder that Porsche retired the stick shift for Turbos with the 996 generation.


20 Stick: Chevrolet Camaro ZL1


via autoweek.com

The Camaro received a redesign which happened to coincide nicely with the 2009 auto industry bailout and helped to set a new direction for American manufacturing after a long period of uninspired products spanning multiple decades. Chevy hit the nail on the head with the new Camaro, going back to the model’s muscle car roots for inspiration. Powerful haunches, big engines, and impressive performance returned to the line, a welcome change from the downright disappointing Camaros of the late 1990s. The Camaro instantly proved popular, and the engineers at Chevy have doubled down on their success in recent iterations – all the way up to the current Camaro ZL1.

With 650 horsepower cranking out of a wailing supercharged 6.2-liter V8 shared with the Corvette, the Camaro ZL1 can charge to 60 miles per hour in only 3.5 seconds. A limited-slip rear differential and wider rear tires help to keep the car planted, allowing for greater driver confidence and lateral acceleration up to 1.18 g on the skidpad. Luckily, a six-speed manual transmission is also available on the ZL1. Car and Driver heaped on the praise for the highest-end Camaro, which they crowned as “Track tuned and ready to rumble, the ZL1 is king of the muscle cars…”

Related: 10 Of The Most Powerful Manual-Transmission Cars On The Market


19 No Stick: Ferrari LaFerrari


via gtspirit.com

Ferrari’s LaFerrari represents the way of the future for the legendary Italian manufacturer. Powered by the brand’s first hybrid drivetrain, the LaFerrari combines killer looks with insane power stats, thanks to a V12 engine that produces 789 horsepower and 520 lb-ft of torque on its own. On any other car weighing in at 2,700 pounds that engine would be gigantic enough, but for their flagship Ferrari threw in a 161-horsepower electric engine, as well. The near instant availability of torque from the electric motor allows the LaFerrari to accelerate from 0-60 in under 2.4 seconds on the way to a top speed of 217 miles per hour.

Sadly though, like many Ferraris today, the LaFerrari only comes with an automatic transmission. Jalopnik asked Ferrari’s chief technology officer, Michael Hugo Leiters, whether the brand would ever return to its mythical gated shifters. Leiters responded unequivocally, “Technically spoken, no. Ferrari is design, performance, and state of the art technologies. There’s no manual transmission that can beat this performance and therefore we have decided to stay on the double-clutch gearbox. The last time Ferrari had the possibility of a manual transmission as a special order was the first version of the California.”


18 Ford Mustang GT350


via autogespot.com

The Ford Mustang is another long-tenured member of the original muscle car generation that has seen ups and downs throughout its more than 50 years of evolution. But after the classic style of the first generation in the mid-1960s, today’s Mustang might just be the best yet. Certainly, it performs at a higher level than any other Mustang, and possibly at or near the highest level of any American muscle car on the market now or ever. A variety of engines, from V8s to a turbocharged EcoBoost powerplant, are available in the current Mustang, and the engineers at Ford were wise enough to include a stick shift in the mix, as well, and in GT350 or GT350R trim, a six-speed is the only option.

With a big V8 under the hood, the car weighs in at well over 3,500 pounds – but from behind the wheel, that fact should be easily forgotten. The GT350R can do a 0-60 run in under four seconds, achieves 1.1 g of grip, and sports carbon fiber wheels. All that power and handling should always come with a manual transmission, and it’s a testament to the new direction at Ford that the stick shift option hasn’t been phased out entirely.

17 No Stick: Ford GT


via newcarreleasepreview.com

The original Ford GT40 of the 1960s and 70s is perhaps the most important car in the history of American automotive racing. When Carroll Shelby and Ford teamed up to beat Enzo Ferrari at his own game, a truly special car was required, and the result was a 1-2-3 win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966, followed by consecutive wins through 1969. Ford reimagined the GT40 in the mid-2000s, releasing a limited number of Ford GT supercars featuring a design that hearkened back to the originals while offering modern updates.

