By on August 30, 2016

2016 Ford Focus RS

Alex writes:

Hi Bark,

The lease on my BMW M235i runs out next summer and I’m looking at options for my next car. I’m mostly considering the Ford Focus RS, Honda Civic Type R, and Volkswagen Golf R, but also the Ford Fiesta ST (since you’ve praised your FiST so much) and Ford Mustang GT (because it’s a Mustang?).

I don’t really like the Golf R because it’s the only car on this list that doesn’t have Recaro seats and, well, it looks almost identical to the much cheaper, baseline Golf.

I contacted my local Ford dealer about the RS and they urged me to put down a $2,000 deposit since they don’t get many units and they’re selling fast.

My hesitation: I’ve never really driven a manual car outside of iRacing (online racing simulator) and an hour I had with a Corolla with 170,000 km on the clock, so I’m not sure that I’d like to drive a manual every day.

What do you think would be my best course of action?

Sincerely,
Alex

Alex, my friend, sit down. We need to talk.

First of all, I hope you’ve enjoyed your M235i. It seems almost impossible they’ve been out long enough that a lease on one could be expiring soon. Man … time flies when you’re old and jaded.

Now, on to your question.

Your list confuses me a bit. You’re thinking of going from a rear-wheel-drive coupe to an all-wheel-drive hot hatch? I’m not saying it’s never been done, or that those cars aren’t cross-shopped all the time (trust me here, B&B), but that would be a massively different driving experience for you. Not only will the driving experience be different, but you’ll notice a difference in the interior. Although the SensaTec in the BMW M235i won’t be considerably better than what you’ll find inside of Focus RS, it will still be … different.

I don’t know what your performance driving history is or what your intentions will be with the FoRS/Golf R/Civic Type R, but your interest in iRacing indicates that you wouldn’t be opposed to driving on track at some point. I think the M235i would show its taillights to any of them. So, that’s to be considered.

Also, the Focus RS cannot be leased (unless you go the Matt Farah route and lease through a third-party), so your cost will go up significantly. I don’t know the specifics yet, but I think the Focus RS isn’t going to be fun to insure either. I’m hearing rumors (that I absolutely cannot substantiate) that there’s more than meets the eye to the FoRS delays, too. I’ll be behind the wheel of one this weekend, so I’ll give you a full report at that point. But for now, I’d hold off on the deposit … again, for now.

I appreciate the interest in the Fiesta ST based on my experience with one, but again, it’s not going to offer the near-luxury experience to which you’ve become accustomed. You’ve already mentioned that you’re a bit image-conscious with your dismissal of the Golf R. (By the way, I’m with you on that, despite the tongue-lashing you’re about to receive from a legion of Civic and Miata drivers.)

So, all that being said — I kinda like your Mustang GT idea. The M235i is essentially a German Mustang, anyway. You can get a premium interior that will probably be nicer than what you had in your Bimmer, and you’ll pay less for it. Also, the GT is a genuinely fast car on track that may be less trendy, hip, or cool than the Focus RS — but trust me, you’d rather be staring at the outline of a horse in pit lane.

Also, if you decide the manual isn’t the way for you to go, there’s no shame in choosing the automatic version of the Mustang. Okay, maybe there’s a little shame — but not too much. While the Mustang’s automatic isn’t as slick as the eight-speed auto of the M, it’s pleasant enough for the daily drive. Don’t get a car that you think you should get. Get a car you’ll actually enjoy. (Note: If you hold off on the Mustang, it might be available later on with a close ratio 10-speed automatic and direct injection. —Mark)

So, no, I wouldn’t throw down a deposit on a car you’ve never driven with a transmission that you’re not comfortable with. I’d go to a Ford store today and drive a Mustang GT. See what you think. My guess is that you’re going to love it.

[Image: Ford]

Bark M. is a blah blah blah yeah whatever you don’t care. Just email me at [email protected]. I do the Twitters and Instagrams, too #ootd.

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120 Comments on “Ask Bark: Should I Buy a Stick Sight Unseen?...”


  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Stick is fine. Scrubbing Bubble cars suck.

    Tell ya what, though… wish I could find Scrubbing Bubbles as angry as that blue one. They’d take care of the scum left by my precious artisanal soaps!

  • avatar
    ijbrekke

    Well, hold on.

    The first order of business is to go test drive ANY car with a manual. It’s silly to make a decision on purchasing/leasing a performance-oriented car without giving this a chance. Practice on a friend’s car, or go drive a cheap manual at Carmax. But don’t finalize a decision without first learning to drive the transmission type nearly EVERY enthusiast prefers.

    • 0 avatar

      Without starting a firestorm here, there’s not much of a reason to prefer a manual over modern automatic transmissions, except if you’re a dinosaur.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        So all those European drivers are dinosaurs?

      • 0 avatar
        DevilsRotary86

        Do I get to be a Stegosaurus?

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        “. . . except if you’re a dinosaur.”

        Is that what they’re now calling us OCPD types who can’t tolerate a transmission that occasionally – or regularly, for some units – behaves in an undesirable manner? That’s cool, I suppose. I was a big fan of dinosaurs as a child.

      • 0 avatar
        skitter

        How will I ever shift with these tiny arms?

