The automobiles of today achieve better gas mileage and offer considerable technological amenities as compared to the cars of just ten years ago. While these improvements are appreciated, it would appear that the ability to get a new car with a standard transmission is becoming a thing of the past.
My next series of posts will focus upon the top 20 automobiles that still offer a “stick” (standard/manual transmission)
Starting, in no particular order, is the 2018 Mazda Miata. Since the summer of 1989 this car has been thrilling sports car fans with its featherweight rear-drive chassis and drop top fun-in-the-sun persona. The Miata was all-new for 2016, and a couple years later the Mazda not only retains the easy-shifting and precise 6-speed manual transmission in the Roadster model but also the even better-driving retractable fastback (RF) model. So now there are two manual Miatas for you to choose from.
Reasonably priced sports cars are scarce these days. The Subaru BRZ and its twin, the Toyota 86, both start at just over $25,000 and offer a truly engaging drive experience. They are also lightweight, rear-wheel drive, and pack a 205 horsepower four-cylinder engine that make power up at 7,000 rpm. All of this also comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission. For 2018 Subaru has added a new high performance, track-focused tS model to the range with a re-tuned suspension by STI (Subaru’s performance arm), frame stiffeners, lighter-weight wheels, and high performance Brembo brakes. Oh, and yes, there’s a big wing on the back, too. All this good stuff goes a long way to make the BRZ an even more enjoyable manual transmission machine.
I have said many times and will continue to say that Ford is one of my favorite top two auto manufacturers. With that said, finding a car with a manual transmission is rare. It’s rarer still these days to find an automaker that will spend the time and money to upgrade their manual transmission. That’s exactly what Ford did for 2018.
Ford has freshened the Mustang for ‘18 and one major improvement comes from the upgraded manual in the V8-powered GT. Engineers installed a new twin-disc clutch, dual mass flywheel, and more closely spaced gears. There are also new synchronizers and it’s all aimed at making the GT a smoother, more rewarding experience. They’ve done an excellent job, but for those that want the ultimate Mustang GT without stepping all-the-way up to a Shelby, consider the Performance Package Level 2. The best news? If you want one, it only comes one way – with a manual transmission.
Since this series of posts is about the best cars with manual transmissions you would expect to see a Corvette on here. Well, you won’t be disappointed to discover that the 2018 Corvette (redesigned in 2014) offers the new 7-speed manual transmission (an 8-speed automatic is optional) that is one of the best hooked to any V8. This Z06 makes a rather astonishing 650 hp from its supercharged V8 and can hit 60 mph in just 3.3 seconds. One might expect a car with such heavyweight performance to have a transmission that takes muscle to shift, but that’s not the case. The Z06’s gearbox moves through the shift pattern easily and it is a pleasure to use. Actually, that’s true of the whole car as this Vette can be a weekend racer as well as an extremely nice grocery getter.
My other favorite auto manufacturer is Porsche as I coveted these cars since I was a child. One of the many reasons that I still prefer Porsche is because they are one of the few high-performance automakers that still offers manual transmissions (most high performance builders utilize paddle shifters on the steering wheel) . Porsche has expanded the manual 911 variants to include the high performance GT3 which is big news for Porsche fans because the GT3 is one of the most potent and perhaps the purest models it sells. The GT3 packs a 4.0-liter flat six-cylinder in its tail that makes an even 500 hp. The GT3 doesn’t have the same 7-speed manual as the rest of the 911 line. Instead it uses a stronger six-speed unit borrowed from the hyper-limited 911 R model with a shorter gear lever. For many manual transmission enthusiasts, this is the car they’d most like to park in the garage. Now, don’t forget about the GT2RS as this beast offers 700 horsepower as well as a manual transmission (not shown below).
The cutesy Fiat 500 that landed in the U.S. back in 2011 looked fun but wasn’t exactly the rewarding drive enthusiasts were hoping for, as a matter of fact, the 500 was disappointing at best. A year later that was fixed with the 500 Abarth – this high-performance model delivers 60 more horsepower and 72 more lb.-ft. of torque than the 500. The high-powered Fiat is relatively tame when you want it to be, but flatfoot the throttle and it sounds like a squadron of light aircraft are chasing you down. In my opinion, the 500 Abarth is a fun little car to run around in but I would not want to take it out on a major U.S. Highway as this car is just too small for my liking but it is an ideal approach to making a short drive to the store fun.
