Update: Jalopnik initially reported that the manual options disappear from the BMW online configurator which created a confusion around the lack of manuals for certain models. We apologize for the confusion and hopefully all the bugs in the online guide will be squashed. Feel free to read below a point of view on WHAT IF manuals would go away.
If you haven’t already heard, BMW has just recently announced that it will be killing the manual transmission in the 228i, 328i and 428i. You may now start to mourn.
It is a sad day, now that you can no longer get a row-your-own gearbox in some of BMW’s best models. The eight-speed ZF automatic is the only transmission option available on the aforementioned models. While the ZF auto is very good, with near instantaneous and silent shifts, it still doesn’t provide the engagement of a manual transmission. And that engagement is something that gave the 3 Series a distinct advantage in the enthusiast landscape, as almost all of its competitors have already switched to automatics as their only options.
BMW does have good reason for this, though, as the manually equipped versions of these models were simply not selling enough. The take rate was so low that BMW couldn’t justify keeping the six-speed around any longer. This is generally because the base model versions of the 2, 3 and 4 Series are mostly leased by people who just want the badge on the hood and care about little else. The good news is that the bigger engines cars will maintain the manual gearbox. Though, I feel that they are the least deserving of it.
The ZF eight-speed makes these cars quicker. That’s no secret. So in the bigger 3.0 I6 engine models, where speed and power count most, the automatic is actually quite an advantage. In the M235i I tested recently, I so badly wanted a manual. But that desire went away upon realizing just how fast it was with the automatic. The eight-speed shifted so quickly that it allowed the engine to really open up and deliver endless thrust.
But on smaller four-cylinder cars with less power, engagement is more important than speed because even with the fast shifting auto, the car isn’t going to be all that fast anyway. So the cars that needed a manual transmission the most just lost it. The BMW 228i was one of the last bastions of hope for the enthusiast market, as you could buy a rear-wheel drive BMW coupe with a manual for less that $35,000. No longer, I’m afraid.
I think we all understand the business side of this and why BMW has dumped the manual. After a quick search on Cars.com for new BMW 2 Series models with manual transmissions in the entire United States, I found 26. So despite what enthusiasts might say, these cars simply aren’t selling. It’s no surprise though, this has been a slow burn, as automatics have been taking over the sports car landscape for a while now. We all knew this day was coming, but now that it’s here, it’s kind of sad.