Last of the manualsThere are fewer and fewer performance cars that still have a manual gearbox as an option. Carfection drives four of the best that still do.
[NOISE]. [MUSIC] Technology is making it a lot easier for us to be just lazy and sit on our assess. Now that's great, dont get's me wrong, but it doesn't mean some of the color is fading [INAUDIBLE]. And not just at home, but on the roads as well. It's getting harder and harder to find a fast car where you work all the controls yourself. And it makes sense, because automatics are better and they're faster, they're quicker, they're idiot proof. You know that with an android working things, it will nail not to 62 every single time. Whereas a squishy Alex probably won't A sad state of affairs to say, but the robots are better than us. Take a look at the four cars behind me. Each one of them is good looking, very hard to get a hold of, and very quick. But most importantly, they're all manual. Meet the Mini JCW Challenge, Ford Focus RS, Aston Martin V12 Vantage S and the Porsche Cayman GT4. Today is a celebration of all things stick. The pleasure of the third pedal and the art of the a decent rev match. First up, The Mini John Cooper works challenge it looks like a mini sounds unholy and is awesome. So then this manual only proper hard core track is designed for people like you and me. It is not the most expensive car we've got today. It is still $32,000 which is still an enormous sum of money. It really is [LAUGH] but it set up for the circuit and the road. The brakes well they are derived from these bits from the mini challenge race cars. So you can give them a bit of a punishing and they won't give up. The steering is fantastic. The handling on this thing. His just brilliant. Compared to the standard JTW car where that would under-steer, this will go straight and through. You can push it a little bit harder, you can go that little bit faster, and the faster and harder you go, the more it rewards you Now, I complained when I drove both the mini GP cars that their gear boxes were a little bit too easy. The GP1, you have to have a bit of effort in it, was a proper driver's car. But the GP2, it was a little bit too easy. That is kind of the case here, the movement is very slick, it's very smooth, it's very light. I would say a little bit too light for a car like this. I don't feel like I'm working, really, to get the desired effect. Also, this has a little bit of a trick up it's sleeve, some electrics to make you downshift a little easier. Stick it in fourth. And every time you downshift the engine will rev match for you. No bad thing I think, because it means people don't **** up heel and toes, and you can turn it off if you want to. But the pedal layout, the pedal box means you can use it you can heel and toe, and you don't have to feel guilty for it. And I'll tell you what it make sa hell of a racket. This has a special track only noise mode which basically sounds like a machine gun when you are going certain speed. And it can't help make you smile. And here's another manual hero. The Ford Focus RS 345 brake horse power all wheel drive and a drift mode so awesome the nation of Australia wants to make it illegal. Naught to 62, if you're talented, takes 4.7 seconds. It'll top out at 165 miles an hour as well. It has stunning body control, oh-so-sweet steering, and aggressive looks that make it stand out in the best possible way. Frankly, it is an incredible machine. It is It's just awesome. It's breadth of ability and what it is and how it does it, is mind blowing. But I do get the impression that Ford would sell even more of these if it had given an automatic option, a dual clutch. Well there's two reasons why it didn't. One, extra weight over the front which means understeer and two one of the head honchos at Ford It's said sometimes DCT's can be a little slow to respond, which isn't exactly what you want when you're going into a [UNKNOWN] right [UNKNOWN]. Audi won't give you a stick in the RS3 [UNKNOWN] goes one in the A45, both cars. But would benefit from an extra layer of control, an extra drop of You. The Ford knows it's audience. And it's audience wants to feel their car. Wants to revel in it. My old friend the Ford Focus RS. Yes the interior is not as mega lovely as maybe it could be. But in the end it's a fast Ford. Ford isn't about sculpting based on the buttocks of a cherub. It's about a proper car that does its job really well, which is precisely what the Focus RS is. Now its manual gearbox, it's a peach. The clutch isn't too long. It's not heavy at all. The box itself has a nice little notch to it. But it's not too heavy. It's not hard work. It's so easy to drive. And the fact that it's so traction you can go into most corners at stupid speeds and just well, enjoy yourself. The car will let you get away with so much. tract mode is really where it's at because you can pump it into a corner It is fast and it'll just stay there. It'll get a bit wobbly, you'll feel the car move but it's a very communicative car. Even though it's tall and it's all wheel drive and what have you, Ford has made something utterly brilliant with the Focus RS it really has. And it would be a very different car if you didn't swap cogs yourself an auto version of this would be well it would probably be quicker. [INAUDIBLE] but doesn't need to be, this is a car for drivers, this is a car for people who want engagement. That's precisely what it gives you. The Ford is a brilliant example of an engaging drivers car for all. But it's not just the cheap seats that are [INAUDIBLE] to go one thing. There's a cracking motor from [UNKNOWN] that wants to put you in full control. [MUSIC] The Porsche Cayman GT4 easily The best Carerra I have ever driven. That is in part thanks to the fact that it's got a proper engine with 3.8 liters of thrust, six you used to get the old 991.1911 Carerra S. That means you've got 318 horses to play with, naught to 62 in 4.4 seconds, so Nothing, and if you're feeling brave it'll do 180. It's loaded with some cool stuff. The suspension is borrowed a little bit from the 911 GT3 for example and you can adjust it. You can expect seats that are inspired by the ones you get in the 918 Spider hypercar. Its gear lever is 20 mils shorter than the car it's based on so shifts are punchier, even if its ratios are a bit long. And it's sport button let's it rev match