        There’s also not much of a reason to prefer a G8, Boss, or FiST over a Camry, except if you’re a dinosaur.

        Rar.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        Full time herbivore, part time carnivore checking in. 3 pedals are more fun than 2.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        Well…just found out I’m a dinosaur. Who knew.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        Bark,

        There’s no reason to prefer a blonde over a brunette either, but some people do.
        Any car purchase over $20K isn’t rational anyway, no point singling-out the stick shift. It makes some people happy, and confuses the heck out of other people.

      • 0 avatar
        Rochester

        Dinosaur… LOL

        The only people who talk like that are posers. Real drivers want a transmission that connects them to the car.

        • 0 avatar

          Oh, you mean real drivers who’ve won real races?

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            It used to be that driving a manual was simply logically superior. Lower purchase price, better performance, better mileage, and lower costs to ensure, because many thieves could not drive a stick.

            Most of those arguments have gone away, so now it becomes an issue of personal choice.

            But the dude should buy a used Miata when his lease comes up and drive it for a few months to see if he likes driving a stick on an everyday basis.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Don’t be so insensitive Bark! Your micro aggression is triggering the poor oppressed manual drivers!

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Did thieves start driving manuals in greater numbers? Are new automatic transmissions more likely to last 200,000 miles without being replaced for more than a car with an automatic transmission and 100,000 miles is worth? Is everyone supposed to accept LCD belief in EPA numbers that are set by automatics programmed to annoyingly jump into high gears and manuals required by the rules to stay in low gears far too long? Automatics are perfect for lazy sheep.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        The only valid reason to prefer a manual these days is entirely subjective, so you can’t really judge it one way or the other. It’s enjoyment of the mechanics of using a manual.

        Personally, I still like the manual for smaller ICE cars. But the G8 taught me that manuals and large cars have a difficult time working together. And in any case I’d rather have an electric motor, with its immediacy and emissions-free idle, than a manual.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          As far as I’ve seen the only reason to own a manual is if you’re insecure:

          “Manuals are awesome! Ill show those slyshboxes a thing or two! Manuals never break and they feel so… (clutch snaps)”

          I like my dinos too (heck I drive a Panther), but manuals are for those that still churn their own butter. Yes the end result is more “pure”, but not everyone will like it.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            A high mileage car may have need a clutch before 150K under average ownership, an automatic will need a transaxle under average ownership.

            Maybe with a ten speed transaxle it will be different this time /s.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            At 28D
            If we’re taking pre 1996 cars I agree, 150ks kinda the general mileage when work will be needed (even on Toyotas or Volvos).

            At Ken:
            That would be the best action, an old Civic wont be anywhere near a Focus RS, but if you kill the clutch at least you’ll still have a daily driver.

        • 0 avatar
          missmySE-R

          Can you elaborate a bit on your “manuals and large cars have a difficult time working together” comment?

          Am lusting after a Chevy SS in part because of it’s manual offering…

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            It’s still fun and I’d highly, highly recommend a SS to anyone. And make it a manual because the old 6-speed auto in the SS is kind of a dimwitted transmission, while the manual is a sweetheart.

            But bigger cars tend to amplify the jerky feeling inherent with manuals; it’s tougher to drive them smoothly than small manual cars. And torquey engines benefit less from the direct mechanical connection between engine and wheels at low speeeds/revs. Look at reviews of manual 5-Series of the last couple of generations, the only other common manual car as big as the SS, and you’ll see similar complaints.

      • 0 avatar
        Kendahl

        Speaking as a dinosaur who won’t even look at a car unless it comes with a manual transmission, I think Bark is correct, especially in Alex’s situation. If he really wants to learn to drive a manual, he should spend a year in an old, cheap beater.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          The 2 best cars to learn on:
          1) A VW Beetle. You never need to even use 1st gear
          2) An older Corvette. You can drive nearly every without shifting past 2nd gear.

      • 0 avatar
        Higheriq

        I’ve been called much worse things than “dinosaur”.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Or someone who has children who are not mechanically inclined but who need to or would like to learn more about driving.

        Or who wants a part-time job at a dealership, lot or car rental agency.

        Or who travels outside of the United States at all.

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        Haha. Things must have seemed slow in the comments. A baruth brother just tossed a firebomb into the discussion.

        The manual preference has nothing to do with the very (very) hypothetical street car in side by side racing scenario. Automatics can be faster there, but not every automatic by any means. If you plan on drag racing these cars you probably would have mentioned that, that’s a true advantage auto situation. Don’t let mr. Baruth’s track blinders result in a missed opportunity.

        If someone is asking about the switch they’ve been thinking about it a long time, and usually feeling regret about not taking the plunge sooner. I say go for it. It. is. so. easy. Think of all the incompetents throughout history who have managed the task. Your grandmother’s aunt gladys did it I’m sure. You will love it, and as an enthusiast adult you will pick up all the techniques very quickly.

        Or you can live with the regret of not knowing how to do this thing, or knowing if this thing would make your drives more enjoyable, until you die.

      • 0 avatar
        Shankems

        There are two reasons to prefer a manual:
        1) The auto on offer sucks.
        2) You want a bit more fun out of the car even if it makes you non-competitive.

        I bought my Chevy SS with 6 speed having never touched a stick in my life. Had my father drive it off the lot for me.

