12 Cars You Can Still Buy With A Manual Transmission in 2021
Despite growing obsolescence, the stick shift endures
Manual transmissions are an endangered species.
Cars like the Chevrolet Corvette, Shelby Mustang and Toyota Supra, and even trucks like the Ford Ranger — vehicles whose quintessential experience was once arguably tied to that of a clutch pedal and gear shifter — are now available only with an automatic transmission. Lamborghini and Ferrari? Forget it. You’re at least a decade too late for buying an exotic supercar in a stick shift.
There are many reasons the manual transmission is dying. Mainly, there’s reduced interest from the car-buying world, which means all of the R&D money and consumer excitement is behind the automatic transmission, not the manual.
The upshot is that automatic transmissions are becoming very, very good.
Modern automatic transmissions switch gears faster and more efficiently than a human being ever could, which means increased performance, fuel mileage, and theoretically, a longer lifespan.
Optioning any new car with an automatic transmission is the logical thing to do.
But I would submit that nothing logical is fun.
So while automatic transmissions will undoubtedly yield the fastest 0 to 100 km/h times and probably the fewest visits to the gas pumps, that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to put the kind of smile on your face that’s only possible when nailing a perfect shift from second to third gear.
Mercifully, for those who value joy over abstract figures and the irreplaceable satisfaction of shifting your own gears, there are still offerings from some familiar staples.
VW Golf & Jetta
Because the VW Golf and Jetta are built on the same chassis with the same running gear and offer the same options, I think it’s fair they share an entry on the list.
Both economy cars are still available with a 6-speed manual transmission as standard. For those craving more excitement than the base models’ 147 horsepower 1.4-litre engine, GTI and GLI variants of the Golf and Jetta respectively are available with 228-horsepower and still offer the 6-speed manual as standard.
While there are rumours of a hiatus or perhaps even full cancelation in Camaro production, the car is still available in 2021 with a manual transmission at no extra charge.
While the 2.0-litre base Camaro is down on power compared to its rival from Ford (275 horsepower compared to the EcoBoost Mustang’s 310 horsepower), its manual transmission is a superior unit; a proper TREMEC 6-speed gearbox, whereas the Mustang makes due with the often jeered MT-82.
As you go up the Camaro hierarchy, from the V8 SS to the supercharged ZL1, the TREMEC transmission is upgraded from a modest TR-31 unit to the robust TR-6060 — a descendant of the tried and true TR-56.
Welcome to the absolute cheapest way to get 300 horsepower, rear-wheel drive, a manual transmission and a warranty. The lowliest Mustang option, the 2.3-litre, turbocharged EcoBoost variant offers 310 horsepower and a six-speed manual as standard, all for around $30K.
While the 10-speed automatic is an enormous performance booster for all Mustang variants, the MT-82 6-speed is also available as standard on the 460-horsepower, 5.0-litre GT models.
The new 480-horsepower Mach 1 trim is also available with the 10-speed, but carries over the old Shelby GT350’s TREMEC 6-speed manual transmission as standard — a welcome upgrade for enthusiasts over the MT-82 transmission available for the GT.
Unfortunately, there is still no manual option for the new Shelby GT500.
Honda Civic Hatchback
The new Honda Civic sedan is just around the corner for the 2022 model year. In the meantime, there are still 2021 hatchback models available, which come as standard with a 6-speed manual transmission.
Unfortunately, there is no Si trim in 2021 to bridge the gap between the humble 180-horsepower standard model, and the “if Sonic the Hedgehog was a car”, 306 horsepower, corner-carving Type-R.
Guess you’ll just have to go for the Type-R. What a shame.
That was sarcasm.
Cast whatever dated aspersions you might have on the Mazda MX-5, but it is the only rear-wheel-drive Japanese car you can buy for the 2021 model year with a manual transmission.
Sure, there are still some 2020 Subaru BRZs, Toyota 86s and Nissan 370Zs kicking around dealer lots — and the new Nissan Z is on the way. But the point is the MX-5 continues to be an accessible torchbearer for the driving experience. 181 horsepower from its Skyactiv four-cylinder is all you need to have fun in a lightweight, short wheelbase sports car… as long as it has that 6-speed manual transmission as standard.
It seems that FCA knows they have a true American icon (read, “marketable brand”) on their hands with the Wrangler, because the 4×4 SUV is available in so many trim levels — featuring various badges, wheels, special colours, engines, suspension systems, differentials, and yes, transmission — it’s enough to make your head spin.
Indeed, there are no fewer than 16 trim levels to choose from in 2021 for the Jeep Wrangler.
