Looking back at some of the greatest and most iconic high-performance vehicles in history, it’s evident that manual transmission was at the core of most of them. Fast-forward to date, a lot has changed, and countless debates over manual and automatic transmission rage on. Yes, there are great cars you can still buy with a manual transmission, but it’s also hard to ignore the increasingly long list of discontinued three-pedal machines.
The millennials and the new generation are leading the break-away from the fun and engagement of three-pedal driving, as driver allegiances shift more towards convenience and efficiency. Understandably, modern automatics are easier to drive, deliver more power, boast better acceleration, and offer better innovation.
As a result, the automatic revolution has gradually eased most automakers into ditching their stick-shift offerings, despite various compelling reasons to keep making them. In this article, we explore a few cars that still come with a manual transmission, but for different reasons, are better off sticking with the automatic.
Hyundai Veloster N
Hyundai may have nailed the hot-hatchback formula with the 2019 Veloster N model, but they made it a hotter hot hatch in 2021. In its third year of production, the Hyundai Veloster is available with a six-speed manual and an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Although the standard stick shift maximizes the playfulness of the Veloster N, it’s still no match for the DCT’s lightning quick shift speeds. The 0-60mph time with the DCT is a claimed 5.6 seconds, while the manual delivers about 6.0 seconds. In addition, Hyundai fitted the Veloster N with an N Grin Shift program that improves transmission response for 20 seconds and offers a 7-percent temporary boost in peak torque.
For 2021, the Genesis G70 is available with a standard 2.0-liter GDI four-cylinder or an optional 3.3-liter twin-turbo GDI V6 engine. The rear-wheel-drive versions offer either an eight-speed auto or a six-speed manual transmission, while the all-wheel-drive models come only with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
According to EPA ratings, the rear-drive automatic model delivers the best fuel economy at 22mpg city, 30mpg highway, and 25mpg combined. On the other hand, the rear-drive manual returns the poorest rating at 18mpg city, 28mpg highway, and 22mpg combined. To keep up with competition from Mercedes-Benz C-class and BMW 3-series, Genesis will reportedly drop the manual option after 2021.
Despite getting the ax in the US after 2018, the Focus is still available in select European markets. All factors considered, the Focus has always been at its best with a manual transmission. Well, at least until the EcoBoost Hybrid came along. The new hybrid powertrain maximizes efficiency, boosts power, and minimizes emissions.
Instead of driving solely on electric power, the electric motor injects torque assistance to deliver 20-percent better acceleration and 10-percent more fuel efficiency. The EcoBoost Hybrid comes with a sophisticated 8-speed automatic transmission, fitted as a console-mounted rotary gear shift dial for a cleaner, modern layout.
Hyundai delivers the 2021 Accent as one of today’s market’s least expensive new cars. Nonetheless, the Accent is relatively unchanged from the previous model year; therefore, it’s still available with a six-speed manual or a continuously variable automatic transmission.
As refreshing as it is to find a manual transmission, it’s only offered in the SE base level trim. Unfortunately, the SE is stripped down and lacks many essential features, such as aluminum wheels. The manual Accent offers poorer fuel economy with 29mpg city, 39mpg highway, and 33mpg combined, compared to the automatic’s 25mpg city, 37mpg highway, and 30mpg combined.
Although the most valuable Dodge Challengers are from decades ago, the latest versions of the classic model offer more power than their predecessors. Some car enthusiasts feel that buying muscle cars with an automatic transmission is blasphemy. And that’s why Dodge still offers a manual transmission option within the Challenger R/T, R/T Scat Pack, and SRT Hellcat packages for the 2021 Dodge Challenger.
Despite being the quickest muscle car available, the Challenger feels unrefined compared to the sharper and stickier handling of the Mustang and Camaro. And considering the steering is too numb and soft in tight turns, the standard TorqueFlite 8-speed automatic transmission offers the driver better control and concentration due to its incredible response to throttle inputs, and quick power-on downshifts.
The Mustang is one of the most iconic muscle cars ever built, and the legacy is still alive in the sixth-generation models. Except for the top model Shelby GT500, all 2021 Mustang models come equipped with a standard 6-speed manual and an optional 10-speed automatic transmission. There used to be a lot of truth in ‘manual trans or go home,’ back when manual transmissions were generally faster and could put up with a bit more abuse than the automatic.
But now, the automated 10-speed transmissions shine over the row-your-own six-speed manuals with their smoothness, directness, and near-instantaneous shifts. According to MotorBiscuit, Ford deemed the manual transmission unnecessary for the GT500 since the 7-speed Tremec dual-clutch automatic is so fine-tuned and detail-oriented that Ford Performance representatives believe it’s almost telepathic.
BMW M2 CS
The BMW M2 CS is a pure enthusiast car that boasts a smaller footprint, lighter weight, more significant power figures, and additional adaptive suspension compared to the M2 or the M2 Competition. The M2 CS packs the soon-to-be-legendary S55 twin-turbo straight-six engine, capable of 444hp and 406lb-ft of torque. For 2021, the BMW M2 CS is available with a standard six-speed manual gearbox and an optional seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The manual transmission enables the M2 CS to clock 0-60mph in four seconds flat; that’s two-tenths slower than the manual M2 Competition. With the optional seven-speed automatic, the M2 CS needs 3.8 seconds to clear 0-60mph; that’s two-tenths quicker than the M2 Competition. Since the M2 CS is pricier than the CS Competition, you might as well cruise faster with the automatic option.
The Crosstrek is arguably one of the few subcompact SUVs that epitomizes the thoughtful packaging and neat sizing offered by Japanese automakers. The Base and Premium Crosstrek trims are available with a six-speed manual gearbox, while other trims come with an 8-speed Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission.
Unlike the manual Crosstreks, the CVT models benefit from an X-Mode feature for severe driving conditions, an SI-DRIVE feature for better engine efficiency and performance, and EyeSight driver assistance technology. In addition, the CVT Crosstreks deliver superior fuel mileage at 28/33/30mpg compared to 22/29/25mpg in the manual Crosstreks.
The compact car segment has no shortage of solid competitors in today’s market, but the Toyota Corolla offers an impressive amount of standard safety features and variety to stand out. The 2021 Corolla is still available as a sedan or hatchback, although a few special edition trim levels ensure it’s no longer as dull as before.
Toyota only offers the six-speed manual transmission with the gutsier four-cylinder, while the other Corollas come with a continuously variable automatic transmission. Toyota added an IMT button to make the manual transmission smarter, but the stick-shift remains significantly less efficient than the CVT. Plug-in hybrid and CVT Corollas return the best fuel economy across all available trims.
Porsche has always been a protagonist of the #savethemanuals; therefore, it sounds insane to have a Porsche with paddle-shifters. Even more absurd is an enthusiast that chooses an automatic version of a Porsche over an old-school manual. But the harsh reality is, the dual-clutch revolution has penetrated the deep circles of performance cars.
The 718 Cayman GT4, 718 Spyder, and 718 GTS 4.0 come with Porsche’s dual-clutch transmission for 2021, meaning 8lb-ft more torque and half a second quicker launch times. PDK-equipped Cayman GT4 and 718 Spyder get a different limited-slip differential with higher locking values than the diff on the manual models. The GTS 4.0 with PDK has a Sport Response button that delivers 20 seconds of warp speed. Overall, the automatic Porsche models offer significant technical advantages over the manuals.
While the cars themselves are beautiful, buying a Tesla puts you at risk of problems most other car owners don’t have to deal with.
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