downshifts for you. You can feel like a heel-and-toe hero, even if you aren't one. It's one of the best handling cars I've ever Experience. The way it changes direction. You have to stop and think I wonder if its made of actual magic? You go around the corner it's not pulling your face out like that. It just, it goes quick, sounds right, feels right. And that is in part, thanks to its gearbox. A proper, manual gearbox. This is the car that Porsche Enthusiasts were crying out for. A properly fast car with a proper gearbox. Around the ring it's not that far behind a 911 GT3. And how many of those could be made up with a super slick PDK? I'll wager a fair few. I won't lie, it would be quicker if it changed gears itself. But would it be as fun? [MUSIC] Hell no. [SOUND] This is what a Porsche should sound like. Just listen to that. [SOUND] The way it carries itself. The way it composes itself is just awesome. The steering is just [INAUDIBLE] enough that you know you're doing some serious work. Within. But you feel so connected, to the front wheels. It doesn't push wide. It steers straight and true. But, the highlight, really the highlight, other than the engine, the epic power and what have you. And the amazing suspension. If the manual gearbox. Porsche knows how to make a good manual. This six speeder, is wicked. The clutch isnt as long, as other Porsche's have been, historically. Its a short move and the bite isn't too high up. The gear lever is a little bit shorter than the standard came at the time which makes the shift really direct. Its got a notchy change but it feels so good. Basically what I'm trying to say is that the Cayman's gt4 is a car that I adore. This is, I must own one of these territory, I have to have a [UNKNOWN] in my life. The noise, the feel, the experience, this is a serious car. And it's seriously good [LAUGH] Fantastic. Like the other cars we have here today, it's a proper peach. It's engaging fast and well Brilliant. However, Porsche made it because it listens to the people who buy its cars, and guess what it found out? Make a manual and the people will hungrily buy them up. Same goes for the 911R, the first car with a proper gear box. And now, they're all gone. Now that brings me to this, the Astin Martin V12 Vantage S with a manual gearbox. Now Aston saw fit to put its biggest 6 liter, or 5.9 if you're a bit picky, V12 into its diddiest car, the Vantage. It's barely bigger than the Focus RS, it's properly, properly small. Now it's got the same 3.7 0 to 62 time as the automatic, and the same 205 mile an Now at top speed, which you can do if you have the space, or the testicles. Previously you could only have a V12 Vantage S with Aston's sport shift 3 automated manual gearbox. It could handle the car's 565 horses and 457 pound foot. The car, as a whole, was a cracker. Noise, speed, anger, shoutiness, it was lovely. But, it was let down by the gearbox. Sport shift three lost a letter in our office. It was slow, sticky, sloshy, and it was just dreadful. So imagine all the happy, when Aston announced the in advantages closing day, It was gonna ditch the robot and stick in a seven-speed dog leg manual gear box. The robot is gone and we finally have proper control. But I imagine there would be some people out there who are a bit worried that maybe a seven-speed is a bit much. But you shouldn't worry about that because Aston's done away with some of the hard work. Using clever tech. It's got something called AMSHIFT to make the shift, something that used to require finesse, a little easier. It'll also blip your downshift, that's old hat, but it'll also let you flat shift up through the box. Just dip the clutch, keep your foot pinned, select your gear and you're golden. You can turn it off If you prefer the proper old school through. So the Aston Martin. This is one of my favorite cars of 2016. Because it's that proper [UNKNOWN] car, massive engine, let's see what happens. This isn't a car. It's some kind of missile with wheels. Or as the cliche goes, it's all power. All power, all go, and I don't think it likes the fact it has so much power, it's like, no! I want to play with our guns, with fire this power, all over the road In a big joshing motion. But when you stick the traction into track mode, that's when things get interesting because it gives you a little bit of slip and it shows you the car's true character. And my [LAUGH] it He wants to fight you. [BLANK_AUDIO] [LAUGH] In the GT-4 round that [UNKNOWN] corner I did 102 this morning Just now we did 115, didn't even bat an eyelid, didn't even worry. It does feel the road, the steering is just stunning. You get a proper link to the wheels, it's very, very smooth. The brakes, again, are fantastic, there's a little bit of dead zone, then you get to the meat and bones of it, and away you go. [NOISE] [INAUDIBLE] like your [UNKNOWN] gives you ceiling. That way. Now, the gearbox itself. It is good but it's also a bit flawed. Because, essentially what Aston's done, is they've removed the rover, from the sport shift. Now, there are seven speeds, in a very very narrow hole. Which is not ideal. Because what you'll find yourself doing is, until you get properly used to it, is, when you're going for say 4th, you end up in 6th. Or when you go to 3rd, you end up in 5th. So the gearbox, it does turn that car that was very, very good into a great car. It's not as good as it could be, but that extra level of engagement Extra little thing you get with it. It just makes it mega. It's just better than the auto. Not on paper. It won't get you over the line faster. But inside it's better. The Manual Aston is for people who care about the connection between car and driver. That's what it's all about. Not sitting in traffic and letting the car do the work. It's for the few that really love the country roads, the canyons. The great challenging open roads the world has to offer. Yeah a well sorted DCT may make for a faster car, but it doesn't always make for a more engaging one. Autos are the future, there's no denying that, and as much as I hate to say it, the manual gear box is a dying breed in high performance cars. But with an auto you do lose a purity of proper engaging driving, and that's what the four cars we have today are, they're proper, they are engaging, and they are simply fantastic They're made for the types of people who just wanna get up, get out and drive.