Manual BMWs Are Safe for Now, No Matter What Others Say

BMW Stick Shifter 1 photo
Photo: Screenshot from Youtube
A recent article on Road & Track stirred quite some controversy online recently, the author, Jason Cammisa, claiming that manual transmission cars are a dying breed.
While for some brands, especially American, that might be a true statement, I thought I’d take some time and explain why it doesn’t apply to BMWs, no matter how brilliant the 8-speed ZF and 7-speed DCT autos are.

Going beyond the cliche argument that Bimmers are true drivers’ cars and that getting a car without a stick but wearing a blue and white roundel on the bonnet would be a sacrilege we’ll stick to the facts.

Fact: autos are more comfortable and economical. It’s beyond anyone’s questioning that owning a car with only two pedals is infinitely more comfortable than living with a clutch. Going even further and into a crowded city you’ll immediately notice the advantages, especially during rush hour. The fuel consumption also goes down with most autos, with their optimized software and driving modes.

Fact: most people don’t know how to drive stick. It’s such an issue that in the States, for example, you’ll often learn how to drive on an automatic, rendering you completely useless in case someone presents you to a 3-pedal configuration. That’s simply wrong, in my opinion but it does justify the increasing demand of autos.

Up until now things don’t seem too encouraging, right? They kind-of speak for the autos instead of against them. Hold on, we’re not done yet.

Fact: driving a stick is infinitely more fun than an auto. Be that a 7-speed double clutch with all the configurations in the world and make it the best gearbox ever invented, as long as it doesn’t allow you to control the amount of power that goes to the wheels and the slippage that suits you perfectly, it’s nowhere close to the engagement on a manual, hands down!

Fact: BMW is still keeping the manual gearboxes as standard on many vehicles. It may not apply to all markets but in their homeland, almost all their cars come, as standard, with a manual 6-speed box. Some might argue that it’s only because the autos are more expensive but the truth of the matter is, where autos are standard, you can usually get a manual free of charge.

Take the M3 and M4 for example. The two new iconic models are being sent out with the manual 6-speed box as standard kit, and the 7-speed DCT as an optional extra. No only that but the gearbox they are using is completely new and developed especially for these cars. Few other manufacturers these days are still investing in research for manual shifters.

Furthermore, going with a decision like this on an emblematic model like the M3 speaks louder than anything else. The same gearbox is offered on the new M235i and already received a lot of praise from all reviewers.

Fact: nearly half of the total E92 M3s sold in the US were ordered with a clutch pedal. Sales of the last naturally aspirated model from BMW speak for themselves and it would be suicide to drop such a popular choice. The same applies to the 3 Series models sold on the North American continent that didn’t see a major change in demand over 25 years.

All these facts talk about a success story over at BMW regarding manual transmission. Furthermore, not only the past is strongly connected to this sort of control over the rear wheels but the future also seems to be focused on keeping the manual alive. Take a look at the M5, for example. It’s the only car in its segment available with a manual and, most likely, things won’t change in the future as the Germans are the only ones out there still investing in manuals. The facts force them to keep it alive, no matter how hard it is to keep control over 680 Nm (501 lb-ft) of torque on the rear wheels with a proper clutch.
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