Sports cars are built to be faster and more capable than everyday cars, but this also means that they’re less practical as they sacrifice cargo and passenger space, comfort, and convenience features in favor of less weight and better aerodynamics. One of the features that almost every modern sports car has said goodbye to nowadays is a manual transmission.
The manual transmission was the gearbox of choice for most of the last century. It was a relatively simple mechanism and worked brilliantly in anything from the crummiest of underpowered hatchbacks to wildly fast hypercars – which could exceed the 200-mph mark. By the 1980s, the automatic transmission began working its way into more and more models – all the while improving in function. By the 2010s, the automatic was the transmission of choice in most cars, and now, in 2022, it has taken over the motor industry. This is namely because modern automatics are more efficient, smoother, and cleverer than ever before – not to mention quicker. This makes them ideal for sports cars.
So, while the automatic is a great transmission choice, the manual offers a level of driver involvement automatics simply cannot match. The act of changing gears and being solely responsible for it is such a satisfying and enjoyable experience that many automakers have denied enthusiasts. With that, here are eight sports cars in 2022 that desperately need a manual transmission.
8 Alpine A110
The Alpine A110 is a brilliant car. So great, in fact, that the ever-sensible Captain Slow, James May, bought one when they launched. The A110 follows the ethos of the original from the 1960s, meaning lightness, lightness, and more lightness. As a result, the A110 weighs in at only 2,400 lbs.
The car is fitted with a 250-hp 1.8-liter turbocharged inline-4 borrowed from the Renault Mégane RS hot hatch. It is rear-drive only, with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic being the only transmission choice. While the car is brilliant, it would have been so much more engaging with a manual transmission – like the Lotus Elise was. It seems like a bit of a missed opportunity.
7 Renault Mégane RS
The Renault Mégane RS is one of the best-looking hot hatches currently on the market. It relies on the aforementioned 1.8-liter turbo-4, but whereas it only produces 250 hp in the Alpine, in the Mégane RS it develops a whopping 300 hp – all going to the front wheels.
The only transmission option is a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic, which is a brilliant system, but most of the Mégane RS’ competitors – VW Golf GTI, BMW 128ti, Hyundai I30 N, etc. – either come as standard or have the option for a manual gearbox. Speaking of which, most French cars are rapidly moving towards automatic transmissions only. Strange.
6 Chevrolet Corvette C8
The Chevrolet Corvette C8 is a supercar for sports car money. With the cheapest one starting from just above $60,000, it can easily scare a mid-engine supercar twice or even thrice its price. The C8 Corvette comes with a naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V8, which produces 490 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque – or 495 hp and 470 lb-ft when optioned with the Z51 package.
The biggest issue with the C8 Corvette is not the slightly terrible build quality of early cars but rather that it does not have a manual transmission. The only option is an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic. While it is a great gearbox, every generation of Corvette has had a manual. Even Toyota has listened to the fans and fitted a manual to the Supra – even though the Supra was not designed for one. Come on Chevy!
5 Lexus RC
The Lexus RC is a bit of an older car by now. It was introduced in 2015 and has had several minor refreshes since then. The RC is available with a 2.0-liter turbo-4, a 2.5-liter hybrid, a 3.5-liter V6, or a mighty 5.0-liter V8. Transmission options include either a CVT for the hybrid or an 8-speed torque converter automatic for the rest.
The RC has the potential to be a great sports coupe – and it is in RC-F trim, but imagine how much better it would be if it had a manual transmission. Granted, there has never been a manual F-car, but it’s never too late to start making one. Even if just the RC350 got a manual, it would be somewhat acceptable.
4 Audi RS3
The Audi RS3 is a rather unique hot hatch thanks to its brilliant 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-5 engine. It is unlike any other engine in the segment. BMW had the other interesting engine choice in the M135i and M140i – both of which had 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-6s – but they reduced the new M140i to an all-wheel-drive turbo-4.
The new RS3 is in the running to be the best hot hatch on the planet, battling it out with the Mercedes-Benz A45S AMG. The RS3 produces 400 hp, with power going to all four wheels via Audi’s Quattro system. The car comes with a 7-speed dual-clutch (a version of VW’s DSG). Why not fit it with a 6-speed manual? Granted, it will be slower, but it would be so much more fun.
3 BMW M240i
The BMW M240i is the closest we can currently get to a new M2 – before it launches sometime in the future. The M240i is fitted with the brilliant B58 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-6 found in the Toyota Supra and many other BMW 6-cylinder models. In this application, it produces 382 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque.
BMW has recently updated the range and made a rear-drive-only version of the M240i available. Unfortunately, all 2 Series models come with an 8-speed automatic. While the upcoming M2 will no doubt offer a manual, why not give the lower range models one as well? A rear-wheel-drive, manual M240i would be a great driver’s car for anyone who doesn’t necessarily want the full M-model.
2 Kia Stinger GT
The Kia Stinger was introduced in 2018 to the surprise of most of the motoring world. The first round of reviews appeared, and most critics were astounded even further as there was a Korean sports sedan capable of rivaling the tried and trusted Germans. The top-spec Stinger GT is fitted with a 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6 that produces 370 hp and 370 lb-ft of torque.
Power goes to the rear or all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission. While the Stinger GT is a pretty great car, it lacks proper sportiness and driver feeling – something a manual transmission would no doubt provide. Still, the Stinger is great value for money.
1 Ford Mustang GT/GT500
The Ford Mustang has recently been updated and the only way to get a brand-new Mustang with a manual transmission is through the Mach-1. All other versions of the car come with the 10-speed automatic used in most other Ford and Chevy products. While this does not necessarily mean anything for the average consumer, it is a bit concerning for the enthusiast.
The Mustang GT fitted with the 5.0-liter Coyote V8 is a great sports car and shifting through the gears the old-fashioned way is satisfying. But thanks to emissions regulations, Ford has been forced to reduce this gearbox option to one Mustang model. It would be great to have the option of a manual with the normal GT, but it would have been even better to have it on the top-spec GT500. Yes, the 7-speed dual-clutch is better, faster, and able to handle the power much better, but being fully in control of 760 hp just sounds like an interesting and fun experience.
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