Part of the appeal the BMW M5 has always held over its rivals from Audi and Mercedes-Benz is that it has always had a manual transmission available when its rivals have often only had automatic transmissions. That may not sound like a big deal to most people, but when you bill your brand as a maker of ultimate driving machines that provide joy, you have to be able to back up your words with your products.
For the U.S., that’s meant that BMW has had to retrofit the current, all-new 2013 BMW M5, as well as the previous generation, with a six-speed manual transmission. We say “retrofit” because the rest of the world has made due only with a more sophisticated seven-speed dual-clutch automated transmission while we’ve whined until we’ve gotten our way here with the option to have either. But that’s going to change, says BMW’s engineering head Albert Biermann.
He says the current generation BMW M5 will be the last to have a clutch pedal, adding that its appeal is somewhat limited at just a 15- to 20-percent take rate in the U.S. On average, just seven percent of new cars sold in the U.S. come with manuals, so the M5 is significantly higher than most.
“The trouble is that nobody wants it in Europe or anywhere else, so this will be the last time we do it, even for the hardcore U.S. buyers,” he said.
While manual transmissions are cheaper to produce than their computer-controlled counterparts, Biermann said keeping one in a BMW M5 is actually more expensive.
“It’s very low volumes and we have to strengthen everything in the gearbox and find space for the shifter and another pedal, so it doesn’t work out cheaper.”
The six-speed manual shifts slower than the seven-speed dual-clutch offered in the M5 and the 2013 BMW M6, which we recently drove. Coupled to the BMW M5′s 560-horsepower, 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8, it offers up worse fuel economy than the seven-speed transmission, too. But Biermann’s response comes out of rationality, out of a business study backed by cold, hard facts. The BMW M5 has never been about rationality; it’s been about driving enjoyment, making catering to one specific market for the manual transmission M5 not as illogical as it may seem. We know Biermann will likely have his way, but the next BMW 5 Series will likely be coming out as a 2018 model, and we sincerely hope he and BMW reconsider their thoughts before then.