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Don’t Get Your Hopes up for the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 to Offer a Manual Transmission

Ford finally pulled the wraps off of the much-hyped Mustang Shelby GT500 at the Detroit Auto Show. The legendary GT500 name is back to take the fight straight to the Dodge Hellcat cars with more than 700 horsepower (we’re still waiting on an exact horsepower rating) and a sufficiently hyperbolic aesthetic. However, there’s one mechanical detail that’s still a bit cloudy: it’s been neither confirmed nor denied whether the new GT500 will ever be available with a manual transmission.

Well, I hate to break it to you, but don’t get your hopes up. The car is launching with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission as the only gearbox option. While this sounds like a promising transmission, Ford won’t come out and say whether it will ever be available with a manual. "Right now, we’re DCT-only, [but] we get feedback, and we’re real tight with the Mustang crowd," Ford Performance head engineer Carl Widmann told Road & Track. "We always listen to what our customers want, right?" he said in response to being asked directly if a manual option was on the table.

Sorry, folks, but to me, that sounds like we enthusiasts are being let down easy. I don’t know about you, but I don’t expect this generation of the GT500 to ever have three pedals. If we can accept that this is probably the case, we need to ask ourselves; is that a bad thing?

Let’s take a look at the manual take rate for this car’s closest competition — the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. According to Dodge, about 35 percent of Challenger Hellcats sold are equipped with manual transmissions, which is quite a high take rate for any car in which you have a choice between a manual or an automatic.

However, the manual take rate for the Charger SRT Hellcat is exactly zero percent, since it isn’t an option. Nobody seems to mind that a manual Charger Hellcat isn’t available. Could that be because we’re starting to accept that modern automatics can shift faster than humans can? Is this just another step in manual transmissions continuing its shrinking popularity in the U.S.? Or is it the fact that sedans are a different world than coupes?

Regardless of the answer, Dodge is having no problem selling automatic Charger Hellcats — and I don’t think Ford will have any difficulty selling automatic GT500s. Only having one available transmission simplifies the manufacturing process for the car. Offering one transmission that everyone knows how to use brings down barriers and allows more people to drive what’s shaping up to be a spectacular muscle car.

Do you think a manual variant of this Ford Mustang GT500 is a pipe dream — or am I being too pessimistic?

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I recently talked with a Ford senior executive who told me there are no plans to offer a manual transmission in the GT500. He was absolutely shocked when I said I just would never consider buying one without a manual. 

    Ford apparently just assumed that old-school gearheads like me might grouse about the lack of a manual transmission, but would nonetheless buy the automatic. He just couldn’t believe that I really won’t buy one without a stick. 
    But to me, a manual is so much more fun than an automatic. There is just no substitute for that wonderful connected feeling of the car being hard-wired directly into my central nervous system than only a manual can provide. I don’t care if a DCT can shift a few hundredths of a second faster than I can – it’s not anywhere near as much fun. I buy cars for real-world fun on the street, not for some theoretical lap time on a track. Without a manual, I just won’t buy a ‘sports’ car. I’ll stick with my ‘regular’ Mustang GT. 
  2. Nice article, but if the Hellcat Challenger has a manual uptake of 35 % and the Charger has Zero, because a manual is not offered, that is not an argument for “nobody seems to mind.” Just as much a 3rd gen CTS-V without a manual was not an argument for “nobody seems to mind”. However it is a good example that different people buy automatic and manual cars, and likewise different people by sedans and coupes. And those 2 kinds of ‘different’ have correlations. 

    Ultimately, a 2-door Mustang is a coupe, not a sedan. Thus it will have customers who prefer manual transmissions, and if Ford isn’t offering any, they might as well turn to Dodge or GM. If not having a manual is such a trivial thing, try picturing what would happen if GM announces that there will be no more manual Corvettes.

    PS. I don’t drive a sports car, and I haven’t driven a manual in 10 years. But in my next/future 2-door sports car I still want a manual option. In a 4-door, not so much.

  3. If there’s one thing that Ford does is offer countless Mustang variants. The question is, do we live in a market where 500 GT 500’s could be sold for a $15-20,000 markup, for a manual transmission and a couple aesthetic/lightening bits? The Mustang is a commodity car, but I still think the answer is yes. I think Ford could sell 500 manual equipped cars for the collector market. Just like the Lexus RC F Track edition. 

  4. There’s basically no reason to make manual versions of most cars. Automatics can get better performance and fuel economy now, most people can’t drive a stick, and 99% of the people who will bemoan that a particular model doesn’t offer a stick wouldn’t buy one anyway. There is fun to be had shifting for yourself, but after spending 20 years sitting in traffic working out my left leg, I will only buy a stick the day I can afford a fun second or third car and don’t want the fastest option. 

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Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt is an author specializing in Oversteer content, new car reviews, and finding the best car, truck, and SUV deals each month. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Eric can often be found exploring the north woods on his 1983 Honda Gold Wing when the weather allows it. Father of four, husband of one, and unapologetic minivan enthusiast. Eric mastered driving stick by having a 3-cylinder Chevy... Read More
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