Labour of love

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

THE WORSHIP 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.

In 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.

Coincidentally, the Volkswagen Group book-ends this feature with the $27,490 Polo GTI and its return to the manual after a seven-year absence. A halfdozen’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.

Beyond 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. – Daniel DeGasperi

In the last decade, the lever that seperates driver and front passenger has divided enthusiasts

The duo of engine and transmission give it a bit of an alluring, sports-luxury personality

VW Polo GTI Computer says no

WHILE the Polo GTI's power and handling puts it on a par with some of the big boys in this comparison, the ESP won't turn completely off and sometimes gets in the way of some truly foot-to-the-floor shenanigans.

HOT hatchbacks need a manual transmission – there, we said it. After driving the facelifted Polo GTI, we’re wrapping both arms and legs around the left pedal lest Volkswagen take it from us again.

The 6R-generation Polo GTI from 2009 came only with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission which proved almost as problematic from a reliability perspective as the 1.4-litre ‘twincharged’ four-cylinder it mated with.

Even before the whole DSG saga went down, I recall wanting to burn the automatic faster than it selfharmed its own clutch packs. Hard on the brakes in a straight line, wiping speed off coming into a corner, I was left furiously slapping its left paddleshifter never knowing when the electronics would permit access to a lower gear. Coming up to the next corner, it was impossible to press the engine into its redline without auto-upshifting, often right before turn-in.

Today, all that is just a bad dream. The new sixspeed manual transmission has a featherweight, dainty movement between gears, perfectly in keeping with a 1234kg hatchback. The throw is not short, but nor is it long, and there’s just a hint of rubber between changes like a rifle-bolt that has been cling-wrapped.

The fresh engine it teams up with, a 1.8-litre turbocharged four from the Passat, is similarly creamy and smooth yet also bloody fast. Maximum 320Nm from 1450rpm to 4200rpm, peak 141kW from 4300rpm to 6200rpm – there is simply surging response everywhere in this car.

Indeed, the duo of engine and transmission give the latest Polo GTI a bit of an alluring, sports-luxury personality to go along with its more compliant suspension, bright touchscreen and superbly comfortable, classically tartan-trimmed cloth seats.

Volkswagen claims 0-100km/h in 6.7 seconds, but in contrast to its emissions claims (cough, cough) this is pessimistic because MOTOR has achieved a 6.26sec time (and 14.5sec quarter) in this very car at BFYB this year. Don't forget that only three years ago, a 1360kg Mk6 Golf GTI produced 155kW/280Nm along with a H claimed 6.9sec 0-100km/h.

A seven-speed DSG continues in the Polo GTI as a $2500 option not to bother with, all those computercontrolled immediate shifts merely deliver an identical performance claim due to a 70Nm deficit (to preserve the troublesome DSG, you see).

Rarely will the driver of a Boxster Spyder emerge from the driver’s seat and say “might swap to the Polo now”, but so it was with Associate Editor Newman after a hard strafe in the Porsche. No elitism here. The little Volkswagen may be the smallest and cheapest car of the field by far, but it was far from left behind.

The beauty of the new drivetrain came to the fore on a hillclimb sandwiched between Boxster and F-Type ahead, and the Maloo and 308 behind. Attempting to be silky and maintain corner speed, I realised that the 1.8-litre turbo – an identical configuration to the original three-door Polo GTI from 2005 with 110kW/220Nm and a five-speed manual – lets you either pluck third and ride its mid-range or rev sweetly at the top of second. Either approach is perfectly fine.

A recent MY16 update has brought standard twostage adaptive dampers and along with Sport stability control and grippy Brigestone Potenza 17-inch rubber, it gels near-perfectly with the drivetrain’s raunchy personality.

Through corners, the ordinary on-centre steering, most noticeable around town, gives way to firm and crisp response. Playing Polo is about indulging in bodyroll, exploring nose-tightening lift-off oversteer, finding sweet balance and nailing quick exits, rather than darting snickety-snick and wickedly-quick between bends a la 308 GTi. Tellingly, though, the Volkswagen’s steering, gearshifter and brake pedal feel are preferable to the double-the-price Peugeot.

“It’s a good thing!” exclaimed Newman, exiting Volkswagen’s littlest GTI after yet another cat-andmouse stoush. We all agree, though the manual transmission only further lifts what is otherwise one of the most improved mid-life facelifts in recent times.

