You'll be able to row your own gears until the end of a decade in new BMW M products.
Not many car makers still believe in the power of the manual transmission, especially when it comes to high performance. BMW is one of the last remaining vestiges of the manual transmission in a performance car, offering the M3 and M4, and the brand-new second-gen M2 with a stick.
The good news is that BMW's M cars will keep the manual alive until the end of the decade. Speaking with the press at the BMW M Festival at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in South Africa, CarBuzz asked BMW M boss Frank van Meel whether the manual has a future in M cars once they go hybrid.
"The manual is, unfortunately, not so widespread anymore. It's more in the segments of the M2 and M3, and the M4. And for those cars, we continue offering the manual, and those cars will run for a long time until the end of this decade," said van Meel.
Looking at the current product life cycle, the BMW M2 is expected to live until 2030, but the M3 and M4 will die before then, closer to 2028. Van Meel told us that while the M brand wants to keep the manual alive, it comes down to customer demand - so long as the customer keeps demanding it, BMW will supply it. "You don't need to be afraid of the manual going away," he told us.
Timo Resch, vice president of customer, brand, and sales for BMW M, added, "Save the manual…[is a] big campaign from a lot of markets. We have customers putting up petitions online and voting and pretty much asking for us to keep the manual."
He told the media that retaining the manual was tricky, particularly when it came to convincing the BMW M engineering team. "It's not as fast as an automatic transmission. So why would you need it?" asked the engineers, but Resch says, "We said that's what our customers asked for. And we really actively listened to our customers, to our fan base. The fans asked for it. They got it."
The new M2 is the last of its kind in that it will be the final BMW M product to arrive without hybrid assistance. From here on out, expect all M cars to be electrified in some way, with the BMW XM being the first. So what happens to the manual when hybrids become the norm?
Well, we first need to clarify that the hybrids will be positioned at the higher end of the BMW M spectrum, with the likes of the XM, the M5, etc. The M2 will be around for a long time, so an electric successor is likely rather than a hybrid one, as technology will have evolved substantially by 2030. Compact cars also don't suit the nature of a plug-in hybrid.
"A plug-in hybrid in a small car might be a difficult issue because plug-in hybrids need to have sufficient power, even if the electric part is not available," says van Meel. "If your base engine is not strong enough, then a plug-in hybrid makes no sense." That explains why BMW won't pursue a three- or four-cylinder hybrid M car, not ever, and why the next-gen M2 will likely be electric.
Likewise, the M3 and M4, and we've already seen an electric prototype for what comes next in this segment.
Sadly, then, the news isn't good for the manual beyond 2030. "If you then change to other drivetrain principles, and if they would be purely electric, of course, then there is no manual left," states van Meel.
So enjoy it while you can, folks. The manual is not long for this world as far as BMW M is concerned, but at least the M2, M3, and M4 will be sticking around a while longer.