Operated by a stick usually mounted on the car’s center console, manual transmission cars offer snappy acceleration and a lot of fun behind the wheel. Today, however, the automatic has taken over, and even the best-performing cars no longer offer old-fashioned manuals, but have been replaced with dual-clutch automatic transmissions with paddle shifters. For traditional car enthusiasts who want to get the most out of their driving experience, this is a travesty.
And while some manufacturers are still doing their best to keep manual transmissions alive for the enthusiasts who value them more than automatic transmissions, the future of the manual transmission doesn’t look too bright.
So if you want to join in the nostalgia and buy a great manual transmission car while still available and cheap, this is a list for you. We’ll take a look at 10 of the best manual transmission cars ever produced, based on how they performed within their specific segments and price points. The following iconic manual transmission cars proudly represent respected manufacturers who have played an important role in the history of both classic and modern cars. Let’s dive into the best manual transmission cars ever, in no particular order.
10 Honda S2000
The original S2000 sported a 2.0-liter DOHC VTEC 16-valve engine and weighed just 2750 lbs. Besides being a feast for the eyes, he also drove very well.
Thanks to its design, the spectacular six-speed manual transmission worked astonishingly along the 2.0-litre engine that could run up to 9,000 rpm and did not deliver maximum torque until 7,500 rpm!
9 Audi r8
The R8 rose in popularity after the first Iron Man movie in 2008 where Robert Downey Jr. the 2008 V8 model. The original R8 is still widely regarded as one of the very best manual transmission sports cars ever.
The car had a 4.2-litre V8 with 32 valves and a six-speed manual transmission that worked seamlessly together. Some believe the Audi AWD sports car gave a nod to Ferrari as it featured a similar aluminum gated shifter.
8 Mazda MX-5
When the original MX-5 Miata made its debut, it surprised the gearboxes. Not only was the roadster affordable and as light as a feather, but it drove great, a statement backed by multiple professional drivers and automotive magazines.
The front mid-engined RWD car came with multiple engine options, the most popular of which was the 1.6-litre DOHC 4-cylinder with supercharger, as well as Five- and six-speed manual transmission derived from the Mazda Luce†
7 Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0
The last model of the 997 generation (2011) had a 4.0-liter six-cylinder engine and was hardly street legal. The power was 493 hp at 8,500 rpm, which compared to the regular RS worked much better with high gear ratios.
Only 600 were madewhich skyrocketed their price because now, even in used condition, they cost over $450,000 compared to the original suggested retail price of about $150,000.
6 Ferrari F430
Old Ferraris sure looked great with their wood and leather interiors, but the F430 isn’t that far behind. It even earns quite a few extra points thanks to its great gearbox. As one of the manufacturer’s last vehicles with a manual transmission, the F430 was a great choice for fans of both manual and automatic sports cars.
Equipped with a 4.3-litre Ferrari F136 E V8 engine, the F430 could deliver just under 500 hp at 8,500 rpm† As mentioned earlier, the car featured an aluminum shift gate that complements the surrounding leather trim.
5 Caterham Seven
Combine a good manual gearbox with a lightweight car, and you get a machine that is an absolute thrill to drive. The Lotus Seven-inspired car is a super-lightweight sports car designed for the track, but more common today as a collector’s item.
Yet the 660cc turbocharged Suzuki engine found in the 170 is enough to provide a great driving experience complemented by the finely tuned gear ratios of the manual transmission.
4 1968 Ford Mustang GT
Not everyone is allowed to chase a Dodge Charger through San Francisco with this car, but that’s not what you came here for. We are interested in the driving experience that the great 1968 Ford Mustang GT offered.
The car came in many iterations, but one of the more powerful options was the 6.4-litre FE V8 engine delivering 325 hp at 4,800 rpm and worked beautifully with the 4-speed manual transmission.
3 Honda Civic Type R
This car, which first entered production in 1997, was the third in line to receive the “Type R” badge after NSX and Integra. However, something most people don’t know is that the red color is used as a background on the Honda badge that adorns these models to indicate the sporty character of the car†
From the start, the Civic Type R was known for its refined engines and excellent five- and six-speed manual transmissions that offered better performance than the otherwise regular Civic.
2 BMW M3 (M4)
The M3 has played an important role in the history of performance cars and the new M4 gives it a two-door alternative. The best part, though, is that both have always come with great manual transmissions and plenty of power on tap.
Having this option may be overlooked by most drivers, but when you compare it to other modern rivals of the M3 and M4, very few of them offer the option of manual shifting.
1 Dodge Challenger
Probably one of the few cars very similar to the original, the modern 2022 SRT Hellcat looks just as good as the classic 1970 Dodge Challenger. They may have different engines, but they still have one thing in common, and we have I’m not talking twice about the exterior here.
Like the good old three- and four-speed manual transmissions, new 6-speed Tremec manual transmission is beautifully efficient. When it comes to manual driving, few things can beat a Challenger!