2020 BMW M3 spy shots – Image via S. Baldauf/SB-Medien
BMW M is working on a new generation of the M3, as well as the two-door M4, and British outlet CAR has managed to receive some clarification on the BMW go-fast division’s back-and-forth stance on the manual transmission.
The British outlet reported Thursday that there will absolutely be a manual transmission in the next BMW M3 and M4, which are expected to debut in September at the 2019 Frankfurt auto show. This nixes the notion that BMW’s M division planned to kill off the manual, which we first heard in 2017.
The manual is said to be offered on entry-level models with slightly less power than the regular models, which will come with 8-speed automatics. These purist models will have about 454 horsepower, whereas the regular models will have as much as 474 hp. More powerful Competition, CS and CSL models are also in the pipeline. In each case, an inline-6 with turbocharging will be found under the hood.
Manual fans shouldn’t break out the champagne too quickly, though. Klaus Fröhlich, BMW’s head of vehicle development, told Road & Track in an interview published last November that the day will eventually come when the three-pedal setup will die. He explained the transmission creates major headaches for engineers who must update the gearboxes to handle massive amounts of torque. The executive added no transmission partner will even look into developing a new manual gearbox and it’s completely unprofitable to serve a small sliver of buyers.
2018 BMW M4
Instead, Fröhlich is concerned with prolonging the manual transmission’s life, and it appears the manual will stick around for a while. He added the next M3 and M4 will be built until 2027 or 2028. That will give both cars about an 8-year lifespan and create a “fortress” to protect the manual transmission for the majority of next decade. After that, it’s unclear what BMW and its M division will do.
All-wheel drive will be available for the first time, too, though the standard setup will be rear-wheel drive, which should appeal to the purists. The all-wheel-drive system will be the rear-biased M xDrive system that debuted in the 2018 M5. It has a function that allows the driver to select a rear-wheel-drive mode at the push of a button.
Despite the fitting of all-wheel drive, we hear the next M3 and M4 will be lighter than the models they replace, in some cases as much as 140 pounds lighter.
Altogether, it sounds like the sport sedan segment could soon see a new benchmark.