Are Manual Shift 4x4s an Endangered Species?

November 25th, 2015 by admin


Options are among the biggest calling cards when American consumers look to buy 4x4s and one of the options that’s getting harder to find is a manual transmission. A variety of factors are contributing to the dip in three pedal options in vehicles and purists fear the trend may eventually render the stick shift all but extinct.

Among those factors: The sophisticated technology that transmissions now boast are more fuel efficient because computer-controlled vehicles are adept at finding sweet spots in various gears. Metropolitan roads are more congested with stop and go traffic, making them less suitable for manual shifts in environments where motorists don’t want to have to test the strength of their ARB bumpers. Throw in that younger drivers can’t be bothered with the more engaging driving experience a stick shift entails when they’re on their phones or sipping lattes, and you have a receding market.

Some subscribe to the belief that it’s cheaper for manufacturers to produce automatic transmissions and it’s all about the bottom line. “There’s a steeper learning curve with a manual shift and it engages  more advanced capabilities, so my brain and body relish driving my truck,” says off-road enthusiast Chuck Prescott. Lucky for him, there are currently a handful of holdouts still offering manual shifts in 4x4s.


The iconic 3-speed Jeep originally navigated battlefields and conjures images of downshifting into first gear to ascend a hill or revving into second to sprint across a bridge. Four different Jeep models still offer stick shift options – the Wrangler, Renegade, Compass and Patriot. Trucks still carrying it include the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, Chevrolet/GMC Colorado/Canyon and Dodge Ram Heavy Duty although it’s all but extinct in full-size rigs. In the SUV realm, Mitsubishi Outlander Sports Mazda CX5s, Nissan Jukes and Subaru Foresters and XVs offer manual transmissions.

Knowing how to drive a clutch can be a lifesaver if you have a job as a valet or at a carwash. It can also come in handy when you take an overseas vacation and rent a vehicle. As manual transmission drivers know, when the starter dies, if you can maneuver your car to a slope in front of or behind you, you can start the car by popping the clutch. Diehard stick shift fans hold out hope that producing manual transmission 4x4s will always remain a viable option for automakers even if it’s a niche market.

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