BMW says the manual gearbox has 10 years left to live
The death of the manual gearbox is something every car lover anticipates, and dreads. The precise point at which it flatlines is something the pundits and fear-mongers will be keen to predict. BMW however has removed the element of guessing from when they’ll cease production of manuals in their performance cars, as they’ve outlined the specific point at which the manual will die in their range.
During an interview with Road and Track at the LA Auto Show, BMW’s development chief Klaus Frohlich said that a manual gearbox would continue to feature in the next generation BMW M4 - but once that car went out of production, it would take the manual with it.
"Honestly, the pure engineering answer is, you're much faster with paddles and an automatic transmission," Frohlich said. "They're very precise and sporty. Especially on the Nurburgring, you are much better in control when you're not taking one hand away. I think, in the overall portfolio, manuals will disappear. But I think M4 should be the fortress of manual. So the last manual transmission which will die, it should die in an M4, as late as possible. That's my view."
When the next M4 arrives in a couple of years, it should be in production until around 2028 - which gives us less than 10 years left on this earth with stick-shift performance BMWs. Given that manual gearboxes are now very much considered a niche, BMW won’t be investing any money in the development of a new and reliable unit. This means they’ll reuse the tried and tested transmission that’s currently available in the M4.
That fact alone raises some questions for me. For a start, will the torque limitation of the current gearbox give BMW a watermark that they simply cannot pass for the next M4? Whatever the torque rating of the current transmission is, I don’t know. But if it isn’t much higher than the 406lb-ft produced by the current M4, accommodating an old-generation gearbox could be the factor that hinders development of the next M4. This is all mere speculation, of course.
But now I want to ask you guys: how does this news make you feel? Does it make you dread the future, or bask in the warm reassurance that the next M4 will indeed have a stick and 3 pedals? Let me know in the comments.
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