Now, Ford has released another iteration of the legendary series of cars, and the new GT is truly a modern supercar in its own right. Powered by a twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 that produces 647 horsepower and 550 lb-ft of torque, the new GT runs to 60 miles per hour in only 2.8 seconds. Its futuristic exterior pairs with active aerodynamics, carbon fiber construction, and even Gorilla Glass for the windshield to create a contemporary world-beater that nonetheless is a clear descendent of its predecessors. The only thing it lacks, however, is a stick shift transmission like the first GT40 to win at Le Mans and the wonderful versions created in the mid-2000s.


16 Stick: Toyota 86


via caradvice.com.au

Over the course of automobile history, many cars when offered with a manual transmission have typically been the more affordable, economical option thanks to a stick shift’s better MPGs when compared to an automatic. In fact, automatic transmissions were long considered the more luxurious of the two, because they require less engagement with the car and the road, allowing for an easier learning process for new drivers. Cars built today’s almost always come with an automatic transmission simply because so few new drivers ever learn to drive with a clutch and stick shift, at all.

But there are still some affordable cars that offer both a manual transmission and a fun driver’s experience – and one of the best is the Toyota 86 (also known as the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S). Subaru fanboys might bemoan the lack of a turbocharger and all-wheel drive on the Toyota 86, but the car’s intention from the earliest development stages has been a focus on lightweight, simple mechanicals that allow for excellent handling. Outright power might be sacrificed on the little coupe, but the point is to keep speed up during curves – while allowing for a wonderful driver’s feel – which is always accentuated by the inclusion of a manual transmission.


15 No Stick: Acura NSX


via thetorquereport.com

When the first generation Honda (or Acura) NSX debuted in 1991, it was an attempt by the Japanese manufacturer to create a hyper-futuristic supercar that offered performance on par with the best that Italy had to offer, with more reliable mechanicals and at as little as one tenth of the price. An iconic exterior inspired by fighter plane design, an all-aluminum body and a mid-mounted V6 engine made the NSX one of the world’s best handling cars. While outright power seems low compared to the supercars of today, enthusiasts cling to their old NSXs, regularly driving for hundreds of thousands of miles with little more than routine service.

The new NSX model hit dealer floors in 2016 and similarly offered futuristic tech, though the price has crept up a fair amount. With a hybrid drivetrain made up of three electric motors and a twin-turbocharged V6, the new NSX boasts 573 combined horsepower and all-wheel drive. But perhaps in too much of a determined effort to appear futuristic, Acura made the sad decision to do away with their manual gearbox on the new NSX, and the nine-speed dual clutch automatic contributes to the new car tipping the scales at well over 3,800 pounds.

14 Stick: Volkswagen Golf R


via autoweek.com

Americans commonly think of the manual transmission as being something that Europeans enjoy because they’re clinging to the past, but the fact is that European manufacturers and consumers appreciate stick shift cars because of the higher cost of fuel in Europe compared to North America. (Turbochargers, which offer better torque from an engine with an overall lighter weight, also developed and spread quickly throughout Europe for this same reason.) And there’s probably no car that better defines European economy while pairing a turbo to a stick shift than the Volkswagen Golf.

Even in highest-spec trim, the Golf R is still available with a stick shift – following in the same line as its GTI and R32 siblings. Haldex-based all-wheel drive complements the 292 horsepower engine, all in a package that offers much more day-to-day usefulness than most sports cars on the market. And at a relatively cheap entry price of right around $40,000, the Golf R nonetheless offers further amenities like adaptive damping suspension, bigger wheels, and top-of-the-line interior tech. The Golf R is available with a dual clutch automatic, as well, but CNET reviewed the GTI and the R, and concluded that “Rowing your own gears is really the best way to experience VW’s hottest hatch.”


13 No Stick: Audi R8


via cars.co.za

When the Audi R8 debuted in 2006, and when a V10 version was released for the 2009 model year, the automotive world rejoiced at the thought of a modern supercar being offered with the increasingly rare option of a manual transmission. The six-speed on the first generation R8 even had a gated shifter – a la older offerings from Lamborghini. And in fact, the first gen R8 shared many of its components with its contemporary Lamborghini Gallardo. Both have all-wheel drive, V10 engines, and distinctive but classic designs. (Film fans, as well as car buffs, will recognize the R8’s movie star looks from the Iron Man films and the Avengers franchise, driven by Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark.)

