For drivers, one of the best ways to control a car’s power is to have a manual transmission at hand. Automatics are more comfortable and dual-clutch jobs are a teeny-weeny faster than a stick shift, but these things are irrelevant to those with a keen sense of carving corners. The thing is, the manual is a dying breed because automakers are more interested in 0 to 62 mph (100 km/h) times rather than how a car feels on a back road. In other words, they don’t give a dime about our preferences.
In Europe and other parts of the world except for the United States and CVT-savvy Japan, the manual is still king because all sorts of vehicles come with a stick as a no-cost option. For the most curious among us, approximately three-quarters of all vehicles sold in Western Europe are equipped with a manual. In the U. S. of A., the slush box is king for the same reason North America loves big cars and sprawl: gasoline is cheap enough and most consumers afford a car with an automatic. That’s why the majority of mainstream automakers operating Stateside have abandoned the manual transmission.
What worries me most of all is that sports car manufacturers have cast the stick shift aside too. You want a manual in your Ferrari? You can’t. In a Lamborghini? Nope. In a McLaren? Sorry, but the answer is no. This state of affairs got me thinking about the relevance of the manual in the high-performance arena. To cut to the chase, what are the most powerful cars you can have with a manual transmission in 2016?
This may come as a surprise to you, but the top ten list featured below consists of five American models, three German brutes, a Dutch supercar, and a British interloper. It is rather intriguing that five of the cars on the list are made in the country that loves the automatic as much as it loves hot dogs on the 4th of July. And now, let’s get cracking.
2016 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat (707 HP)
After the American brand pushed the yardstick to 707 horsepower, Ford launched the Mustang Shelby GT350, a muscle car that features the first production V8 from Ford with a flat-plane crankshaft. Chevy responded to the Hellcat’s taunt with the all-new Camaro ZL1, a model “designed to excel at everything.” The thing is, the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is still top dog as far as horsepower is concerned.
On the downside, the hellish Challenger tips the scales at 4,449 pounds (2,018 kilograms), making it 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) heavier than the automatic model. If the four-door Charger SRT Hellcat interests you more, bear in mind that this brawny family sedan comes exclusively mated to the TorqueFlite 8HP90 8-speed automatic.2016 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (650 HP)
Described as being the most capable Corvette in the nameplate’s 63-year history, the current Z06 is probably the most competent American sports car you can buy today. Have you noticed the “probably”? That word has been used because the Viper isn’t to be taken lightly. But then again, you know what some people say: to each their own.
If you’re in with the Z06 crowd but the manual isn’t your thing, the 8-speed auto is capable of wide-open throttle upshifts that “are executed up to eight-hundredths of a second quicker than those of the dual-clutch transmission offered in the Porsche 911.”2016 Dodge Viper (645 HP)
What I admire the most about the Viper is that it embodies the best and worst of America. It’s flashy, it’s shouty, it drinks like there’s no tomorrow, and it will try to kill you provided that you’re a ham-fisted driver who doesn’t know how to drive stick. It is exaggerated and that’s fine by me. After all, exaggeration is what made Lamborghini what it is today. The Viper, though, is more than the American take on a Raging Bull.
Take the 2016 model year Viper ACR with the available Extreme Aero package as a case in point. This bad boy offers the highest downforce of any street-legal car in production today: 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms) at 177 mph (285 km/h). If that’s not enough to float a track junkie’s boat, then I don’t know what else could cut the mustard.2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 (640 HP)
Another highlight is the Magnetic Ride suspension, which is joined by an electronic limited-slip differential. As an all-around package, the Camaro ZL1 combines fast with nimbleness. It also offers performance and driver confidence in most driving scenarios.
I’m not sure if the Camaro ZL1 can keep ahead of the Challenger SRT Hellcat in a straight line, but I’m pretty certain it runs rings around its arch rival if it comes down to a blast down a winding road. So what will it be, then? Six speeds or ten? Regardless of choice, the Camaro ZL1 comes with 11 heat exchangers for optimal powertrain cooling.2016 BMW M6 with Competition Package (592 HP)
Care to guess how much BMW charges for the Competition Package in the U.S.? $8,300 is the price for which BMW augments the force-fed engine from 560 to 600 PS (592 HP). On top of this, the package includes better suspension and a louder exhaust system.
Considering that the cheapest M6 coupe costs $113,400 sans delivery and other charges, the Competition Package bumps the retail price to $121,700. For that kind of money, you could get not one, but two examples of the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat.2016 BMW M5 with Competition Package (567 HP)
The Bavarian manufacturer charges $7,300 for 15 more horsepower over what the S63B44T0 engine offers as standard, which works out to 486 dollars and 66 cents per pony. Good value or not, more power is an offer few M5 customers can refuse.
Other than the boost mapping that gives you more get-up-and-go, the Competition Package available for the M6 also adds a more direct steering ratio, black-chrome dual sport tailpipes, a slightly modified M Dynamic Mode, and re-engineered suspension.2017 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S (565 HP)
Such a pattern means that first is to the left and down instead of to the left and up. In plain English, a dog-leg manual transmission ensures that the gears the driver uses most often are located in a double H pattern like that of a conventional 6-speed tranny.
During a time when the majority of high-end sports car manufacturers dropped the stick shift in favor of faster cog-swapping solutions, Aston Martin reiterates that the manual is an integral part of the brand’s ethos and will be for many years to come.2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 (526 HP)
Starting with the 2017 model year, the Track Package becomes standard on the Shelby GT350. What that means for the consumer is that the decklid spoiler is now a no-cost option, as are the engine oil, manual transmission, and differential coolers.
Also new for the 2017 model year is Grabber Blue, Lightning Blue and Ruby Red Metallic, colors that replace yesteryear’s Deep Impact Blue and Competition Orange. The 5.2-liter flat-plane crankshaft V8 stays put at 526 horsepower and 429 lb-ft (581 Nm) of torque. Be careful with pothole strikes, though, because replacement carbon fiber wheels cost $3,433 each for the front and a whopping $4,053 each for the rear.2017 Spyker C8 Preliator (518 HP)
Only 50 units of the Spyker C8 Preliator will be made, but I have a hunch that the Dutch manufacturer will have a hard time selling all of them. The problem is the power-to-price ratio. I wouldn’t call the Audi-sourced 4.2-liter V8 with 518 horsepower and 443 lb-ft (600 Nm) an enticing proposition. That’s too little oomph for too many dollar bills.
An ever bigger problem with spending your hard-earned cash on a Spyker instead of something more conventional is servicing. I’m not referring to costs, but the places where you can take the C8 Preliator for a service. At the present moment, only four dealerships can do that in the United States: C&C Collision in Alhambra, California, Spyker of Austin, Texas, Spyker of Chicago, Illinois, and Spyker of Cleveland, Ohio.2017 Porsche 911 R (493 HP)
Underneath the skin and those stupid red stripes, the 911 R shares most of its internals with the GT3 RS. The differences include a weight saving of 110 pounds (50 kilograms) because the R removes the GT3 RS’ roll cage, rear wing, and associated body panels. Better still, the R comes exclusively with a 6-speed manual transmission.
The German manufacturer will produce only 991 examples of the breed, with the retail price starting at $185,950. On the flip side, the 493 horsepower (500 PS) Porsche 911 R doesn’t come with air conditioning and a radio as standard. Tick those two from the options list and you can kiss the aforementioned weight-saving treatment goodbye.