Home Cars 20 Performance Cars You Can Get with Manual Transmissions

20 Performance Cars You Can Get with Manual Transmissions

Vukasin Herbez November 19, 2017

Ever since automatic transmissions became popular, the battle between the manuals and the automatics has been ongoing. Engine designers created automatics as a more comfortable option for people who are not skilled or just don’t want to have to shift gears. However, for decades, most people have considered automatics a lame option. A true driver needs to use a manual since it is more engaging and analog, so it provides a pure driving experience. And most driving enthusiasts won’t argue with that.

In the last two decades, thanks to the development of electronic aids, intelligent systems and new technologies, automatic transmissions have earned a lead over manuals. The automatic transmission shifts faster than any human can. They are also much more efficient and precise. They can have more gears than manuals, so they adapt to more driving styles and dynamics, too. In one word, modern automatics are almost perfect.

But, despite being so efficient and fast, automatics are still not as engaging as manuals. Driving a manual means you understand the processes happening under the body of your ride. A manual transmission is for drivers who want to be in full control and are more skillful than the average driver. It also means you could lose a drag race if you go against a modern car with a double clutch intelligent automatic transmission.

If you put more value into a pure, analog driving feel than into half a second better 0 to 60 mph time, a manual transmission is for you. So, for those dedicated drivers who think performance cars should only come with manual transmission, keep reading for a special treat. This list of modern vehicles with a manual transmission that are available for driving enthusiasts and car fanatics alike.

1. Shelby GT350

For those who want a classic screamer in a Mustang with a Shelby heritage, but with modern technology and V8 performance, the new GT350R is a perfect choice. Although they based the Shelby on the classic Mustang GT, much of the suspension, design, aero package and engine are new. The single biggest difference is the fantastic Voodoo engine, which has 5.2-liter displacement, 526 HP and 429 lb-ft of torque.

One main feature of this high-revving powerplant is the flat plane crank technology. It allows the big V8 to scream to almost 9,000 rpm. It is the same technology exotic manufacturers like Ferrari use, but this is the first time a muscle car has such an advanced engine. Ford’s investment in the Shelby GT350R paid off. The performance is mind-boggling with 3.9 seconds for 0 to 60 mph.

But the numbers don’t do justice to this car. The Shelby GT 350 R is a pure sports car that delivers fantastic driving dynamics and experiences to drivers. It is closer to the Porsche GT3 for precision driving and cornering speeds than to the humble Mustangs of yesterday. This car is one of the fastest Mustangs ever. It is also one of the best sports cars to enter the market in recent years that comes with manual transmission only.

2. Honda Civic Type R

The latest addition to the powerful four-cylinder car club is the fifth generation Honda Civic Type R. The new performance Civic looks like every racer’s dream with numerous spoilers, scoops and air vents all over the body. The aggressive design, superior performance and JDM appeal make this Civic a valuable addition to the hot hatch class.

In the past, Honda has resisted the temptation to turbocharge its performance engines. But the Civic Type R has the same turbocharging as any other competitor in its class. The 2.0-liter turbo four delivers 306 HP. It can propel the nasty-looking Civic Type R to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and top 170 mph.

However, the acceleration times are somewhat slower than the competitors. The reason for that is that the Civic is front-wheel drive and not AWD, as most other models in its class. The other reason is that the new Civic Type R is a manual-only car in a segment where automatics are a more common choice.

The good news is, the absence of all that heavy all-wheel-drive hardware makes the Civic Type R light and nimble car. This is something hardcore performance driving enthusiasts will highly appreciate.

3. Subaru BRZ

A typical four-cylinder naturally aspirated performance car is the Subaru BRZ. This little sports coupe has a signature flat-four engine that delivers 205 HP out of 2.0-liters. The BRZ is a light, nimble coupe due to the position of the engine. Subaru uses a flat-four engine, so the center of gravity is lower than those of regular inline four-cylinder engines.

Its lower center of gravity plants the car to the ground, which helps driving dynamics and allows the car to handle better. With a six-speed manual gearbox, the BRZ is a pure driver’s car. It offers lively performance and an engaging drive. The 0 to 60 mph sprint takes 6.7 seconds while the top speed is 145 mph. With an affordable price and those performance numbers, the BRZ is a highly desirable model.

