For as much as we may bitch and moan about cars not coming with stick shifts anymore, it’s pretty obvious that no amount of complaining and petitioning is going to do a damn thing to stop this phenomenon.
As automatic transmissions slowly became less expensive, more economical, and more fun, the manual gearbox began to slip away into obscurity. People didn’t need a stick to get the best gas mileage anymore, so by the time things like automatic gear selection options and paddle shifters came into play, public interest was already drastically waning, and manual equipped car sales plummeted even further.
Nowadays, automatic sales outweigh manuals by a landslide, as reports show that more than 90% of all cars being made today come without a clutch. But with lane keep assistance, automatic braking, accident avoidance, variable cruise control, and all manner of camera and laser guidance, it’s pretty obvious that this all adds up to the final hoorah before the autonomous overlords take over.
But deep in the belly of the automotive beast a resistance continues to fight on, forever shifting toward clutching a future filled with flexplates, weighted shift knobs, and the ever impressive heel-toe maneuver. These are the cars that unapologetically put driving first, and we uplift the automakers that manufacture them for insisting on keeping the clutch alive, if just but for a little while longer.
For those of you who’ve never driven stick, let me stress that there’s no other feeling quite like having to work in tandem with a transmission and an engine in order to get to a destination. It’s almost like a biomechanical symbiotic relationship, where over time a bond between man and machine can be felt, and you find yourself wanting to drive a car just for the hell of it once you realize how it likes to be driven.
So cheers to all of the cars on today’s list, because even though the thought of shifting your own gears in today’s modern world may be about as unpopular as banning bacon from the breakfast table, at least some automakers still have the gumption to “stick it” to the mainstream. Here are 10 of the best examples of finding this theory in practice today.
1. Ford Mustang
One of the greatest things about being one of America’s most iconic performance vehicles is that you don’t always have to care about what every consumer wants. Sure, tons of Mustangs nowadays come with an automatic gearbox, but The Blue Oval still outfits an impressive amount of its pony cars with stick shifts, as everything from the four-cylinder EcoBoost to the flat-plane crank equipped Shelby GT350 seen here can rock a six-speed.
2. BMW M4
It may be a newer addition to the BMW lineup, but the twin-turbo M4 is a shining example of what high performance German engineering looks like in a practical automobile. Oh, and the M4 can also be had with a tricky manual transmission that sports a sticky clutch, thus earning it all kinds of positive reviews due to how incredibly intuitive the driving experience is from behind the wheel.
3. Honda Accord
Long considered the commuter car of middle class America, the Accord has, and likely always will, have a manual gearbox option. From its early days as the first Japanese car ever made in America to its recently revised Sport model, the Accord has always had an option for anyone wanting a solid manual transmission. Owning a commuter car doesn’t mean it has to be boring to drive, and this is a prime example.
4. Nissan Frontier PRO-4X
Having a stick shift in an off-road vehicle is often just as important as outfitting a performance car with a clutch, as it gives the driver more control over gear selections for increased revs and traction, and allows speedier shifts between reverse and first. Many off-road enthusiasts actually find a clutch to be a preferable option, and Nissan apparently was listening. Offering its rugged little Frontier PRO-4X pickup with a manual has been a smart move for the Japanese automaker, and having recently spoken with someone who owns one, it seems to be a pretty clever little gearbox they’ve got in this thing.
5. Jaguar F-Type
If there’s one thing that surprises people, it’s that Jaguar’s latest sports car can be had with a manual transmission, and sweet baby Jesus, is it a beauty of a gearbox. Jaguar has been quite candid in the past about its invested interest in offering this vehicle in particular with a stick shift, and remains adamant over the notion that in order to preserve genuine motoring enthusiasm, a clutch should at least always be an option.
6. Toyota Tacoma
When the new TRD-PRO version of the Tacoma was revealed at this year’s Chicago Auto Show, we were ringside and lusting over this thing. Outside of the restyled cabin updates and its renowned 4×4 capabilities, even the regular Tacoma continues to be made available with a six-speed manual. While most buyers will still opt for the automatic model, it’s nice having the option on the table.
7. Volkswagen Golf GTI
There’s something strangely reassuring about shifting gears with an over-sized golf ball, and part of it has to do with tradition. For the better part of the past 30 years, Volkswagen has outfitted its rabid little hatchback with an aggressive clutch and gearing to match, and even though both base models and upper end versions like the Golf R can be had with a stick, the classic GTI is the most recognized.
8. Mazda CX-5
This one always catches people by surprise: When you hear the words “Mazda” and “manual,” you tend to think of the Miata or the long retired RX-7, and not a family-oriented small SUV. But believe it or not, Mazda does offer the vehicle seen here with a stick, earning it loads of cool points. While the version we got for a week-long review came to us with an automatic, other reviews show that opting for the CX-5 with a stick adds a ton of fun, making it an even more attractive buying option.
9. Chevrolet Camaro
While the Corvette is still offered with a stick as well, it’s the Camaro that gets our attention. The long embroiled battle between Ford and GM has come down to what you see here today, and if the new Mustang Shelby GT350 is going to come with a stick, well the 1LE Camaro had better have one too! While base models can also be had with a clutch, it’s the track focused versions that are the real bread winners.
10. Jeep Wrangler
Our final automobile is none other than the iconic rock-crawling menace and official truck of summer: the Jeep Wrangler. While it may have also become the official bro-mobile of college campuses across the nation in recent years, the Wrangler has continuously rocked a stick since day one and is a crowd favorite for any trail hunter who prefers to row their own.