Labour of Love

We cel­e­brate the man­ual ’box re­nais­sance with a cel­e­bra­tion of five of our favourites on sale

Motor (Australia) - - CONTENTS - Pics ELLEN DE­WAR

MAN­UAL labour has never been a chore for the mo­tor­ing en­thu­si­ast. For decades the dip of a clutch pedal with left foot, flick of the wrist and oc­ca­sional raise of revs with right heel to feed the en­gine a gob­ful of revs has been an in­trin­sic part of the ap­peal of driv­ing.

Only a decade ago the al­ter­na­tive in a Porsche 911 was a five-speed ‘tip­tronic’ slusher. How times have changed and, oh, how the man­ual has been threat­ened since. Dual-clutch trans­mis­sions and torque con­vert­ers with eight and nine gears have left six-speed (seven-speed for 911) man­ual trans­mis­sions look­ing like the lonely loser. In­stan­ta­neous shift speed be­tween mul­ti­ple tightly-stacked ra­tios ac­ti­vated by ones and ze­roes and flappy pad­dles leave man­ual driv­ers look­ing like they’re do­ing the Di­nosaur Dance.

In the last decade, the lever that seper­ates driver and front pas­sen­ger has di­vided en­thu­si­asts, as well as the mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ism fra­ter­nity. There has been a whiff of death around the man­ual trans­mis­sion, a cho­rus from some who prob­a­bly also be­lieve that pa­per should have given way to pix­els and who once dou­bled-down on the death of the V8 in the 1990s.

Fi­nally, we have a resur­gence of the man­ual from car man­u­fac­tur­ers ei­ther re­turn­ing to the breed af­ter a pe­riod of DIY-ab­sti­nence, of­fer­ing the dou­ble H-pat­tern at the ex­pense of any fancy dual-clutcher en­tirely, or merely in­clud­ing a man­ual op­tion along­side an es­tab­lished au­to­matic.

It’s worth cel­e­brat­ing with these five seem­ingly dis­parate ve­hi­cles and we could have in­cluded many more that fit the above cri­te­ria.

Coin­ci­den­tally, the Volk­swa­gen Group book-ends this fea­ture with the $27,490 Polo GTI and its re­turn to the man­ual af­ter a seven-year ab­sence. A half­dozen’s worth of the lit­tle hot-hatch­backs later and we have the $168,800 Porsche Boxster Spy­der, sans any Dop­pelkup­plung op­tion what­so­ever.

In be­tween, we have an­other hot-hatch­back in the form of the $49,990 Peu­geot 308 GTi 270, which, as with its 208 GTi sib­ling, is avail­able in man­ual only. We haven’t yet had ac­cess to the $50,990 Ford Fo­cus RS, but then we could have also se­lected the man­ual-only Fi­esta and Fo­cus ST. Like­wise we could have wished

In the last decade, the lever that seper­ates driver and front pas­sen­ger has di­vided en­thu­si­asts

upon a re­turn-of-the-man 911 R in camp Porsche.

A duo of su­per­charg­ers prove su­perb chargers here, with a man­ual com­ple­ment­ing au­to­matic avail­abil­ity. And, mate, both are rear-wheel drive two-door sports ‘coupes’ – the $76,990 HSV Maloo R8 with 6.2-litre LSA V8 and $151,770 Jaguar F-Type S with 3.0-litre V6.

Be­yond those con­fig­u­ra­tions, we have a 1.6 and 1.8-litre tur­bocharged four, cu­ri­ously the smaller one in the larger 308, big­ger one in the lit­tle Polo and a howl­ing nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 3.8-litre flat six-cylin­der in the road­ster. The man­ual trans­mis­sion is al­lied not only with dif­fer­ent en­gines but con­trast­ing body styles from Ger­many, France, the UK and ’Straya.

Be­fit­ting the sim­plic­ity of the three-pedal con­fig­u­ra­tion, there will be no data log­ging or value mea­sured in mil­lisec­onds to­day. Our plan is for five car nuts to go for a flat-out fang in cel­e­bra­tion of the un­der­dog trans­mis­sion with a sim­ple aim: to find the ul­ti­mate driver’s man­ual.

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