The interesting thing about the BRZ is that it comes as a manual-only model. This decision shows Subaru’s dedication to offering a true driver’s car. The secret is in its lighter weight, so the BRZ can provide nothing but the purest driving experience.

4. Ford Focus RS

The first-generation Focus RS had a powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with 220 HP. Sadly, it was a limited production model that was not available in America. The second generation with a five-cylinder engine was also not for sale in the U.S. But the third one has one of the most powerful four cylinders on the market. Also, for the first time, Ford has finally offered it as a regular production model to U.S. buyers.

Under the hood of the new Focus RS, there is a 2.3-liter turbocharged unit that delivers 345 HP to all four wheels. This makes the Focus RS a capable hot hatch beast. The performance is incredible since getting to 0 to 60 mph takes only 4.7 seconds. Its top speed is 165 mph. This kind of performance deserves special packaging.

The Focus RS has a unique front spoiler, bulged fenders, side skirts and a spoiler. Simply looking at this furious compact will tell you this is a genuinely fast Ford. They packed the Focus RS with innovative and advanced technology. It includes an intelligent all-wheel-drive system, special driving mods and a host of electronic aids and systems. However, Ford kept the six-speed manual as the only transmission option to make the RS a rally car for the street.

5. Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE

Chevrolet has offered the 1LE package on the SS V8 and V6 models. Both cars are manual-only models Ford intended for enthusiasts and driving fans. This is one of the biggest performance bargains, especially in its track-oriented V8 version. The base Camaro SS is one of the best muscle cars around with its 6.2-liter, 450 HP V8 engine.

It also has loads of torque and a perfectly balanced chassis, but the 1LE is even better. The engine is the same as in a Corvette, which means it delivers 460 HP. The suspension is slightly more focused and revised to give drivers a better driving feel and sharper response.

Chevy also slightly improved the aero package, so the 1LE is a respectable, all-around sports machine. It is a capable road car, comfortable enough to use every day, as well as for long drives. It is also sharp enough to be a race car that will provide tons of fun on the track. And for $10,000 less, you can get the V6 1LE. It is not as powerful and slower, but still a good sports car.

6. Subaru WRX STI

The infamous Subaru WRX STI is a street racing and rally legend. For decades, this Subaru has been one of the most powerful four-cylinder cars on the market. And the latest generation of WRX STI certainly doesn’t disappoint. Under the hood is a flat-four engine with 2.5-liter displacement and a turbocharger. This combo is good for 305 HP that goes to all four wheels via its six-speed manual, which is the only transmission choice.

It’s a true driver`s car with a proper manual gearbox, great road holding and enough power to fly. The performance numbers are respectable with acceleration times of 5.1 seconds from 0 to 60 mph. It also has a 160-mph top speed.

Since this is a four-door car, it is also quite practical since it can seat five people. It has a decent trunk, too. The best part is, the price is not that high. So, it is a reasonable proposition for young families with performance-oriented drivers.

7. Mazda Miata

A list of manual-only cars wouldn’t be complete without the legendary Miata or MX-5. Even though this is a little roadster with a diminutive four-cylinder engine, it has perfect balance. With rear-wheel drive, a rev-happy engine and precise handling, it is a joy to drive. For this reason, Mazda has sold over a million of them since 1989.

Since the power output of any Miata is relatively small, you can engage in some fun driving along the highways, as well as the backroads. You can enjoy yourself to the fullest yet stay under the speed limit and out of trouble. Ever since they introduced the first Miata, manual transmission was the only choice. You can find five or six-speed manuals in early models and the current generation only uses the more engaging six-speed.

It is no surprise that Miata is a manual-only car. Simply, there isn’t a better choice for this little car than to shift gears on your own. The Miata is all about the pure driving experience, so a manual transmission is a logical choice.

8. Dodge Viper

Most car fans are deeply saddened that they discontinued the Dodge Viper, so there will not be a new generation. Dodge presented this legendary sports muscle in 1992 and it immediately became an American icon. It has a monster of a V10 engine in the front and a sleek, aggressive body style. With rear-wheel drive, it delivers power and screams the wild nature of this car.

