Redux: The M5 & M6 to be Auto Only?

Over a year and a half ago (August 2009) we reported that the next generation M5 and M6 may be ditching the manual option and going auto only. But why would M be going backwards into the land of torque converting auto transmissions and not choosing the DCT? Clearly the dual clutch transmission is the future of high performance automobiles right?

There are several factors as to why the DCT might not be in the next generation M5 and M6. First off the cost of producing something that can handle as much torque as a twin-turbo V8 is simply not affordable proposition for mass production. Secondly (and it ‘s pointed out well by Motortrend ‘s article on the top yesterday) the need for beefier actuators would slow down the shift times.

Combine this with BMW ‘s successful implementation of the automatic in the X5 and X6 M products and you see where we ‘re going. In the X5 M BMW uses cylinder deactivation to produce shifts as fast as many DCTs while giving supreme refinement. Results are impressive as we found out for ourselves last year.

What does this mean for other future M Products? As we ‘ve previously reported the next generation M3 will retain the manual and DCT combo as will the next generation 1M (potentially called the 2M).

You can read our original report on this change from August 2009 here.

Hat tip to 5post for the heads-up on the Motortrend piece.

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  • JonPD

    Not a fan of this move at all. I am sure BMW has the facts and figures proving this business case however. I however think a automatic box firmly removes these cars from the motorsport world, then again I think ///M decided on this path a long time ago with the addition of the /Momsport vehicles into their culture. I think in a great many ways the balance between motorsport and luxury has tipping further into the luxury side year by year personally.

  • bmw

    Totally agree with you JonPD…Seems like BMW wants to go the Mercedes and Audi route….Luxury over Sport…My guess is that a lot of BMW enthusiasts like me will move more and more to the Porsche brand to get back into the sport segment.

  • GJR

    I just keep seeing less and less differentiation between BMW and competitors. There used to be concrete reasons to go for an M car over an AMG Mercedes (NA engines and manual gearboxes, among others). No longer, unfortunately.

    I understand that sales numbers are very important, but when you leave your core customers behind, you’re relying on new, more fickle buyers who choose one brand over another for superficial reasons.

  • Bob

    Relax guys, this is just a rumor. -Bob

  • JonPD

    Bob my issue with BMW and /M is much larger than a slushbox, however the rumor is indicative of /M moving in a direction that makes me sad to my core. /Momsport, slush boxes, forced induction just cuts the heart out of so much what I have loved about /M over the decades. I know each has a business case why they choose it but still is sickening in a great many ways.

  • Cybo

    I don’t like it at all. And what about Porsche 911 Turbo’s PDK? It seems to be able to handle TONS of torque without a trouble, so that’s not the question here.

  • Bob

    Jon, by “rumor” I was pointing out that it’s unconfirmed. You seem ready to take it to the bank. It’s a little early to be “sickened.”


    • @Bob- we have been hearing that the M5 will be auto only for sometime. I will openly admit I don’t believe it. What I think is going on is that the Getrag is too weak and the torque- significantly more than any Porsche at estimated 550 creates all sorts of issues for transmissions. That is not to say there is not an Xtrac like SMG setup in this beast, or even an advanced autobox being standard and the prior as an option.

      I think a manual is stupid in this car and the US market may have had one engineered for it last generation but come on- these cars are for faux enthusiasts to cart business men around in. Anyone that wants to seriously track a car is NOT looking at the M5, it is a go fast as schnell on the US roads every now and again while the mainstay is highway cruising.

      I know a few people that have the M5 for the comfort/luxury and sheer thrill of the right foot mash. It is a great everyday car for that and the few manual drivers will see the light (in this market). If they are true enthusiasts they have another car to have real fun in- 1M, M3, ‘Vette, P Car, Lotus etc.

      I don’t see why anyone would be upset about an automatic M5. There are FEW that can safely handle all that power at speed and shift properly- and if they can they more than likely own something that is less multi-purpose.

      I understand the marketing of the M5 is to be luxury to track beast at the push of the M button but in all seriousness the thing is too big and too plush- the XMs defy logic and physics but how often are they tracked ( well never at BMWCCA events 😉 ).

      Anything bigger than the E90 deserves an auto.

      There I made my peace.


  • bmw

    I have to completely disagree with you Bob. X6M, X5M are setting a new M trend…Obviously the M5 is the next target…But I understand the reasonning behind it….I guess I’m more disappointed in the customers than BMW…They are telling the brand want they want by voting with their money…They buy less and less manuals, They are less and less interested in sportiness but more in comfort…Thus BMW shifting to the Mercedes way of building cars…Let’s just hope that Porsche don’t follow this heavy trend…Or else there wont be any pure sport car manufacturer other than out of reach brands.

  • I, for one, am not too worried about this manual->automatic trend. As larger automakers are chaising customers, I can see a gap for a new kind of car company opening up. Who knows something great might emerge out of everyone ditching the manual. Collectively speaking, there is still a very large population of performance car junkies among a variety of brands.

  • bmw

    ZHPRegistry, This is music to my ears….And looking at it this way…it’s not that bad!

  • Lee L

    Just realized after seeing this article, that if they do change the 1 Series to 2 for the next model, they can call it the M2 and never have to worry about the problem again, as surely they will not make an M version of the car that slots in under the current 1 Series.

  • goat

    @ Michael – I don’t fully buy your argument. People who want a manual in one of these BMW’s – in any BMW – are not choosing it so they can “take it on the track”. Contrarily, if they planned to track the car, they would be more likely to choose a DCT (or even the latest-gen autobox) and would be better served by it in terms of consistent lap times.

    I would argue that, these days, the manual is chosen to preserve / restore driver involvement. Why is this important? Because with each redesign, cars are becoming easier to drive… larger… quieter… more comfortable over road imperfections… teeming with electronic amenities… safer… turn-by-turn GPS in easy view… All this is good, and the specs and absolute performance are fantastic, but the unintended (?) consequence of these design developments are a pretty boring – or at least increasingly less involved – driving experience.

    As a kid I remember thinking it was the height of coolness to see someone drive a 5-series (even a 7-series!) and shift their own gears. To me, a large sedan with a stickshift epitomized “euro” – and BMW was pretty much the sole OEM offering manuals across their range. More than the clean 4-door styling, firm suspension, and strong acceleration, the manual gearbox between the seats unmistakably marked the BMW as a sport sedan and a DRIVER’S CAR.

    More recently, a friend had a 540i in stick and ran that as a daily driver for a couple of years… the buttery smooth shifter coupled to that v8 in a car with that kind of “presence” and comfort was incredible. It is sad that this is going away. Taking away the stickshift option may well be the best business strategy but to many it will be seen as removing a key differentiator the 5-series as a genuine “driver’s car” compared with the Audi A6, Mercedes E, Lexus GS.

  • Les

    I love a manual, but I think Michael is right. You have to look at who is buying the M5 and what they use it for. Plus, a really good automatic transmission paired with a ton of torque can be very fun.

  • BobM

    BMW enthusists made a big case for the current M5 to come in a 6 sp manual and BMW responded. But when the end of the model year came all the manuals were still sitting on dealers lots. I think the people who scream “manual” are not actual buyers in many cases. Besides when you drive the M5, the engine responde so quickly the DCT or SMG are the only transmissions that can respond properly. Almost all racing car transmissions are DCT’s; F1, Grand-Am, AMLS, etc. You will soon learn even the 328i will come with an automatic as standard equipment. It is sad, I have never had a automatic BMW, personaly, all were stick.