While the trend is clear — manual transmission vehicles make up less and less of the U.S. auto market with every passing decade — a devoted population of drivers insist that the experience of driving stick shift is more dynamic, more engaging and more fun.
Learning to drive can be a huge feat for anyone. But for drivers who learned in a stick shift vehicle, the experience was especially unpredictable. Instead of just one foot operating the accelerator and the brake pedal, there were two feet operating three pedals in tandem. Instead of two hands on the steering wheel at all times, there was frequent movement between the wheel and the shifter.
Eventually it all came together. And as the car moved, there was an unmistakable sense of synergy, a deep connection to the engine’s machinations with each flick of the hand. Like a novice dancer stumbling their way through new steps, the sudden click of comprehension led to the sweetness of a smooth swing.
Loyal fans of manual transmission argue that, more than an intuitive understanding of the vehicle, or a “drive feel,” stick shifts can also offer greater control on the road; like the ability to engage a gear at a higher or lower RPM, for example. And yet other stick shift devotees might point to the fact that it’s just more fun.
Today, Toyota offers several vehicles with the option of a manual transmission, including the 2023 GR86, GR Corolla and even the Tacoma, a midsize pickup truck. And even though only 18% of American drivers know how to “drive stick,” Toyota continues to offer a manual transmission on some of the brand’s most-loved vehicle lines, like the Supra.
Aside from an engaging experience, there are plenty of reasons why drivers enjoy stick shifts. Consider a situation where a driver needs to quickly accelerate their GR86 to avoid an obstacle: With a manual transmission vehicle, the driver can opt to stay in a lower gear and lose no time accelerating. Or how about driving a Tacoma with a full payload on a mountain? As a driver approaches a steep downhill, they can easily shift to a lower gear to control speed without overusing their brakes.
For whatever reason a driver might choose a manual transmission vehicle — the fun, the control or simply to teach their teenager a lesson in mechanics — Toyota is here for the journey.
Originally published July 15, 2022