Great cars with manual gearboxes

Performance cars with manual gearboxes are part of a dying breed, but there are still great options out there for stick-shift fans

With details of the new Alfa Romeo Giulia causing a stir, a spotlight has been directed at a feature that has become increasingly rare in the automotive industry of late; the manual gearbox.

With Alfa hoping to gain an edge over its auto-only European rivals, the manual-equipped Giulia QV performance model should make for a more involving and preferable drive for many by simply offering a standard three pedal setup. With high-powered performance cars increasingly going auto-only, the hot Giulia gains a useful point of differentiation. 

To celebrate its arrival, we’ve taken a look at some of the best manual sports and performance cars currently on sale – as well as a few from yesteryear that are well worth revisiting.

Alfa Giulia

Although we’ve not yet driven the new Alfa Romeo Giulia, the promise of big power and a manual transmission has made us quite excited. The BMW M3-challenging sports saloon has been given a dose of purity by the Italian outfit with all 503bhp being transferred to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual transmission.

0-62mph: 3.9s (est) Power: 503bhp

Jaguar F-Type V6

Bowing to the public pressure, the engineers at Jaguar finally placed a six-speed manual gearbox into the V6 and V6 S versions of the F-Type. Designed to appeal to the driving purists looking for that final piece in the dynamic jigsaw puzzle, it’s one of the best manual sports cars currently on sale.

Manual vs automatic

F Type V6 S Manual: 0-62mph 5.3sF Type V6 S Paddleshift: 0-62mph 4.9s

Porsche Cayman GT4

A six-speed manual gearbox with a beautifully short throw makes for an extremely engaging driving experience in the hardcore Cayman GT4. With arguably one of the greatest chassis’ ever produced by the Stuttgart marque, the GT4 is a fantastic driver's car.

Porsche Cayman GT4: 0-62mph 4.4s

Volkswagen Golf R

Taking the super hatch sector by storm this year, the most extreme Golf to date samples VW’s ever-popular DSG gearbox – but also provides the option of a manual gearbox for £700 less. Boasting 292bhp, four-wheel drive and six gears controlled using a classic golf ball gearknob, the Golf R makes for a savage driving experience in a family hatchback gone nuts.

Manual vs automatic

VW Golf R Manual: 0-60mph 5.1sVW Golf R DSG: 0-60mph 4.9s

BMW M4

With Mercedes and Audi shifting their performance cars to automatic-only guise, it was a surprise when BMW decided not to follow suit by offering both the M3 and M4 with a manual gearbox option. A 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged engine produces 485bhp meaning for blistering acceleration.

Manual vs automatic

BMW M4 Manual: 0-62mph 4.2sBMW M4 Semi-Automatic: 0-62mph 4.1s

Blasts from the past...

Ferrari F430 Manual

Over a five-year production run, ten percent of all F430s were provided with a manual gearbox instead of the F1-inspired padddleshift. A classic six-speed Maranello gaited shifter transfers 483bhp to the road and keeps the spirit of Ferrari’s sporting history alive. Unfortunately, its 458 and 488 GTB successors are auto only.

Manual vs automatic

Ferrari F430 Manual: 0-60mph 4.1sFerrari F430 F1 Shift: 0-60mph 4.0s

Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0 Clubsport

Probably the most ferocious road car to be branded with the Porsche badge, the RS Clubsport combined the ultimate spec from the Porsche parts bin, with a 4.0-litre version of the classic flat-six and a six-speed manual gearbox. With 493bhp transferred to the rear wheels, having a clutch and gearstick to deal with made the top spec GT3 a fearsome machine for none but the brave to tame.

Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0 Clubsport: 0-60/Top Speed 3.9/193 mph 

Audi R8 V8

With the option of either the S-Tronic semi-automatic shift or a beautiful silver gaited manual gearbox, the original eight-cylinder R8 will surely go down as a classic in its manual gearbox spec.

Manual vs automatic

Audi R8 V8 Manual: 0-60 4.6sAudi R8 V8 S-Tronic: 0-60 4.3s

Lamborghini Murcielago

The first generation Murcielago was an all-wheel drive supercar to rival the likes of the Ferrari Enzo and Porsche Carrera GT. Hoisting Lamborghini back into the limelight after a long wait after the previous Diablo, the Murcielago offered a six-speed manual transmission that was superseded in later models by an E-Gear automated set-up to cope with an increase in power. The manual spec cars however had around 570bhp from a massive 6.2-litre V12 – or more than enough power to justify keeping your left foot busy.

Manual vs automatic

Lamborghini Murcielago Manual: 0-60mph 3.8sLamborghini Murcielago E-Gear: 0-60mph 3.4s

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