The manual gearbox, so beloved by devotees of 'classic driving', seems to have an uncertain future, wedged between the growing popularity of automatic transmissions and the electric car, which for the time being forgoes any kind of gearbox.
Today, even the latest sports cars and some supercars have abandoned the gear lever and clutch pedal in favour of the coveted automatic transmission. This means that, to find a powerful and fast car with a manual transmission, you have to focus on just a few models. But which ones are they?
To find out, we've put together a ranking of the most powerful cars with manual transmissions. First you can see the five cars produced in large series. The last section is dedicated to the other 'supermanuals' that are marketed in small series or sold in just a few markets.
Porsche 911 S/T - 518 bhp
BMW M3 Saloon - 473 bhp
BMW M4 Coupé - 473 bhp
Ford Mustang - 454 bhp
Lotus Emira - 400 bhp
The king of the series production sports cars offered with a manual gearbox is the Porsche 911 S/T, the coupe that celebrates the 60th anniversary of the 911 and is powered by the same 4.0-litre naturally aspirated engine with 518 bhp as the 911 GT3 RS.
Porsche 911 S/T
The series is limited to 1,963 examples, all with six-speed manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive, for a 0-60 acceleration time of 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 186 mph (300 km/h). Alternatively, the Porsche 911 GT3 'normal' with 503 bhp Touring package and manual gearbox is always available.
On the second step of the podium we find another German representative, the BMW M3, which in its powered saloon version is offered with a six-speed manual gearbox, although in the UK it is only sold with the M Steptronic gearbox in Competition trim (503 bhp).
BMW M3 Sedan
The engine is the 473 bhp 3.0-litre twin-turbo inline six-cylinder engine that enables the Bavarian four-door to accelerate from 0-62 mph (100 km/h) in 4.2 seconds and reach a top speed of 155 mph (250 km/h), or 180 mph (290 km/h) with the optional M Driver's Package.
The BMW M4 Coupe is also available with rear-wheel drive and six-speed manual transmission in Europe, although in the UK this is the same situation as with the M3 which is only available in 503 bhp Competition trim with automatic. The 473 bhp comes from the same 3-litre inline six-cylinder engine.
BMW M4 Coupé
The German two-door is capable of 155 mph / 250 km/h (180 mph / 290 km/h with the M Driver package) and accelerates from 0-62 mph (100 km/h) in 4.2 seconds.
The Ford Mustang is a classic among American sports cars and cannot do without a manual gearbox. In fact, the 454 bhp Mach 1 and the 444 bhp Mustang GT, strictly rear-wheel drive, are equipped with either a six-speed manual transmission (Tremec for the Mach 1) or a ten-speed automatic in Europe.
Ford Mustang Mach 1
Those who choose the V8 Mustang with a manual transmission already know that the 0-60 acceleration time is slightly faster than the automatic, as evidenced by the Mach 1's 4.8 seconds (4.4 seconds for the automatic) and the GT's 4.6 seconds (4.3 seconds for the automatic). The GT reaches 155 mph (250 km/h) and the Mach 1 166 mph (267 km/h).
One British car comes surprisingly close to the top of this list and that is the Lotus Emira, the 3.5-litre V6 supercharged coupe with 400 bhp and a six-speed manual gearbox (as an alternative to the dual-clutch automatic).
The Lotus Emira V6 powered Lotus Emira reaches 180 mph (290 km/h) and accelerates from 0-62 mph (100 km/h) in 4.3 seconds (4.2 seconds for the automatic).
A few wealthy customers can afford much higher power ratings, driving fantastic hypercars with manual gearboxes. For example, the Koenigsegg CC850 (70 examples in total) and its 1,366 bhp coupled to the sophisticated electronic transmission ESS (Engage Shifter System), which is actually an electronically controlled nine-speed automatic gearbox, but can be used as a six-speed manual with a clutch pedal and fits into this very small niche.
A true mechanical manual gearbox equips the Pagani Utopia, the 99-unit Italian hypercar with 852 bhp and a seven-speed manual transmission specially developed to manage 1,100 Nm of peak torque.
Continuing in the world of hypercars/supercars we also find the two Gordon Murray Automotive firsts, the 654 bhp T.50 and the 609 bhp T.33, both of which are fitted with Xtrac's six-speed manual transmission and a naturally aspirated V12.
Gordon Murray Automotive T.50
Gordon Murray T.33
Aston Martin Valour
BMW 3.0 CSL
To close this section, we would also like to mention some American sports cars that are not sold in all European countries.
Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody
Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing
Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE
These include the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat with 717 bhp, the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing with 668 bhp and the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 with 650 bhp, all equipped with the Tremec six-speed manual transmission.