        The stick is so much more preferable to the auto it’s insane. The deliberate action of tearing from one gear to the next is exhilarating. Shifting from 2nd to 3rd to jail time is a hell of a thing too.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          “The deliberate action of tearing from one gear to the next is exhilarating.”

          Or in my case it was “oh crap! Theres an angry Dodge Ram behind me! Come ob get into third you stupid thing! (Old VW Bug stalls out)”.

      • 0 avatar
        mikedt

        It may not be more efficient in 0-60 speed or mpg anymore but DIY shifting is still fun for some of us – of course I’m not doing a daily rush hour around a major metropolitan city.

        • 0 avatar
          NickS

          “[…] doing a daily rush hour around a major metropolitan city”

          That will just about turn one of the most enjoyable driving tasks into a tiresome chore.

          Anyone can learn to drive stick. But Alex should consider his much daily driving with be unstoppable and go traffic. If it’s a long commute an auto will do just fine.

          • 0 avatar
            duffman13

            Meh. I drove stick in DC traffic exclusively for years, in both my S2k, previous RSX-S, and beater Rodeo.

            It wasn’t until we upgraded my wife to her mom-mobile that I ended up in a daily that was an auto. I don’t do it often, but I still take the S2k to work every so often when the weather is good just to have fun with the stick and the top down, even if I do end up sitting in traffic. I can’t say I hate it that much.

      • 0 avatar
        White Shadow

        Actually, I’d put it another way: There’s no reason to choose the automatic unless you’re wet behind the ears.

      • 0 avatar
        Mathias

        Bark, that’s just not true.

        I just rented a GTI in Florida. Automatic, of course. It’s a good car, but the transmission is nasty. If you need some sudden giddy-up, you have to floor it, and it’ll downshift 3 gears and scream, and your passengers will get jerked around.

        Any less gas pedal, and you’re just puttering along. Reminds me of my 93 Corolla, as if nothing has changed in 25 years.

        In 2013, we rented a Chrysler minivan for a Utah vacation. Great car, great engine, good transmission. Until you get into the mountains and it’s all over the place.

        There are plenty of good automatics in modern cars, and just as many clunkers as there were ten and twenty years ago. Different reasons, same issue: They feel like they work against you instead of with you.

        Dinosaur my a$$.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        By going with the slush box though you miss out on the best option package for the Mustang and that’s the Performance Pack.

        For whatever reason Ford doesn’t offer that on the automatic cars so no heavy duty radiator or sexy brakes or modererately less crappy Pirelli performamce rubber or neat-o Torsen.

        • 0 avatar
          TMA1

          Oddly enough, Ford does offer the Performance Pack on automatic-equipped Ecoboost models. Just not on the GT. Seems kind of bizarre to me.

          • 0 avatar
            raph

            Huh, I’ll have to file that fact away, but yeah I have to really wonder about their product strategy some… a lot.

            No performance pack for the auto equipped GT?

            The 2016 run of GT350s forced the buyer to choose between the track pack and the electronics package with the latter omitting the trans and diff coolers and the former saddling buyer with the basic electronics package (since rectified with the 2017 model)

            The rental duty only trim level in the V6 car?

            I can maybe understand something like Ford only offering a performance pack on the EB and GT stangs but not offering the premium interior on the sixxer seemed kind of odd along with no option to upgrade to SYNC 3

  • avatar
    Lemmiwinks

    I’m actually going through a similar choice, but coming from the other end of the spectrum. I’ll be bidding sayonara/au revoir to my ’13 Juke Nismo manual sometime next year, and I’m trying to decide between the Civic TypeR and the VWR, with the Mustang GT as an outside contender. The Ford will likely be the winner unless I decide to acknowledge how comparably impractical it is.

    (The RS is looking too long in the tooth for my tastes.)

    • 0 avatar
      eighttrackmind

      I’m also getting ready to end the lease on my Juke Nismo manual, and it can’t come soon enough for me. I drove the Mustang GT the other day, and it felt MASSIVE by comparison, and soooo buttery smooth. It seems like anything will be an upgrade from what has been a HUGE disappointment of a car.

      After owning a Juke, calling any other car impractical seems a little harsh.

      • 0 avatar
        tnk479

        I’m curious what drew both of you to the Juke Nismo. I dismissed it without a second thought.

        • 0 avatar
          Lemmiwinks

          Oh, and what drew me to it?

          I was shopping in the $20,000 – $25,000 range. Wanted something fast and fun. It wasn’t my first new car, but it was my first car bought because I liked it versus the base Lancer I bought in 2005 because it came with four wheels, a stick, and a desperate Mitsubishi dealer.

          This time around, the Veloster Turbo was a much better car from a tech and interior refinement POV, but the driving didn’t hold a candle to the Juke Nismo.

          The Civic from back then was a joke.

          The Scion tC didn’t have the power, nor the driving dynamics. And it felt as cheap as the Juke inside.

          The FR-S/BR-Z were so new that dealers were still marking them up and even acting like asses when you tried to get a test drive.

          Nothing compelling from the rest of Toyota. Wouldn’t buy a Dodge. I really liked the Camaro, but the trim and configuration I wanted would push it much higher than I was willing to spend. I didn’t care at all for the Mustang of the day. Also didn’t like anything in Subaru’s lineup.

