If you're going to save the manual, then you'll have to buy one.
The first production automatic transmission appeared in 1940, courtesy of Oldsmobile's Hydra-Matic torque-converter. With a four-speed on the floor they were waiting at the door, but the manual survived another 80 years. Now, the dual-clutch automatic is so smooth and fast, and programming so precise that rowing your own has no advantages. For a while, improved fuel economy was the saving grace of manuals in everyday vehicles. Those days are gone, though, and the only remaining argument for the manual transmission surviving comes down to cliche of the connection between man and machine.
If you're one of the people that love a manual transmission and are actually willing to put your money where your mouth by purchasing a luxury vehicle, here's what you can buy in 2020.
If you want something exotic from the factory, then Lamborghini, Ferrari, and McLaren are now out of the manual transmission game. With the AMR edition, Aston Martin is looking back at its 107-year history and made the dog-leg pattern Graziano seven-speed manual the centerpiece. To make sure the manual holds up over time, though, Aston Martin has de-tuned the Mercedes-AMG supplied 4.0-liter V8 to 461 lb-ft from the 505 lb-ft found in the automatic Vantage. Torque is limited further in first and second gears to restrict wheelspin off the line.
BMW is keen to hold on to its reputation as an enthusiast's marque, and the 2 Series is a highlight. It has the proportions of the E46 generation BMW 3 Series but thoroughly modern levels of grip, power, and handling dynamics. You can pick up the BMW 230i coupe or the M240i coupe and convertible with a manual. Still, if you want to take advantage of more power and a tightly tuned chassis, then the blisteringly fast BMW M2 is also available with a 405-hp turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine through a six-speed manual transmission.
If a 2 Series is too small of a coupe for you, then a rear-wheel-drive 4 Series or ballistically fast M4 is still on the table for some manual transmission high jinks. The 430i, powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot developing 248 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, has a manual option. So does the more powerful 440i model with two extra cylinders that delivers 326 hp and 332 lb-ft. As a serious performance coupe with comfortable daily driving chops, the M4 sets the bar and also has a manual option to go with its 425 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque in the "base" model.
On paper, the Genesis G70 is a serious competitor to the BMW 3 series, and we loved it with a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 under the hood. Unfortunately, there's no manual option for the more powerful engine. If you want to have three pedals, then you'll have to make do with the 2.0-liter inline-four the G70 shares with the Kia Stinger. It makes a healthy 255 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Word has it that sometime in 2021 or 2022, the 2.0-liter engine is to be replaced by a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 290 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. The bad news for manual enthusiasts is that the only transmission available will likely be a new eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The Evora GT replaces the Evora 400 and Evora Sport 410 in the US for 2020. Along with the Lotus supercharged 3.5-liter 6-cylinder engine making 416 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque, you have the choice between a six-speed manual gearbox and an automatic transmission feeding the power to a Torsen type limited-slip differential. You lose a little off the 3.8 second 0-60 mph time unless you're a magician with a manual, but the auto is the option and shows the Evora GT is designed for old school enjoyment.
For the 2020 model year, Mini is bringing the manual transmission back with orders opening in February. The Mini Hardtop and Mini Convertible get three pedals first and will be followed in July by the Clubman and Countryman models. Until then, you can only order the cars with the eight-speed automatic or the new seven-speed dual-clutch for the Countryman and Clubman models.
High-performance variants won't be getting a shift lever, though. Mini is using autos in the John Cooper Works variants of the Countryman and Clubman as well as the new Cooper GP to handle the power and make sure they are as quick as they can be.
Porsche is all about catering to enthusiasts, and the "entry-level" 718 platform cars both have a manual option. So, whether you want the soft top Boxster or the Cayman coupe, you can have a clutch and a shifter. You'll pay through the nose for features that are standard on other cars, but you certainly won't be complaining about pinpoint precision steering and agile handling. The 300-hp 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder boxer engine, well, that's not something that everyone can live with.
With the new 911 Carrera S and 4S models, Porsche is looking after its manual enthusiasts. Opt for the manual transmission box and buyers also get the $2,720 Sport Chrono package, a sport mode, dynamic drivetrain mounts, and an automatic rev-matching mode. For an even rawer driving experience, the manual optioned 911 also comes with a mechanical limited-slip differential that replaces the electronically controlled limited-slip diff that's standard on PDK-equipped models.
In 2019, almost half of all Golf GTI and Golf R models were optioned with three pedals. That's fantastic news for the manual in enthusiast biased cars, and both the GTI and R models are as good as ever. The GTI is as close to perfect as a practical daily driver complete with a gloriously responsive 2.0-liter engine making 228 hp and 258lb-ft of torque, and a beautifully tuned chassis.
The Golf R offers 288 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque through its four-cylinder 2.0-liter engine. Along with its uprated engine, the Golf R delivers a different driving experience due to its Haldex-derived 4Motion all-wheel-drive system. Even with the manual option ticked, the Golf R will still drop a sub-five-second 0-60 mph time.
The Volkswagen Jetta GLI was a finalist in the Family Fun section of the inaugural CarBuzz awards at the end of last year. We love how it finally drives just as well as the Golf GTI, and it was the only car with a manual option on our shortlist for the award. The base model Jetta S also comes with a manual but, unlike the GLI model, doesn't have the same engine as its Golf sibling. Instead, it has a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that generates a more laid-back 147 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque.