The manual transmission is creeping toward extinction. Iconic BMWs like the M5 and the 3 Series have been among the notable casualties, losing even the option of a row-your-own gearbox in recent years. BMW traditionalists can rejoice in one victory, however: the next generation of the M3, the gold standard of sport sedans, will retain its stick shift.
In an interview published Wednesday, BMW M CEO Markus Flasch confirmed to BMW Blog that the upcoming G80 M3 and its coupe/convertible G82 M4 variant will have optional manual transmissions. Flasch described the option as an essential character feature.
“Manual is very important,” Flasch told BMW Blog. “The manual stick shift is not a performance-bringer, because an automatic transmission is just faster, you can ask any race driver. But it gives the vehicle character, and I kind of compare it to people who love mechanical watches; it isn’t more precise and it doesn’t have any advantage at all but it’s a character feature. So is a stick shift.”
BMW keeping the manual for the M3 is wonderful news, and it fits the manual transmission’s current status as an anachronistic pleasure. Automatics now outperform sticks, so they won’t be in pure performance models. The take rates, particularly in the U.S., are too low to put them in base models. And there’s little justification for further development, as they have no role to play with electric or electrified powertrains, not to mention automated driving. So manuals, moving forward, will be limited to enthusiasts’ cars like the Porsche 911, the VW GTI, the Jeep Wrangler and the M3, where they add to the driving experience — and the driving experience is what matters. (That does not mean there will not be compelling options.)
And for those worried the new M3 will leave BMW message board jockeys with nothing new to complain about, rest easy. The G80 will be the first M3 generation to offer all-wheel-drive.
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