Once upon a time, the manual transmission was the default gearbox in the automotive world—to the point where it was colloquially known as “the standard shift.” Recent decades have seen the stick shift largely fade into obscurity; advancements in technology now mean automatic gearboxes can pack more gears and shift quicker than manuals, enabling them to deliver both superior performance and better fuel economy. As a result, sports cars with stick shifts are becoming a coveted commodity in the new car market, with the transmission often served up as a way to boost the exclusivity and uniqueness of the product. (See: the Porsche 911 Speedster, only available with a row-your-own-way six-speed.)
Aston Martin, however, has made no secret of the fact that it intends to keep the manual transmission faith. CEO Andy Palmer has long insisted the carmaker would keep the stick shift around as long as possible; and from the very launch of the new Vantage, the company has said that the compact sports car would eventually receive a manual.
Well, “eventually” just became “now.” The new Aston Martin Vantage AMR, on sale as of today, comes with a row-your-own-way gearbox and a hand-stitched leather shift lever rising between the seats to control it with.
Interestingly, the company has chosen to stick with the unusual dog-leg seven-speed shift pattern—which offsets first gear down and to the left—used in the previous Vantage V12, rather than go with a more traditional layout. (The dog-leg is often seen as more favorable for track driving, as it makes shifting between second and third gears easier.)
The gearbox offers automatic rev-matching, helping those lacking in heel-toe expertise look good and shift smoothly as they dance between the pedals responsible for controlling the flow of power from the AMG-sourced 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 to the limited-slip differential en route to the meaty rear tires. The engine’s output of 503 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque remains unchanged versus the “base” Vantage…but that’s still enough to sling it from 0 to 60 miles per hour in a claimed 3.9 seconds on the way to a 195-mph top speed.
The seven-speed stick isn’t the only thing distinguishing the AMR from other Vantages. The other headlining feature is a 209-pound weight loss, thanks to lightening factors like standard carbon-ceramic brakes, lightweight badges, and so forth.
The Aston Martin Vantage AMR starts at $179,995, and comes in a choice of four colors—White Stone, China Grey, Onyx Black, or Sabiro Blue. Unless, of course, you decide to spring for one of the 59 units of the Vantage 59 edition, which comes only in the Sterling Green/Lime paint job and Dark Knight leather/Alcantara interior spec seen in the pictures above; those will sell for $204,995.
And should you crave the sweet satisfaction of a stick shift but find the Vantage AMR a bit too extreme—or expensive—for your tastes, fear not. While only 200 Vantage AMRs will wander forth from the gates of Gaydon, the manual gearbox will endure beyond that limited production run; regular Vantages will be available with a stick shift starting in early 2020.