The manual transmission is dying. We know this because other sites constantly run articles about the death of the manual transmission, predicting its final demise sometime in the next few years, weeks, or hours. Personally, I realized the manual’s future was limited on my last couple of trips to Europe, when I was given an automatic without even requesting it. On one occasion, I even returned the car without damage.
But while the manual may not be long for this world, there’s still the occasional vehicle that – against all odds, and market research – is offered with three pedals. Some are listed below, and I hope to hear about many more obscure stick shifts in the comments. Even if you’re TTAC’s top troll.
Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano
Ferrari has dropped the manual transmission to the chagrin of precisely no one, except a few “purists” who like to heel-toe their 308 on the way to local FCA functions. However, sometimes said purists strike it rich, presumably from selling their large collections of bright red Ferrari shoes, or sweaty underwear worn – and signed – by Michael Schumacher.
Until recently, Ferrari offered those purists a three-pedal 599 GTB – and their wives could have a stick shift California, too. That’s no longer true, but there are always one or two manuals on the market. Just ask the dealers that get stuck with them.
I mentioned in a previous story that the Mercedes SLK is available with a stick shift. That kind of makes sense, as the SLK may fit the definition of a sports car for people who have never driven a Porsche, or people who have never ridden in a Porsche, or people who have never seen a Porsche, or people who work for Mercedes. But through the 2012 model year, you could also get a stick shift C-Class – a baffling fact that can only be attributed to Mercedes accidentally sending a few to the States, then saying “Oh yeah, we meant to do that.” This can also explain most of Land Rover’s products in the last 20 years.
In years past, Porsche was a bunch of crazy Germans making weird cars. Witness the one-off, four-door 928; the 1989 Panamerica concept car, which included Porsche crests in the tire treads (really); and the “maybe today’s the day you die” 930.
Today, the crazy is mostly gone from Porsche, with one distinct exception: the manual Cayenne. Yes, Porsche dealers will still sell you a new stick shift Cayenne, presumably under the condition that you trade it in somewhere else. At one point, there was even a manual Cayenne GTS – now exclusively available at used car lots who didn’t pay enough attention at auction and thought they were buying an automatic. Sadly, the three-pedal Panamera and Panamera S sold in Europe aren’t offered in the US. Because that would be crazy.
Land Rover Discovery
To me, the Series I Land Rover Discovery is famous for two things. One, when it rained, water would get into the interior dome lights and slosh around under cornering. This didn’t break the dome lights, primarily because they were never working in the first place. Number two: the first Disco was, from 1994 to 1996, inexplicably offered with a stick shift. It was sold alongside the Defender, which also offered a manual, though the two have endured radically different fates. While Defender owners can still get the original MSRP for their trucks, Disco owners must settle for roadside abandonment. Manual or automatic, it will probably roll away.
There’s nothing like the Hummer H3 – a fact other automakers would tell you is very much by design. It’s blocky, aggressive, and inefficient – but also a rare example of badge engineering gone right, since it’s indistinguishably a Chevrolet Colorado underneath. For some reason, that also meant it inherited the Colorado’s stick shift, which was offered up until the end in 2010. Like the manual Cayenne GTS, stick shift Hummer H3s only end up at mistaken used car dealers, who then list it on AutoTrader with a bunch of interior photos angled away from the center console.
The first-generation Lexus IS300 offered, in addition to clear tail lights, a stick shift and a station wagon (though never together). Enthusiasts liked the stick shift IS300, while positive reviews of the IS300 SportCross appeared in dozens of magazines, like Blind World and Blind Monthly.
Unfortunately, the second-gen dropped the wagon in favor of a hardtop convertible meant for divorcees who didn’t quite get a large enough settlement for an SC430. The stick was relegated to the IS250, which had more power than a pacemaker, but slightly less than a midsize forklift. Nobody bought it, but boy did it allow Lexus dealers to offer some great lease specials in the weekend newspaper.
Stunning, isn’t it? Yes, you could get a Lincoln LS with a stick shift. You had to get the V6 model and you probably had to undergo mental competency tests at the Lincoln dealer, which was unaware that a third pedal could be used for anything but the parking brake – but it existed. Here’s the real kick in the teeth: as everyone knows, the LS shared everything except its handsome styling with the Jaguar S-Type, which uses a retro design to remind customers of a time when Jaguars were even less reliable. And by “everything” we mean “everything:” yes, you could get a Jaguar S-Type with a manual transmission.
(Dodge) Ram 2500
Chevrolet dropped the manual heavy duty pickup after 2006, pissing off about eleven wealthy ranchers in the process. Ford did the same after the 2010 model year, further angering another 19 cattle prod wizards. But Dodge – or rather Ram, at least allegedly – still offers heavy duty models with a stick shift and what can only be described as a gear lever adapted from a walking cane. A quick glance on AutoTrader reveals the price of these trucks can climb to $60,000, placing a fully-equipped, three-pedal Ram HD behind Porsche among the most expensive sticks on the market.
Hyundai Santa Fe
If nothing else on this list shocks you (really? You’re not surprised by the Lincoln LS?), then this one should at least raise an eyebrow. I’m not talking about the first-generation Santa Fe, and this is no soft top Suzuki. The Hyundai Santa Fe could be paired with a manual transmission up until 2011, when the latest model finally pushed Hyundai to its senses. Car companies make cars like this to advertise good deals, only to have the customer show up and discover they have to pay more for an automatic. In other words, stick shift Santa Fe owners: you’re driving a marketing expense.
The BMW X3 could be ordered with a stick shift until 2010. I’ve always fantasized about owning one, since the manual X3 (and its larger X5 sibling, which was available with three pedals through 2006) is just about the only SUV that is universally car-guy acceptable. Unfortunately, BMW dealers seem to think a manual transmission is a luxury SUV is something of a godsend, so they’re invariably priced like automatics. My advice: show up at the dealer and act angry when you “find out” it’s a stick shift. Then haggle from there. After all, the guy looking for the stick shift X3 isn’t going to get a discount.
There’s no stick shift in the current Honda Insight. That should be obvious, since the current Insight is just a ripoff on the current Prius, and the current Prius only offers a weird shift knob that includes a gear called “B.”
No, it was the first generation Insight that had a manual – originally as its only transmission – long before the CR-Z made underperforming manual hybrids with thin tires cool. A CVT came later, but the stick stayed around until the Insight died in 2006. At the same time, Honda offered another surprising manual hybrid: the original Civic Hybrid, which could be had with a stick from 2003 to 2005.
So there you have it: a few of the stranger manuals in recent memory. I have no doubt TTAC readers will remind me of some that are odder still.
Doug DeMuro operates PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, roadtripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute laptime on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.