First-Gen Audi R8 had the most interesting manual shifter

There’s something special about the feel of a good manual shifter. Enthusiasts will often wax poetic about the charms of a manual gearbox, as being able to row one’s own gears is one of the absolute best feelings in the automotive world. But one of the more overlooked aspects of a manual transmission is the actual gear lever itself, in which you use to shift. Having a really good shifter in hand can make the experience of driving a manual significantly better. And, at least according to Road & Track, the first-generation Audi R8 had the best, or at least most interesting, shifter ever.

In this article from R&T, they rank the thirteen most interesting manuals shifters of all time. While many of them on the list were attached to automatic transmissions, the best of them are manuals. And there are some great ones in the list. For instance, the classic Hurst pistol grip shifter from so many muscle cars of the past made the list. Although, that’s nothing compared to some of the really cool ones. Spyker’s open linkage manual is in there and that’s one of the all time greats. You can actually see the metal link between the gear lever in your hand and the gearbox itself and watch it move as you shift. It also makes a wonderful *clink* noise as you shift gears.

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But the last shift lever on the list belongs to the first-gen Audi R8. Whether equipped with a V8 or a V10, you had the choice to a six-speed manual transmission in the first R8. And that six-speed manual featured an open-gate shifter. So the shifter is rowed through visible metallic gates and you can actually see linkage inside, if you look through. It, too, makes a delightful metallic noise with ever shift that makes driving the R8 so much more enjoyable. The shifter was so good that fans were more upset about losing that with the second-gen Audi R8 than the actual manual tranmission itself. Sure, padels are faster but they don’t make a good noise.

Nico DeMattia

I've been in love with cars since I was a kid, specifically German cars. Now I get to drive them talk about them on the internet.