Labour of love: Celebrating the manual gearbox

Labour of love: Celebrating the manual gearbox

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.

Manual cars driving straightAs 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.

Manual cars groupAnd 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.

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