It may have been in Goliath company here, but just like the manual transmission itself, David proved a damned good bloke, standing tall even among A-grade sporting players. – DD

READ speculation about the next-generation Renault Sport Megane and you might be tempted to rush out and buy a current-generation model simply because you can still lay claim to being master of your own cog. Yep, while the truth about the next generation of Renault's legendary bum-dragger is hard to come by, we're hearing it'll be four doors with all-wheel steering – perhaps even all-wheel drive, a la Focus RS – a smaller engine and follow the Clio's lead by adopting an EDC twin-clutch auto. With no manual.

But before you start machine-gunning angry letters left, right and centre, the news is far from confirmed.

Regardless, we hope the very reasons such news might upset a good portion of those who read this magazine has weighed on Renault's corporate mind.

Cars like the Peugeot 205 GTi and Renault’s nutty nat-atmo Clio III RS200 are prime examples of the Gallic talent for making performance heroes out of otherwise consumer models. And all traditional French hot hatches owe a lot of their legend to the fact you have to change gears yourself.

It's part of what makes the new Peugeot 308 GTi not a bad bit of kit. In fairness, we hear the only reason it doesn't have a twin-clutch is because they haven't got around to it yet, but let's conveniently ignore that for now and celebrate this H-pattern hottie.

The 308 GTi 270 scores a six-speed pinched from the now defunct RCZ-R, which comes shot blasted and fused with more carbon-atoms for strength.

R Dodging an automatic (so far) has helped the 308 GTi 270 keep remarkably light. At 1205kg, and packed with 200kW, it's rated at 166kW-per-tonne – 24kW clear of a Megane RS275. Not even the radically lightened Trophy-R can touch that.

This makes life easier for its engine which, despite its 200kW/330Nm, stacks up tiny in this company.

With big boost and trick internals Peugeot Sport's boffins extracted those outputs from just 1.6 litres.

Then there’s price. Developing a dual-clutch capable of handling the GTi’s grunt would add a fair chunk to its $49,990. And the extra dough needed would push it into dangerous territory.

For now, though, it's manual – and Peugeot Australia says customers are loving three-pedal versions of its performance models, around 17 per cent of 208s sold are the manual-only GTi.

Peugeot's reissued the 208 GTi’s metallic gearknob for duty in the 308, too, but we're not complaining – unless it's January, when you could cook an egg on it.

But otherwise it's a goodie.

The clutch, too, won't wear out your left leg, even in traffic, but it nibbles rather than bites during take off, which makes getaways difficult. The 270's enormous grabbers are also prone to trapping dust, and sometimes groan as you pull away – but Peugeot assures that this is just part and parcel of the pretty serious hardware.

With the clog pinned, the GTi’s nose crabwalks as the LSD tries to manhandle 330Nm in first gear. The front treads chirp on the upshift to second before hitting 100km/h in a claimed 6.0sec. And you can relax in third for corners, surfing the engine’s meaty

308 GTi 270 Peugeot's Golf hunter

THINK two clutches are better than one? The GTi 270 we've tested hit 6.09sec to 100km/h and 14.16sec quarter, significantly quicker than VW's Golf GTI Performance's 6.8/14.9.

The Pug may be lighter and faster, but shows old-school tech can be just as effective.

mid-range or extending to its revvy top-end.

Rowing the ’box isn't as precise as with a rodlinkage type, but a missshift wouldn’t be any fault of the gearbox's. Sport mode lights up the rev dial in red, which looks great, but only problem is it then hides the 6500rpm redline.

Oh, those kooky Frenchies.

If you do accidentally bump the limiter, though, the lever's long throw and reassuring 'thunk' as it lands the next gate is a soothing remedy. One you’re happy to savour at 54km/h into second, then 99km/h, and then at 132km/h if you need fourth gear.

Unfortunately, while the gears are wonderful to ascend, pedal spacing makes heel-and-toe tricky.

However, awkward downshifts are a small price to pay for what is an involving link between driver to machine. And hell, we only need to climb back into the current Renault Sport Clio and weep at the sight of P-R-N-D to forgive the 308 GTi of any of its H-pattern shortcomings. Because who knows, while Renault Sport recently unveiled the RS16 SuperClio – think a 'normal' Clio IV RS, but with an RS275 engine and manual gearbox, a step in a VERY positive direction – it's not clear whether it'll reach production.

Regardless of Renault's own moves, Peugeot releasing a hot hatch in 2016 as manual-only is a vote of confidence in the configuration's continued popularity. And that alone has got to be worth celebrating. – Louis Cordony

The lever's long throw and reassuring thunk is a soothing remedy

HSV Maloo The trembling Tremec

YES, you would absolutely grab any HSV in manual over auto in Gen-F2 guise. It wasn't always this way, the manual formerly just a little too heavy and clunky. But these days the clutch is friendlier, the gearchange slicker and the enjoyment higher.