The important bit is that a good number of trim levels — particularly those with beefed up suspension, differentials and low range, 2-speed transfer cases, are available with a 6-speed manual.
Unfortunately, no manual option is available for the 470-horsepower Rubicon 392.
Toyota Tacoma 4×4 6M
Ford Ranger? Chevrolet Colorado? Never heard of ‘em. Ain’t got no manual gearbox no more.
But you know what still does? The Toyota Tacoma.
Going through the Tacoma’s options list can be a confusing and nauseating experience — as is the case with most pick-up trucks. Luckily, if you’re after the 6-speed manual transmission over the standard 6-speed automatic, just make sure your Tacoma has “6M” — not “6A”— on the order sheet.
After that, the broad strokes are the same. You still get Toyota’s familiar, but punchy 3.5-litre DOHC V6 with VVT-i, producing 278 hp, 264 lb-ft torque, as well as part-time selectable 4wd with a 2-speed transfer case.
BMW 2-Series Coupe
While the new 4-series coupe has ditched the manual transmission — presumably for good, the 2-series still features a trusty 6-speed manual as standard.
As long as you keep your 2-Series as rear-wheel drive (as the good lord intended) and don’t add on BMW’s X-Drive system, you can have the 6-speed manual in the base 248-horsepower 230i, 335-horsepower M240i and best of all, the 405-horsepower M2 Competition and 444-horsepower M2 CS.
If you were hoping the new Supra would have a manual transmission and rear seats, the M2 might just be your answer.
Dodge Challenger R/T
There’s no manual transmission option available for the V6-powered Dodge Challenger SXT or GT models. Additionally, there is no manual option available on the Challenger’s 4-door sibling, the Charger.
You’ll need to opt for at least the 5.7-litre HEMI V8-powered Challenger R/T, plus shell out an additional $1,000 to have your Dodge equipped with a 6-speed manual TREMEC transmission.
Same goes for the 485-horsepower, 6.4-litre Challenger Scat Pack and Scat Pack Widebody — it’s an extra G-note to have a clutch pedal. Which means you’re spending more money to make your Challenger slower than if it was equipped with the standard 8-speed Torqueflite automatic transmission. But who cares? You’ll be having more fun.
Sadly, the fire-breathing Challenger Hellcat is no longer available with a manual transmission.
The Jeep Gladiator has had a lot of praise tossed its way for its impressive off-road and towing capabilities — especially when compared to the standard Wrangler.
But what’s often overlooked is that the Jeep Gladiator comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission. That means the Gladiator is not only one of just two pick-up trucks you can get with a manual transmission in Canada this year (the Nissan Frontier is available with a manual along with the Tacoma, although the Frontier is absent in the Canadian market for 2021), it’s the only one which offers a manual as the default option.
The Porsche Doppelkupplung (means “double coupling” in German, but you can just call it the “PDK”) automatic transmission is quickly becoming the gold standard in all Porsche sports cars.
But don’t despair just yet because the working man’s Porsche, the 718, is still available with a 6-speed manual transmission at no extra charge.
If you buy the manual, you will not win many drag races in your 718. The new Supra, for example, will absolutely leave you for dead. Even if you spend another $30,000 on the 718 Cayman GTS, victory will not be guaranteed. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ll still get blown off between the lights by Mustang GTs and Camaro SSs with their 10-speed automatic transmissions.
But that’s not the point, because there’s more to a manual transmission than winning races. I imagine 300 to 394 horsepower, rear-wheel drive, a mid-engine layout, and all the grip in the world will provide infinite bliss when you get to change your own gears.
For my entire life, I preferred Corvettes over Porches. As a kid, the message drilled into my aggressively middle-class, suburban brain was that Corvettes were a precious reward for working for a living, while Porsches were flippantly purchased by trust fund babies.
In recent years, however, my opinion has completely shifted. Firstly because the notion that nobody who owns a Porsche worked hard for it is ridiculous. Second, because the Corvette has shifted away from its blue-collar image — now posing as a mid-engine supercar in hopes of feeling more at home in an Instagram feed or rap video than a drag strip or cruise night.
And while a Porsche 911, on paper, should cost you almost twice that of a C8, the dealer mark up on the new C8s essentially axes the gap between it and a 911 — even a Carrera S in some cases.
But it isn’t the Supreme sticker looks or the $140,000 asking price that would stop me from buying a Corvette over a 911.
It’s the fact that you can still have a 394-horsepower 911 or 443 horsepower Carrera S, with an optional (but no extra charge) 7-speed manual transmission. The latest Corvette? Not so much.