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Commence the street party, the BMW M3’s staying manual

“Why make good things worse?” says M Division’s boss, becoming our instant hero

Published: 11 Sep 2019

The world is a troubling, vexing place to live at the moment. So take solace in a glimmer of hope from BMW, who's confirmed the next-generation M3 and M4 will retain a manual gearbox as standard. Phew.

M Division boss Markus Flasch spoke to Top Gear at the Frankfurt motor show, confirming the next generation of his team's core products will continue with straight-six power, nabbed from the latest X3 M and X4 M SUVs.

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“This S58 engine will of course be the base for M3 and M4,” he said. “It’s our strongest ever straight-six and it’s already capable of 510 horsepower as basic, but it has not reached its fullest potential yet.”

A hint that the power output for the top-spec X3 M Competition might be a mere starting point for the M3 and M4 ranges, then. But that’s not the news to get most excited about.

“There is no point for us putting a manual gearbox into an SUV, but we will continue with a manual in the M3 and the M4. It’s a small percentage of sales – with the biggest community in the United States – but it’s something very specific that sets us apart from our competitors, because not everybody is capable of doing it. Even more so in future."

So a DCT paddleshift transmission will remain optional, and the number one choice in most markets. But the old-fashioned among us can still indulge in doing things ourselves. “It adds a lot of character, and while it may not be the more competitive variant, people like it," adds Flasch. "That’s the crucial thing about our business: we have huge heritage. People love M and recognise the three stripes, everyone knows what they stand for. So why make good things worse?”

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It’s a sentiment vehemently rejected by Flasch’s counterpart at Mercedes-AMG, Tobias Moers, who almost spat out his coffee when we asked if he’d ever think about a retro-tastic manual in one of his future sports saloons.

“The manual gearbox is done. Yes of course, there’s the Porsche GT3, Aston with the Vantage… I know. But in the world of emissions, it’s a niche that needs a completely different calibration. Good luck with that. It’s a lot of work for not many sales.”

So, manual sports saloons. Are you with M or AMG?

Image: BMW M3 render by X-Tomi Design

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