It feels bang-on, to the extent you need to remind yourself you're driving an 1887kg ute with a three-metre wheelbase

IT wouldn't be a very correct analogy to say the HSV Maloo R8 LSA is the food equivalent of a good, oldfashioned Aussie meat pie.

Sure, it might look that way from the outside, but peel back the Australian pastry and you'll find American beef (that 400kW 6.2-litre supercharged LSA V8) and some added spice thanks to not pepper, not chilli, but jalapenos.

Hanging off the back of that big slab of donk is a Mexican six-speed manual gearbox. And Ford fans, you might want to check the ingredients on the back of the Falcon's label before chuckling at Clayton's own odd recipe. You've got jalapenos, too.

Our Green Hulk is a fitting ambassador to manual, modern muscle simply because it has the Tremec six-speed TR6060 gearbox. It seems to be the go-to 'box, not just for HSVs, and Holden's LS3-powered SS, but it's in the FG X Falcon XR8, Dodge Challenger, Cadillac CTS-V, Chevy Corvette, Camaro ZL1, V10 Dodge Viper, and more we don't need to name.

Rated to as high as 950Nm it's not hard to see why.

Plus, it's not a bad jigger. We've as many memories as this thing has synchros of clunky, cranky TR6060s. Its shift action has been compared to stirring a bucket of gravel with half a broomhandle but it's come a long way; in fact for apparently inexplicable reasons it seems a much sweeter thing in VFII than VF.

In "MG9" spec, the Maloo R8 LSA's TR6060 is rated to 747Nm, bolts to a twin-plate clutch and comes with its own oil cooler. And in Gen-F2 guise the heavy-ish clutch feels to bite a little less abruptly than Gen-F, the shift feels like it's been regreased and banging up the gears is just a bit nicer than it was before.

There are also very Australian reasons for getting a manual V8. Part of what made the Australian Touring Car Championship great was the fact that, in its glory days, you needed to know your way around an H-pattern. Dick Johnson, Peter Brock, Allan Moffat and even Mark Skaife (and all those less famous) wrestled animals with enormous horsepower around racetracks like The Mount, deftly slotting fifth to third I or fourth to second, whereas these days Supercars are full of sequential sooks who wouldn't know the expression 'to miss a gear'. And would be liable to pull the gearknob in the Maloo down to fourth thinking they're grabbing first.

Not that we tried, but it could probably still pull from a standstill, though. Unsurprisingly, the Maloo R8 LSA is the 'torquiest' car here, its 671Nm more than the Polo and Peugeot put together. Enough to pull even the biggest dill's head in.

And lord is it fast. There's grunt a-plenty, such that the gear ratios feel just right – a tad tall, but in a way that feels bang-on in a car like this. And it's not like the Maloo R8 LSA is all engine, either. It absolutely has the chassis to match the power, cornering confidently and never getting scrappy, the tyres giving up the ghost before the chassis does – which is how it should be.

The rest of the car absolutely keeps up with the engine to the extent that you need to remind yourself what it is you're actually driving – an 1887kg ute with a threemetre wheelbase.

You'd even take the Maloo R8 LSA for a drive for no other reason than fun. There's lots of grip, front and rear, from the soft Continental tyres (even if the Maloo's appetite for front tyres is just as ferocious as rears). Yet the ESP calibration is spot-on, permitting you a quarter turn corrective lock on the throttle out of second-gear corners. In this sense it's a total hoot.

Extra points for the brilliant brake pedal feel, and for being easy to heel-toe. But minus points for at times simply being unable to conceal its bulk and an exhaust that sounds better outside the car than in. Oh, and the thirst. You'll be treated like royalty at the local servo.

But the most impressive part is, you forget you're in a ute. It drives better than it should. And you would absolutely take the manual over the GM-supplied sixspeed 6L90E auto (which merely does the job).

The good news, too, is so long as the Americans keep buying "stick", and there are enough cashed-up Australians who want their cars, the manual, modern muscle car doesn't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. And while from the outside it'll look different, to Aussies the flavours will be very familiar – owing to, of course, the same ingredients. – DC d motorof ficial f motor_mag 103

ALTHOUGH associated with sexy shapes and introducing disc brakes to Le Mans in the 1950s, a flick through Jaguar's sports car back catalogue reveals only sporadic highlights involving a clutch pedal – and even these were largely out of reach for your everyday punter.

