RAC Cars News


The joys of a manual transmission

By raccars Published


Driving purists insist a manual transmission provides more entertainment than an automatic.

Even though automatic gearboxes are no longer the slow, clunky units they once were and are now the mainstay of the world's fastest and most powerful cars, purists still claim to prefer the level of driver engagement that comes from the interaction with a manual transmission. Increasingly manufacturers are going for automatic gearboxes, with McLaren, Lamborghini and Ferrari pretty much finished with manual gearboxes. However if you prefer old school driving entertainment there are still some fantastic, manual transmission equipped models out there.

The best sports cars with a manual transmission

Porsche 911 R

The entry level model at the moment is a manual gearbox equipped 911 Carrera, but as you go up the specification scale the trend is for automatic units. Then you get to the 911 R, costing a whopping £136,901. The bonus is a six speed manual gearbox. Unfortunately there's already a long waiting list for the 911 R so if you're in a hurry you're probably better off looking for a used model, and even then you can expect to pay a premium.

Noble M600

Noble Automotive is quite open about its preference for manual transmissions, apparently offering a paddle shift alternative only to satisfy customer demand. The carbon fibre and stainless steel built M600 is powered by a Volvo-sourced twin turbo V8 and costs about £300,000 in right hand drive format. It has been known to outrun the Bugatti Veyron and the Pagani Zonda F Roadster on a cold day at the BBC Top Gear testing track.

Jaguar F-Type

A famous return to sterling form at Jaguar, the glorious F-Type is available with a manual transmission but only using a V6. Even so you can expect to reach 60mph in 5.5 seconds and carry on to a top speed of 161mph, for the relatively bargainous price of £52,000. The faster and more powerful (and more expensive) V8s eschew the manual box for an eight speed automatic unit with a paddle-shift override feature.

Toyota GT86 & Subaru BRZ

This badge engineered pair are equally revered and lambasted for their retro driving experience. If you're old school you'll fall in love with their traditional rear wheel drive, front engined layout with a six speed manual transmission and B-road loving agility. A six speed automatic gearbox is available but kind of misses the point of these old school charmers.

Lotus Exige

There are plenty of different models in the Exige line-up, overwhelmingly offering six speed manual transmissions. The Sport 350 and Cup R editions come with the option of a sequential transmission, which marginally increases off the line speed - it's all of 0.1 seconds quicker to get to 62mph - but curtails the top speed by 8mph.

Ford Mustang

The latest Mustang - the first to be offered in right hand drive - delivers that authentic American muscle car character, albeit slightly tailored to accommodate European driving sensibilities. It's quite possibly the best value sports car around, with a fabulously entertaining 5.0 litre V8 under the bonnet. The manual transmission drinks more fuel than the auto box but also allows you to more thoroughly enjoy the full beauty of the Mustang experience. It's an obvious choice, really.

Nissan 370Z

A lower profile entry in the list, the 370Z is often overlooked but offers serious sporting thrills in an old school package. It's rear wheel drive, of course, and powered by a 3.7 litre V8. It's also beautifully affordable at less than £28,000 for the entry level Z spec and less than £40,000 for the full fat Nismo version. Happily it also comes with a manual gearbox.

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