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The true 3-pedal manual transmission is slowly becoming extinct on the American highway, but there are ten cars left that employ it perfectly.

The Best Manual Cars of 2021 May Be the Last

The true 3-pedal manual transmission is slowly but surely becoming extinct on the American highway. Unlike in the past, automatic vehicles tend to be more fuel-efficient these days. They’ve also walked around manual transmissions in terms of their ability to change gear quickly. Finally, they require less engagement, and as we all know, that’s the direction all cars seem to be heading. Yet, here in 2021, there’s a small subset of vehicles still clinging to what it meant to be a performance vehicle for so long. Today we take a look at the top ten cars available today that require you to be an active part of the experience.

Hyundai Veloster N

2021 Hyundai Veloster N - hyundainews.com
2021 Hyundai Veloster N - hyundainews.com

Unlike the rest of the vehicles  on our best manual cars list today, the 2021 Hyundai Veloster N shoves all of its power to the front wheels only. While many performance enthusiasts cry foul at such a layout, you can be sure of one thing – they haven’t driven one. We’d go so far as to say that this is probably the most engaging hot hatch ever built. With 274 horsepower, a clever torque vectoring system, and real anti-lag, this sports car can put as big a smile on your face as anything else on this list, even the 6-figure toys.

Porsche 718 Cayman

2021 Porsch 718 Cayman - porsche.com
2021 Porsch 718 Cayman - porsche.com

Porsche is one of the few manufacturers to commit to the manual transmission for the foreseeable future. The 2021 Porsche 718 Cayman and Boxster can both be had with a 6-speed manual throughout all trim levels. Older versions of the Cayman were chided for having incredibly long gear ratios, but thanks to an update on the new model, it’s more engaging than ever before.

Lotus Evora

2021 Lotus Evora - media.lotuscars.com
2021 Lotus Evora - media.lotuscars.com

Very few cars in the world can claim to be as pure in terms of overall intention as the 2021 Lotus Evora. While it might be a bit less hardcore than its Elise and Exige siblings, it’s far more livable. It’s also in its very last year of production before an entirely new platform is released, so we think that it might end up being an appreciating asset, especially with the 6-speed manual. It’s no slouch either. The 3.5-liter V6 behind the driver makes 415 horsepower.

Genesis G70

2021 Genesis G70 - media.genesis.com
2021 Genesis G70 - media.genesis.com

Speaking of things that won’t be around next year, it seems that Genesis will discontinue the rare but lovely 6-speed transmission available on all 2.0-liter turbocharged G70s. That’s a shame because it’s a smashing pairing. The 2021 Genesis G70 in general is far better than most people seem to know right now. It’s sincerely luxurious, pretty quick, handles great, and has all the tech you could ask for in 2021.

BMW M3

2021 BMW M3 - press.bmwgroup.com
2021 BMW M3 - press.bmwgroup.com

Of course, the G70 is aimed squarely at this, the 2021 BMW M3, and it’s got a lot of work to do in the gym before it can handle the 473-horsepower German sedan. We think that’s going to be even harder since BMW is willing to sell you this rocket with a proper 6-speed manual transmission. Most enthusiasts will tell you how sad it is that BMWs are so big now, but they’re just overly worried about the number on the back. The new M3 is one inch different in length from an E39 M5, and more powerful. Long live the new M5.

Aston Martin Vantage Coupe

2021 Aston Martin Vantage - media.astonmartin.com
2021 Aston Martin Vantage - media.astonmartin.com

Most wouldn’t have guessed that Aston Martin is the last mainstream supercar manufacturer to offer a true 3-pedal manual transmission, but it’s true. The 2021 Aston Martin Vantage Coupe is available with the wild AMR variants 7-speed manual transmission. Sadly, there’s a catch for opting to row your own gears. While the automatic car makes 505 lb-ft of torque, the manual only builds 460 lb-ft of twist. Nevertheless, when we consider that both cars make 503 horsepower, it’s easy to see why the Vantage is such an attractive offer both inside and out.

Chevrolet Camaro

2021 Chevrolet Camaro - chevrolet.com
2021 Chevrolet Camaro - chevrolet.com

How wild is it that in 2021, the most powerful Chevrolet available with a manual transmission isn’t a Corvette? The Camaro has some big shoes to fill and it does it incredibly well. Pick any engine you like and you can opt for a 3-pedal transmission. Democratizing driving enthusiastically is something that American muscle cars have done well in the past and the new Camaro continues the tradition with excellent handling, decent (if not egregious) power throughout the engine lineup, and attractive tech.

Dodge Challenger

2021 Dodge Challenger - dodge.com
2021 Dodge Challenger - dodge.com

While not available throughout the entire engine lineup, Dodge has done the opposite of many other companies and decided to offer a manual for all of their most powerful Challengers. The R/T, R/T Scat Pack, and even the nearly demonic Hellcat can all be had with a 6-speed manual transmission. Of all the American coupes in the horsepower war, the Challenger continues to offer incredible capability regardless of whether you want to soak up highway miles or dominate at the racetrack.

Ford Mustang

2021 Ford Mustang - media.ford.com
2021 Ford Mustang - media.ford.com

The Mustang won’t let you get the full-fat Shelby GT500 with anything but a 7-speed automatic, but the rest of the lineup can be had with 3 pedals including the all-new Mach 1 variant with some 480 horsepower. Unlike the offerings from Chevrolet and Dodge, the 2021 Ford Mustang is a bit more of a focused weapon. While both its rivals have more power, neither can match this pony in terms of handling and driver feedback.

Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco - media.ford.com
2021 Ford Bronco - media.ford.com

The only SUV on our best manual cars list is here because it’s quite simply done the right way. Many companies have tried to revive old-school brands only to fall flat on their face (we’re looking at you Blazer). The Ford Bronco perfectly blends that old-school cool with new school tech, but our favorite part is that a manual transmission is available. Currently, the configurator only allows you to build a Bronco with a 7-speed manual mated to the 2.3-liter engine option, but Ford says that the upcoming Sasquatch package will also be available with a manual.

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Stephen Rivers
Stephen Rivers

Stephen is a car enthusiast who loves all things built with passion. In his free time, he’s usually at a hockey rink, walking his dogs, or on a road bike. His automotive tastes lean towards cars that oftentimes seem to take a pound of flesh for the ethereal pleasure they provide: things like the Lamborghini Diablo, TVR Cerbera, and a C4 Corvette turned into a street-legal go-kart. He drives his Bugeye Subaru WRX in Autocross, Rallycross, and track day competitions throughout the year and daily drives a twin-turbo BMW 535i.

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