Early manuals were agricultural in shift operation and clutch heft, while your chance to emulate Walkinshaw's 1985 Bathurst pole lap is limited by the fact that only 352 manual XJS V12s were built.

The next flicker was the incredible XJR-15 with its Le Mans-derived mechanicals and 53-strong production, followed by the even more powerful XJ220, which ceased production way back in 1994.

With this background, it came as a surprise when Jaguar revealed its sculptured F-Type would gain a six-speed manual variant, especially because the available ZF ‘Quickshift’ eight-speed torque converter automatic can shift so crisply.

Opting for the semi-dry sump manual, also developed with ZF, saves you 10kg vehicle weight but adds 0.6sec to the claimed 0-100km/h sprint.

Despite the non-descript rubber pedal covers, initial impressions of the three-pedal F-Type are positive, the shifter position a natural fall for your left hand from the leather-trimmed, paddle-less steering wheel.

The stubby gear lever and 45mm throw suggests fast A shifting is possible, however, once you’ve fed in the clutch (light enough given the engine’s outputs, but inconsistent in pick-up point) and start working the gearbox, you realise that this isn’t a manual that likes to be rushed.

For the smoothest shift it’s a two-movement job, pausing ever-so-briefly through neutral before engaging the next slot, particularly on those crossgate shifts. You can speed up, say, the three-four change, but doing so doesn’t seem to re-engage drive any faster, despite the ECU offering an upshift speedmatching function.

Up at highway speeds, it comes as a surprise that the gap between fourth and fifth gear is almost rallycar- short, a registered 3000rpm in fourth dropping only to 2600rpm in the higher cog.

Swapping straight-line blast for braking zone, it’s the pedals that draw attention once more. Apply the brakes and it’s a natural roll of the right ankle to give a jab of throttle on the downshift. It requires a fair twist in the F-Type’s standard drive mode, but employ Dynamic mode (which ramps up throttle pedal response) and your reward grows, exhaust crackle combining with a satisfyingly tingly blip and smoother engagement of the lower gear… so long as you control the clutch re-engagement.

As familiarity builds, it becomes ironic that the manual is at its best is when you hold it in a single gear to enjoy the engine’s developing crescendo and torque reserves. Out of a tight uphill left, using third reveals a rotary-edged exhaust buzz that swells through the

It becomes ironic that the manual is at its best when you hold it in a single gear

Jaguar F-Type Coventry’s sex kitten

FOR reasons only it knows, Jaguar has decided to spend a decent whack of money developing a six-speed manual ’box for the F-Type – hoorah! It’s available on the V6 models and will save you $5000.

rev-range into an E-Type 3.8-aping howl that sounds even better from outside. Sure, the supercharged V6 lacks the ballistic top-end of its auto-only V8 sibling, but it remains characterful and responsive in a way turbocharged cars still cannot match.

Does the manual make the F-Type a better car?

Despite the added gear control of the manual – the eight-speed auto can be a little pre-emptive with kicking-down gears – the answer is no.

That’s not to say the manual is a total waste, but more that the slick torque converter self-shifter is a better fit for the F-Type vibe, capable of dual-clutchmatching shift speed when pressing on but also able to cruise when the mood takes you. The overrun crackle also remains.

You’d never pick the manual’s weight advantage and the auto is both more accelerative and fuel efficient with a ratio for any occasion. It also allows you to keep both hands on the wheel, a key advantage when tackling bumpy road sequences that can excite the F-Type’s electric steering, manifested in the wheel jiggling around between your fingers and sapping cornering confidence.

It’s a conclusion shared among the assembled test group. While Jaguar should be applauded for introducing the clutch pedal option, it’s clear that the modern breed of self-shifters can actually enhance the modern sports car experience. – Adam Davis

Porsche Boxster Spyder Weissach wunderbar

WOULD it be even faster as a launch-controlled dual-clutch? Undoubtedly, but then you’d miss out on one of the world’s best manuals, which is the whole point of this exercise.

F YOU had to bet on one manufacturer being the last line of manual defence in the face of an automatic onslaught, the smart money would be on Porsche. Ferrari was an early casualty, Lamborghini followed close behind, Audi has abandoned ship (in its RS products at least) and AMG never showed up in the first place.

