Could the next BMW M3 be automatic only?

BMW M3, News | April 24th, 2017 by 11
BMW M3 M3 Competition Package 33 750x500

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 …

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.

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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.

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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.

11 responses to “Could the next BMW M3 be automatic only?”

  1. jason bourne says:

    “it’s likely BMW will switch every M car from a DCT to ZF eight-speed simply for cost reasons.”

    That seems to be somewhat hypocritical, considering how expensive the M cars are already.

    • Yes but to develop, crash test and sell two different transmissions would be too expensive if only one or two models are using the DCT. Right now, multiple M cars use the DCT so it’s worth it. If it’s for just the M3 or M2? Maybe not so much.

  2. Icebreakerr says:

    I dont care about manuals anymore. automatic all the way

  3. Kaisuke971 says:

    They should at least keep the DCT for the M3/M4, the M2 and the M8. The ZF8 is cool but it’s not snappy and sharp like a DCT.

    • Icebreakerr says:

      would dct make them slower?

    • bmw driver says:

      ZF8 is also too smooth and characterless. Having driven both for years, the ZF is super smooth and has no quirks. DCT on the other hand is a grumpy beast when cold, requiring you to do things like wait to hear the gearbox engage when shifting into 1st on cold start (which makes a satisfying mechanical *clack*) otherwise your car will freewheel down a hill. The ZF is fine for regular cars where you want a luxurious magic carpet. But for cars where you want character and quirks and mechanical awesomeness, DCT all the way.

  4. Δημητρης Μαρκοπουλος says:


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