Now, I know that there are many people that are not impressed with the Fiat Abarth but keep in mind that this post series focuses upon cars and trucks that still offer a manual transmission in the U.S. for the 2018 model year. With that said, the sport compact car scene might have peaked more than a decade ago but this is the year that Honda has finally decided to bring over one of its legendary Type R Civics. One of the things that is cool about the Type R is that Honda channels the output of the 306 hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine through a manual transmission. That’s right, every Type R is a manual. – YAY!
There is a downside and that is that the Type R isn’t pretty. It looks… a little too much like a decade-old tuner car. Once you get past the appearance on the outside of the car you can then discover that the Type R is a very smart and sophisticated performance machine, besides, you can’t see what it looks like on the outside when you are driving it like you stole it on the inside of the car. This ugly duckling is actually somewhat impressive even to a driver like myself.
I previously noted that the 2018 Ford Mustang offers a manual transmission but I would be remiss if I did not mention the GT350 and the GT350R which is a more athletic, more racetrack-capable machine than the beastly old GT500 ever was. The supercharger and large displacement V8 are gone, replaced by a tech-heavy flat-plane 526 hp 5.2-liter V8 that’s nicknamed “Voodoo” and wants to rev hard (I just love the sound of this Ford as it is like no other).
Unlike Mustangs of the past – every design detail on the car is there to increase performance not just appearances. Best of all, the only transmission Ford puts behind the new motor in the GT350 (street version) and GT350R (track version and lighter weight) is a six-speed manual and that is the way a car like this should be.
The GTI remains one of the world’s best inexpensive speed machines, but VW offers a performance notch above the GTI called the Golf R. For just under $40 grand (USD), it comes with a potent turbocharged 2.0 four-cylinder tuned to 292 hp.
The Golf R shares many of its components with the Audi S3 which is no surprise there but the difference here is that only the Golf R is offered with a manual transmission. This transmission will save you some dough over the DSG automatic and for the 2018 model there are also new touchscreens and digital gauge clusters as well. My hope is that we can get the Golf R in the U.S. with the new SportWagen bodystyle like they have in Europe with a manual transmission then I would be very happy.
The 2018 Wrangler is all-new for this model year and Jeep also offers a manual transmission to add an extra dimension of fun to serious off-roading. You have to know how to handle a manual transmission in order to creep up and over boulders as this requires just the right shift timing, throttle, and clutch work. An automatic transmission lets the vehicle slowly crawl over the worst trail obstacles and all the driver has to do is steer and gently apply the throttle. While I prefer a manual transmission when I am out on the trail, it has taken me years of practice in order to shift correctly without burning the clutch or spinning the tires when driving on rough off-road conditions.
With that said, the new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is one of the most capable 4WD vehicles ever produced, and one of only a handful of 4X4s today that offer a manual transmission. The all-new D478 gearbox six-speed has a deeper 5.13:1 first gear than the previous generation Wrangler for easier creeping on slow-speed trails. This particular manual transmission operates smoothly and really brings out the most personality from the Wrangler’s new 285 hp 3.6-liter V6 and is only available with the V6 engine option due to it’s low end torque capabilities. If you are serious about attacking the trails then this is a 4×4 that you need to have.
The 2019 Corvette ZR1 has a starting price that could be considered as staggering ($119,995) for a Corvette is high but you need to stop and think about everything that this Vette has to offer such as huge horsepower and torque specs. As if the 650 hp Z06 model wasn’t enough, the Corvette team has upgraded the 6.2-liter V8 with a larger supercharger to deliver 755 hp and 715 lb-ft of torque. Chevy says the ZR1 is the most powerful Vette ever and can reach 60 mph in less than 3 seconds and top out at 212 mph. I guess that $119,995 is not that expensive after all is it?
The new aero package, Chevy says, will produce an insane 950 pounds of downforce. They might need it too, since the Corvette team is gunning to cut a full 20 seconds off the Nurburgring lap time of the old, previous-generation ZR1.
