There's one main reason why the manual is not guaranteed.
BMW has said on more than on occasion that the US market is what's keeping the manual transmission alive in its M cars, specifically the M2, M3 and M4. Considering the just unveiled next generation 3 Series will be automatic-only when it goes on sale in the US sometime next year, will it high-performance counterpart suffer the same fate?
BMW Blog claims the answer is 'no' and that a six-speed manual gearbox will once again be available to American buyers. The take rate is there with the current M3, so why is there even a debate here? Because some in BMW management want it to come equipped with the xDrive all-wheel drive system. That system is not compatible with a manual, but rather with the ZF 8-speed automatic.
While it would certainly be easier to use that system only, which can also be converted to RWD by simply pressing a button, as is done with the larger M5, doing so would leave manual lovers out to dry. BMW does not want that to happen, especially since it's those specific buyers that have been the most loyal over the years. But what about developing an entirely new AWD system that could accommodate a manual? Financially speaking that makes no sense because BMW would have to develop, test and manufacture a platform for only one model, and kind of a niche one at that.
BMW Blog further adds that its sources are claiming BMW M is still considering a number of options for the next M3 and M4, but the manual's future seems to be secure, despite its performance drawbacks.
M3 prototype testing on public roads and the Nürburgring is currently taking place, but we don't know at the moment what gearbox is being used. Rumors that the new M3 would offer an AWD system are nothing new, but now we're wondering whether BMW M could ultimately offer a manual and RWD-only M3 for the purists and AWD slushbox version for everyone else. It'd certainly be a more expensive way to go, but not entirely impossible. At the same time, BMW could make further use of the existing xDrive AWD system. Expect the all-new M3 to debut next year at the Frankfurt Motor Show.