Imagine this with a bunch of M badges.
Photo: BMW

Count me among those disappointed that the all-new 2019 BMW 3 Series won’t have a manual gearbox option except on the garbage-spec European editions. Yes, I know the business case was nearly impossible to make, and that the ZF eight-speed automatic in it is hard to argue with. But dammit, won’t somebody think of the used market? My depreciation dreams matter too, BMW!

Anyway, even if the ordinary, look-nice-driving-to-your-middle-management-job 3s won’t have a stick, there’s still a chance the more hardcore M3 might, according to a thin report in BMW Blog.

This is from a single anonymous source and definitely worth taking with a grain of salt, but the word on the street is that BMW’s still examining its options for the next M3 and hasn’t ruled out a manual gearbox entirely:

The future car is currently being developed and in this early stage of engineering, the people in Munich have some rather hard decisions to make. Some rumors started floating online not long ago, saying that the new M3 might be turned all-wheel drive and that despite that, a choice for a manual gearbox might still be alive at this point. We certainly heard a lot of stories about the topic so we decided to check with our sources in Munich to see if they have any backing.

Lo and behold, these rumors are actually true. According to our own sources, BMW M is still considering a number of choices for the upcoming M3 and M4. Whereas the manual gearbox had seemed to be dead in the water due to the low demand and obvious performance drawbacks, it seems like BMW isn’t ready to drop it altogether. What seemed like a certainty not long ago, is now no longer seen as a sure thing.

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We expect the next M3 will continue using a powerful twin-turbo inline-six like the current car, rather than switch to something insane like the high-revving V8 it once had. And while the current M3's DCT is good—as is that aforementioned ZF automatic—it’d be truly wonderful for BMW’s performance benchmark sedan to keep the stick as an option. After all, if the M3 doesn’t have a manual gearbox anymore, why should any of its competitors bother?

But this, to me, is the even more interesting part:

BMW is also trying to figure out whether the car offered should be all-wheel drive or remain RWD as tradition dictates.

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Remember the current M5 has gone all-wheel drive only, and also packs an eight-speed auto as its sole transmission choice. I wouldn’t be shocked if BMW went the same route with the M3, as it’s the most efficient way to put a ton of power down.

When we first drove the latest M5 we marveled at how it sends 100 percent of the power to the back wheels, only putting some up front when needed, resulting in a superbly confident handler. I could easily see BMW going the same route with the M3, putting all that in a smaller, lighter package.

So don’t count on a stick-shift M3 quite yet, but it is reportedly under consideration. And it sounds like even if it doesn’t get the manual, BMW’s going to do some interesting stuff with it.