Faster, more efficient and easier to use are their arguments (and valid they are too) but thankfully a select group of enthusiasts still wants to shift gear themselves – and the majority are shopping in Porsche showrooms. For a time it appeared Weissach’s resolve was weakening. The 911’s seven-speed manual was, and is, derived from the sales-dominating PDK dualclutch, while Porsche’s purest models, GT3 and GT3 RS, abandoned the three-pedal layout altogether.

Then bam! Out of nowhere comes the resurgence.

The halo variants of all three of Porsche’s sports car lines – Cayman GT4, Boxster Spyder and 911 R – are manual-only and the 991.2 GT3 is expected to offer the 911 R’s new six-speed unit as an option.

It’s critical for the brand to still offer a manual gearbox, says Porsche Australia’s communications manager, Paul Ellis. “The appeal of Porsche is all about driving,” he says. “Even though a manual might be slower than a PDK, if you’re a purist, you’ll have more fun with a manual. It’s about catering to that hardcore group of enthusiasts where fun is more important than outright performance. As long as there is a demand for that, we’ll continue to do it.”

And there is a demand. Cayman GT4s proved slightly more popular than free money, 911 R buyers were carefully selected and the 35 or so Boxster Spyders that landed locally quickly disappeared. Ellis speaks of buyers prioritising fun over outright performance, but with Porsche’s range-topping mid-engine models there’s the ability to have your cake and eat it too.

Nestled midships in both models is the 3.8-litre flat-six from the 991-series Carrera S, detuned slightly to 276kW/420Nm in the case of the Boxster Spyder, which allows it to hit 100km/h in a claimed 4.5sec I – 0.2sec clear of a PDK and Sport Chrono-equipped Boxster GTS. Would it be even faster as a launchcontrolled dual-clutch? Undoubtedly, but that would be to miss the point entirely.

The clutch is surprisingly heavy. You soon get used to it, but equally an hour in heavy traffic would be a reasonable left-leg workout. The shift requires some effort – this is not a one-finger affair in the manner of the Polo GTI. Nonetheless, the action is so smooth and well-oiled – drivetrain snatch just doesn’t exist – that it’s impossible not to change up and down the ’box for the hell of it.

It’s really the only reason you need to shift. If manual Porsches have one flaw, it’s incredibly long gearing. It’s not a flaw in and of itself, especially in the bigger-engined Spyder, which easily has the grunt to keep pulling hard, but it does limit your need to stir the excellent gearbox. The maximum speeds in each gear at the 7800rpm cut-out are as follows: 1st 79km/h; 2nd 134km/h; 3rd 186km/h; 4th 232km/h; 5th 276km/h. The top speed of 290km/h is achieved at 7000rpm in sixth.

For racetrack use (or, say, the Nurburgring Nordschleife) the ratios are spot-on; the lower gears (which you don’t use very often) are nice and wide while the taller ones are closely-stacked. But the Boxster Spyder is a road car and when second gear stretches to well beyond the national speed limit, opportunities to use its full performance range are few and far between.

Porsche might argue the flaw lies with Australia’s road laws rather than the car itself (and it would have a point), but shorter gearing would make the Boxster faster and more enjoyable on your typical twisty road.

Ironically, it’s less of an issue thanks to the arrival of the new torquier, lower-revving turbocharged 718 Boxster. Speaking to engineers at that car’s launch revealed that the gearing is what the supplier offers, so that’s what Porsche takes.

But this is nit-picking to a degree. It’s fitting that the car at the pinnacle of this feature should also have the best gearshift and the six-speed manual is a key part of this fabulous sports car’s appeal. Long may it continue to do so. – Scott Newman

It's fitting that the car at the pinnacle of this feature should also have the best gearshift

THE ORIGINAL premise of this feature was to celebrate the resurgence of the manual gearbox by gathering five extremely different cars linked by one common factor – three pedals in the footwell.

What became clear as we drove each in turn, however, is that adding a manual isn't some free pass to instant enthusiast enjoyment. Some cars, like the Polo GTI, benefit hugely from forcing the driver to select their own gears. Others, like the F-Type, don't.

Jaguar should definitely be commended for giving buyers a choice of transmission, but the current manual's rubbery shift quality and odd clutch take-up makes the excellent eight-speed automatic the more involving, enjoyable drive.

As a general rule, though, the added workload of a manual gearbox improves the driving experience from an enthusiasts' point of view. You could argue that it's safer, too, as it forces the driver to focus more on the task at hand.

Despite its recent uplift in popularity, the manual gearbox has its work cut out in the long term.

