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Manual-Transmission Adventure Vehicles: A Dying Breed

front view of 2023 Toyota Tacoma driving on gravel road(Photo/Toyota)
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The days of the stick shift may be numbered, but if you’re a diehard manual enthusiast looking for a new 2023 manual transmission adventure vehicle, you still have a handful of options.

The joy of rowing your own gears shouldn’t be reserved for sports cars. And while it’s no secret that automotive manufacturers have been steadily decreasing their manual offerings in favor of automatic transmissions, a few adventure-ready models still come standard — or at least have the option — for three pedals and a stick shift.

And that’s good news if you’d like to add some analog flavor to your modern adventure vehicle. Now you can take your dose of driving nostalgia with a hefty helping of 21st-century tech.

Ford Bronco 7-speed manual transmission shifter

2023 Manual-Transmission Adventure Vehicles

  1. Ford Bronco
  2. Jeep Gladiator
  3. Jeep Wrangler
  4. Subaru Crosstrek
  5. Toyota Tacoma

Whether you prefer the greater engagement and control of driving a stick or simply abide by the adage that there’s no school like the old school, these five 2023 manual-transmission vehicles combine the best of both worlds — and are capable enough to get you off the pavement.

2023 Ford Bronco

With the revamped and reimagined Ford Bronco hitting the roads in late 2021, adventurous drivers looking for a manual-transmission 4×4 were eager to see Ford’s off-road-ready SUV came standard with a manual transmission — and one that was specifically designed with off-roading and rock crawling in mind.

2022 Ford Bronco

The Ford Bronco is available in a wide range of trim packages. Luckily for manual lovers, the Base, Big Bend, Black Diamond, and Badlands all come standard with Ford’s seven-speed manual transmission, complete with crawler gear.

For 2022, Ford also extended the manual to the Sasquatch Package in both the two- and four-door configurations. This package adds extra off-road goodies like electronically locking front and rear axels, a high clearance suspension, and a set of 35-inch mud-terrains.

Thanks to the Bronco being highly customizable, you can piece together the perfect package for your needs and tastes. This starts with whether you want a two- or four-door version. Note: Not all packages offer a manual in both versions.

For 2023, Ford added the Heritage Edition models, which include the Big Bend package that boasts a 2.3L EcoBoost engine and seven-speed manual. The engine and transmission combination will send up to 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet torque to the wheels.

2022 Ford Bronco

On the exterior, the SUV is equipped with bash plates for full underbody protection. In front, it has a powder-coated steel bumper with integrated LED fog lights and tow hooks.

Inside, you’ll find adventure-ready features like rubberized flooring that you can easily rinse and drain. And not to skimp on the luxury, the Bronco’s remote start feature is sure to be a fan favorite after any adventure in extreme temperatures.

2023 Jeep Gladiator

The Jeep Gladiator pickup is offered with a manual, pairing a 285-horsepower 3.6L V6 with a six-speed manual transmission. Plus, you can deck out the truck to play in nearly any outdoor arena.

Jeep touts the Gladiator as its first-ever Trail Rated truck. This badging simply means that the Gladiator has proven itself capable of tackling tough terrain in harsh conditions.

2022 Jeep® Gladiator Rubicon crossing a stream

Inside, you get a mix of modern tech and durable materials. Outside, the Gladiator sticks true to its Jeep Wrangler roots with a modular design. You can choose between a hard top or a soft top. On sunny days, remove the top and doors entirely for an open-air driving experience.

Nearly all versions, from the basic Sport package to the off-road-capable Rubicon model, can be had with the six-speed manual transmission. All include a rugged part-time 4WD system with a low-range transfer case, making them one of the more versatile models available for those seeking a manual transmission.

2022 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon

Plus, with its 4,000-4,500-pound tow capacity (depending on trim level), you can hook up a small camper for your next weekend away. You’ll have to opt for the eight-speed automatic if you want the Max Tow Package, however, which bumps towing up to 7,650 pounds.

If you don’t want to mess with towing, the Gladiator’s 60-inch bed offers plenty of space to stow your gear in the back, too.

