BMW M: the manual's days are numbered

BMW M: the manual's days are numbered

Fresh talk from the BMW M division is sure to create a divide among enthusiasts as future manual availability is in doubt, while power limits look set to be put in place.

Speaking with Autocar, BMW M division boss Frank van Meel admits, “From a technical standpoint, the future doesn’t look bright for manual gearboxes.”

“The DCT and auto ’boxes are faster and they have better fuel consumption,” he adds.

“It’s difficult to say we’ll stick to the manual, but we still have a big fan community for manuals and we are not going to take away something the customer wants to have.”

Some fans may love the DIY-shifter, but at least in Australia it seems buyers don’t. BMW Australia has confirmed that only one per cent of current BMW M3 and M4 buyers are picking the six-speed manual over the no-cost-option seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

The M3/M4 are the last M cars left with a manual transmission beyond the overseas-only manual M5.

Meanwhile, the 441kW/700Nm M5 30 Jahre may end up being the most powerful BMW M division car produced, as van Meel calls out that power output as the “limit” for what is manageable.

“For now, 600bhp is the most you can get in an M car [but] we’re at the limit,” he tells.

“If you go on adding more horsepower and torque, it’d probably be over the limits.”

Experience with the M5 Jahre 30 – designed to commemorate 30 years of the M5 – indicates van Meel may be right, as full throttle acceleration sees the big rear-wheel drive sedan shimmy into wheelspin even as it grabs third gear.

Less power, less weight seems to be the future ethos. But we’ll keep the M3/M4 manual for as long as we can, thanks.

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