Praise be. The manual gearbox isn’t dead. Okay, I don’t really imagine it was ever quite going to be. Car makers can only spend a certain amount of money on the cheapest cars and still return a profit, which means three-pedal models are going nowhere.
But for a time there, on some of the exciting stuff, it was touch and go. We don’t even think about mentioning manual gearboxes when it comes to Mercedes-AMGs, Ferraris or McLarens these days. I take it as read that you know there’s no stick-shift option coming. It looked like you might have to actively search out an Ariel or Caterham to find a thrilling car with a manual transmission.
There are decent reasons for the move towards autos. Modern two-pedal set-ups are quicker to shift, cleaner and more tuneable than manuals. Add an electric hybrid set-up and the fact that gearbox software can talk to the rest of the powertrain, andit can torque-fill and coast or do whatever the hell you want it to do. You can’t do that with a manual.
And I’ll accept that if a commuter car, or a luxury car with increasing levels of autonomy, has to make shifts for me, then such is life.
But the PDK-only Porsche 911 GT3 was the worrying one. Here’s a car whose emissions mattered not a jot and whose driving pleasure was its all.
On a GT3, there are no electric motors or even turbos to get in the way – although I once read that the GT3’s dynamic engine mounts require a hydraulic pump and that, at the time, only a PDK gearbox could provide it. But the GT3 seemed like the start of something significant, of car makers deciding they knew best and giving you what they thought you should have, rather than what you want.
But we’ve done it. Or rather, you’ve done it. By being noisy enough about it, the Porsche Cayman GT4 arrived exclusively with a manual gearbox. And now word reaches us – although BMW hasn’t even announced the model, let alone the transmission – that the BMW M2 will have a manual gearbox.
Better than that, in a market dominated by models such as the Mercedes-AMG A45 and Audi RS3, the M2 could just be another car in the GT4’s vein: an old-school scorcher that hits you right in the feels.
I like the A45, and I suspect the RS3 will be good, but I like the sound of an M2 even more. If word reaches us correctly, it has the ‘right’ amount of power, at 375bhp, and only the correct wheels are driven.
Yes, it’ll be turbocharged, but you can’t have everything. And besides, there have been plenty of exciting turbocharged cars over the years. Porsche calls the Cayman GT4 “old-school, not old-fashioned”.