Will this also apply to the next M3?
BMW has officially confirmed to us at this year’s Paris Motor Show that its all-new 2019 3 Series will not offer a manual transmission in North America. The sole gearbox will be the eight-speed sport automatic for both the entry-level 330i and the high performance-focused M340i.
“The US market 3 Series will only come with the automatic,” 3 Series project leader Thomas Baeumer told us. “Both the 330i and M340i will be automatic-only.”
This doesn’t mean, however, that the next M3, at least a year away from its own debut, won’t give customers the option of rowing their own gears. So what made BMW decide on a single gearbox?
“The eight-speed provides the best overall driving experience,” Baeumer added. Europe, however, is a different story. While the 330i is the base model in the US, there will be a new 318i for Europe which BMW tells us will have a manual option. This is also the first time in the history of the 3 Series in America that a stick-shift will not be offered.
Fortunately, the lack of a manual should not be any reason to deter buyers. Quite the opposite, in fact. Stephan Horn, head of 3 Series product management, told us the new car is far more stable overall. For example, the rear suspension has “additional damping forces that helps passengers who are susceptible to motion sickness to suffer far less from an uncomfortable drive.”
Another area of notable improvement is the electronic steering. “The goal was quite clear to have more steering feedback. More real contact from the driver to the road. This is with the more direct steering and the front and rear axle were optimized as well. The front axle is sharper and is more for handling and agility and giving you more of a mechanical feedback at the steering wheel.”
But the lack of a manual transmission does not in any way detract from the way the new 3 Series handles. “Driving dynamics comes mostly from America, specifically steering feel. Additional factors include braking, wind noise, and everything was really addressed and is now at a different level,” Horn said.
For those who miss BMW’s famed but now discontinued hydraulic steering, Horn and his team is confident they won’t be disappointed with the new electronic system. “It’s really at a different level than before. We’re very satisfied with the outcome.” For a vehicle as important as the 3 Series, BMW was fully aware it had to get everything right. In fact, Horn told us he began work on the G20 3 Series back in 2012 – just one year after the outgoing F30 generation debuted.