Five Modern Sports Cars That Should Never, Ever Be Ordered With an Automatic Transmission

Any self-respecting car lover knows that to buy a sports car or supercar without a manual transmission (if given the choice) is unforgivable sacrilege. I understand that all new exotics don’t even offer a stick anymore, but that doesn’t mean their aged predecessors shipped only with dual pedals. Here are five modern sports cars that should never, under any circumstance, be bought without the ability to row your own gears.

Mazda MX-5 Miata

2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition

The MX-5 is the opposite of everything else on the American market: it’s a small, lightweight roadster, and it couldn’t care less about navigation systems, Bluetooth compatibility, or comfort. Engine output is as irrelevant to the MX-5 as it is to a Prius, but handling is another story. The MX-5’s singular purpose is to clone its goofy smile onto yours as it attacks corners with reckless abandon, and it deserves not to be neutered with that stupid stepped tranny that appears on the options sheet. With the six-speed auto in place, engine output is reduced by 9hp, with a redline appearing 500rpm earlier than in the standard transmission. There are few cars these days that punish owners for ordering the optional transmission, but Mazda does its part to steer buyers toward the light.

Scion FR-S/Toyota GT-86/Subaru BRZ


Here we have another lightweight coupe powered by a 2.0L four cylinder, but one that’s a bit more raucous than the Miata. Like the Miata, emphasis is placed on the driving experience, and the sport bucket seats plant the driver just inches off the ground. 200hp is sent to the rear wheels, making the FR-S a drift-happy little sports car whose sticker price won’t break the bank. Buyers of the auto don’t get to fully experience the joy of pushing such a car to its extremes, so why limit oneself?

Any V8 Pony Car

2013 Ford Mustang GT

Congratulations, you’ve purchased a Mustang/Camaro/Challenger and joined the ranks of millions of Americans before you who love raw, (relatively) cheap power in the form of a V8 producing in excess of 375hp! But, just like many of those poor, confused souls of yesteryear, you optioned your retro sled with an automatic transmission and a potential Future Classic has a nice cannonball-sized hole where the value used to be. A honking 5.0-6.2L V8 crammed into your engine bay HAS to have a manual transmission in tow, because that’s the American way. They may not rotate effortlessly like the FR-S, but that doesn’t mean you’ve graduated to a full grand tourer just yet.

Audi R8

Audi R8

This, however, is a GT, and should also never be ordered with the non-manual transmission for two reasons. On one hand, the semi-automatic alternative suffers from jerky upshifts and downshifts, while also completely wasting the ultracool shifter. The price for unruly behavior is a cool $9,100. The manual version, besides being worthy of such a neat supercar, shares the same grippy handle, and each gear change gives off an addictive snick-snack as the shifter makes it way into the next gate.

Acura NSX

1999 Alex Zanardi Edition Acura NSX

If you have the Acura NSX with a four-speed slushbox, stay away from car meets. NSX diehards will skin you alive.

Photos courtesy of Mazda, Scion, Ford, Audi, and Car and Driver


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About Cameron Rogers

Cameron Rogers is the founder and lead writer at Downshift Autos, the only automotive blog on the Internet*. Born in the back of an AMC Gremlin, Cameron vowed to never let this extraordinarily embarrassing detail define him, so help him God. He drives a GTI but absolutely will not shut up about it if somebody asks. He will not hesitate to let people know that no, they shouldn't get a Porsche 911 when a Morgan 3 Wheeler is so obviously the superior choice. He is obsessed with the seats of a Carrera GT and the steering wheel of a Fisker Karma. He once sat in the driver's seat of a Tesla Model S, his greatest accomplishment to date. He is just now realizing that writing an autobiography, however miniscule, in the third person is odd and unnerving. *As of this writing, Cameron has been informed that there are, in fact, many websites and blogs centered around cars and car culture. He regrets his grievous error.

One response to “Five Modern Sports Cars That Should Never, Ever Be Ordered With an Automatic Transmission”

  1. The Late Apex says :

    As a massive gearhead, owner of a Miata, and driver of manual-equipped Miata and Jeep Cherokee, I wholly support this message.

    I don’t own any auto-equipped cars, and don’t intend to!

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