BF Review: The BMW M2 DCT vs Manual

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We’ve reviewed the M2 and we’ve taken a very very deep time technical dive into it’s design and engineering. Now we’re going to tell you how to spec one. And since there’s really very little in the way of options we’re going to focus on the most important thing to choose – the transmission. Our recent time in Montery with the M2 in both DCT and manual forms gave us some unique perspective to pit the two against each other.

Driving the BMW M2 around Laguna Seca with a DCT felt like the right choice. The DCT shifted quicker and allowed more focus on the trickier parts of the track. Unlike other automatic performance cars there was also plenty of theater with a gurgling exhaust and the riffle-bolt like shifts from one gear to the next. The car was alive and the DCT felt like it was part of an equation focused on all-out performance.

BMW M2 Coupe in Cork Screw Corner Laguna Seca

BMW M2 Coupe in Cork Screw Corner Laguna Seca

We’ve figured out performance though. More specifically automakers have figured out the formula for efficiently sprinting to 60 mph and shifting in milliseconds. And the formula is out there for all of them to copy. The result has been a flood of performance cars that are equal parts brutally quick and effortless to drive.

That type of consistency in performance is also addicting. To that point it’s telling that, during my two hours at the track, I never once longed for a manual M2.

The BMW 1M with the required manual transmission.

The BMW 1M with the required manual transmission.

Stepping out of the DCT M2 and into the manual version felt a little like a non-event at the time. For me driving a manual is an everyday occurrence as the three cars in my rotation (one of them being a 1M) are all manual. So slotting the M2 into 1st and pulling away didn’t give me any butterflies. But accelerating and nothing the gear lever from first to second did. “My God the manual makes this car come alive” was my next thought as I rounded the first corner within the twisty Laguna Seca camp ground.

The manual is an iteration on the M3 and M4’s which itself was an iteration of the one found in the 1M. In other words it’s about perfect with excellent weighting, precision and feel. The rev matching is an excellent addition to the recipe (BMW – please take my money and put this on my 1M) that allows you more focus on gear changes and hitting apexes.

The M2's manual is an iteration on the M3 and M4’s which itself was an iteration of the one found in the 1M.

The M2’s manual is an iteration on the M3 and M4’s which itself was an iteration of the one found in the 1M.

Lets make no mistake. The manual M2 is slower and likely less efficiency in daily driving. On paper there’s no reason to choose it other than to save yourself the $2,900 it costs to opt for the DCT. But there’s on choice in my book. The M2 simply comes alive with the greater human input the manual allows.

The entire experience from the shifter precision to the clutch engagement is incredibly satisfying. As we told you about in our previous reviews of the M2, this a car that doesn’t quite drip with character like the 1M did. Yet opting for the manual goes a long way in giving the M2 more of that 1M analogue feel.

I’ll say it another way. The M2 is a car that wants to be analogue in sensation. Opting for the manual further unlocks this.

We know most M2s will likely be sold with the DCT. And that’s a shame not just for the first owners but for the 2nd and 3rd. In ten years time when the decision to even opt for a manual could be gone or limited, it’ll be the manual equipped cars that command the high prices and the adoration. Based on our time with both, it will be plenty justified.

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  • SockRolid

    Exactly. I originally thought I’d get my M2 with the 6MT. Then, since I’ll be tracking it (at Laguna Seca among other venues) I figured I’d avoid the “money shift” and get Launch Control as a bonus by going with the DCT.

    But no. After seeing in-car videos of the Laguna press drive, and after reading reviews of the 6MT, I’m back in the 6MT camp. And I’m not going to change my mind again. I could get a DCT-equipped M2 and drive my S2000 whenever I want that rifle-bolt snick-snick shifting experience. And I do drive on some of the country’s most congested commute roads (CA 880, 101, and the SF Bay Bridge.)

    So what? I’m getting the M2 for the actual driving experience. Not for the theoretical performance numbers. Not for how convenient or comfortable it is. And the 6MT will make that driving experience better, more direct, and more involving.

    • Well stated!

    • jcwcoupe

      You’re a real man. I drive on some of the same roads, and while I’d love the manual I’m sorta leaning toward a DCT. I’m considering a few cars right now M2 (not sure which transmission), 3rd gen JCW with 6MT, or Focus RS.

      I’ve got a Golf R right now MK7, but the car is very sedate so I’m pretty bored. Plus the DSG just has a mind of its own.

  • James Moss

    Speak it brother Gabriel! Hallelujah! I want the 6MT connection of man and machine to be solidly visceral, wrapped around me like my beloved F-16 and a pure extension of my thought process and will.

  • HammerDown

    After reading a ton of reviews/experiences on this special car, I want to thank the editor of this blog for really taking a magnifying glass to this topic. Very few reviewers have done this, and this, I feel is a crucial decision when buying a sports car because it totally changes the experience.

    Being a life-long manual driver I must admit, I was curious about the DCT since many sports cars aren’t even offering a manual anymore, but after just test driving a non-M BMW (in manual), I must say it’s so much more satisfying than clicking a paddle. I can only imagine what an M2 will feel like.

    Thanks again for swaying me back to the right side!

  • SockRolid

    Haven’t driven either yet, but maybe this is how you could describe the shifting experience of the 6MT and DCT:

    6MT – like actuating a rifle bolt DCT – like pulling the trigger (but without the recoil)

  • michaeldorian

    Here’s the thing. I just got out of a 45 minute test drive. DCT does exactly as advertised but it only ever comes alive when you’re going all out banging through the gears. Which is why I see why it sings praise at the track. But for driving around just for fun, you’re only doing this when attacking an on-ramp or driving like a mad man on the freeway. It is a brilliant piece of engineering though.

    I wish more reviewers would discuss the transmission options. Especially if they have driven both like you.