The Ferrari F430 actually came with two gearbox options. One of them was a manual, while the other was an “F1” robotized manual. Apparently, the marketing gimmick worked, since most F430 buyers ordered the robotized gearbox, instead of the manual one, which also has a gated shifter (shame on you).
The F430 Scuderia was a lighter, more powerful version of the normal F430 and was much more track-focused. It was 220 pounds (100 kg) lighter and developed 510 horsepower instead of 483 from the 4.3-liter flat-plane V-8. Sadly, the Scuderia never had the option of a manual gearbox and only came with the “F1” transmission.
You might argue that automatic shaves off valuable tenths of a second from your lap time, but back when the Ferrari 430 came out, automatic gearboxes were not as advanced and certainly not as quick as today’s units. Back then, a talented driver could out-shift an automatic. Because of this, the 430 Scuderia would have been perfectly fine with a gated, six-speed manual.
Read our full review on the Ferrari F430 Scuderia
This one is kind of obvious, which is all the more reason it should be on the list. The M3 has always been the benchmark of the segment and the E46 M3, in particular, is still regarded, by many, as the ultimate M3 in terms of driving dynamics and overall feel.
In 2003, BMW came up with a more hardcore version of the E46 M3 – the M3 CSL (Coupe Sport Light). It was lighter (386 pounds/175 kg less), stiffer, and more powerful than the standard M3.
Its 3.2-liter S54 inline-six engine now made 360 horsepower and 273 pound-feet (370 Nm).
The CSL improved upon what was already an exceptional driver’s machine.
And then, BMW gave it the sloppy six-speed SMG II gearbox – another robotized manual that didn’t come with a third pedal. To add insult to the injury, they even made the shifter look like it’s on a manual gearbox.
Read our full review on the BMW M3 CSL E46
The Alfa Romeo 8C will go down in history as one of the most beautiful cars ever made. The effortlessly gorgeous looks were tastefully paired with a Maserati-derived 4.7-liter, naturally-aspirated V-8 that makes 450 horsepower and 347 pound-feet (470 Nm), which allows for a 4.2-second sprint to 60 mph (97 km/h).
Add the fact that most of the car was made out of carbon fiber and had a limited-slip differential in the back and you would think Alfa has made the perfect driver’s car. Sadly, that’s not the case, because the whole package is ruined by a six-speed, you guessed it, robotized manual gearbox. Yes, “in true Alfa tradition”, it’s mounted in the back, but it simply isn’t a proper manual gearbox.
Read our full review on the Alfa Romeo 8C
The GR Supra is one of the more recent cars on the list. In the case of the A90 Supra, the BMW-derived platform and engine have undergone some “optimizations”, courtesy of Toyota Gazoo Racing. Whether that’s the case or not, it’s obvious that the car is a capable performer. As we’ve seen in more than a few drag races, the Supra is able to keep up and beat much more powerful cars.
Part of the credit has to go to the ZF eight-speed automatic, which rivals some dual-clutch transmissions in terms of shift times.
Regardless, all previous generations of the Toyota Supra gave you an option between a manual and an automatic – something the new one does not give you.
Granted, the new Supra would have been slower, but it may have been a more engaging driver’s car.
Read our full review on the Toyota GR Supra
Another iconic name that recently made a comeback is the Alpine A110. The retro-inspired rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive coupe is a spiritual successor to the 1961 Alpine A110. They’ve done as good of a job as possible to replicate the 1960s design, given all current “safety regulations” that state how high the headlights should be, how big the mirrors need to be, and other pointless crap.
Regardless, the new Alpine also replicates the original’s formula when it comes to driving dynamics, for the most part at least.
Like its forefather, its lightweight gives the new A110 incredible performance, pound for pound.
Even in its base form, the 1.8-liter turbo-four makes 252 horsepower and 236 pound-feet (320 Nm), which is enough to propel the 2,381-pound (1,080 kg) Alpine to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 4.4 seconds.
That said, the only thing the new A110 lacks compared to the original is a manual gearbox. The DCT does a great job at propelling the car, but a lightweight sports car like that, especially a retro-inspired one, needs to have the option of a good-old manual transmission.
Read our full review on the Alpine A110
The small mid-engine Alfa is even lighter than the Alpine A110, at just 1,973 pounds (895 kg). Because of this, 240 horsepower and 258 pound-feet (350 Nm) from the 1.75-liter turbo-four are enough to rocket the small Alfa to 60 mph (97 km/h) in just 4.3 seconds. Power, of course, goes to the rear axle, just like in a Lotus Elise.
Sadly, unlike the Lotus, which comes as a manual-only, Alfa Romeo only gives you a six-speed dual-clutch automatic. Another missed opportunity Alfa and, sadly, not the last on this list.
