BMW says the manual gearbox has 10 years left to live

The clock is ticking on the manual gearbox's life - and BMW has put a time on when we can expect it to be eliminated from their performance range.

2y ago

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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Written by: Angelo Uccello

Twitter: @AngeloUccello

Facebook: Speed Machines - DriveTribe

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Comments (24)

  • "Especially on the Nurburgring"

    And James May was once again proven correct. Testing a car on the 'Ring, will, in fact, ruin it. Shame, BMW. You are not the same ever since you have a minivan in your range.

      2 years ago
  • Clutch for manual gearbox; 100 quid, gear linkage for manual gearbox; 50 quid. Rebuild parts for semi auto computer controlled twin input shaft “automatic”? Priceless (i.e. extortionate). I bet most of the rebuild bits will be dealer only and will rapidly be deleted rendering it “two grand for an exchange ‘box mate”.

      2 years ago
  • The thing is, I think the Manual Gearbox will be around for a while longer than 10 years. There is still a demand for it especially in less developed countries were all they drive is Manual for the most part. Do I think it will die? Not in the near future. Honda still refuses to make the Type R Automatic, the big 3 Muscle cars (Mustang, Camaro, Challenger) are still offered in a Manual Transmission. It’s going to stay for at least 10 years and probably more.

      2 years ago
  • Sad to hear it , manual gearboxes are much better and more involving to drive.

      2 years ago
    • Absolutely

        2 years ago
    • I don't drive any race circuits , I just use my car as a daily driver and still enjoying a manual gearbox over an automatic.

        2 years ago
  • I really really do hope that some manufacturers keep the manual as an optional.

    I mean i have driven both manuals and automatics old and new and i would take old manual over new automatic any day. Especially on city center, I can save gas when i need to, i can stay in gear if i see the light already changing ahead of me instead of shifting down every time i slow down, when i need to do something quickly the power is there when i lift the clutch myself not when the automatic finishes its job etc etc etc...

      2 years ago