There will be a manual performance BMW for at least another 10 years.
One of the biggest mysteries surrounding the future next-generation BMW M3 is whether the model will come with a manual transmission option or it will become an automatic only performance saloon. We will probably have to wait at least a couple of months to find out, but we are happy to report BMW M wants the M4 to be offered with a six-speed manual as long as possible.
"Honestly, the pure engineering answer is, you're much faster with paddles and an automatic transmission," BMW board member and head of development, Klaus Frohlich, told Road and Track at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show. "They're very precise and sporty. Especially on the Nurburgring, you are much better in control when you're not taking one hand away [to shift]. I think, in the overall portfolio, manuals will disappear. But I think M4 should be the fortress of manual. So the last manual transmission which will die, it should die in an M4, as late as possible. That's my view."
That raises a natural question – how long will that last? No one can say exactly, but Frohlich promises the successor to today’s M4 will be offered with a manual option. That generation of the performance coupe will likely be produced until 2027 or 2028, and "then I will be an old man," 58-year-old Frohlich said. So, put simply, we’ll have a manual performance BMW for at least another 10 years or so.
But BMW’s plans to eventually kill the three-pedal versions are not motivated just by the fact that's it’s easier and cheaper for the company to offer a simplified engine and transmission range, but because modern cars are getting more and more powerful. And that’s clearly a challenge for the manuals.
“Because we have these turbocharged engines with 600 Nm (443 lb-ft) of torque, to develop such a high-torque manual transmission for such a small volume isn't profitable at all. So I tried to prolong the lifetime of the manuals, but we can't invest in developing a new manual transmission."
Note: 2018 BMW M4 CS pictured in the gallery.