America considers itself a great car loving nation and yet, according to a U.S. News and World Report study, only 18 percent of American drivers even know how to use a manual transmission, and only about 5 percent of vehicles sold in the US in 2016 had three pedals. To much of the rest of the Western world, knowing how to drive stick is a point of considerable pride, and many serious enthusiasts feel that driving automatics removes a key element of connection with the car.
Mind you, manual transmissions are becoming rare in the upper echelons of the performance car world – perhaps because of a shrinking market, perhaps because dual-clutch boxes give you better 0-60-mph times for the bench racers, perhaps because there’s more and more electrification going on, and hybrid systems can work extremely well with computer-controlled gearboxes.
Still, it’s nice when companies throw bones to the purists, and Aston Martin’s upcoming Vantage AMR is a juicy bone indeed. It uses the same 4-liter, twin-turbo V12 as the regular Vantage sportster, albeit detuned for substantially less torque. The standard Vantage makes 685 Nm (505 lb-ft), where the AMR makes 625 Nm (461 lb-ft), but peak horsepower stays at 503 ponies, 0-60 mph (0-98 km/h) acceleration is only 0.4 seconds slower at 3.9 seconds (about what you’d expect with manual shifting), and top speed remains constant at 195 mph (314 km/h).