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The Subaru Manual Shifter Is Now Rarer Than Hen's Teeth - There's Only A Partial Solution

What Subaru models offer a manual transmission? Unfortunately, you'll need to hurry because, after the 2023 model year, only two models are left with manual gearboxes for driving enthusiasts. But check out the automaker's solution for outdoor enthusiasts.


Driving enthusiasts who want a manual transmission will have even fewer choices now in Subaru vehicles after the 2023 model year. For example, you couldn't get a manual transmission in the Subaru Forester compact SUV after the 2018 model year and in the Subaru Outback midsize SUV and Legacy midsize sedan after 2015.

The Subaru Ascent 3-Row SUV and Subaru Solterra EV compact SUV have never had a manual transmission option available for customers. Keep reading to find out Subaru's solution for outdoor enthusiasts.

In the 2023 model year, you could still get a manual gearbox in the 2023 Subaru Crosstrek subcompact SUV base, Premium trim levels, and the 2023 Subaru Impreza compact base sedan, base hatchback, and Impreza Sport hatchback trims. But it's gone forever for the 2024 Crosstrek SUV and Impreza compact hatchback models.

2022 Subaru WRX
photo credit: Competition Subaru

In 2024, only two Subaru models are left standing with a manual transmission. However, you can still get a 6-speed manual transmission in the Subaru WRX sport-tuned sedan and the Subaru BRZ sport coupe.

All other 2024 Subaru models will now come with a Continuously Variable automatic Transmission (CVT). In addition, the WRX comes with a Subaru Performance automatic Transmission (SPT), and BRZ comes with a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual mode and paddle shifters.

2023 Subaru BRZ
photo credit: Competition Subaru

The BRZ still offers a fully synchronized 6-speed close-ratio manual transmission with Incline Start Assist, and the WRX comes with a fully synchronized 6-speed manual transmission with Incline Start Assist.

Subaru now offers the CVT automatic with steering wheel paddle shifters in its sportier Forester, Crosstrek, Outback, and other models for driving enthusiasts.

Why is Subaru fazing out the manual transmission?

Subaru aims to have zero fatal accidents by 2030, and they want every model and trim level in the lineup to be equipped with EyeSight safety technology. However, EyeSight is not offered on any Subaru model with a manual gearbox because it's incompatible with the safety system.

The new 2024 Crosstrek will now come with the latest generation EyeSight driver assist technology and Driver Monitoring System called Driver Focus to offer another level of safety and help reduce the chance of accidents. So far, Subaru has yet to be willing to invest the resources needed to make its EyeSight driver assist safety technology compatible with a manual transmission.

Subaru wants the Crosstrek to earn the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award across the entire lineup. Currently, the Crosstrek without EyeSight doesn't get the highest scores and can't be included with the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) automatic models.

Subaru's answer to the manual transmission

Because of improved fuel mileage, Subaru uses the Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) automatic exclusively in all its SUVs. Unfortunately, the manual gearbox is incompatible with the brand's EyeSight driver assist technology. The manual transmission does offer the driver greater control, but Subaru came up with a solution. It's called Hill Descent Control.

X-Mode works in concert with the CVT automatic for improved traction.

The 2023 Subaru Forester, Crosstrek, Outback, and Ascent come with Hill Decent Control (HDC), but what is it, and when do you use it? HDC works in concert with the X-Mode system. The X-Mode also works with the CVT automatic and keeps the transmission in a lower gear for more wheel torque. It also distributes power between the front and rear axles for optimal traction in wet, slippery conditions.

2023 Subaru Outback Wilderness

The new Subaru models come with Hill Descent Control, which is used when descending a hill. It ensures the SUV's speed doesn't increase, managing the braking to provide a controlled, smooth, and safe descent down a steep hill or trail. It's like using a manual gearbox when you shift to the lowest gear and let the transmission hold the vehicle back.

Hill Descent Control gives the driver improved control of the vehicle.

The new dual-function X-Mode in some Crosstrek, Forester, Outback, and Ascent models is controlled by a knob on the console, allowing you to switch from Snow and Dirt mode to the new Deep Snow and Deep Mud Mode. This mode enables the SUV to maintain momentum when you get off the beaten path in extremely deep snow and mud situations.

For adventure enthusiasts who want to get farther off the beaten path for hiking, rock climbing, fishing, or camping trips, the 2023 Subaru Crosstrek, Forester, Outback, and Ascent SUVs come with Hill Decent Control for improved off-road ability when you are descending a steep hill or trail.

The Subaru manual transmission gets more scarce now, but the Japanese automaker's solution works well for outdoor enthusiasts. Subaru won't drop the manual shifter in its performance models anytime soon.

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Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report, where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Photo credit: main image Maita Subaru


Karen Huang (not verified)    February 22, 2023 - 12:01AM

I believe that in the American market, the last manual transmission Outback was the 2014 model year. I loved my 2013 Outback. And now I am so glad I got the 2023 Crosstrek before it goes automatic.