2023 Jeep Wrangler

The Jeep Wrangler is a legend among 4WD vehicles, adored by off-roaders around the globe. The latest iteration of this iconic 4×4 is available with a six-speed manual transmission mated to a 285-horsepower 3.6L V6 engine.

interior photo of 2023 Jeep Wrangler 6-speed manual transmission

The Jeep Wrangler can be outfitted with a manual tranny in several trim levels, including the beefed-up Sahara and Rubicon models. And with the option to build out a two- or four-door version, you can customize the Wrangler to fit the number of passengers — or amount of gear — you want to take with you on your outdoor adventures.

The Trail Rated Wrangler is extremely capable off-road, especially when modified with some quality off-road parts. Even without any aftermarket mods, the 4WD system, which uses a two-speed transfer case, will be right at home on dirt roads or crawling over moderate obstacles.

Two 2023 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon parked on mountain top
2023 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon in new Earl exterior paint color (left) and limited-production Reign exterior paint color (right); (photo/Jeep)

The exterior of the Wrangler still sports a rugged, retro look that hearkens back to its beginnings in the World War II era. Similar to the Gladiator, you can opt for a hard or soft top. New colors for the 2023 Wrangler are Earl, which replaces Snazzberry, and limited-edition Reign.

Unlike its Willys ancestors, the newest Wrangler gives you creature comforts on the inside with a modern infotainment system and optional upgrades like heated leather seats.

2023 Subaru Crosstrek

The all-wheel-drive Subaru Crosstrek has scads of personality and a go-anywhere spirit. The crossover, which is based on the Subaru Impreza, delivers comfortable performance in a compact package — complete with 8.7 inches of ground clearance.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek interior photo of 6-speed manual transmission
Subaru Crosstrek six-speed manual transmission; (photo/Subaru)

A six-speed manual is available on the Base or Premium trim levels, but not the Sport, Limited, or Hybrid. Power comes from a 2.0L horizontally opposed engine making 152 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. EPA estimates for the manual version come in at 25 mpg overall.

red 2023 subaru crosstrek premium driving on the road
2023 Subaru Crosstrek Premium; (photo/Subaru)

The Crosstrek also comes with standard raised roof rails that pair with an extended line of Thule accessories, making it great for hikers, bikers, kayakers, and skiers who might want to add a roof rack or cargo box. On or off the highway, the 4WD Crosstrek is a good option if you may often encounter bad roads or foul weather.

2023 Toyota Tacoma

If you are looking for a mid-size pickup, the Toyota Tacoma is a solid choice with a dedicated following. To get that third pedal and stick shift, you’ll have to opt for a TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, or TRD Pro model. That third pedal lets you control a six-speed manual transmission that is paired with a 3.5L V6, which offers 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque.

2023 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro shown in Solar Octane exclusive color
2023 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro shown in Solar Octane exclusive color; (photo/Toyota)

Tacoma TRD Sport models come fitted with sport-tuned shocks that are proficient on the pavement, while the TRD Off-Road models get Bilstein dampers and a suspension prepared for rugged off-road adventures.

The 2022 model year Tacoma TRD Pro benefited from numerous updates, which are all carried over to 2023. There is a lifted TRD-tuned suspension with 2.5-inch internal bypass FOX shocks, an aluminum front skid plate, and a Multi-Terrain Monitor that shows a trail’s-eye view for spotting potential obstacles, just to name a few of the great off-road-oriented upgrades found on the latest TRD Pro Tacomas.

rear view of 2023 Toyota Tacoma in wilderness

All trim levels of the Tacoma offer an available 4WD system with a high/low-range transfer case to get you through snow, sand, mud, or rocks. And with a towing capacity of up to 6,500 pounds, you can bring all your toys along, too.

Every New Manual-Transmission Vehicle

If you want three pedals and a stick to row your own gears with, but don’t find what you’re looking for on our manual-transmission adventure vehicle list, be sure to check out the full list on our sister site AutoWise.com: All the 2022 Manual Transmission Cars.

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