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Celebrating the manual gearbox

By Daniel DeGasperi | Photos Ellen Dewar, 19 Sep 2016 Features

Celebrating the manual gearbox

MOTOR calls a toast to the manual gearbox – enjoying a resurgence of sorts – by grabbing five hotshot H-patterns

Manual labour has never been a chore for the motoring enthusiast. For decades the dip of a clutch pedal with left foot, flick of the wrist and occasional raise of revs with right heel to feed the engine a gobful of revs has been an intrinsic part of the appeal of driving.

Only a decade ago the alternative in a Porsche 911 was a five-speed ‘tiptronic’ slusher. How times have changed and, oh, how the manual has been threatened since. Dual-clutch transmissions and torque converters with eight and nine gears have left six-speed (seven-speed for 911) manual transmissions looking like the lonely loser.

Instantaneous shift speed between multiple tightly-stacked ratios activated by ones and zeroes and flappy paddles leave manual drivers looking like they’re doing the Dinosaur Dance.

Celebration of manual gearboxIn the last decade, the lever that seperates driver and front passenger has divided enthusiasts, as well as the motoring journalism fraternity. There has been a whiff of death around the manual transmission, a chorus from some who probably also believe that paper should have given way to pixels and who once doubled-down on the death of the V8 in the 1990s.

Finally, we have a resurgence of the manual from car manufacturers either returning to the breed after a period of DIY-abstinence, offering the double H-pattern at the expense of any fancy dual-clutcher entirely, or merely including a manual option alongside an established automatic.

It’s worth celebrating with these five seemingly disparate vehicles and we could have included many more that fit the above criteria.

Manual carsCoincidentally, the Volkswagen Group book-ends this feature with the $27,490 VW Polo GTI and its return to the manual after a seven-year absence. A half-dozen’s worth of the little hot-hatchbacks later and we have the $168,800 Porsche Boxster Spyder, sans any Doppelkupplung option whatsoever.

In between, we have another hot-hatchback in the form of the $49,990 Peugeot 308 GTi 270, which, as with its 208 GTi sibling, is available in manual only. We haven’t yet had access to the $50,990 Ford Focus RS, but then we could have also selected the manual-only Fiesta and Focus ST. Likewise we could have wished upon a return-of-the-man 911 R in camp Porsche.

A duo of superchargers prove superb chargers here, with a manual complementing automatic availability. And, mate, both are rear-wheel drive two-door sports ‘coupes’ – the $76,990 HSV Maloo R8 with 6.2-litre LSA V8 and $151,770 Jaguar F-Type S with 3.0-litre V6.

Celbrating manualsBeyond those configurations, we have a 1.6 and 1.8-litre turbocharged four, curiously the smaller one in the larger 308, bigger one in the little Polo and a howling naturally aspirated 3.8-litre flat six-cylinder in the roadster. The manual transmission is allied not only with different engines but contrasting body styles from Germany, France, the UK and ’Straya.

Befitting the simplicity of the three-pedal configuration, there will be no data logging or value measured in milliseconds today. Our plan is for five car nuts to go for a flat-out fang in celebration of the underdog transmission with a simple aim: to find the ultimate driver’s manual.

Read more about the selection of cars we've chose to celebrate the manual gearbox.