An all-wheel-drive variant will also join the line-up.
There's a lot of confusion surrounding the transmission options for the next-generation BMW M3. Conflicting reports suggest BMW will keep enthusiasts happy by keeping the M3's manual transmission unlike the 3 Series in America, which is only offered with an eight-speed sport automatic. Other reports claim BMW hasn't yet decided which transmission the new M3 will have. Happily, the M4 won't be ditching its manual transmission any time soon.
"Honestly, the pure engineering answer is, you're much faster with paddles and an automatic transmission," BMW board member and head of development, Klaus Frohlich, told Road and Track at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show. "They're very precise and sporty. Especially on the Nurburgring, you are much better in control when you're not taking one hand away [to shift]. I think, in the overall portfolio, manuals will disappear. But I think M4 should be the fortress of manual. So the last manual transmission which will die, it should die in an M4, as late as possible. That's my view."
But how long will it last? Nobody can predict the future, but Frohlich made it clear the M4's successor won't ditch the manual. "I think it should survive in the next generation of M4," he said. "The successors [to the current M3 and M4] are all in the pipeline. And so my promise is, yes, there will be a manual in the successor to M4." He added that the next-generation M4 will likely be produced until 2027 or 2028 and "then I will be an old man," he joked. This means enthusiasts will be able to enjoy a manual performance BMW for the next ten years.
However, Frohlich admitted that BMW M will eventually kill manual cars simply because its cars are becoming too powerful and it doesn't make business sense to invest in developing a new manual transmission. "Honestly, you have a problem with manuals," he said. "Because we have these turbocharged engines with 600 N-m [roughly 443 lb-ft] of torque, to develop such a high-torque manual transmission for such a small volume isn't profitable at all. So I tried to prolong the lifetime of the manuals, but we can't invest in developing a new manual transmission. No transmission partner will do that with us. So we are evolving our existing manuals as long as possible."
Wihle the M4 will launch with rear-wheel drive, Frohlich also revealed an all-wheel drive variant will join the line-up at some point. "I always really appreciated what Porsche did on the 911. They have whatever new derivative every month. I think we missed some opportunity not doing the same on M4. So I'm interested that, on M3, M4, we do more," he hinted. "This car will be rear-wheel drive. But we will have an all-wheel drive derivative too."