The manual transmission. It’s one of the things car enthusiasts love to talk about at great lengths, and it’s not hard to see why. They are much more involved and nicer to use, they make us feel at one with the car, and all the rest of those things that people say about manual transmissions. Unfortunately, and rather infamously, the manual transmission is slowly getting phased out, even though Toyota has something to say about that. As well as the arrival of electric cars and them not needing a manual transmission, more and more automatics are becoming safer, better for fuel consumption and simply better at doing the job of being a transmission.
A lot of new performance cars nowadays can’t be had with a manual transmission. In some cases, a manual transmission would completely transform the character of said car, and it would be awesome if it was offered. Other times, however, the automatic transmission in a performance car is actually the preferred choice.
10 Needs A Manual – Toyota GR Supra
It’s the sports car that’s on everyone’s lips right now. A lot of it isn’t praise, but rather poking fun at the fact that it shares a lot of components with BMW products. Set that aside, however, and the Toyota GR Supra is a very comprehensive and well executed sports car package, made even better after the 2021 model year.
Unfortunately, as of 2022, it still isn’t available with a manual transmission. Not to say that the automatic is bad, but the Supra is just the type of car you’d expect to have a manual transmission, and it would certainly set it apart from a lot of its competitors. Toyota seems to agree, and it’s very likely that the GR Supra will soon be offered with three pedals.
9 Better With An Auto – Dodge Demon
To this day, the Dodge Demon remains one of the most insane cars ever to be released in the 21st century. If anything, due to the fact that it runs 9-second quarter miles stock. With 840 hp and the ability to order actual drag slicks from the factory, it really is a street-legal dragster for the road. That’s possibly why it works better with an automatic transmission.
A manual was indeed offered on the Demon, but the automatic was required to achieve that magic 9.65 1/4 mile time. It makes more sense; the auto shifts faster and allows you to focus on a better launch and just flooring the throttle to within an inch of its life. With all of its amazing achievements, small wonder that the Demon is worth so much today.
8 Needs A Manual – Alfa Romeo 4C
The last Alfa Romeo sports car to be released in North America was certainly a pretty good one, but it was an unfortunate flop. The 4C was the Italian answer to the Lotus Elise; a lightweight, tiny sports car with the engine from an economy car, paired with lots of carbon fiber and very little in the way of creature comforts. Or space. Or maneuverability.
Still, the 4C did quite well, and it was a pretty good driver’s car. There was only one thing that let it down; the sequential transmission. While it was alright in most scenarios, the 4C would have worked a whole lot better with a traditional manual. Just as a refresher, Lotus never offered the Elise with an automatic of any kind.
7 Better With An Auto – Porsche 911 GT3 RS (991)
One of the internet’s favorite cars, and one that has a lot of so-called evangelists surrounding it. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the most recent 911 GT3 models is how they tackled the question of transmission. The regular GT3 wasn’t available with a manual at first, then it became manual-only, and then the GT3 RS was PDK only. This is not a bad thing, though.
The quick-shifting PDK is ideal for the race track, which is where the GT3 RS feels the most at home. No messing around with a clutch or a shifter, the driver can keep their hands on the wheel at all times, shifting with the paddles, and focusing on getting the best possible lap time.
6 Needs A Manual – BMW 128ti
With BMW’s latest 1 Series switching to a FWD platform, it was only a matter of time before BMW put together a proper, front-driven hot hatchback. While the M135i is a monstrously expensive super hatch, the 128ti is gunning straight for VW’s Golf GTI.
BMW only offers the 128ti with an 8-speed automatic transmission. That’s not as Earth-shattering as you might think, as only the base Golf GTI in Europe gets a stick shift. Even though the auto box does the job pretty well in the 128ti, a manual would definitely give it that slightly more boy-racer feel that it doesn’t seem to have. BMW does manuals pretty well, so it seems like a no-brainer.
5 Better With An Auto – Acura NSX Type-S
Not too long ago, Acura and fans of the NSX bid farewell to the revival of the iconic supercar with the bells-and-whistles Type-S. While there are plenty of debates about Acura doing a good job with the NSX and how the change of character affected its success, we can’t argue that it’s an amazing technical achievement.
The hybrid powertrain is definitely one of the biggest highlights, and the fact that the NSX stayed true to the original formula; cheaper and more daily drivable than a certain prancing horse supercar. With all the complicated tech going on under the skin and that pretty porky weight figure, the NSX’s 9-speed automatic transmission does its job very well.
4 Needs A Manual – Dodge Charger Hellcat
This one is a little bit perplexing. We all know that Dodge makes Hellcat and Hellcat derivative versions of both the Charger and Challenger. However, even though they offer the Challenger with a manual transmission, it’s not available on the Charger; it’s automatic only.
The automatic in the Charger is not bad at all, provided it doesn’t experience failure at some point in its life. But, if Dodge is already offering the Challenger with a manual, can you imagine how much cooler and (somehow) even more insane the Charger would be with a manual? Especially considering that the next most powerful sedan, the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing, is available with a stick shift.
3 Better With An Auto – Bentley Continental GT
We’re probably not the only ones that think a Bentley with a manual transmission would be plain silly in the best possible way. But, it’s simply not the way Bentley rolls. Not even their more fun-focused offering, the Continental GT V8, can be had with three pedals.
The reasoning for this? It’s in the name; GT. A grand tourer, like the Continental GT is, and that is an activity that it does exceptionally well, an automatic transmission is just part of the whole package. You just leave it in D, and speed down the Autobahn at 200 mph without a care in the world.
2 Needs A Manual – BMW M240i
The recently launched BMW 2 Series takes on a whole different approach compared to its predecessor. As the new 1 Series is now FWD, the 2 Series, which was promised by BMW to remain on a RWD platform, couldn’t really borrow anything from the compact. So, BMW just took the easy way out; they mated the controversial body to their CLAR architecture, which underpins the 4 Series and other models as well.
The M240i, the most potent one of the bunch, is exclusively available with AWD and an 8-speed automatic transmission. While we can understand BMW’s decision to equip it with AWD, we can’t help but feel its character would be lifted by a manual gearbox. Thankfully, the upcoming M2 should sort this out.
1 Better With An Auto – Chevrolet Corvette Z06
The all-new Corvette Z06 is the most powerful production Corvette of all time, and it achieves that power in a way that’s very unusual for a GM vehicle, let alone a Corvette; a flat-plane crank V8. This engine is mated to the same 8-speed DCT found in the regular Corvette.
While people are clamoring for a manual transmission in the new Corvette, and while it will be cool, it’s easy to see why it’s auto only; the Z06 is stepping firmly into supercar territory, and pretty much no new supercar these days offers a manual. All of them have quick-shifting dual clutch units for lightning-fast acceleration and better track performance, and those are the same reasons why the Z06 and regular C8 have it, too.
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