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Future Tech

BMW M: twin-clutch auto is dead, and the last manual gearbox will be the M2's

Looks like the future of M's performance car transmissions rests with torque converters. *Sigh*

Published: 14 Jun 2023

BMW M’s future is automatic. We’re talking transmissions, people. As far as M is concerned the twin clutch gearbox is dead, the manual doesn’t have long left. After that, it’s torque converters only until single speed EVs presumably take over.

We’d predicted the demise of the manual. The just launched M2 is highly likely to be the last manual M car. Expect an M2 Competition in a couple of years, a facelift in four, an M2 CS at some stage and then a gradual wind-down until the M2 finally smokes its last set of tyres around 2030.

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What’s snuck up on us is the demise of the twin clutch gearbox. That much-vaunted instant shift gearbox isn’t currently used on any BMW M car – and won’t be making a comeback either. We could have guessed as much when the M4 CSL arrived last year sporting the same eight-speed auto as the rest of the M3/M4 range, but now Dirk Hacker, Head of Development at BMW M, has confirmed as much.

“The double clutch, from BMW M’s point of view these days, it’s gone," he told TopGear.com. "It's now manual or automatic, and automatic electrified for the future.”

The question I put to him is why auto over twin clutch. The answer doesn’t make particularly happy reading. “Around the M5 there was a big discussion, not only for the automatic transmission, but also for other things. And the decision was not only because of cost, but also because of comfort [to go with automatic], because we got a lot of reactions about manoeuvring, parking, no rolling if you leave the pedal and so on.”

In other words, the auto won over DCT because it was easier for trundling about in, although Hacker goes on to claim “the automatic is better performing than the double clutch. In the M4 CSL it's faster shifting and on the other side, we also use this automatic in the new M4 GTR race car”. Though anyone who’s driven the latest M4 CSL and experienced the delayed downshifts and faint surging upshift will know it’s not as clean, immediate and satisfying to use as the twin clutch gearbox in the F80 M3 and others.

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What about electrifying the manual gearbox? “I think it could be done, but we will not do that.” So the manual dies with the M2? “It's not only a decision of BMW, it's also a decision of the suppliers. If you take a look around, you will see the future for manual gearbox suppliers will decrease. So I'm not sure we will have the possibility in the future – but in the future means six, seven years in forecast."

The new M5 should be along next year. The rumour is it will be a hybrid – although Hacker would not be drawn on comparisons with Mercedes’ poorly-received AMG C63 – but it’s safe to assume it’ll share a similar technical make-up to the XM, with a hybridised twin turbo V8 driving all four wheels. We can forgive the automatic there, but let’s just pray it doesn’t weigh 2.6 tonnes.

So that’s it, my friends. Your current M car, if you choose an M2 (or you’re in a part of the world that offers the 480bhp M3 manual) can have a manual gearbox. Your next M car will have an automatic gearbox. The one after that will likely have no lever at all.

F82 BMW M4

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