Stick it! The sports cars you can buy with a manual gearbox

Sports cars with a manual gearbox to buy for 2019

2019 Ford MustangThere are many great sports cars on the market today, and many are still offered with a manual transmission. Enthusiasts prefer the feeling of connection that moving the lever gives, even if, realistically, the optional flappypaddle gearbox will result in faster gear changes and lap times.

Shifting is also a dying art. Long gone are the days of double-clutching and panicked hill starts, replaced by easy-to-use automatic rev matching and hill start assist. Purists might denounce such electromechanical trickery as somehow watering down the experience, but we applaud anything that keeps the stick shift in play as a viable option.

Sadly, while the manual hangs on in compact cars, it seems to be losing ground in the sports car market. The Alfa Romeo 4C is no longer offered with a stick. Neither is the Audi TT, not the Nissan GT-R.

On the bright side, Detroit has rediscovered the joy of shifting and American performance cars can be ordered with a clutch pedal.

Read on to find out which other sports cars can be had with a manual gearbox.

Porsche 911 Carrera

Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS

Driving a Porsche 911 should be on everyone’s “Automotive Experiences to Have Before You Die” list. And while we love the PDK paddle-shifter and would never set a lap time without it, there is no better feeling than the Teutonic precision of a Porsche seven-speed manual gearbox.

Yes, seven.

The opening foray into 911-land is the Carrera, resplendent with a 370-horsepower twin-turbo flat six, rear wheel drive (just as the good Spaghetti Monster above intended), and a stick shift.

For an added thrill, slip behind the wheel of the 450-horsepower, all-wheel drive 911 Carrera 4 GTS (shown).

And for the penultimate blast, try on the 911 GT2 RS.

Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

Speaking of seven-speed manual gearboxes, Chevy went a little nuts this year and decided that 755 horsepower and 715 lb-ft of torque was a perfectly reasonable amount to shove in a Corvette.

The front-engined GT has a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 fed by both both primary direct and supplemental port injection. Four new radiators were added along with 40 percent more airflow to keep it cool. A similar setup was used in the original Death Star, but engineers found it to be “a bit much” so they downgraded to nuclear reactors for the rebuild.

Power is laid down to the rear wheels through a seven-speed manual gearbox with active rev matching

Mazda MX-5 Miata

Mazda MX-5 Miata

There are few automotive creations more delightful than the Miata. Perfectly balanced, it’s a joy to drive. The 181-horsepower engine now revs all the way up to 7,500 rpm, lovingly harnessed by a six-speed manual.

Autocrossers and track rats will love the fact a limited slip-differential is available on upper Club and Grand Touring models, along with sport suspension and a front shock tower brace. Purists will love any example they can get their hands on, as long as the top is down and the road ahead is winding.

Honda Civic Type R

2019 Honda Civic Type R

Hot hatch heads bow their heads in reverence at the mere mention of the latest generation of Honda Civic Type R. The 2.0-liter turbo four up front boils out 306 horsepower and directs it to the front wheels via a six-speed manual with adjustable automatic rev matching.

Adjustable suspension with active dampers work in tandem with the powertrain to make the Type R a track day demon. The compact Honda hatch holds records at Spa, Silverstone, Magny-Cours, the Nurburgring, and many others.

And the smaller third exhaust pipe in the middle? A resonator to enhance sound.

Ford Mustang

2019 Ford Mustang GT

For 2019, Ford has added automatic rev matching to the six-speed found in the Mustang GT. The ‘box uses an aggressive first gear and short throws to manage the

460 horsepower and 420 lb-ft from the 5.0-liter V8.

A manual is also used across the model range, from the entry-level EcoBoost up to the coveted Bullitt.

Porsche 718

2018 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS

There are two hard and fast rule in automotive writing. Number one: never ride shotgun with a car’s owner; you will wind up in a ditch. Number two: never sit next to a Porsche purist at a dinner party; you will be harangued all night on the subject of “The Only Real Porsche is the 911.”