          Hence, the Juke NISMO. I named her Ruby Mae. Because I’m classy like that.

      • 0 avatar
        Lemmiwinks

        I actually bought mine. And at three years with less than 30,000 miles on the clock, perhaps I should have leased.

        You’re right about the size. The back seat is nearly useless, as at 6’1″, I have to move my seat forward by at least half the travel if I’ve got any passengers in the back. But with just me and one passenger, I’m able to haul a decent amount of cargo, including a snowboard. I haven’t wanted for cargo room. Earlier I was comparing the practicality of the Mustang to the VW and Civic. With the Ford having an okay trunk and a pretty useless backseat, the GT-to-Nismo practicality comparison is pretty much a wash.

        I love my Juke. It’s been a solid, fun car to drive, esepcially on the winding mountain roads around where I live. Fun on the freeway. Fast off the line if you flog it correctly. Great shifter and clutch. Reliable. Feels solid. Decent sound system. I love how it looks. (My nieces and nephews do as well, so say what you will.) We’ve also got a ’14 S4 in the garage, and while it’s no comparison in terms of power and abilities and refinement, the Juke is just more fun to drive. You’re able to reach and play with its limits, which I’ve enjoyed.

        But I’ve been missing a center armrest these last three years. And while I like the front seats, I am tired of driving a vehicle with cloth seating. And insufficient interior lighting.

        I also tire of seeing the tach hovering above 3200 RPM when cruising at highway speeds. This thing is not a long-haul cruiser, nor is it what I would call comfortable. The stereo head unit is tiny and dated. The instrument computer is laughably cheap, 10-year-old tech, as are the silly graphics when you switch between driving modes. I generally am happy with the climate control system, and it keeps up with everything we throw at it, if only just-so. Not being able to close the center vents is strange.

        I’ve rented the GT and test drove the R. Really like both of them. The wild card is that Type R.

        I recommend the Juke to people much smaller than me who want some fun with their car at that price point.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    Never buy any car before a test drive. Even if it’s the same car. What if the car you drove elsewhere is great, but you find it at another dealer in the color you want. Drive it first before you buy. What if it has a rattle in an unknown location? You have them fix it first. After you buy it without it fixed, good luck.

    My ex Fiesta stick was unimpressive, my ’85 Tempo’s was much better. My Accords is the best I’ve ever driven.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Jackie, is that you? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_I0jQHAJC0

      ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      Higheriq

      I respectfully disagree with your first sentence. I’ve been buying cars for more than 43 years and that time span includes ~35 vehicles. Prior to purchase of those ~35 vehicles, I’ve test driven a grand total of one (1). But I will admit you must know what you’re doing.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    The manual vs auto debate also depends on your real-world driving where the car will spend 98% of its time.

    Since Matt Farah has been mentioned, it is worth noting that he is unloading his FoRS because it just does not work in the slow crawl of LA traffic. He is picking up a diesel F-Pace to replace it.

    If you’ve got an open-road highway commute, then a manual is much less of an issue, but keep in mind that on any car, except the Golf R apparently, radar adaptive cruise is not an option.

    I spent a decade driving manuals and moved back to a car with the 8-speed ZF and full-stop radar cruise for my highway-based slog. I’m never, ever getting another car without radar cruise as it makes heading home so much more enjoyable after a long grind at the day job. I do miss a manual sometimes, but I have a stick shift car in the fleet for that itch.

  • avatar
    epaiuk

    Alex,

    I cross-shopped the Mustang and I ended up with the M235. Not only is it better in almost every way, but the Mustang is actually MORE expensive if you lease. BMW heavily subsidizes leases and Ford does not help on the Mustang, so MSRP means less than you would think in this circumstance. Good luck,

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Same here, though I bought my M235i so the leasing issue was irrelevant. The Mustang is hugely better than the previous generations, but it’s still huge, poorly packaged, and just plain cheap. Bark’s comment about the premium interior made me LOL. Which is OK, because it IS a cheap car for what you get.

      My M235i has a stickshift, sunroof delete, only options being cold weather package and tech package.

      And of course, you can’t do European Delivery for a Mustang. To paraphrase the old credit card commercials:

      Two First Class plane tickets to Europe – 500K FF miles
      Four weeks of IHG hotels around Europe – 1.5M hotel points
      2016 M235i after ED pricing and dealer discounts – $44K
      Driving your new BMW at 155mph on the Autobahn, across the Alps, Dolomites and Apennines, and up Mt Vesuvius – PRICELESS!

      I bought it without a test drive, same as my other stickshift BMW back in 2011. Went all over Scandinavia in that one. But I’ve been driving sticks since I was 13 years old.

  • avatar
    missmySE-R

    Back in ’09, I bought my Cobalt SS without a test drive. I had driven the supercharged model a few years prior and was smitten by the new turbocharged engine and 4 door body style.
    That said, I had been driving manual transmissions at that point for 10 years. I knew what I was getting into (ie, misery in stop/go traffic in Chicago) but even then it felt a bit risky without a test drive. You just never know and that’s a lot of money and time going into a decision you’ll potentially regret.
    Given that your question is even broader, do you even want to live with the CONCEPT of a manual transmission car, I’d suggest finding some way to try it out. Consider borrowing a friend’s car or try a long weekend rental via Turo and see if you want to deal with it.
    I love my manual transmission, but it’s clearly an acquired taste.

