We all need heroes. They give us something to aspire to and offer a vision of something that our souls say is better than what we have. A childhood spent without a hero or two, whether real or fictional, is a pretty sad one.
Cars can be heroes. They can achieve something way above and beyond their station, or turn your bedroom wall into a window on a world you’d do anything to be part of. In certain specifications, relatively attainable cars can become very real-feeling heroes that you can aim to own one day.
The manual Jaguar F-Type is one such car. As we touched on in a news story about the manual F-Type’s apparent US demise earlier this week, we have to take our hats off to the brand for putting a six-speed stick-shift into its standard-bearing sports car in the first place. In this day and age it was a bold move. It instantly became an attainable hero car to dream about.
At the time, our understanding was that the US market was one of the key reasons the decision was made to build the manual F-Type. Sales could be strong, they must have thought. They hoped; we hoped, but buyers just weren’t - and aren’t - interested. As our news piece stated, just four per cent of F-Types sold on US soil have had gears you have to change yourself. Unless we’re much mistaken, that’s not enough to justify the cost of building the different layout.
If America, thought to be one of the primary audiences for this car, has collectively said no, then what future does the manual F-Type have? Sadly, we think it’s looking bleak. Only five per cent of UK buyers choose it, so it’s a desperately small ratio. Why isn’t it selling, when, on paper, we can see so much appeal in it?
Unfortunately the reviews the ZF six-speeder received from day one were not what Jaguar would have hoped. It won’t have helped that the media would probably have been super-excited to drive it, harbouring high expectations despite the 0.4-second slower 0-60mph time, 5mpg worse fuel return and 35g/km higher emissions.
The shift action just isn’t as satisfying as we’d hoped. The throw is long, and the shift itself surprisingly notchy. It ended up detracting from the experience rather than adding to it. Perhaps that’s an indicator of how impressive and memorable the automatic F-Type had already proven itself, rather than an outright attack on the manual, or maybe it was that the auto had already had two years to ingrain itself into the character of the car, and that a manual version then seemed out of sorts.
Not all manual sports cars struggle for sales. It’s true that automatic versions, where available, universally outsell the humble old manual these days, but some stick-shift options still sell well enough to sustain their own existence.
The standard, pre-Competition BMW M2 left showrooms in a 70/30 split towards automatic, but that was still plenty of manuals. Manual M2 Competitions make up 15 per cent of the current total. The 991.2 Porsche 911 held at about 10 per cent manual sales across all variants except the GT3, which saw 20 per cent sell with three pedals.
Whatever the reason for its overall unpopularity, the manual F-Type probably never had the platform to sell as well as hoped. Hardcore manual die-hards bought it, as well as maybe one or two people for whom the lower price was a tipping point, but it seems like it wasn’t enough in America. It’s surely not enough in Europe, either. How much longer can this modern hero-car last? As much as we want to love it, maybe not long at all.