They're a rare breed. Get them while you still can.
The manual transmission is nearly a thing of the past. Few new vehicles today, especially in America, offer drivers the chance to row their own gears. Blame better fuel efficiency from automatics and driver tastes. But when it comes to niche segments like supercars, there’s a different set of rules. We did some digging and came up with this updated list of high-performance sports cars and supercars that can still be had with three pedals, although you’ll have to literally beg with a briefcase full of cash for the company founder to build you one in particular.
The new Corvette ZR1 could very well be the final front-engined Corvette. If so, then Chevy is making sure this legendary setup is going out with a bang. Its supercharged LT5 6.2-liter V8 making 755 hp and 715 lb-ft of torque can be paired to either an eight-speed paddle-shift automatic or a seven-speed manual. Those who value lap times above all will opt for the former, but if you’re seriously into driving then the manual is the only way to go. Is the Corvette ZR1 a supercar or a high-performance sports car? Normally a regular Corvette is a sports car, but in this case we’re talking performance times capable of going up against the best from Germany and Italy. Given its capabilities, the ZR1 is also a decent value, starting at $119,995.
Porsche was one of the first mainstream sports car companies to shift away (pun intended) from the traditional manual to an automatic and later to a dual-clutch gearbox. However, Porsche 911 fans are a unique bunch and having a manual is part of the whole 911 experience. The 2018 911 GT3 can be had with a six-speed manual at no extra cost. Butt-engined as always, the latest 911 GT3 has a naturally aspirated flat-six displacing four liters and producing 500 hp and 340 lb-ft of torque, all of which goes to the rear wheels. Unlike the 911 Turbo (DCT only), the 911 GT3 is RWD and intended for serious track performance. Expect to pay at least $145,000 for a new one, and that's without any additional options.
Perhaps Lotus’ financial struggles were a blessing in disguise. Not until more recently did it have the money to invest in more modern technologies, hence its decision to stick with the stick, specifically the six-speed manual. The new Evora GT430 is a fine example of extreme sports car purity. Powered by a supercharged 3.5-liter V6 with 430 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque, the sole transmission available is a six-speed. Nothing to debate here. The latest Evora lineup is also the only Lotus model currently on sale in North America. Like its ancestors, the Lotus Evora GT430 goes by company founder Colin Chapman’s philosophy of “Simplify, then add lightness.” Pricing for North America is still not announced, but in the UK it starts from 112,500 GBP.
Before we leave the UK, there’s another purist supercar that comes with a six-speed manual: the Noble M600. Jeremy Clarkson described it as “one of the fastest and best handling supercars, ever.” It’s not for the amateur supercar buyer, let’s put it that way. Powered by a Yamaha twin-turbo V8 located midship with 650 hp and 604 lb-ft of torque, power is routed directly to the rear wheels. Where’s the danger/thrill? Traction Control can be totally shut off. The interior is decked out with old school analog switches as well, perfectly complementing the gearbox. Unfortunately, Noble is not sold in America, so if you’re keen to get one (for at least 200,000 GBP), taking up UK residency is highly recommended.
While the Corvette ZR1 is for ultimate Corvette performance, the Z06 remains the best C7 Corvette you can buy outside of the US. Like the ZR1, the Z06 can be had with either a seven-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic. In fact, both transmissions are mechanically identical, including the final drive ratio. The Z06’s LT4 supercharged 6.2-liter V8 produces 650 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque, an output that isn’t quite for amateurs. Buyers can also tack on the optional track-focused Z07 Performance Package, which adds adjustable front and rear aero components for improvement downforce, Michelin Pilot Super Sport Cup tires, and carbon ceramic brakes. The Z06 is also quite a bit cheaper than the $120K ZR1 with its $82,000 base price.
This is where that briefcase full of cash will be required. Horacio Pagani claims he’s done building Zondas, but if you somehow manage to convince him otherwise, the Pagani Zonda of your dreams is possible. Unlike the Huayra, the Zonda was engineered to handle a manual transmission from the beginning. And remember, all Paganis are built to order, making each one special in its own right. A number of celebrities, such as F1 champion Lewis Hamilton, are proud Zonda owners. Not surprisingly, Hamilton ordered his car with a manual. Combined with its Mercedes-built V12, the Zonda remains one of the greatest supercars of all time. So, how much cash will that briefcase need to be filled with? Over one million euros.