  • avatar
    Orangecar Blackheart

    Go drive them! Isn’t the point of loving cars to actually drive them? Who cares if it takes you 3 months to find the right car – that’s 3 months test driving other cool cars.

    I drove BOTH the auto and manual of the VW GTI, Subaru WRX, Mustang GT and Mustang Ecoboost, Focus ST and Fiesta ST, Toyota/Scion/Subaru GT86/BRZ/whatever, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, a few BMWs, some Nissans… Don’t take anyone else’s opinions as fact, and definitely don’t take a pile of internet comments as though they are gospel.

    Oh, and if a dealer says “Sorry we won’t let you test that without a deposit, it’s too rare” about ANY car, then just move on. None of these cars are so rare or magical that they never sit on the lot for a month, or show up as used 3 months later. (This is how I learned VW was not a good fit for me… A $35K Golf R is not some unicorn! So, it sat on the lot with it’s plastic wrapper for 2 months before someone paid for it.)

    GO DRIVE.

    • 0 avatar
      Paragon

      The absolute best advice in the comments so far!! Not to dis anybody else, but these ideas I heartily endorse. Test drive everything you think you might like. Don’t rush the purchase of the next car for any reason. Be absolutely sure you are buying what you want to own for some period of time.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Agreed 100%.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Subaru WRX.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    I was not experienced or competent at operating a manual transmission when I bought my Mazda3 new, but I had no doubt that I’d prefer that level of control once I became competent. Of course, that was almost thirteen years ago, when manuals were still faster, cheaper, more reliable, and more efficient than automatics. You had to either learn it, or be stuck with an inferior transmission.

    If you’re unsure at all, maybe it would be better to buy something used to try out for a while. Give it a few months, at least. You’re not going to figure anything out about that aspect from a test drive. You’ll be learning the basics for months, and refining your technique for years.

    Simulators do help with learning concepts, muscle memory, and coordination in all areas of car control. Even just a few hundred hours of that will make a big difference.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I second the comment that you should spend a few days with a manual — any manual car in reasonably good repair. Give a buddy a few days of quality time with your M235i in exchange. That won’t make you good at driving stick, but it will tell you whether you’re interested enough to keep getting better.

    As for what you actually want, I’ve jumped categories a couple of times now, and it’s fine. If you want a nimble FWD-based hot hatch, that’s great. If you want a big but powerful ponycar, that’s great too. But get at least an idea first. If you can’t test drive a Focus RS, test drive a ST to see if you like the interior and the general feeling of driving a car of that type.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick 2012

      I’ve never driven either a FoST or FoRS, but I’ve read that the ST ‘feels’ better around town and that the RS’ charms only come alive on a track.

      I think the real answer is an LS460.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I think the real answer is an LS460.

        lol, why not go full “Japanese Buick” and get an ES350?

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          The LS460 will be the next answer, after he gets sick of the rattles, hard seats, and cheap interior of his Focus RS, and realizes that on public roads he can never exercise it.

          (That’s almost exactly what happened to me, except that the performance car involved was a G8 GXP.)

          The difference between LS and ES is that with the LS there is a pretty capable car lurking under the isolation, just waiting to be unlocked with performance tires, kind of like the big Germans. I’ve done things in the LS that are surprisingly close to what the G8 could do.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Excuse me sir, we’ve gotten some reports you’ve been pushing Lexus on the school children; is this true?

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            It’s OK. Only clean wholesome rear-drive Lexus.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            We heard you’ve been talking about cutting corners, big performance tires, and high speeds sir.

          • 0 avatar
            hubcap

            “That’s almost exactly what happened to me…”

            You’ve piqued my curiosity. What other outcomes do you feel the OP will share with you?

            And will they be exact matches or almost exact matches?

            As always, please base your answers solely on your experiences, preferences and expectations.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            LOL. Clearly he’ll move to Seattle, spend all his money on housing, and become a total dork.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “… that with the LS there is a pretty capable car lurking under the isolation, just waiting to be unlocked with performance tires.”

            Hmmmm. On the Lexus side I had been leaning towards a new IS350, a nearly new GS350, or a final year IS-F, but maybe a predator face LS460 makes sense…

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Depends whether you value precision or comfort more. The LS can stick pretty well at both ends when pushed, and it’ll take you from 80 to 120 in a hurry, but in the end it’s still a big, very comfy cruiser.

        • 0 avatar
          Maymar

          I believe OP is in Canada, so the correct answer is 2001 Toyota Century with V12 and luxurious (re. quiet) cloth seats.

  • avatar
    carguy

    This isn’t just about the transmission. The M235i is great compromise of capability and comfort while the Focus RS is much more track oriented.

    If you daily driving includes poor road surfaces and stop and go traffic, then the novelty of the Focus RS may wear off quickly.

  • avatar
    darex

    Why would someone who doesn’t drive stick buy a stick-shift car, not even knowing if he’ll like it, long-term?

    I drive stick, daily, but this OP seems to have his priorities a bit off (or has more money than sense).

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      That’s what he’s asking Bark (and us, sorta). He thinks it’ll work for him (obviously or he wouldn’t consider it), but wants opinions to help him decide. That’s kinda the point of asking in this manner.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    If you can afford BMW money and don’t like the look of the Golf R, what about the Audi S3?

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2016/05/gti-s3-nah-easy-make-case-2016-volkswagen-golf-r/

    For that matter if the lease is up, why not look at getting the BMW CPO’d and buy it back? Assuming you liked it enough, of course.

  • avatar
    Shawnski

    I was in a very nearly identical situ: I wanted the RS to replace my ’12 135i and instead wound up in a very well equipped ’16 Mustang GT w/PP and M6. I always said when the Mustang GT went IRS I would look, and I am glad I did; for 228i money.

  • avatar
    CoastieLenn

    What’s all the delays with the FoRS people are mentioning? I’ve seen three or four of them on the streets in the last couple months.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Can I pick your brain for a moment?

      • 0 avatar
        CoastieLenn

        I’ll say “absolutely” with a general feeling of reservation in fear of where this conversation takes us. Be careful how far you pick….

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          What do I need to look out for in an 88-90 760 Wagon/auto/180K?

          • 0 avatar
            CoastieLenn

            In general terms- rear main seal leaks (typical old Volvo problem), trailing arm/ trailing arm bushings blown out (again, typical), front strut rod bushings (Volvo speak for torsion bar style bushings) and if it’s a PRV engine, the occasional head gasket problem. If I recall correctly, the transmission behind the PRV was a fickle one, too but I might be mistaken on that. It’s been 10+ years since I’ve actually seen a PRV in the flesh. I’d also recommend going to a scrap yard and buying a spare fuel computer just to be on the safe side. They’re located in the passenger side footwell under the glove box, in front of the door. Simple unplug/plug operation but the soldering joints tend to get hot and crack after decades.

            Try to look for a turbo red motor if you can find one. B230FT>16 valve>PRV.

            I owned an ’85 764 turbo for about a year. Had 337k on it when I bought it. Sold it with 352k miles. Original owner, engine, transmission, and rear end. Fuel computer crapped out so I got the car for $250 with a 3″ thick stack of records from my dealership from the day the previous owner purchased it at my dealer in 1985.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Thx man.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Leaks, leaks, and leaks! Check bushings too, be it suspension or shifter bushings. Some 7-9s wont go into park if one of the shifter bushings out.

            Of course, you’re probably familiar with their interior issues too. Wagons have a rear panel on the gate that rattles frequently.

            I second Coasts turbo suggestion, if you remember to let it cool off after a hard drive they’ll last a long time. The redblock may as well have been one of the most reliable turbo engines for its time.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I doubt you will find one with a PRV at this point (they only sold a handful of V6 wagons in the states), though the late PRVs are actually pretty good. Thus it will almost certainly be a turbo.

            To add to the previous list – the auto HVAC system used in the early 760 is kind of crap, and some parts are now unobtanium. 760s usually, but not always had Nivomat self-leveling rear shocks, which are expensive, short-lived, and too soft. Relatively easy to convert the wagons to normal springs and shocks, and most probably have been at this point. If this is a “long hood” car (no separate cowl where the wipers are), all the front end sheetmetal is different and a LOT more expensive/rare if you need to replace any of it (not sure when that started). Gas mileage is pretty terrible, I never got more than 22-23mpg with any of my Volvo turbos. I put a Saab APC system on one of mine – that was a TON of fun with the boost cranked up, but did the mileage no favors. That one also got the full IPD suspension and Bilstiens treatment – went around corners great, rode like a buckboard wagon.

            Overall, pretty great cars, but I would rather have a 740 turbo than a 760 turbo, mechanically identical, but the 760 has more weird rare bits.

  • avatar
    turf3

    Without commenting on the specifics of this particular car purchase, I have to ask: Why are all of you acting like driving a standard transmission is some kind of incredibly exotic, arcane skill that can only be mastered by a tiny group of the super-elite?

    If your great-grandmother was born in the USA, she was probably familiar and comfortable driving cars with a standard transmission. If your great-grandmother lived on a farm, she was probably able to drive a tractor with a standard, non synchronized transmission.

    Before about 1960, the vast majority of cars were standard transmission. Before 1950, everyone – everyone – who drove, drove a standard transmission car.

    Any reasonably alert adult with two functioning hands and two functioning feet can learn to drive a standard transmission car in about an hour.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      No offense, but my great-grandmother had more on the ball than half the B&B.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Without commenting on the specifics of this particular car purchase, I have to ask: Why are all of you acting like driving a standard transmission is some kind of incredibly exotic, arcane skill that can only be mastered by a tiny group of the super-elite?

        Because that is what being able to operate a stick is becoming. I learned out of necessity, I wanted to be able to drive my then girlfriend’s (now wife) base model Pontiac Vibe. I see it as a skill that wasn’t that hard to learn and nice to have in your repertoire. As an example, being able to drive stick opens up a world of vehicles that otherwise would be a non-starter.

        My maternal grandfather required his 4 daughters to learn to drive stick and demonstrate that they could change a tire on his 67 Ford Bronco before he would allow them to take their license test. Sadly a basic expectation of competency and familiarity with motor vehicles is sorely lacking in most of civilization today.

