Prior Convictions: The disappearing manual M-car

It isn't said explicitly but it is implied. Halfway down this story over at The Autocar, BMW M-Division's Vice President Dirk Hacker addresses the inevitable question, again: what hope the manual gearbox, Dirk?

Mostly Hacker's talking about how nice it'll be to make more GTS and CSL-style models. Demand is there, after all, for limited-run, driver-focused BMWs for keen drivers to swoon over. You know: the limited-edition sort that sells out, keeps the brand front of mind, that sort of thing.

But then, not unreasonably, he's asked about manuals.

"I like manual very much," Hacker says, like a soon to be ex-partner complimenting you on how nice you are - really, you are - before announcing they've met somebody far more attractive. "But the take-up rate from customers on cars other than the M2 is just going down," he says. "The fact is that a double-clutch gearbox delivers better performance and efficiency." And, you know, it tidies up after itself, cooks dinner, puts on a shirt when we're going out, pays into the joint account when it should. It's not you, it's me. But it's also you. Actually it's mostly you.

And so the implication is clear enough. Manuals? Forget 'em. But we've been here before, haven't we? And it's hard not to be cynical, but it sounds like when they threatened to take Subbeteo off sale. Everyone had to say: "But we really want a manual 911 GT3" before Porsche relented. And Americans had to really ask for a manual BMW M5? - ?but then they got one.

And this talk about more efficiency and better performance? It's true, certainly. But on the E60 M5 launch, a car which had the SMG single-clutch automated gearbox, I remember engineers being asked about a new dual-clutch transmission that a different manufacturer had just launched. We asked: "Have you tried one? Because it seems like the future." Ja ja, they said (I paraphrase), but there's more to life than instantaneous shifts. This SMG gearbox is more emotional.

It wasn't, though it's a decent reply. And one they might like to apply to the manual transmission, and remember this time around.

Inspired? Buy a BMW M2 here

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Comments (60) Join the discussion on the forum

  • MrMuzace 20 Oct 2017

    Nice one Matt. Like you and many others (though not the great majority of car buyers I accept) I enjoy driving - i.e. doing it myself - steering, braking, changing gears, even managing the traction god forbid! Every time I jump in my supercharged Toyota 86 - rain, hail or shine - I always turn the traction and stability control off.

    On the face of it this will not make me safer on road or on a track day, and means I am having to think and manage the car to the conditions. I do this however because I enjoy it and I also firmly believe it makes me a better driver overall and requires me to be in the moment when I am driving - aware, working on the job on hand, and above all else enjoying it

    Before manufacturers go charging off into the future with self-driving, electric whisper and automated everything they need to be acknowledge that part of their market wants to do all this stuff themselves. Failing to deliver suitable vehicles for this part of the market means I for one am neither a customer nor a fan

  • ducnick 20 Oct 2017

    In the most part people buy bmw’s As daily drivers not weekend toys. Sadly in the UK now the traffic is so bad that only a fully automatic box makes sense. Combine that with the fact that a modern fast shifting auto or dsg box is faster round a German test track and you can’t blame them for discontinuing manuals in mainstream models. In America it’s a bit different, there are still parts of the country where traffic isn’t a problem and you can drive a manual daily without it becomeing frustrating, hence the continued production of manual muscle cars. Before long the steering will be fully automatic too. It’s not like electric steering will be a great loss anyway.
    ...que rant about automatic lights being on all the time as people have forgotten to drive with courtesy to oncoming traffic and seem to not mind blinding everyone with full beam when they should be on side lights....

  • Grantstown 20 Oct 2017

    I agree with the sentiments regarding safety. Rather than fiddling with their mobile phones people should be changing gears!

  • Gus265 20 Oct 2017

    But don't M2s have that self blipping function on the throttle when you change down a gear in a manual? On the M4 aswell? That would drive me insane as that is half the fun!

  • tosh.brice 20 Oct 2017

    Great intro - sounds like a personal experience ...
    (and BTW I'm planning to trade in my M2 DCT for the manual version)

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