The latest rumor from Munich has BMW working on a dual-clutch transmission for their new front-wheel drive vehicles. When BMW launched their first front-wheel drive car in 2014, customers had the option to choose a standard six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic transmission made by Aisin.
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Journalists -including us – driving an Aisin-supplied automatic BMW noticed that the transmission is unobtrusive, but when using manual mode, less gears would be more. So if you want to get to a lower gear for a passing maneuver or an upcoming corner, the transmission has put you in seventh or eighth and takes way too many downshifts with marginal rev changes to actually get the engine where you want it to be.
So with the new DCT, is it fair to assume that BMW is working on a series of front-wheel drive performance vehicles? Volkswagen uses a DCT in FWD, so the technology is certainly available. The issue with FWD is anything over about 180 lb-ft creates torque steer at slow speeds, so an automated manual transmission will allow BMW – on paper – to limit output in lower gears.
One model that could use a high-performance version is the new BMW X1 and likely the upcoming X2. Both models are built on the FWD platform with the X1 currently sending power to the wheel via a six-speed manual or an Aisin eight-speed automatic. A potential X1 M or even an X1 M40i could take advantage of quicker and more aggressive shifting.
MINI’s new family of cars is another probable destination – the JCW models are the ones that make most sense.
If BMW is indeed planning a DCT for FWD, the sporty transmission won’t be out – based on our assumptions – for at least two years.