Very few things are more satisfying than nailing the perfect shift in a classic H-pattern gearbox, especially when you know that if you do it wrong, bad things can happen. Ouch, that’s a serious money shift! That’s why you never let your friends drive your race car.
Unfortunately, the art of using all four limbs to drive a car is becoming a thing of the past. Thanks to ever-increasing terrible traffic, the invention of lifeless, gearless, CVT transmissions, flappy paddle gearboxes being arguably faster than traditional stick shifts, the rise of electric cars with only forward and backward settings, and lazy drivers optioning for automatic gearboxes, you’d think the death of the classic manual transmission is all but assured.
But, thankfully, there are a few brands still making enthusiasts’ dreams come true, one third pedal at a time. Sadly, you won’t see the new mid-engined C8 Corvette or any McLaren on this list, but you will find out what we think are the best cars that still offer manual transmissions, and some might even surprise you!
Okay, this first brand should come as no surprise. I mean, if you’re going to call yourself the Ultimate Driving Machine, you’d better have an H-pattern. And the best options for shifting gears in a BMW this year are the M2 and M4. True drivers’ machines with refined chassis design and roaring power bands.
You could get either M car with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, which is a fantastic option! But, the buttery smooth six-speed manual is the going to be a much more fun way to deliver the over 400 horsepower these beauties have on tap. And if you’re good with a gear shift, you’re going to hit 60 mph from a stop in about 4 seconds!
Now, the M-Class Bimmers ain’t cheap. The M2 starts at $58,900 and the M4 at around $69,000. That’s a lot of dough, but BMW M cars regularly outperform cars double their price! Okay, we started off this list with a banger, but we’re only getting started!
Lotus Evora GT
Driving a manual transmission is all about a stripped-down driving experience, and no one strips down a driving experience quite like Lotus. The Evora GT is the long overdue replacement for the Evora 400. The Brits over at Lotus put this thing on a diet, gave it more horsepower, and, of course, made sure it had an optional six-speed stick!
Lotus sourced their powerplants for the Evora line from Toyota, probably a good idea… ask me about my Land Rover’s British engine reliability… Anyway, the Toyota 3.5-liter V6 comes supercharged at 8.6 PSI making a staggering 416 horsepower. This is one swift British invasion, making super quick work of 0 to 60 in just 3.8 seconds!
But, pure straight line speed has never been what Lotus is about, their cars are always engineered with apexes in mind. That’s why the new Evora GT generates up to 141pounds of downforce from its aerodynamic body design, and sits in the featherweight class, weighing only 3,100 lbs if you opt for all the carbon fiber options. Capable of pulling 1.04g on a skid pad and coming to a stop from 70 in a mere 148 feet, the Evora GT is a raw, classically British driving machine starting at $97,000. Man, shouldn’t stripped-down cars be cheaper?
Okay, let’s bring it back down to Earth. Don’t want to spend $100,000 to drive stick in 2020? Genesis, or Hyundai, has you covered. The 2020 Genesis G70 is probably my favorite car to have a manual in 2020! Hear me out…
When you opt for the spunky little turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, you can get this sporty luxury sedan with a stick shift! As an added bonus, you get a set of upgraded Brembo brakes as part of the deal! All for under $40,000! And the Genesis G70 stands alone here. Literally, no other entry luxury sedan can be had with a shifter! Not even the new BMW 3 Series! As a lifelong 3 Series fan, that kind of hurts me inside. I remember back in the early aughts, you had a plethora of stick shift luxury sedans to choose from: the E46 3 series, the B5 A4, the Lexus IS300, even the Mercedes C300 had a stick.
And now, the only company making one is a rag tag little Korean luxury brand! Seriously, we need some way to show the world that we need to preserve this dying cause. Oh, wait! We have a “Save The Manuals” shirt for sale in our shop! Stand strong my brothers in arms.
Porsche is probably the automaker with the most sticks on the road today. Customers grab the H-pattern option on Porsche models as much as 70% of the time. The 718 moniker is a throwback to the classic Porsche 718 RSK from the late 50’s, and the 718 Cayman, the Boxster, and the Spyder sport turbocharged horizontally opposed 4-cylinders with the power to get you to 60 in under 5 seconds, while the spicier Cayman GT4 loses the turbos, adds two more cylinders to the soup, and cranks the power up to 414 horsepower. But no matter what 718 model you choose, most come with an optional shifter between the seats.
Also new for 2020, you can row your own gears in the 992 line of 911s. The Carrera models pony up 450 horsepower, and if you’re quick enough with the seven-speed stick, you can hit 60 miles per hour in around 3.8 seconds Three-tenths off the PDK times, but who cares! You’re a driver! Drivers don’t care about times!
And the Porsche that has 70% stick shift adoption rate? Of course, it’s the track-bred 911 GT3. Sure, the PDK might shave a few tenths off your lap times, but I’d take the thrill of throwing gears in a roll-caged Porsche race car over flapping some plastic paddles with my fingertips any day.
Alright, let’s talk ‘Murica. Apple pie, moonshine, and manuals! Yee haw! American muscle is all about raw, unfiltered power. From the fire-breathing Chevy Camaro ZL1, to the Hemi-powered Dodge Challenger R/T, all the way up to the Shelby GT350R with it’s voodoo V8 and track-ready chassis design. Spooky!
You don’t have to skip leg day in America, they’re all coming with clutch pedals. And the best use of a clutch pedal? Revving up, dumping the clutch, and roasting some rubber!
Ok, we’re not going to do one honorable mention. Instead, I’m going to run through a bunch of 2020 models that still fight the stick shift fight. Ready? Let’s go!
You can get a Chevy Spark with a five-speed, but why would you? Go through six gears in the Fiat 124 Spider, or its much more fun Mazda Miata cousin. Either way put the top down. Honda’s still rocking five-speeds in the Accord, the Civic, and the Fit. Go Honda! Take a Sunday Hyundai drive with the Veloster, go for the N package for a fun little turbo-4 and a six-speed with rev matching. The new Mazda3 does come in manual, but only in front-wheel drive! Bummer, the all-wheel drive seemed fun. And of course, there’s all the usual Japanese suspects. The STI, the WRX, The 370Z, and the BRZ or it’s 86 sister. Phew. Covered.
Aston Martin Vantage AMR
The Vantage AMR is my ultimate pick because Aston Martin really went above and beyond on their commitment to the cult of shift with the Vantage AMR’s seven-speed. You see, they created a technology they call Amshift, which, when turned on, will mimic a driver utilizing heel-toe as you downshift, a technique that has a ton of benefits and is not easy to master for us mere mortals.
You get smoother downshifts, not upsetting the car’s dynamics as you enter a turn, and you keep the engine in the powerband, allowing you to get back up to speed on corner exit. The Amshift tech even unlocks full throttle upshifts, or powershifts, or flat shifts, for faster running through gears, with controls in place to keep the engine from overrevving.
Not just on here because of it’s fancy transmission, the Vantage AMR also loses 209 pounds over the standard Vantage, thanks to the manual transmission and some carbon ceramic brakes, and the weight is now a perfect 50-50. Power-wise, it’s unchanged, still a stellar 505 horsepower. But, thanks to it losing a bit of torque, it only hits 60 in about 3.9 seconds, which by $208,000-supercar standards is nothing special.
Still, it’s a slick, fast, loud and fancy British supercar with the fanciest gear box on the block, and might just be what the world needs to get some love for the gearbox going again.