“Blow it out your ear,” say we, as the 718 Boxster (convertible) and 718 Cayman (coupe) offer some of the purest driving pleasure in all of autodom. The recipe is perfect: rear-wheel drive, a nimble chassis, a powerful engine, and a six-speed manual transmission.

Base models come with 300 horsepower, which is more than ample for winding mountain roads with the top down and the occasional track day. Stepping up the the S adds another 50 horsepower. The penultimate GTS climbs to 365 and shaves quite a few seconds off laps times.

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Perhaps the philosophical opposite of the Porsche 718 is the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. If the 718 is Cristiano Ronaldo, the Camaro is Muhammed Ali.  

Under the bulging prow of this track-oriented monster is a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 rated at 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque. While the 10-speed paddle shift is touted as being faster than Porsche’s PDK, we prefer to wrestle the beast using the six-speed manual with active rev matching.

The six-speed is available across the Camaro range.

Jaguar F-Type

2018 Jaguar F-Type

Jaguar brags that there are now 24 different flavors of the F-Type, starting with the Ingenium four-cylinder entry model at $60,750 all the way up to the 575-horsepower V8 SVR at $122,750.

The six-speed manual appears only when mated to the supercharged 3.0-liter V6, available in 340- or 380-horsepower versions. With the bigger option installed, the svelte Jag will leap to 60 in just 5.3 seconds.

Dodge Challenger

2019 Dodge Challenger

For hardcore enthusiasts, there can be no other choice in their V8-powered rear-wheel drive Challengers than the Tremec six-speed manual.

The R/T model starts the V8 bidding at 5.7 liters with 375 horsepower on tap. The 6.4-liter  quickly ups the ante to 485 horsepower, followed by the supercharged 6.2-liter Hellcat with 717.

Alas, the nearly psychotic 797-horsepower Hellcat Redeye V8 is available automatic only.

Nissan 370Z

2019 Nissan 370Z Heritage Edition

The V6-powered Z-Car comes standard with a 332-horsepower V6 and six-speed rev matching manual gearbox. As much as we love the looks of the coupe, popping the top on the convertible version is our favorite way to enjoy a country.

Unless, of course, we’re behind the NISMO version with 350 horsepower on tap. The transmission gets an Exedy high-performance clutch to go with stickier tires and uprated suspension. In that case, we’re driving straight through the country to the nearest racetrack.

Fiat 124 Spider

2018 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth

Two seats, no top? Of course it comes with a stick.

Fiat’s 124 Spider is built on the brilliant bones of MX-5 Miata, but uses a company 160-horsepower turbo four-cylinder instead of the Mazda’s naturally-aspirated 181-horsepower unit. The six-speed gearbox is Fiat as well, and offers a more relaxed feel than its Japanese counterpart.

Toyota 86

2019 Toyota 86 TRD Special Edition

The Toyota 86 is a niche offering at best, with fewer than 13,000 examples being delivered over the last three years. However, those who have partaken of its pure sports car goodness are fanatics.

With a six-speed manual, the four-cylinder boxer engine makes 205 horsepower and sends it to the rear wheels. Torque is 156 lb-ft, so making the most of the close ratio gearbox is essential to maximizing corner exit speed. Combined with light weight, a solid chassis, and excellent balance, the 86 is as engaging and rewarding to pilot as a stunt plane.

The TRD Special Edition is new for 2019 and ups the track day fun with Brembo brakes, Sachs dampers, and Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires.

Subaru BRZ

2019 Subaru BRZ

Non-car nerds are probably wondering why we’re using a picture of the Toyota 86 again. Hopefully there are no car nerds in the room, otherwise the non-car nerds will be subjected to a lengthy explanation as to why this is and the differences between the 86 and the BRZ.

Suffice to say, they are essentially the same car with different badges and mechanically identical. Both are brilliant.

The Subie version of Toyota’s TRD Special Edition is called the Performance Package, though the Michelin tires do not seem to be offered for 2019. They did appear on the tS package for 2019, so perhaps we’ll get lucky.

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John Moroney
John is Motoring Research’s North America expert, but is also a fan of the offbeat and leftfield. Classic motorcycles are a particular speciality.


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