Even so, the Viper has become a fan favorite for its uncompromised character and attitude. Over three generations, Chrysler made over 100,000, but the basic layout was the same. It had a V10 in the front, power going to the rear wheels and manual transmission in between. Until the end, this was the only transmission choice, which is something purists appreciate.

Although the Viper lacks a fancy, advanced automatic transmission with a dual-clutch system with lightning-fast shifts, it is still brutally fast. It can even beat those much more expensive European exotics. The 8.2-liter, 645 HP V10 engine was responsible for 3.8-second 0 to 60 mph acceleration times.

9. Chevrolet Corvette Z06

A legendary American sports car, the Chevrolet Corvette is currently in its seventh generation. It has one of the best chassis in the business and a powerful V8 engine loaded with technology. In fact, the Corvette C7 is capable of beating its European competitors like the Porsche 911, the Mercedes AMG GT and the Jaguar F-Type. Most drivers find the base 430 HP Corvette powerful enough. But for those who want more, there is a mighty Corvette Z06 version.

Chevy equipped it with a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 with 635 HP. It has a wide body kit, an active aerodynamics package and a host of other performance modifications. The Z06 is a proper beast and the specifications of the Z06 are equally impressive. The top speeds are close to 200 mph and the 0 to 60 mph acceleration time takes about 3.3 seconds. However, the most interesting thing is the seven-speed manual transmission.

The Corvette offers an eight-speed automatic in standard versions, but for the Z06, the seven-speed manual is the best choice. This interesting setup has one more gear than regular manuals. It is also economical and precise to use. No one knows if the next generation Corvette will have a manual, so enjoy it while you can in the gorgeous, brutally fast Z06.

10. Porsche Cayman GT4

For years there has been a rumor among car enthusiasts that Porsche deliberately refused to install a 911 flat-six engine into the Boxster/Cayman. The word was that they were afraid that a smaller, less expensive car would be better than a bigger, more expensive 911. However, finally, in 2014, Porsche presented the Cayman GT4. It is an all-out factory-prepared sports car with a 385 HP engine straight from the 911. Also, it comes with chassis improvements from the 911 GT3.

The Cayman GT4 is an improved Porsche 911 compilation but in a smaller package. The GT4 is a blast to drive and could beat some versions of the 911. But Porsche was not intimidated. Simply, the 911 is still the king of the lineup, despite the fact that the Cayman GT4 is a better driver’s machine.

The production of GT4 is limited to only 1,000 cars as the predicted volume for the North American market. Unsurprisingly, they have all sold in advance. So, you may want to hurry up if you want your piece of Porsche excellence. Be prepared to shift your own gears since the GT4 comes as manual only as any proper performance car should.

11. Dodge Challenger Hellcat

Everybody went crazy when Dodge announced the Hellcat Charger and Challenger models. After all, the reaction was expected since the 6.2-liter supercharged V8 with 707 HP is a monster muscle car that rules the streets. But, Dodge did just that, allowing the public to buy one of the fastest, most powerful muscle cars Detroit ever built.

Despite being overpowered, the Dodge Charger and Challenger Hellcat are surprisingly easy to drive. They can even be docile at low speeds. But when you press the throttle to unleash the fury of 707 supercharged horses, you will feel the brutality of the Hellcat package. You’ll also experience the power going to the rear wheels.

The interesting thing about these two cars is the Charger Hellcat is only available in the automatic, while the Challenger Hellcat has a manual option.

12. Chevrolet SS

Although the Chevrolet SS is out of production, fortunately, dealers have enough unsold cars to sell you one right now. Also, it is available with the automatic, but it comes with manual as standard, as well. The SS is one of the best affordable performance sedans on the market today. With a 6.2-liter V8, 412 HP, precise steering and neutral handling, this car rivals Europe’s finest sports sedans.

The Holden company in Australia builds the SS, but they rebadged it as a Chevrolet, fine-tuning it for U.S. customers. The performance numbers are respectable, too. For example, a 0 to 60 mph sprint is possible in just 4.7 seconds, while the top speed is over 150 mph. The Chevrolet SS is a good proposition for people who need a practical sedan but want a sports car.

The styling is elegant and unassuming, which means this car surprises many regular sports models with its performance. The Chevrolet SS is destined to be a future classic, so grab yours today. The prices may rise and the availability may go down in the future.