But by the time the second generation, that gated manual was gone, replaced by a seven-speed dual clutch automatic. Car and Driver revealed the unfortunate reason for the R8’s sudden lack of a stick shift: the new R8’s V10, which it shares with the Lamborghini Huracan and is rated at more than 100 horsepower higher than the first gen, “…remains paired exclusively to the same seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transaxle as the standard R8 Quattro…no manual transmission in Audi’s arsenal can accommodate both mid-engine packaging and this much torque.”

12 Stick: Ford Focus RS


via youtube.com

Ford doesn’t just offer its Mustang muscle car in a stick shift, but also a hot hatch of their own, the Focus RS. In many ways, the Focus RS seems tailored for a European audience, but despite that initial appearance there is still enough raw beefiness to the car to reveal its American heritage. However, the designers and engineers at Ford managed to not succumb to the pressure that marketing to a massive American audience would produce, and somewhat miraculously a six-speed manual transmission is the Focus RS’s only option.

The Focus RS offers hatchback style and all-wheel drive utility, but its powertrain is what truly sets it apart. Top Gear heaped praise onto the Focus RS’s turbocharged engine and manual transmission, saying “Let’s start with the engine, because frankly, it’s a revelation. There’s a sniff of lag when you plant your right foot, but that’s closely followed by a wall of torque – 325lb ft or 347lb ft on overboost for 15 seconds. There’s a rally-style warble from the exhausts, not too dissimilar to the old Focus RS’ five-pot in fact, and an intense turn of pace. The sole-choice manual gearbox is a delight to use, not as quick in a drag race as a twin-clutch auto, but so much more involving.”


11 No Stick: BMW M5


via motortrend.com

The newest BMW M5 comes from a long line of sports sedans that upgraded to M status, ever since the E28 M5, which was the second M model ever made after the M1. Over a series iterations since then, power is up, overall size is up, and luxury is way up. Many brands released their imitations and attempts at competition, but for decades, the M5 cornered the market on tourers with big engines and the fun of a stick shift. The current M5, departs from many of the defining traits of past models, though.

Motortrend expressed hesitation about BMW’s newest M5, including the choice of all-wheel drive and an automatic transmission, saying “this model is an aesthetic rehash of the mild-looking E34 version, a sleeper if there ever was one, and would obviously drive like a slightly (600-horsepower, but really 592-hp) more powerful F80 M5, right? After all, the new M5 had gone all-wheel drive. I mean if that’s not sacrilege, what is? However, after the X5 M and X6 M, is there really such a thing as sacrilege? Also, gone are both the manual transmission and the dual-clutch. Instead, we get an eight-speed automatic. Just like a Toyota minivan.”


10 Stick: Subaru WRX STI


via topspeed.com

If there’s one car that seems the least likely to ever lose its manual transmission, it would probably be the Subaru WRX STI. Even though Subaru’s competition racers use sequential gearboxes these days, the rally-bred heritage of the STI has created a unique market of consumers that seems like it will always demand a stick shift option. From STIs that are used at rallycross schools like Dirtfish to backyard tuners pumping up their STIs to create 600-700 horsepower, the world of Subarus is as diverse as they come but still unified around this one detail.

The WRX and STI platforms offer incredible performance at an affordable price – when the first generation STI first came to America for the 2004 model year, it offered performance that bordered on supercar levels for the time. A turbocharged boxer four and all-wheel drive have always been staples of the STI in its many iterations, but the stick shift has, as well. Today’s STI cranks out over 300 horsepower, and Subaru fans who need that kind of power to enjoy their cars definitely need a stick shift to help make their car as fun and engaging as possible – after all, no one buys an STI to drive it comfortably, the STI is all about driving hard and fast.


9 No Stick: Lamborghini Huracan


via lamborghini.com

When thinking about the world’s best cars, either current or vintage, it seems like Italian cars always percolate towards the top of the heap. From the classic Ferraris of old to today’s increasingly notorious Pagani upstart, the beauty of power matched to elegance seems to reach its pinnacle in Italy. And the Lamborghini Huracan is no different, with a slightly more angular exterior than its Gallardo predecessor that reveals the purpose of the car at even the quickest glance. The Huracan was meant to go fast, and look good doing it.

