Klaus Fröhlich, BMW R&D head, has said some really bogus stuff in the recent past. He is tired of hearing our shit that the E46 M3 CSL was the last “real” BMW. He’s admitted that BMW is unlikely to build a supercar anytime soon. And he’s quashed rumors of a Z4 M happening, maybe ever. All of that sucks. But he recently told Road & Track that the next BMW M4 model will definitely have a manual transmission option, and that’s about as far from bogus as you can get!
“Honestly, the pure engineering answer is, you’re much faster with paddles and an automatic transmission,” Fröhlich told R&T. “They’re very precise and sporty. Especially on the Nurburgring, you are much better in control when you’re not taking one hand away [to shift]. 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. I think it should survive in the next generation of M4. The successors [meaning the next M3 and M4] are all in the pipeline. And so my promise is, yes, there will be a manual in the successor to M4.”
He went on to explain that the next M4 will march on with a development of an existing manual transmission, but that the writing is on the wall for the impending death of even BMW’s sports coupe being a manual. Through the development cycle of the current 3- and 4-series, which will continue on until the middle of the next decade, that manual will stay in place.
After that, though, Fröhlich hedges his bets on whether the following generation will receive one. It’s expensive to develop a manual for an ever increasing power threshold required to keep up with other cars in the class. And to do so for a single low-volume model doesn’t make business sense.
So, the BMW M manual will one day die, but thankfully today is not that day. So long as it is viable, Klaus promises, the M4 will have do-it-yourself shifting.
I, as a disciple of the three-pedal and sometime BMW fanatic, have been perpetually perturbed at the number of pure sports cars ditching the manual in favor of quick-shift automatics. Sure, the automatic is faster around a track, or quicker from 0-60. I very rarely track my sports cars, and I am okay being a few tenths slower on my trip to Taco Bell. I like the engagement and analog feel of clutch-in-shift-clutch-out action.
The pure fact is that the M4 is a better car than most of us are drivers, so do those lightning-quick shifts really matter? There is no prize for “winning” your track day. Go out and be engaged. BMW used to be amazing at providing that experience. Hopefully that will be the case with the next M4 as well.