“It all boils down to the level of engagement and interaction when driving. Manual transmissions are completely reliant on their human operators to work.”
Last year, Porsche released a limited edition variant of its best-selling 911 sports car called the 911 R. It was priced at around £136,901 and only 991 were made. It sold out very quickly. Now the car is exchanging hands for triple or even quadruple its original price. Some are even believed to have been sold for over £1 million. This sort of appreciation is unheard of for a new car. So what is it about the 911 R that makes it so desirable? The reason is quite simple: of all the new 911 models, it is the only one that comes with a naturally aspirated engine and a manual transmission.
The combination of a naturally aspirated engine and a manual transmission is one that many petrolheads cannot resist. For those whose main concerns are 0-100km/h timings and flat out top speed, it is hard to understand why. After all, many of the fastest cars in the world today, like the McLaren P1, Bugatti Veyron, and Koenigsegg One:1, are all a) turbo-charged and b) have automated dual-clutch transmissions. That said, purists would argue that there are few things in this world that are as enjoyable as driving a naturally aspirated sports car with a manual transmission.
Even so, there can be no debate that modern automated transmissions can shift gears faster. In fact, given the same car but with different transmissions, the one with the automated dual-clutch transmission will almost always get to 100km/h first. This is especially true for high performance sports cars. Porsche, for example, says its dual-clutch transmission will be, on average, about 0.4 seconds faster to 100km/h. So why do some drivers insist on the outdated manual transmission?
It all boils down to the level of engagement and interaction when driving. Manual transmissions are completely reliant on their human operators to work. If you don’t put the gear stick into first, the car will never move. Likewise, if you don’t change gears and put the stick into second, the car will always be in first gear. Some drivers crave for this kind of control.
Sure, many automated transmission systems today have some form of a manual-select mode that allows drivers to select gears, but it only gives the illusion of control. Many cars will often take the initiative and limit the gears that the driver can select, or, more annoyingly, override the driver’s input if it thinks that the choice of gear is questionable.
It is for these reasons that diehard driving purists love cars with manual transmissions. Want to move off in second gear instead of first? No problem. Want to accelerate from 20km/h in sixth gear? As you wish. Want to redline through town in second gear at 3am and wake everyone up? Sure thing. Want to damage your engine by shifting down a gear at a higher than appropriate speed? Go ahead.
In a world of increasing rules and regulations, where we are always being told what is best for us and what to do, driving a car with a stick and a third pedal is as refreshing as an ice cold beer on a balmy, hot afternoon.
Our Manual Wish List
HONDA CIVIC Type-R
Power output: 306hp / 400nm of torque
0-100km/h: 5.2 seconds
Fans were worried that Honda’s latest Civic Type-R would only be offered with a dual-clutch transmission, but Honda ultimately stuck with a six-speed stick shift. Unfortunately, in place of Honda’s legendary high-revving naturally aspirated VTEC engine, fans got a high torque, high power turbocharged one instead. But there is a silver lining; thanks to turbocharging technology this is the fastest Civic Type-R ever.
PORSCHE 911 CARRRRA S
Power output: 420hp / 500nm of torque
0-100km/h: 4.3 seconds
The Porsche 911 Carrera S might be quicker to 100km/h with the company’s insanely fast PDK double-clutch transmission, but who cares when you are having boatloads of fun with the 7-speed stick shifter. Besides, a healthy 420hp and a momentous 500nm of torque is more than enough to make up for your inefficient stick shifting.
SUZUKI SWIFT SPORT
Horsepower: 134hp / 160nm of torque
0-100km/h: 8.7 seconds
The Suzuki Swift Sport is a rarity in today’s market, sporting a naturally aspirated engine and a slick shifting 6-speed manual. It might only have 134hp, but its century sprint time is decent and whatever it lacks in power is made up for by its effervescent and perky nature.
Text: Kenny Yeo / Picture: Porsche