15 Cars that Deserve a Manual Transmission
Stick-shifts are great, but manual transmissions have been fading from manufacturer’s options list ever since the first automatic hit the streets about 70+ years ago. Sure, CVTs won the fuel efficiency game 20 years ago, and dual-clutch transmissions took over track cars about a decade ago, but there’s just something fun about rowing your own gears. If maximum fuel economy or minimum lap times aren’t your concern, you probably enjoy fun cars. Here’s 15 vehicles that would be way more fun with a manual transmission.
Buick Regal GS
Buick could use an injection of fun into their lineup. Fans thought they had it with the 2010 Regal (that’s an Opel Insignia for our Euro readers). The turbo and annual transmission options made things a lot more interesting over at the watered-down version of Pontiac. Still, it wasn’t to last though, as Buick pulled the manual for 2016. Not as bad as when they killed off the GN, but close.
The original Japanese sport sedan was a hoot. For the price of a boring Camry or Accord, you could buy a way more fun Maxima. The Nissan wasn’t all about big power – although it did usually outgun its rivals – but it had a taut suspension and excellent steering. If you’re stuck in the ‘80s with a 160 horsepower V6, the Maxima with a stick was the way to go. Unfortunately, the CVT killed the manual in 2009 with the debut of the seventh generation, and the cheap sport sedan was gone.
Okay, so it’s kinda like a Maxima in an expensive dress, but there are enough differences to justify the Q50 on this list too. Sure, it shares the FM chassis, but the Q has 328 horsepower and all-wheel drive as an option. While it could be thought of as a budget BMW 4-Series, the Q50 doesn’t quite get the same impact due to the 7-speed auto as the only transmission choice. The Q50 does look nice, but at those prices, the Germans offer more fun.
Volvo V60 Polestar
Quiet little Volvo made some waves a few years back when they acquired tuner shop Polestar. A couple of teaser concept cars later, and the S60 and V60 received limited runs of Polestar upgraded models. 350 horsepower in a fairly light wagon, plus Haldex all-wheel drive makes for one awesome daily driver. The weak link was the transmission though. It was plenty reliable, but only offered a 6-speed manual. There’s a new Polestar coming, but it looks to have an 8-speed auto, which means the Swedes are taking a lesson from Toyota here. That’s unfortunate.
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
Jeeps used to be cheap things. Back in the day, the simple trucks with SUV bodies demolished trails as cheaply and simply as Chrysler Co could make them. This is just big stupid fun, and a manual could only add to it. Now the world is upside-down and people want to pay north of $65,000 for a luxury off-road rig that never sees dirt. It seems Jeep knows bragging rights, stuffing a 475 horsepower Hemi V8 under-hood. Jeep also knows their customer base, so they felt satisfied leaving the 8-speed auto as the only transmission choice. Even on the street, it’s not as fun as it could be.
Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG
The G63 AMG is the German equivalent to the Grand Cherokee above. It’s big, hauls all your crap, and can go mudding in the classiest and most exclusive swamps. It’s more luxurious, but at twice the price; it should be. The G63 AMG is the adult’s version of the SRT. One thing that inflated sticker price buys is character. The classic, yet modern looks easily match the timeless performance of a twin-turbo V8. Like the lowly Jeep though, the G63 AMG is hampered by the inability to select a manual transmission, even as an obscenely priced option.
Alfa Romeo 4C
Gah, such an amazing looking car, touted with superb numbers on paper, and reviewers claiming it’s one of the greatest new cars in years. Until it comes to the options list. 237 hp ain’t bad when it weighs an incredible 2,500 lbs, and the suspension seems every bit as well designed as the exterior. Great, but it’s also hamstrung by a somewhat aged 6-speed automatic. Brand new important car with gorgeous looks, and priced with a Corvette, but auto-only. Alfa might not relaunch in the States as well as Fiat….
Ford had a hit on their hands with the first generation 6.2L off-roading version of their F-Series trucks. The Raptor was cool looking, and had serious capability. The second generation is set for 2017, and the big news is the EcoBoost 3.5L V6 as the only engine option. Fear not, Ford claims the 3.5L will be more powerful than the older V8. That’s great, but it’s not the enthusiasts’ only concern. Rather than a manual of any kind, power is transferred through a 10-speed auto. I can hear the mudders complaining from here.