Read our full review on the Alfa Romeo 4C
Buick GNX (1987)
I almost wanted to refrain from saying that “If Darth Vader had a car, this would be it”, since pretty much everyone else does, but it’s just too accurate.
In its last year of production, the boxy Buick, mostly associated with old people, received extensive modifications from McLaren USA.
The Grand National Experimental (GNX) stood out from the rest with a completely murdered-out look (it was all black), which made it look like Darth Vader’s helmet, hence the nickname. More importantly, the 3.8-liter turbocharged V-6 was tuned to make 276 horsepower (officially). The car reportedly made just over 300, but that’s a topic for another time.
The torque is strong with this one, as it also makes 360 pound-feet (488 Nm). This helps the big black Buick reach 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in a Corvette-thrashing 4.6 seconds, on its way to a 13.4-second Quarter-mile time. Sadly, Darth Vader’s car only came with a four-speed automatic. I guess there are no manual gearboxes when you turn to the dark side.
In 2015, Alfa Romeo brought back another old name – the Giulia. It came back as a stylish sporty sedan and it seemed like all is well, as even the base trims were fun to drive. Of course, the Giulia Quadrofoglio was the real threat with its 2.9-liter twin-turbo engine, which definitely isn’t Ferrari-derived (wink). It makes 510 horsepower and 443 pound-feet (600 Nm), which allows for a 3.8-second time to 60 mph (97 km/h).
Both the lesser versions and the QV could be had with a six-speed manual or a ZF eight-speed automatic.
Sadly, after 2018, the option of a manual was removed, leaving only the eight-speed auto.
Granted, the ZF unit is very capable and definitely quicker than a manual, but unlike the GTAm, the Quadrofoglio is not an all-out track monster, where every tenth of a second counts. Instead, the QV is more of a grand tourer, which is why removing the option of a manual gearbox is not fully justified.
Read our full review on the Alfa Romeo Giulia QV
The Jaguar F-Type is the spiritual successor to the gorgeous E-Type and earlier, pre-facelift models, in particular, made it very obvious. Of course, things changed a bit with the facelift, where the rounded headlights were replaced by thin ones that made it look like a squinting house cat that just smelled its owner’s socks.
Do you know what else they dropped? The manual gearbox. Until 2016, you could get even the most powerful version of the F-Type with a good, old-fashioned six-speed manual, provided by ZF. Meanwhile, the 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 pumped out 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet (680 Nm).
Back then, you could also get this fire-breathing wildcat with a rear-wheel-drive only, which required balls of steel. Some even started calling it “the British Viper”, so that should tell you enough. Fast-forward to nowadays and the F-Type R has gained a bit of power – now 570 horsepower. However, you can no longer buy a supercharged V-8 F-Type with a manual and rear-wheel drive only.
Read our full review on the Jaguar F-Type R
Chevrolet Camaro 350 (1987)
The third-generation Camaro combined a lot of good and bad aspects. On one side, it was praised for its handling and looks when it came out, but on the other, its power output was pathetic. Although that was due to the performance-strangling emissions regulations, which were still in effect in the 1980s, the Camaro 350’s 5.7-liter V-8 only developed 220 horsepower (240 with the twin-cat exhaust) at 4,200 RPM and 320 pound-feet at 3,200 RPM.
That said, the car still managed a respectable-for-the-time 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) time of 6.4 seconds and a top speed of 146 mph (235 km/h). However, the biggest drawback was the gearbox. While lesser variants (which had 15 horsepower less) could be had with a manual gearbox, the 350 only came with a Turbo Hydraulic THM 700-R4, four-speed automatic. Earlier models even had a three-speed auto.
Of course, nowadays, it’s easier than ever to do an LS swap with a Tremec T56 manual and all will be right in the world. But the fact remains that the third-generation Camaro 350 never came with a manual out of the box.
We all know about the legendary 1990s Japanese sports cars and how they took over the tuner car scene. But while cars like the Skyline, Supra, RX-7, and NSX stole the show, others weren’t as lucky.
Among the more obscure Japanese cars of that era is the Subaru SVX, which was a perfect example that Subaru used to make some really quirky vehicles.
The car had a lot of cool features, such as McLaren F1-style windows that opened partially. It also came with a 3.3-liter flat-six that makes 233 horsepower and 228 pound-feet (309 Nm). According to a 1991 review by Automobile Magazine, the engine sounded better than a Porsche and ran as smooth as a Lexus. They also said that the car handled like a German sports car and praised the Giugiaro-designed bodywork.
Sadly, the car only came with a four-speed automatic gearbox. At least, in typical Subaru fashion, it came with all-wheel drive. Despite the gearbox, the coupe still managed a 6.8-second sprint to 60 mph (97 km/h) and was capable of 155 mph (250 km/h). The SVX was meant to be more of a grand-tourer than a canyon carver, but a manual would have certainly made the car more popular.
Read our full review on the Subaru SVX
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