Self-shifting gearboxes are generally faster, more economical (in a laboratory, at least) and easier to use for the vast majority of motorists who view driving as a necessity, rather than a pleasure.

Thankfully, there's a key group of enthusiasts that still have the desire, skill and coordination required to operate three pedals with two feet, and as long as these folk keep voting with their wallets, car companies will be forced to listen.

And they are listening. Witness the sell-out success of Porsche's high-end models, a 25 per cent manual take-up for BMW's new M2 and Aston Martin re-introducing a DIY gearbox to its Vantage range.

May the days of manual labour continue for many years to come.

Thankfully, there's a key group of enthusiasts that still have the desire to operate three pedals with two feet


BODY 2-door, 2-seat roadster DRIVE rear-wheel ENGINE 3800cc fl at-6, DOHC, 24v BORE/STROKE 102.0 x 77.5mm COMPRESSION 12.5:1 POWER 276kW @ 6700rpm TORQUE 420Nm @ 4750-6000rpm POWER/WEIGHT 210kW/tonne TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual WEIGHT 1315kg SUSPENSION (F) struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar SUSPENSION (R) multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar L/W/H 4379/1801/1280mm WHEELBASE 2475mm TRACKS 1515/1540mm (f/r) STEERING electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion BRAKES (F) 340mm ventilated/drilled discs, 6-piston calipers BRAKES (R) 330mm ventilated/drilled discs, 4-piston calipers WHEELS 20.0 x 8.5-inch, 20.0 x 10.5-inch (f/r) TYRE SIZES 235/35 ZR20 (f); 265/35 ZR20 (r) TYRE Pirelli P Zero PRICE AS TESTED $169,000 PROS Awesome engine; sweet gearshift; superb handling CONS Very long gear ratios; sold out STAR RATING 11111


2-door, 2-seat ute rear-wheel 6162cc V8, OHV, 16v, supercharger 103.3 x 92.0mm 9.1:1 400kW @ 6150rpm 671Nm @ 4200rpm 212kW/tonne 6-speed manual 1887kg struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar 5112/1899/1480mm 3009mm 1616/1590mm (f/r) electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion 367mm ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers 372mm ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers 20.0 x 8.5-inch, 20.0 x 9.5-inch (f/r) 255/35 ZR20 (f); 275/35 ZR20 (r) Continental ContiSportContact $76,990 Supercharged grunt; practicality; handling balance Fuel thirst; tyre wear; rear vision 11113


2-door, 2-seat coupé rear-wheel 2995cc V6, DOHC, 24v, supercharger 84.9 x 89.0mm 10.5:1 280kW @ 6500rpm 460Nm @ 3500-5000rpm 177kW/tonne 6-speed manual 1584kg A-arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar A-arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar 4470/1923/1309mm 2622mm 1597/1649mm (f/r) electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion 380mm ventilated discs, 2-piston calipers 325mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers 20.0 x 9.0-inch, 20.0 x 10.5-inch (f/r) 255/35 ZR20 (f); 295/30 ZR20 (r) Pirelli P Zero $151,770 Exhaust rasp; sexy looks; agile handling Not that quick; impractical 11123


5-door, 5-seat hatch front-wheel 1798cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbocharger 82.5 x 84.2mm 9.6:1 141kW @ 4300-6200rpm 320Nm @ 1450-4200rpm 114kW/tonne 6-speed manual 1234kg A-arms, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar torsion beam, coil springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar 3983/1682/1443mm 2470mm 1447/1441mm electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion 288mm ventilated discs, 2-piston calipers 232mm solid discs, single-piston calipers 17.0 x 7.5-inch (f/r) 215/40 R17 (f/r) Bridgestone Pontenza S001 $27,490 Torquey engine; sweet gearshift; adaptive dampers Loss of steering feel 11113


5-door, 5-seat hatch front-wheel 1598cc inline-4cyl, DOHC, 16v, turbocharger 77.0 x 85.8mm 9.2:1 200kW @ 6000rpm 330Nm @ 1900-5500rpm 166kW/tonne 6-speed manual 1205kg struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar torsion beam, coil springs, anti-roll bar 4253/1804/1446mm 2620mm 1570/1554mm (f/r) electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion 380mm ventilated/drilled discs, 4-piston calipers 268mm solid discs, single-piston calipers 19.0 x 9.0-inch (f/r) 235/35 ZR19 (f/r) Michelin Pilot Super Sport $49,990 Great drivetrain; heaps of grip; classy looks Needs more playful handling 11113