While today’s automotive technology improves, cars become faster, more efficient and even easier to drive. One of the biggest innovations to come to road cars, that makes cars both faster and easier to drive fast, is the dual-clutch transmission. A DCT offers about 80 percent of the fun of driving a manual gearbox but is as easy to operate as a standard automatic transmission. The only downside to the DCT is the fact that it’s still missing that extra 20 percent of engagement that a manual transmission brings.
No matter how fast and involving DCTs get, they will never have the level of driver involvement and enjoyment that a proper manual gearbox has. The best part of the manual gearbox experience is feeling the shifter slot into each gear in your hand. It’s a lovely and engaging feeling. And since the best part of driving a manual happens in the palm of your shifting hand, the actual shift knob itself must be nice. BMW has always made good shift knobs, nothing ostentatious like a golf ball like some cars, but always quality feeling shift knobs that are just the right size. So let’s take a look at the top five best BMW shift knobs.
5. BMW M1
The BMW M1 is one of the best looking BMWs of all time. Styled by Giugiaro, the M1 is one of the most iconic cars of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. But its interior is never talked about much, mostly because it’s quite black and drab and plain. Ironic, I know, as the exterior is so striking, but it’s true. However, one bright spot of the M1’s interior was the shift knob. It was tall and chunky and the some of the shift lever was exposed on top of the leather boot, so it looked old fashioned. But it just looks so old and so fitting with the times and the car that it just makes you want to grab hold of it and click it through gears while listening to that iconic mid-mounted inline-six roar.
4. BMW Z8
The Z8 is another beauty of BMW’s. Except this time, the beauty follows to the interior. The inside of the Z8 is one of the best looking interiors BMW’s ever made. It looks like a classic ‘50s roadster on the inside and the shift knob has a bit to do with that. Almost entirely aluminum, the bright silver shift knob stuck out from its interior colored leather boot stood out amongst the see of colored leather. Some of the shift boot’s color made it onto the shift knob, matching the interior color, and giving it a hint of class. It was also placed perfectly and fit nicely in hand.
3. BMW E46 ZHP
The ZHP packaged E46 is one of the most highly sought after second-hand BMWs on the market. Much of that has to do with sportier interior. Part of the interior upgrades that the ZHP package brough was a shorty shifter with a small leather shift knob for the six-speed manual. This shift knob fit perfectly in hand and looked as if it was begging to be rowed. Maybe it’s just the allure of the actual ZHP package itself, but the ZHP’s shifter is one of the most tantalizing of all BMW shifters.
2. BMW 2002 tii
The little BMW 2002 helped define the small sports car segment forever. It’s plucky looks and fun-to-drive dynamics made it an instant fan favorite and a car that is still loved and desired today. One of the great things about the 2002 is the four-speed manual, With perfect gearing and an old-school feel, shifting the 2002 yourself is one of the great driving experiences you can have. Part of that experience is the optional old, chunky wooden knob that sticks out from the console. This shift knob takes you back to the late ‘60s and early ‘70s and shows you what driving a manual looked and felt like. It’s also one of the best looking shift knobs ever made, by any company.
1. BMW 507
The 507 could very possibly be the most beautiful BMW ever made. With lovely, beautiful curves and an interior fit for James Dean, the 507 is one of the most desirable cars of all time. Its interior looked like a place you wanted to stay in for hours at a time. One of the coolest things about the 507, at least for me, is the shift knob. It sticks out from floor and makes a little bend toward the driver. This old-school style of shifter, bendy with a very small leather boot, brings you back to the ‘50s. The long throws of the gearbox are a delight and are made even better by the fact that you’re rowing that old shifter. Maybe the allure of the 507 has something to do with it, but the 507’s shifter is the best looking manual shifter in BMW’s history.