The head of BMW M recently came out with a hint (you pay attention to those when they’re from auto execs) that manual transmissions might not make it into all M cars in the future. He told Autocar “from a technical standpoint, the future doesn’t look bright for manual gearboxes. The DCT and auto ’boxes are faster and they have better fuel consumption.” What does this really mean? Could M really kill all manuals?
Here’s our take. Yes the M5 and M6 will be automatic only for the next generation. The current manual is US only and has had disappointing take rates according to BMWNA insiders. So in that case, it’s pretty straightforward. However for the small M cars things get interesting. The M3 and M4 have seen their manual take rate drop significantly worldwide with this new generation. While the manual in those cars (derived from the 1M’s) is excellent, the lure of ease, higher performance and better MPG has made the DCT incredibly popular. Could BMW go DCT only for the next M3 and M4? We think there’s a distinct possibility.
Then there’s the new M2. We know that the upcoming generation will be both DCT and manual. What of the generation after that? For one we don’t even know if that car will ever exist much less be rear wheel drive. There’s a good chance it’ll be based on the front wheel drive UKL platform making the case for a manual less convincing. However if it stays rear wheel drive and the M3 and M4 go DCT only, there’s a good chance it too will be without a manual option.
Yes it would appear BMW M is slowly going auto only. And that’s a shame given the roots of the brand. Our hope is that BMW M retains at least one pure M car with a manual option. It could be one last link to the brand’s founding values.