        In the present day you could take your average manual transmission car and leave it on a college campus with the doors unlocked and keys in the ignition. It wouldn’t get stolen because so few people would no how to drive the dang thing.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      She probably used an outhouse in the winter too but that doesn’t make it any less of a chore today.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Decades back driving a manual meant better performance, gas mileage, and less maintenance supposedly (assuming you shift correctly).

      Its just an old thing people stubbornly hang on to, like American cars are AWFUL, Toyondas are perfect, etc etc. Then of course you have the insecure who use it as their means of being “superior”.

      I myself learned stick on a Honda Z600, about as “pure and simple” as it gets. In time went to autos to make my commutes a bit easier.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      The basics can be learned in an hour and mastered in a week of practice.

      But real skill takes years, and many drivers — those who are just interested in driving from A to B — never learn it.

      I drove manual cars most of the time for over 20 years, and there’s still plenty of room for improvement in my technique.

    • 0 avatar
      jsmd

      I have gone back and forth on auto vs manual in my series of car purchases the last 30 years and I learned on a 1983 Honda CVCC 1500 4 spd manual when I drove it off the dealers for the first time without any prior experience or knowledge of manual transmissions. I must have stalled it 10 times on the drive home but by the time I got home, I had the basics down. Having had manual transmissions in a 86 toyota supra, 94 mazda mx6, 05 BMW 330ci, 11 BMW M3 and now a 15 Porshce Boxster GTS, I have to say that the progression of the manual tranny over the years, (hill hold, rev matching, antistall),have made it easier than ever to not screw it up and now with the P car 6sp manual, I think I have found nirvana. It is the stick shift of the gods matched perfectly with a wailing high revving NA F6. I don’t think this one will be topped for awhile. I’ve had SMG, DCT and PDK’s but at the end of the day, they are driven like automatics most of the time so I quickly got bored with them. Now if they can ever figure out how to do low speed adaptive cruise control with a manual then, really there is no reason to ever look at a automatic.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Get test driving, and whatever you get make it an automatic. If you have any cash left over buy a cheap stick shift weekend beater.

    That way if you end up not liking stick it’ll be easier to dump it, at least easier on the wallet.

  • avatar
    HiFlite999

    The choice also depends on one’s driving environment. A MT car in heavy city traffic is a major PIA. Also, if one is into sports, banging up one leg can make the car un-drivable. (Spoken as a former motorcycle roadracer with a manual GTI daily driver).

  • avatar
    Wagoon2.7TT

    Alex,

    I was the subject of an Ask Bark post a couple of months ago wanting advice on my cross shop between RWD sports cars and hot hatches to augment the AWD wagon that I already had. I, like you, only had about 2 hours of MT driving under my belt, and that was on friends’ 250,000 mile Outbacks.

    Long story short, I ended up buying a ridiculously impractical, but ridiculously fun car with a 6MT . I spent more time driving a stick the day I bought that car than I had in the rest of my life combined. The first several weeks definitely had a steep learning curve, but after that driving the stick started to come more naturally.

    I guess that the point I’m trying to make is, I didn’t have too much of a problem jumping in to a manual for pretty much the first time in a car I had just bought. And I’m sure that you’re a far more accomplished/better driver than me, so you should be good!

    Finally, some of the best advice that the B&B gave to me was “if you don’t have to compromise with a hot hatch because you already have an AWD wagon, why would you? Get the most fun thing in your budget, and let practicality be damned!” If you have the means, or are in a situation where practicality is not a top concern, go for whatever you love the most, stick or not. You won’t regret it :)

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Don’t buy an expensive car with a manual if you don’t know if you will like it. As others have said, you need to find a way to spend about at least a week in one before dropping $40k on a new car.

    If you can’t trade with a friend for a week or two, buy an older car with a manual. If you can find something like a civic or a wrangler, you should be able to resell those cars without losing much in depreciation.

  • avatar
    pmirp1

    This must be the strangest question ever. How can one consider driving a car that one doesn’t know how to drive?

    As an owner of a Mustang GT 2014 (the pretty version, sorry gang I still can’t get used to the new mouth), I completely say a Mustang without manual transmission is just not the same.

    But I really really really caution against learning how to drive manuals on a brand new car.

  • avatar
    Elezondo

    As someone who is trying to switch from an A3 to a Focus RS I would note that the insurance quotes I have gotten for the RS, based upon an RS VIN, are comparable to what I am paying on my 2011 A3, within $5 a month. So I don’t see an RS costing more in insurance than an M235.

    Additionally, I’ve seen a couple reviews on tracks where the RS is neck and neck or faster than a M2, RS3 and A45. Obviously track dependent, but I would wager that an RS will be faster on track than an M235.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      Was waiting to see if anyone would say this…the M235 is slightly faster in a straight line, but the RS is magic in the bendy parts with the trick diff, and corners slightly harder in absolute terms. I would bet money it would put power down way better exiting corners and in rough spots better, too.

      Wet track? No contest.

      I mean, the way Bark put it was “show taillights,” so I have to assume he’s talking about track work.

  • avatar
    turf3

    I bought my first standard transmission car, a 1962 Corvair, without ever having driven a standard transmission before.

    My dad drove me over to the guy’s house and test drove the car. Then he got in his car and drove home, and I got in the new car and drove it home. There was a tough moment one place where I had to start up on a steep uphill.