13. Ford Mustang GT 5.0

The Ford Mustang GT with a 5.0-liter V8 engine equipped with the six-speed manual transmission is a match made in heaven. Despite the fact this is the current model, the combination of a powerful V8 and manual transmission makes it a classic muscle car in its purest form.

Ford is also offering fast-shifting automatics for customers obsessed with every tenth of a second of acceleration times. But for proper muscle car fans, a manual transmission will always be the right combination.

14. Porsche 911 GT3 RS

The announcement of every GT3 model is a special moment in Porsche history. Porsche has just released the news of a new, improved 2018/19 GT3 RS model. Interestingly, the GT3 is practically a greatest hits compilation of all the best components of the current model.

In this new form, you can expect a 530 HP engine with the six-speed manual option. You’ll also get a full roll cage, Michelin Pilot Cup 2 racing tires and a fire extinguisher since this is practically a race car for the streets.

15. Fiat 500 Abarth

Although the 500 Abarth gets only 160 HP from its tiny turbocharged 1.4-liter engine, it is a fast little car due to its small weight and compact dimensions. Also, it is extremely practical for everyday driving and easy to park, as well. They completed the package with a small price tag and running costs.

For enthusiasts on a tight budget and an irresistible need for speed, this small but wicked car could be the answer. In fact, the Abarth comes with manual transmission, which puts driving dynamics on another level.

16. Volkswagen Golf R

If you thought the Golf GTI is the most powerful Volkswagen hot hatch, think again. In reality, the Golf R is the top-of-the-line Golf with its powerful four-cylinder turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive. It delivers a brutal performance for a family hatchback.

Accelerating from 0 to 60 mph takes 4.5 seconds. Also, this car can top 155 mph, which is amazing. Also, it comes with a manual which is a big plus among driving enthusiasts.

17. Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

One of the most interesting cars with a manual is the new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. Just to remind you, the Wrangler is an off-road dedicated SUV Jeep that has been sold with an automatic for many years. But now, for the most dedicated customers, Jeep is offering a manual option.

On top of that, the Rubicon trim level is an off-road-prepared version for crossing deserts and going through jungles. With a manual transmission, locking differentials and a powerful engine, the Wrangler Rubicon is a serious tool for serious drivers.

18. BMW M3/M4

The German muscle car twins, BMW M3 Sedan and M3 Coupe are one of the best driver’s cars you can buy today. With their turbocharged 3.0-liter straight six engines and other performance upgrades, those two cars represent the ultimate 3-Series models.

So, it is only natural that BMW offered a manual transmission, even though it is a bit slower than the eight-speed automatic. But if you want to enjoy driving and shifting your own gears, sacrifice that 0.2-second difference in the 0 to 60 mph times.

19. Cadillac ATS-V

Cadillac presented the ATS-V in 2016 as the newest American muscle four-door car. And the ATS-V is a compact yet immensely powerful Cadillac. With this model, Cadillac attacked the Mercedes C Class and BMW 3 Series with a modern executive sedan. And best of all, it has recognizable styling and brutal power.

Under the hood is the twin-turbo 3.6-liter V6 engine with 464 HP and 445 lb-ft of torque. That is enough to launch the ATS-V from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds with top speeds of 189 mph. And even though the ATS-V doesn’t have a V8, it is still a proper muscle car. This precision driver’s machine is available in two doors with a manual transmission, as well.

20. Jaguar F-Type

After decades of building comfortable, luxurious Gran Turismo coupes, Jaguar returned in 2013 with the F-Type. And it was the first proper sports car in years. The car public immediately went crazy for this great car with its powerful engines. Better yet, Jaguar wrapped it in sensual lines reminiscent of the classic Jaguar E-Type from the ’60s.

To satisfy car purists, Jaguar is offering a six-speed manual in most models in the F-Type range. That means you can enjoy modern technology, a great design and a powerful engine, yet still feel connected to the car by shifting the gears yourself.

Do you like to use a stick shift and have more control over your driving experience? If so, one of these 20 performance cars you can get with manual transmissions may be for you. Your choices are many, so whether you want something small and light or big and heavy, there’s a car on this list to fit the bill.

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