The Horsepower War Is Alive and Kicking while Manuals Are Going Extinct, Time to Face the Music

BMW F10 M5 manual gearbox shifter 1 photo
Photo: Car and Driver
Some years ago, AMG declared that the horsepower war is over. It might’ve been in their mind back then, but recent developments show that it was all bogus. AMG themselves are fueling this competition, their latest battle in this regard being fought with the new Audi RS3.
Other manufacturers follow the same path, but it’s not because they necessarily want to but because customers are asking for them to. When buying a new car, you might be judging it solely by the numbers it claims on paper and leave out all the rest. This is called ‘bragging’ in case you didn’t know and ‘bragging rights’ are the reason this ‘war’ is still ongoing.

Let’s face it, most people go for the most powerful car out there or for a new model if it brings more HP to the table and that’s just to fuel their ego. However, as history has proven, more grunt doesn’t necessarily translate into a much better driving experience.

Case in point: the new C63 AMG model. In recent comparisons it has been revealed that even though its S version trumps over the less powerful M4 in terms of straight up performance figures (510 HP vs 431 HP) it’s still not as enjoyable on a track or even faster as a matter of fact.

That being said, it’s only natural that those looking to make their cars truly enjoyable for their drivers will seek to modify their creations in other ways. That’s what Franciscus van Meel, the head of the M division over at BMW is suggesting in his latest interviews, possibly preparing us for what’s coming.

The man himself said that M cars are unlikely to go over 600 HP in the future, a number that is currently available for the M6 models fitted with the Competition Package. That means that they will focus on other things.

Chances are we’ll be getting a new M5 that will be considerably lighter than its predecessor and that would address a lot of the complaints we’ve been hearing about it. Usage of Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymer throughout the body and chassis along with aluminum and other innovative materials should drop the weight in a similar fashion to the new G11 7 Series.

If the flagship BMW managed to cut its weight from one generation to another by over 100 kg (221 lbs) I don’t see why the new M5 wouldn’t be capable of at least the same results.

No more manuals

The BMW M boss also talked in a recent interview about the future of the manual gearbox, something of a really touchy and sensitive subject for BMW fans. The thing is, they do get all emotional when someone mentions a slushbox but in truth, the percentage of people ordering a car with it is downright disappointing.

BMW tried to keep things alive in this regard, but it’s hard to justify research and development (let alone production) of a car using a manual gearbox if it’s not being bought by the customers. In case of the M5, for example, the current model is the only one in its class that offers such an option. The E63 AMG, on the other hand doesn’t and neither does the RS6 from Audi.

However, it’s still available for order but things might change in the future, as the man himself said. He hid behind the fact that the DCT and automatic choices out there are offering better performance and fuel consumption but in truth, he didn’t want to offend BMW fans.

And these fans are also the ones that complain about a manual option just for bragging rights. Driving a 600 HP M5 with a slushbox can be described in various ways but I assure you it’s not a comfortable choice for daily commutes, even though owners will never admit it. This is yet just another way of snobs to look down on other people’s autos and say ‘they are not true driver’s cars’. Guess what? Manuals are dying and rightfully so.

If you will, it’s the same situation as when the typewriter was replaced by modern computers. You don’t see a lot of people using the old school typewriters anymore, do you? And if you do, aren’t the people using them usually pretty hard to work with? Yeah, you know what I mean...
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