Aston Martin releases limited-edition 2017 7-speed V12 Vantage S

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Aston Martin released a new manual, limited edition car called the V12 Vantage S, where only 100 models with special numbers and plaques will be sold in 2017. (KABC)

The 2017 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S is the kind of car dreams are made of.

It has stylish looks, an interior with plush materials, and a hand-built V-12 engine that makes 563 horsepower - not to mention a wonderful exhaust note.

For a relative handful of buyers, the car's got something that's missing from most exotic cars these days: a real, full-fledged manual transmission.

Born from customer requests, Aston Martin is building a limited run of V12 Vantage models with a clutch pedal and a 7-speed manual gearbox. It makes the car much more engaging to drive, and much more special. The company is only building 100 for the U.S. market, all numbered and designated with a special plaque on the door sill.

Automatic transmissions are winning favor in high-end sports cars, even more so than in other models. But why? It's mainly because recent high-tech racing-style automatics are far superior to manuals in terms of performance.

Porsche likes to boast that its PDK (Porsche Doppelkupplung) dual-clutch 7-speed automatic performs much better than a manual, even a manual in the hands of a professional racing driver. They have the track testing data to prove it.

But never mind things like stats and data. This special Aston Martin Vantage, with its soulful engine note and perfectly weighted gearshift, can bring a smile to the face of even the most jaded auto aficionado.

One thing that's a little tricky to get used to is the shift pattern. The 7-speed uses what's known as a "dogleg" arrangement, where first gear is back and to the left, and gears two through seven are in the extended H pattern. A typical 6-speed manual has gears one through six.

Less expensive sports cars, like the Mazda Miata ($25,000 base price), Nissan 370Z ($30,000 base price) and Chevrolet Corvette ($55,000 base price), are readily available with manual gearboxes.

But it's the high-end exotic sports cars where the stick shift and clutch pedal have had their day and become nearly obsolete.

Two perfect examples are the two most hotly anticipated exotics of 2016. Acura's reborn NSX has a 9-speed transmission, but no clutch pedal. The same goes for Ford's upcoming GT supercar.

The previous Ford GT (2004-2006) offered a manual transmission only. The new one, due out late this year, is leaving the stick shift in the history books in favor of an automatic, joining the likes of Lamborghini and Ferrari in doing so.

Aston Martin, for its part, says it's committed to offering manuals well into the future. The company's CEO Andy Palmer has been on record stating just that. As long as there is some demand for them, Aston Martin will build sports cars with manual transmissions, even if it means doing so in limited numbers.
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