While the “Save the Manuals” movement is still going, it seems to be losing. Despite the few outliers like the Porsche 911 R and Cayman GT4, the movement seems to be losing. Every hot BMW is available with some sort of automatic transmission, every hot Audi is automatic-only and Mercedes-Benz has all but ditched the manual in its performance cars. We also recently heard from a BMW M representative that the famous motorsport division of BMW could be ditching the dual-clutch automatic soon, as well as the manual. So could the upcoming BMW M3, the icon of BMW M, become automatic only?
I likely won’t to be honest. The next-gen BMW M3 is only a few years away and it doesn’t seem that the manual will die by then. This is especially considering that the take-rate on manual M3s is actually pretty decent at the moment and BMW claims that it will sell whatever customers will buy. However, there is a real possibility that BMW could deem the manual unfit to sell in the next M3.
During that recent article where BMW M claimed it could be ditching the DCT, the main reason was power and torque. Current turbocharged BMW engines are torque monsters, doling out power at low rpm like a frat boy doling out cheesy pickup lines. They love to roast their rear tires with their tidal waves of torque. Manual transmissions don’t like that sort of torque. Manuals and their clutches cant’ handle that sort of torque without extra strengthening, something BMW claims ruins shift quality. And it seems BMW has some experience with this as many enthusiasts claim that BMW M’s modern manuals have poor shift quality. This might be because BMW M had to strengthen the manuals for their monstrous torque figures.
While the current M3 still doesn’t make that much power,the next one certainly could. Think about it, the current-gen BMW M4 GTS makes 493 hp, which in BMWBLOG maths is 500 hp. Now look at the M3’s competitors: Mercedes-AMG C63 S (503 hp) and the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio (505 hp). With these cars on the road, BMW M might just have to break the 500 hp mark and a manual transmission might not work well. The only sedan on the road to make that sort of power and be available with a manual is the Giulia Quadrifoglio in some European markets and most enthusiasts think it shifts quite badly. Seeing a trend here? Every manual on cars with big power and torque figures has poor shift quality.
So while we actually think the next BMW M3 will still have a manual because there’s a tradition here, there’s certainly a possibility that the famous M model loses the three-pedal ‘box. The real weird part is that, if it loses a manual, it could also lose the dual-clutch gearbox for the same torque limitations.
And we’re kidding ourselves if we don’t take cost into consideration. If the BMW M5, X3, X5 and X6 M are only coming with eight-speed automatics, it’s likely BMW will switch every M car from a DCT to ZF eight-speed simply for cost reasons.
So there are certainly a few possible factors that could end up making the next-gen BMW M3 an automatic-only car. We knew there had to be a casualty of the horsepower wars, but we didn’t expect it to be the manual transmission.