No 9-Speed Gearboxes in Future BMWs

Mercedes 9G-tronic Gearbox 1 photo
Photo: Mercedes-Benz
BMW decided, once again, to go down a different route, compared to its rivals. This time, the disparities showed up in the transmission department, where the Germans are poised to keep true to the current configuration, looking to take consumption down even more by downsizing and not introducing new gearboxes.
At least that’s what Mr. Klaus Frolich told Auto Express in a recent interview, BMW’s Boss for small and midsize cars denying that the brand he’s representing will follow in the footsteps of Jaguar, Land Rover and Mercedes and offer a 9-speed unit on future models.

For now, BMW will stick with its 6-speed manual units, 7-speed DCT and 8-speed ZF automatic gearboxes, the advantages brought on by a 9-speed being almost equal to zero, from all points of view.

“We ran some tests. The [efficiency] difference between an automatic with six speeds and eight speeds is seven or eight per cent, which is a good result. But the benefit for nine speeds [instead of eight] is almost zero per cent. Plus, it adds weight, complexity and cost, and with turbocharged engines you have a good spread of torque, so [drivers] do not want to have the gearbox constantly changing its mind,” Frolich said.

And it makes perfect sense. If there’s no considerable change in fuel efficiency, why change a recipe that proved to be absolutely perfect up until now. The 8-speed unit is more than enough for most cars, some manufacturers even using it on high-performance models just as well as on random, small cars.

Its predictability and the level of intuition it seems to posses stunned even us a couple of times, when we had the chance to test it, on BMW’s latest models like the M235i, 2014 X5 M50d and others.

Further good news came from Frolich as well, who confirmed that the M cars will still be available with a manual gearbox as well as ‘normal’ BMWs in the future, until demand eventually dies out, despite huge development costs.

“We will continue [to offer a manual] even if only ten per cent of customers want it. That is why we offer a manual M5 sedan in North America. It is stupid – the development costs are huge – but we will keep doing it as long as the customer wants it,” he said.

That’s great news to our ears. The advantage of an automatic gearbox are obvious, with faster shifts and better fuel efficiency but a manual will always take you back and offer you more feedback while keeping you alert and sharp at all times. It completely transforms your car, especially if you’re a spirited driver.

BMW will focus on downsizing for a reduced CO2 impact on the atmosphere in the future. The new 3-cylinder and 4-cylinder units will become more and more popular in the line-up, looking to bring the overall fleet average down under the goals set by the EU.
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