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 V8 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).
As to the gearbox itself, you're looking at a 7-speed unit developed by Graziano. First gear is a down-left dog leg, with second to seventh sitting in a double-H pattern. There's a limited-slip diff, and it'll auto-blip the throttle to rev match on downshifts to pretend you've got the skills to heel-toe shift if you don't. If you do, by all means go ahead and turn it off.
Carbon-ceramic brakes come standard on the AMR (which stands, incidentally, for Aston Martin Racing), and between the brakes and transmission the AMR manages to shed a whopping 209 lb (95 kg) of weight.
Aston Martin Lagonda President and CEO Andy Palmer sang the song of the die-hard petrolhead speaking about the AMR: "When I joined this company, customers asked and, as a gearbox engineer and racer, I promised that we would always offer a manual transmission in our line-up. The Vantage AMR not only honors that commitment but sets us apart from our competitors in continuing to offer a three-pedal option. In a world of autonomous robo-taxis, Aston Martin will continue to advance the art and science of performance driving." Preach it, Andy!
Only 200 Vantage AMRs will be built, 59 of them wearing a Stirling Green/Lime paint job celebrating Aston's 1959 win at Le Mans. The rest will have blue, black, grey and white options. Expect to pay UK£149,995 in the UK, €184,995 in Germany and $179,995 in the US, a 20-30-grand premium in each currency.
Check out a short video of the Vantage AMR below.
Source: Aston Martin
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