Off-roading and Overlanding have been massively growing in popularity as people are looking to get out into nature and have more fun than ever before. Because of this, popularity of the vehicles that go along with it are growing as well! However what isn’t growing, is the popularity of the manual transmission.
We now are down to four different vehicles that are not based on a crossover (car) platform that offer a manual transmission! We’ll talk a little bit more later in the article about why a manual transmission is great for off-roading, so stay tuned for that.
So which pickups and SUVs have a manual transmission? The Jeep Gladiator and Toyota Tacoma are the only pickups with a manual transmission! The Ford Bronco (new entry to the mix) and the Jeep Wrangler are the only truck based SUVs that offer a manual transmission this year.
Hopefully, as off-roading gains in popularity, we might start getting manuals back, however for now, this is what we have!
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1. 2022 Jeep Gladiator
The Jeep Gladiator hit the market in the past couple years with a splash! It took everything, everyone enjoyed about a Jeep Wrangler and added a bed to it. Don’t be fooled though, it is its own platform and is not just an adaptation from the Wrangler.
This pickup is also 50% of the pickups available on the market today that offer a manual transmission for those that want one!
The Gladiator is a competitive larger mid-size pickup that is widely praised as a great pickup, with it’s main downside being it’s ride quality.
If you are looking for a true off-roading rig, but still need that bed, a Jeep Gladiator might be a great option for you.
They have a variety of engines to choose from, including the trusty 3.6L Pentastar, and even a 3.0L EcoDiesel engine.
As for off-roading credentials, the Gladiator offers 10″ of ground clearance, 260+ pound feet of torque, a crawling gear and hill decent control, and of course a 43.6° approach angle and a 26° departure angle.
2. 2022 Toyota Tacoma
The Tacoma has been one of the longest standing pickups that offer a manual transmission, and was also one of the only mid-size pickups to make it through the time where mid-size pickups were unpopular.
Because of this, it has refined itself with better technology, better features and better off-roading qualities! It stands out as one of the best mid-size pickups to date.
That, and the fact that it also offers Toyota’s unrivaled reliability, it makes for a great choice for any pickup, not just a pickup with a manual transmission (which it has).
The TRD PRO is the top of the line version (also an off-roading trim) of this truck, and it offers 9.4″ of ground clearance, a23.9° approach angle, 24.7° departure angle, and does include crawl control.
While these features all seem to pale in comparison to what the Gladiator has to offer on paper, the Tacoma is a force to be reckoned with, as it has been around a long time and has had time to refine itself.
3. 2022 Ford Bronco
Now we get to the vehicle that I would buy out of any of the vehicles on this list! The Bronco disappeared for years, however it has been brought back, and better than ever.
Based on the Ford Ranger platform, the Bronco was brought in to compete directly with the Wrangler, and because of that, the vehicle is offered with a manual transmission, just like the Jeep.
I have found that the Bronco is considerably more refined for every day usage than the Wrangler, but still offers tons of off-road credentials both in the capabilities, but also in ways that make the outdoors more fun! With Go-Pro Mounts, fold down seats on the back, and even built in (yet removable) speakers, it is a great vehicle.
The Bronco has 315 pound feet of torque, 8.4″ of ground clearance,30.4° approach angle, 33.1° departure angle, and yes, has crawl control!
This vehicle is a huge step forward with off-road vehicles that aren’t just utilitarian, but also are comfortable and great everyday vehicles.
4. 2022 Jeep Wrangler
The Wrangler is the King of Off-Roading! If you ask anyone (even non-car people) they will immediately put the Wrangler on the short list of vehicles that would be great for off-road, and it doesn’t disappoint.
These vehicles definitely have the trade-off of being a bit stiff and wandering on the road, however they are serious off-roaders that are a ton of fun to drive.
If you are looking for a vehicle that will spend more time on the trails, than on the road, you can’t go any further than a Jeep Wrangler, especially their newest generation.
Apart from having a manual transmission, the Jeep Wrangler offers 8.3″ of ground clearance, 260 to 442 pound feet of torque (depending on if you get the diesel engine), an industry leading 43.2° of approach angle, and 29.1° of departure angle.
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What is a manual transmission good for in a pickup when off-roading?
Manual transmissions may be disappearing from the automotive landscape, however they still have a big part in the off-roading community!
This type of transmission gives you considerable amounts of control over the acceleration of the vehicle, where automatic transmissions just can’t. This is important during those times where you need just a bit of acceleration, but can’t risk any jerky movement.
Manual transmissions can easily ease on and off of the pedal (and clutch), and they also won’t randomly change gears when you need it the least.
So can you go off-roading with an automatic transmission? In realty, you really can, and honestly it is a great experience overall. Automatic transmissions have come a long way from back in the day, and some people say they are even better than manuals for off-roading.
That said, you can’t beat the experience that a manual transmission gives you!
Why are pickup manual transmissions disappearing?
Manual transmissions in general are quickly disappearing from the automotive landscape. In the past, manuals were a majority of sales, while now they linger down in the single digit percentages of what is sold.
This comes down to ease of use! People don’t want to row their own gears anymore, as automatic transmission make driving easier for the every day drive.
Another big difference, is that automative transmissions have now finally gotten to the point where they can shift faster and more efficiently than any human driving a manual transmission is able to.
Gone are the days where a manual is most definitely going to be the better choice.
However this unfortunately means that driving cars, pickups and trucks are becoming less engaging to drive.
All of this means that vehicle manufacturers are less likely to develop manual transmissions for their vehicles, as sales of that transmission type will not offset the development cost.
Frequently Asked Questions
Over the past 10 years or so automatic transmission have quickly become the better solution for most people, as they have gotten more efficient, and better at shifting. In those same 10 years, manual transmission have slowly been going away, leaving very few vehicles offering this type.
While the older, smaller Ford Rangers of the past did offer a manual, the new Ford Ranger does not have an optional manual transmission anymore! If you are wanting a manual truck, only the Gladiator and Tacoma are on the list.
Just like the Ford Ranger, the new Nissan Frontier has no option for a manual transmission to row your own gears.
Manual transmissions in pickups and SUVs can be a ton of fun! They are great for off-roading, are a ton of fun to use, and are much more engaging. Unfortunately because drivers are quickly wanting to move to automatic vehicles, the manual vehicle is going away.
We are now only left with the Bronco, Wrangler, Gladiator, and the Tacoma as the only options for a truck based vehicle that has a manual transmission.