Oh, and there is one more thing to mention here. This Vette comes with a manual transmission so you can just slap me silly and let me get behind the wheel because I love a fast car with a stick to make it scream!
There are some people out there that might say that BMWs have become too techy and less driver-focused. Well, that might be true but one way to strip away some of the artificiality is to select a manual transmission for your 2018 M4 coupe or M3 sedan. There is a great six-speed offered on either of one of these driving machines that makes handling the potent 425 horsepower from the engines in these cars all the more fun when zipping around town.
Of all BMW’s rivals in this class only a few offer a manual transmission and BMW’s is a good one (which is what you should expect from this car). If you get your shifts right, you can hit 60 mph in just over 4 seconds. In two of the drivetrain modes (Efficient and Sport) this smart gearbox will rev-match downshifts for you too but select Sport Plus, and it’s the driver’s responsibility to do all that work and that is the way I like it.
There was a time when Cadillac was the King of all cars but as time when on the King became nothing more than a leather sofa on wheels when compared to something like a BMW or a Mercedes Benz. Well, the King is back with vengeance to all challengers. In fact, in terms of that hard-to-quantify connectedness every driver wants with his or her machine, this Cadillac might actually surpass its rivals. The ATS-V is one of the most brilliant chassis in the class, which includes the BMW M3 and M4, cars long seen as benchmarks. Since Caddy knows enthusiasts are buying this type of car, they matched a six-speed manual transmission to the 464 horsepower twin-turbo six banger.
The manual in this car is not a low-tech gearbox and should you select the manual model it will please you to discover that it comes with the ability to rev-match downshifts. So, if you decide to challenge the BMW next to you at the red light to a race to the next red light you will hit 60 mph in 4.2 seconds and have a blast doing it.
The “floating leather sofa with wheels” days are a thing of the past and it is good to see Cadillac earning it’s place as King once again.
It is true that the new Challenger SRT Demon packs 808 horsepower in it’s standard form or 840 horsepower for the drag strip but the only way to get one of these is with an automatic transmission. I would rather drive the regular Hellcat instead and even though this car only has 707 horsepower and 650 foot pound of torque those kind of numbers feel even better when you can bang through the gears with a manual transmission.
You can tap into every one of those ponies with a robust six-speed manual and leave burnouts stretching several blocks long. This car can hit 60 mph in under 4 seconds despite weighing almost 4,500 pounds which is very impressive for a “fat boy” like this.
British sports car specialist Lotus is a chassis perfectionist and the machines it makes are precision tools that are incredibly adept at building speed on a twisty roads. The 2018 Lotus Evora Sport 410 GP Edition can build serious grip on these roads while also providing a soft and supple ride. Thus, it makes total sense that the company would keep the manual transmission a big part of the formula.
This particular limited-production edition is light weight and also drops the suspension slightly as well as re-tuning the springs and dampers for even better handling. The 400 hp 3.5-liter supercharged V6 is unchanged but the six-speed manual, Lotus says, has a low-inertia flywheel for quicker shifts. The 2910-pound Lotus can hit 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds. Only 150 of these will be available for the world each year, so this will likely be one of the rarest manual machines on my list.
This Lotus is yet another car the proves what I always say about horsepower versus curb weight. You do not need a huge motor if your car is light weight in order to go fast. Look at these numbers……. 2018 Dodge Hellcat: 707 horsepower, 4,500 pounds with a 0 to 60 MPH in just under 4 seconds. 2018 Evora Sport 410 GP Edition: 400 horsepower, 2,910 pounds with a 0 to 60 MPH in 3.9 seconds. Don’t get me wrong as the Hellcat is a fun car to drive but the Evora can run with the Dodge as well as straighten out any turn.