But when thinking about the world’s best cars, either current or vintage, and what it takes to enjoy driving them, a beautiful day in the Alps or on the Autobahn also pop into mind. And in that perfect world, a manual transmission has to be the way to go. Not much could be more fun than a mid-mounted V10, perhaps the definition of true Italian beauty, roaring away while the dark forest and bright white snow whiz by. The shame of the Huracán is that it did away with something the Gallardo kept – a six-speed manual transmission option, which helped make the Gallardo Lamborghini’s best-selling car of all time.


8 Stick: Honda Civic Type R


via caranddriver.com

For American consumers, the Honda Civic usually represents one of the cheapest, least exciting cars on the road – regardless of era. But though the Civic Si has long made it to the United States market, never has a Civic reached these shores in Type R spec. But Honda had to keep up with offerings like the Subaru STI, Ford Focus RS, and Golf R, and the new Civic Type R makes the long wait worth it (except, perhaps, its styling). But while Honda typically sells its best products under the Acura name in America, Acura these days doesn’t offer a sports car with a manual transmission here. The Civic Type R changes that trend, and like many of its competitors, is available only with a stick shift.

Car and Driver enjoyed the Civic Type R’s overall driving experience, especially the manual transmission, saying, “The aluminum shift ball atop the Type R’s standard six-speed manual transaxle is a close reach from the leather-wrapped steering wheel. It is as rewarding to snick through the shifter’s gates as it is easy to burn your hand on after the car has been sitting outside on a sunny day. But working up a sweat driving this car is unnecessary: The engine’s thrust quickly builds low in the powerband.”

Related: 10 Incredible Cars We Desperately Wish Had A Manual Transmission


7 No Stick: McLaren P1


via wikipedia.org

McLaren’s plug-in hybrid supercar, the P1, is the culmination of decades of knowledge and experience from the brand’s success in both racing and production fields. With a combined output of 903 horsepower and 723 lb-ft of torque (with an effective power band of over 7,000 RPM thanks to the almost instantaneous power out of the electric engine), the P1 is at or near the forefront where technology and performance meet. It can even drive up to 19 miles on electricity alone, while industry standards for the hypercar world, like active aerodynamics, carbon ceramic brakes, and a carbon fiber monocoque, allow the sleek, low coupe to accelerate to 60 miles per hour in only 2.8 seconds.

Being at the top end of McLaren’s model lineup, and with similar nomenclature, the P1 is considered a successor to McLaren’s legendary F1, which was roundly celebrated as the best car in the world when it debuted in 1993. The F1 may be two decades older, an instant classic, and a massive milestone in automotive development, but it also has a six-speed manual transmission. And no matter how advanced and perfect the P1 might be, the pure joy of rowing through the gears on an F1 also contributes towards making it a much more desirable car.

6 Stick: Honda S2000


via cargurus.com

In an era when most manufacturers were just beginning to ditch the manual transmission in favor of quicker-shifting automatics, Honda’s S2000 stood out from the crowd as never being available with an automatic transmission. The S2000 has a huge cult following thanks to its incredible four-cylinder engine, which created 250 horsepower when new without the use of forced induction – making it the world’s most powerful specific output normally aspirated engine at the time of its introduction.

A simple exterior, standard limited slip differential, and perfect balance all reveal Honda’s intent for the S2000 to be a perfect car for drivers who enjoy driving. And part of that package as the use of a six-speed stick shift for the S2000’s entire 11-year production run. The engine changed slightly from the AP1 to AP2 generations, making earlier cars more desirable thanks to their stratospheric redline of 8,800 RPM. But though that high rev limit would be fun enough with an automatic transmission, real driver pleasure comes from the hands-on control of using a stick shift and clutch pedal when cruising at RPMs high enough for Honda’s VTEC engine timing system to be activated. Even today, a used S2000 offers a ton of engagement at a fantastic price.


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