    Don’t ride the clutch and you’ll be fine. I still say all of you are making way too big a deal of this.

    By the way, I disagree that you should expect to replace an auto trans at 150,000 miles. Furthermore, if you learn how to drive properly and don’t ride the clutch, I think you should expect more than 150k on a clutch too.

  • avatar
    DirtRoads

    No no no all you city slickers get off it!

    Learn to drive a stick in a hayfield, with lateral ditches, and your Dad bucking bales up into it. Make it a ’55 International half ton.

    OK now you can say you know how to use a clutch. Now we advance to tractors, where a clutch is a CLUTCH. Cars pale in comparison. Oh, and go to a 1940s-1950s John Deere, any model (I like the G model, more sporty) and actually SEE the clutch working (they’re external for those of you following along at home).

    Now you can use on AND understand one.

    Now get a 1970s Japanese motorbike and abuse the piss out of it. Change the clutch pack in that Yamaha 175 when it gets greasy and wears out. Now you are intimate with it.

    Now you’re ready for a friggin automatic.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Late to the party, but some of us CANNOT get stick well enough that it’s not worth the risk to others’ cars!

      I can start from a stop reasonably well (even on a slight incline), but I cannot coordinate my left foot and right hand well enough to exist in normal traffic. (Same reason I honest-to-God can’t even try to manipulate an iPhone while driving — a blessing, not a curse!)

  • avatar
    MatadorX

    Dal20402

    As you owned a G8 GXP, and often comment about it, I never see you mention one thing, the car’s utter lack of depreciation with 6MT.

    When I was 16, that was the car I lusted over more than anything else on the road. GM was failing and I saw them brand new advertised for $34k for GXP sticks. I figured wait a few years and they will be around $20k, when I am able to afford them at the 5-7 year mark.

    Well, now 7 years later, I’ve a decent job and what do you know, a now very well used, beat up cheap interior and all, nearly 100k mile example still commands over 30k…..da heck…

    Even a standard auto GT, beat to smithereens at a BHPH is well over 20k..

    Curse me for falling for the one car that never goes down in value.

    Anyhow, not wanting to loose twice I see Chevy SS manuals when they are for sale used, with under 10k miles, only run $35-37k. That to me seems the deal of a lifetime??? If lightning strikes twice, I can pick one up, use it for a decade, and sell for $30k. Genius? Even at new MSRP of $45k it still seems an amazing bargain now that I know the future, and that no matter what I will always have a $30k car on my hands.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Yep, it was the least financially painful new car purchase I ever made.

      I bought mine new for around $39k and sold it six and a half years later, with 37k miles and some minor condition issues resulting from DC streets, to a dealer for $27k.

      I don’t know whether or not the SS will retain its value the same way as quite a few more of them were made (than the GXP) but the used 2015 manual models are very attractive deals. I’d still pony up the extra for a ’16 or ’17 with magnetic ride control, though.

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    At one time my daily commute was frequently crawling traffic – not stopped, but moving slower than the car in first gear with the clutch let out. That was a real pain to be doing clutch in and clutch out all the time, and the novelty of driving a manual wore off very fast.

    Give me an automatic every time for a daily driver, and keep a manual for a classic/fun car that you can drive only when you feel like it, not when you have to.

  • avatar
    Funky

    If you believe you’d want the manual version, don’t worry about placing an order, sight unseen, for the manual. I will probably soon sell/trade my Mazda CX-5 GT and replace it with a new vehicle with a manual transmission (probably another Mazda…depending on availability of a manual in a trim level acceptable to me). Why? Because I prefer the manual. I was initially enamored of the bells and whistles that come along with the GT Automatic (radar cruise control, auto braking, better looking wheels, etc.). But, I now realize that I miss having the manual transmission. My guess is that you’ll always be disappointed with your purchase if you spend a ton of money on something that isn’t exactly what you envisioned.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    I feel like we need to verify what sort of commute Alex has. Personally, I abhor 60+ minutes of pure stop and go in anything, and start getting really homicidal, so I’m not sure how much of that can be attributed to a manual transmission. Otherwise, I pretty much exclusively prefer manuals, although I’m admittedly cheap and have mostly had small, low-powered cars that are obnoxiously undriveable with automatics (new ones are better, but there’s still that beat of waiting for the transmission to kick down before the tiny engine gives what meager go it has). And, in urban commuting, there’s plenty of slowdowns where I can just not upshift and ride the engine braking back down.

    Also, if Alex is looking for the summer, will the FoRS still be a hot commodity and hard to come by then? It’ll have been on the market for about a year, unless Ford’s artificially limiting supply, there can’t be that much demand for a $40+k Focus.

  • avatar
    Alexdi

    The answer to this heavily depends on how good the manual in the RS is.

    I almost bought a WRX, but couldn’t get past how hard it was to shift smoothly. I spent hours in a (generous) friend’s car testing various RPMs and clutch speeds and still couldn’t get it right consistently. A good shift was grounds for celebration. Six months in, even he had trouble with it.

    Contrast the Golf GTI I took for a half-hour test drive. It was such a pussycat. I was perfectly rev-matching downshifts within five minutes. I wouldn’t even consider that car with the automatic, it was so much fun. Even traffic was entertaining.

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