Since 2016 we’ve had the most recent version of the Europe-only ultimate-performance Ford Focus RS model which is a rally-bred super hatch offering a 350 horsepowered turbocharged torque monster of an engine. This European rally racer is optioned solely with a six-speed manual transmission and Ford says it has absolutely no plans of offering an automatic transmission of any kind with the car. That is a good thing because you do not want a Focus with an automatic transmission at all. I could give a multitude of reasons why you only want a manual transmission in the RS or any other Focus but I will simply leave it at that. Some other good things about the RS is that it’s advanced all-wheel drive system, which can route up to 70 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear axle, creates exciting handling. Ford has also added an aggressive new limited-slip differential to the front of this Ford – for even better traction and handling. Ford continues to make significant improvements to it’s automobiles and I am happy to see it happening.
Jaguar’s F-Type debuted in 2013 and it was the first truly engaging Jag sports car in decades. Jag also made sure that there were at least a few manual transmissions in the mix.
Today, the lineup ranges from the new 296 horse-powered four-cylinder up to the 575 horsepower supercharged V8 SVR. The drawback is that only the 340 horse powered and 380 hp Supercharged V6 models can be paired with manuals. While it would be nice to have the SVR offer a manual transmission, these six banger Jaguars can hit 60 mph in 5.5 and 5.3 seconds respectively. I guess that will have to do but maybe the F-Type will offer a V8 with a manual transmission in the future. Only time will tell but I hope it happens.
Manual transmission full sized pickup trucks are a rare breed these days. These types of trucks were once the top choice because it came with a “Granny” low first gear for serious trailwork or slow speed towing around the farm. The only truckmaker to still offer one in their full size truck is Ram. This truck is not quick but it sure is fun to feel all that torque channeled and multiplied by a stout and slow-shifting manual gearbox. The Ram, when equipped with the 350 horse powered Cummins diesel generating 660 lb-ft of torque can be ordered with the G56 six-speed manual. When combined with the low range in the 4WD truck’s transfer case – the Ram feels like it could climb a vertical wall.
While I prefer a manual transmission to an automatic, I will say this much about a stick in a truck like this……unless you are going to use it for farming I would suggest an automatic because the “Granny” gears in this beast can really slow you down on the open road.
The GTS versions of Porsche’s sports cars are the some of the best you can buy for the money. They all offer a bit more power, handling, and style without turning the car into a hard-edged track weapon ( although that is what I like best ). The Cayman’s turbocharged 2.5-liter flat four-cylinder normally makes 350 hp but in the GTS version that figure is bumped by 12 horsepower. It also comes with Porsche’s best options like Active Suspension Management, a torque vectoring rear differential, drive modes and a sport exhaust. The Cayman GTS also comes standard with a six speed manual. All of these options, along with the manual transmission, really comes together to make this one fun-to-drive sports car on a twisty road and it won’t beat you up on the morning drive to work.
There is one more car to go on my list of the top 20 best vehicles that offer a manual transmission for 2018 but there may actually be 21 vehicles to make this list. I guess you will have to read further to see what they are.
The 2018 Mini Cooper Hardtop is a sporty car that is small, relatively inexpensive and fun-to-drive. This car can also be hip and upscale at the same time. Just about every car in Mini’s lineup can be optioned with a manual transmission making the Mini all the more fun to drive.
The most rewarding car of all the Mini Coopers is the John Cooper Works (JCW) model. Mini bumps up the power to 228 horsepower (up 39 hp over the S model) and can be optioned with a unique sport suspension to ratchet down the handling even more tightly. The automatic transmission is quicker off the line, but the manual cars are lighter, less expensive, and the best approach to experiencing the JCW.
This concludes my top 20 of the best vehicles offering a manual transmission for 2018 or does it? Keep scrolling down to find out.
Well, you probably figured out that my list of the best 20 vehicles offering a manual transmission for the 2018 model year actually has 21 vehicles. So, without further delay, the last item on my list is none other than the 2018 Toyota Tacoma.
This mid-sized truck or “light-duty” based upon where you live in the U.S. has proven itself time and time again by providing a solid history of mechanical dependability. You can choose from six versions of the long lived truck but canonly obtain a manual transmission if you choose the TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, or the TRD Pro models. The 278 horsepower V6 offers plenty of power and you can manage the 265 foot pounds of torque better by staying in the lower gears longer, which is one of the reasons I prefer a stick in a smaller truck like this.
While I will always like my Big Ford Trucks, the Tacoma is and will always be a great vehicle that anyone would be proud to own.