How can you go wrong with all-wheel drive and a 450 horsepower V8? Well, “wrong” is probably not the correct word to describe the outstanding Audi S6. This is a comfy sedan for everyday cruising that can also whip out a zero to sixty run of 4.4 seconds. The Quattro all-wheel drive works as well as the interior is nice to look at. All of this comes up a little short, as a 7-speed dual clutch is the only transmission available. Sure, you aren’t in Ronin, but shifting your own would make this one of the ultimate sport sedans.
Lexus RC F
No one can fault Lexus for trying lately. Once stuck with a stodgy image, the LFA supercar and its influence helped blast away the curmudgeony image. With a 5.0L V8 making 467 horsepower, this is one badass coupe with a weird grille. While the interior is stylish and eye pleasing in an attractive combo of black and carbon fiber, it also looks a bit off with that old school gear selector handle. The 8-speed direct shift has been called the equal of the Porsche PDK on-track, but it’s not all about the lap times on a Sunday morning drive.
Even though the Huayra is superior in every way to the previous Zonda supercar, many purists still prefer the older car over the new. Pagani is legendary for their custom ordering process, and they will make your Huayra any way you want, just without a manual. Okay, that’s not exactly true. Pagani will absolutely put a manual in your car if you pay for development of the transmission. So your $2 million Huayra just became a $50 million car. Ouch.
Want to go over 200 mph? Huracán can. Want to do 0 – 60 in 3.2 seconds? Huracán can. Want to shift your own gears? “Scusa” is Italian for “sorry.” This is not a track car, and that’s okay, it doesn’t need to be one. Lambos haven’t been as fast as the Italian competition for about forty years now. Throwing a race-ready trans at a car that won’t be tracked makes little sense. Not having a manual option in the Huracan makes you realize the insane company from the ‘70s truly is long gone.
The current GT-R has been called soulless, ugly, fat, and clinical. It couldn’t care less. The GT-R beats down supercars cost three times the money, and is even faster than its weight and power should allow. Those killer zero to sixty times under three seconds come at a price, and that price is your firstborn child. No, actually, it’s the lack of a stick. The dual clutch is an impressive and tough piece, and way faster than you, but the GT-R does lose a tiny bit of street cred by not offering a manual.
WTF Porsche? Seriously? You don’t realize what the 911 is?? While America’s iconic sports cars got fat and lost their way in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the 911 stayed true, with a huge emphasis on handling, brilliant steering, and an overall engaging drive. Now go to Porsche’s webpage. Select the GT3 and any options you want, from the $2300 battery, to the $9000 brakes. Nowhere on that list will you find a manual transmission. Due to efficiency, the track-ready 7-speed PDK is as close as you can get to a purist Porsche.
Remember “big, stupid fun” above? When it comes to American muscle, it gets no bigger or stupider than the Dodge Charger Hellcats. It’s almost irresponsible to have more power than a Z06 at almost the base Corvette price. 707 horses of Hemi firepower are enough to get anyone’s interest, and dominate internet bragging rights discussions. However, if you look under the surface, the high power versions of the Mustang and Camaro are still considered the enthusiast’s cars. Why? Both GM and Ford offer a stick with their range toppers. Dodge does not. You can’t use 707 hp in traffic, but you can still enjoy a manual.
These are our picks for the top 15 cars that deserve a manual transmission to just make them a tiny bit more fun. Granted, most of them – like the 911 – are perfectly fine vehicles, but adding this one option box would add huge amounts of driving engagement, making them nothing short of legendary. And remember, manufacturers are in the business of making profits, and they can’t sell us any manual transmissions at a profit if 0.5% of the population is buying them. People are voting with their dollars, and the dual clutch is winning. Only by purchasing a new vehicle with a manual can we change the numbers in our favor. Then maybe the manufacturers will listen to us when it’s time to design the next generation of gearboxes.