One of the major omissions in the BMW G29 Z4 M40i lineup is a manual gearbox. When BMW launched the G29, it seemed like a strange decision to not offer its dedicated sports car, a vehicle designed to be fun and engaging with a stick shift. Buyers from certain markets could have a Z4 with a six-speed, but it was only the sub-200-horsepower 20i base model whose performance is very far off what the M40i variant can provide; you can’t even get the stick shift in the more powerful 30i four-cylinder turbo variant.
Stick Shift Salvation: How the Manual Transmission Saves the BMW Z4 M40i
What made BMW’s choice to not offer a stick shift Z4 even more peculiar was the fact that the mechanically related Toyota GR Supra offered one not long after its launch, and that version got a lot of praise from owners and journalists alike. It doesn’t make the Supra any faster (it’s a couple of tenths slower to sprint to sixty), but it adds a level of engagement and connectedness that is just missing in an automatic, even the excellent ZF 8HP with its quick-responding paddle shifters.
Over four years after launching the Z4, BMW is finally making it right, though, as it has confirmed plans to launch a stick shift Z40 M40i starting in 2024. We had a chance to try an early prototype not long ago, and our first impressions were very positive. We liked it so much that we believe the six-cylinder, manual Z4 will be the sports car to buy next year.
Goodbye Vague and Rubbery: BMW Revamps its Manual Transmission
BMW manuals have never been among the best feeling on the market. In this respect, Porsche and other manufacturers like Honda and Mazda are miles ahead of BMW, with manual shifters that have a remarkably precise action and just add to the thrill of driving with every shift. You get a lot of that in the Z4’s Japanese cousin, the GR Supra, whose manual shifter feels nothing like the vague and rubbery BMW manuals that you may have experienced in the past.
During our drive of the BMW Z4 M40i manual prototype, we learned that its shift linkage is actually different from the one you would find in the Toyota Supra. The stick itself will be shorter in the BMW, so its range of motion is reduced compared to the Toyota, and the bushings that support the shifter assembly are also different. The result is a slightly notchy but very pleasant shifter, one that you can look forward to trying when it comes out in 2024. It should completely transform the Z4 M40i driving experience, and it should finally become the BMW roadster that enthusiasts have been screaming for.
Why the Z4 M40i Could Be BMW’s Last Great Roadster
In fact, now that it’s going to be available with a manual transmission in the six-cylinder variant, the G29 is BMW’s closest interpretation ever of a pure sports car after the M1 from decades ago. Between its bespoke sports car architecture with double-wishbone suspension on all four corners, the powerful B58 engine, quick steering, small dimensions, and a low center of gravity, the manual’s availability will make a great package even better.
BMW doesn’t sell too many Z4s (around 55,000 had been sold when the facelift was introduced in 2022), and even with the addition of the manual, the sales numbers probably won’t go up significantly, but once it does get the stick shift, it will become one of the cars to buy of 2024. There are hardly any small six-cylinder manual roadsters from any manufacturer, and we don’t know how much longer BMW will keep offering the G29.
Niche Appeal: Will the Manual Z4 M40i Boost Sales?
At the time of the facelift, BMW also noted that Germany was the biggest market for the Z4, accounting for 26 percent of all cars sold, followed by the US, China, and the United Kingdom. The recent increase in demand for manual cars in the States may be part of the reason why BMW gave the Z4 a manual so late in its lifecycle because an automaker’s reason to make any significant change to the lineup is driven by the prospect of additional sales.
Once the current Z4 is taken out of production, which probably won’t happen for another two years, BMW has announced no plans to replace It with anything else. There aren’t even any plans that we know of for BMW to replace the Z4 with an electric model, and this could signify that the automaker isn’t too keen to offer a Z4 in the future.
The G29 BMW Z4 was already one of BMW’s most fun and engaging offerings, even without the manual. It manages to offer a lot of the feeling of an M car, but without the high power that makes Motorsport models daunting for some to drive spiritedly. It is a unique package that will only get better with the manual, and if you are an enthusiast looking to buy a new manual sports car next year, the 2025 BMW Z4 M40i should be at the top of your shortlist.