Words by: Adam Allen
The writing on the wall had been there for some time: we are witnessing the end of an era; well, two eras, actually. The first is the manual gearbox, a technology that has been on borrowed time for about a decade. The other is the internal combustion engine itself. For enthusiasts, this is a difficult time indeed.
#SaveTheManuals has been a thing for some time now but it has not exactly gained the traction its supporters had hoped. Take rates for three pedals are falling each year and we can understand why even if we don’t agree with it. Automatic gearboxes are so good that most people wonder why you would even bother shifting your own gears, and track rats are quick to correctly point out that they make faster lap times an easier achievement. Even cars like the Chevy Corvette and any new Ferrari have subscribe to the philosophy that automatics are the way to go despite howls of protest by purists who passionately believe that they can’t offer the same level of engagement as a stick. Why spend millions of dollars to develop manuals when only a small percentage of customers are interested?
Like we said, the idea that the Age of Electrification is dawning is not new, but lately we find the signs too hard to ignore of its impending arrival. We can thank Tesla for being the most obvious catalyst for this paradigm shift, but it goes deeper than that. Automakers are facing ever tightening government regulations for environmental compliance and fuel economy and there is only so much efficiency and emissions targets can be met with downsized turbocharged engines. There is still a ways to go before EVs will be as ubiquitous as Toyota Corollas- mainly because charging infrastructure and range anxiety are enough to turn off prospective buyers- but their march towards mainstream acceptance is fully underway.
So, what does this mean for we, the rabid enthusiast? We have seen proof that electric cars can be fast and even fun; look no further than a Teslas’ borderline painful acceleration and the ability of a Porsche Taycan to carve up a twisty road with ease. And yet without the siren song of an engine and a manual gearbox to harness that power we cannot help but feel like there is something missing.
Some of our staffers have aspirational cars they would love to put in their driveway, and we all figured that we would have more time to pad our piggy banks with the funds needed to procure that special something. Lately we get the feeling that the runway for obtaining our dream cars has been shortened significantly. Take the new BMW M3, for example. It can still be had with a manual gearbox, but if you are interested in any of its competitors- say, an Audi RS4 for example- you are out of luck since they abandoned three pedals some time ago. What if you want a car powered by a combination of a naturally aspirated engine and a stick? The list gets even smaller.
This prompted us to make a list of the cars we covet before it’s too late and we look back on them wistfully like we do with muscle cars from the ‘60s and ‘70s nowadays. It is populated by affordable choices like the Honda Civic Type R and the Ford Mustang GT to more costly conveyances like the Porsche Cayman GT4 and the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing. Notice how all of these are powered by engines that feel (and are) special and yes, harness their power by an honest to goodness manual.
So, tell us- do you feel a similar sense of urgency? What cars are on your end-of-an-era list?