German automakers are hellbent on efficiency to the point where many noteworthy sports sedans and sports cars have recently been abandoning manual transmissions for dual-clutch semi-automated transmissions. For customers who prefer the choice, that’s a shame.
Take the 2013 BMW M5, for instance, which is only sold in North America with an available six-speed manual transmission. The rest of the world’s M5s only get the option of the faster, more economical, more efficient, and smoother seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. But because BMW M Division customers in the U.S. are an obsessive sort of shopper who want manual transmissions in $100,000 sports sedans because it’s more engaging, BMW gives in to the whims of the masses after realizing that there still was a business case for it.
While manual transmission sales around the U.S. market hover somewhere shy of 10 percent, BMW has found great success selling manuals in its M Division high-performance cars. And that’s not going to change when the 2015 BMW M3 sedan and M4 coupe debut sometime this year and go on sale in 2014.
“The U.S. is BMW M’s highest concentration of manual transmission ownership,” says a source within BMW who asked to remain anonymous. The person confirmed that the next BMW M3 and M4, which we’ve only seen testing in camouflage so far, would receive a manual transmission option. It’s a no-brainer to keep the transmission for the U.S., but we were not told whether the do-it-yourself transmission would continue on in the rest of the world.
The 2015 BMW M3 and M4 are expected to have turbocharged inline six-cylinder engines that should produce power in excess of the recently discontinued E90-series BMW M3 coupe and sedan’s 4.0-liter, 414 horsepower V-8. The new cars, codenamed internally as the F80 M3 sedan and the F82 M4 coupe, are expected to borrow heavily from BMW’s carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) parts bin to lower their weights well under the last M3′s roughly 3,700 pounds. Unlike Audi and Mercedes-Benz, the BMW M3 and M4 are expected to continue on as exclusively rear-wheel-drive models instead of adding all-wheel drive.
The 2015 BMW M3 and M4 will have some tough competition on their hands by way of the upcoming Cadillac ATS-V and second-generation Lexus IS F in addition to the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG and Audi S4 and RS 5 models, among others.
Several of those models do not and likely will not offer a manual transmission option because of the low number of buyers worldwide and the fact that Formula 1′s international popularity has demonstrated the benefits of paddle shifters. BMW’s fanatical M-car shoppers in North America couldn’t care less, though. However, for those who may not want to row their own gears, they’re in luck. BMW will continue to offer a seven-speed M DCT on its next sports sedan and coupe when they reach production.