There was a time when opting for the manual transmission, and later the dual-clutch transmission, over an automatic was a no-brainer for anyone serious about performance.
The choice of transmission isn’t so straightforward these days as modern automatics are shifting much quicker than before and are just as fuel-efficient or even more frugal than the alternatives. But it seems, at least among the automakers, the winner has already been decided: the conventional torque converter-based automatic.
Speaking with Top Gear in an interview published on Wednesday, Dirk Hacker, BMW M's head of development, said the dual-clutch transmission is already dead at BMW M, and the manual is also on its way out.
“The double clutch, from BMW M’s point of view these days, it’s gone," he said. "It's now manual or automatic, and automatic electrified for the future.”
The advantages dual-clutch transmissions once offered over automatics, such as their lighter weight and superior shift speed, is no longer apparent. BMW M even uses an automatic in its M4 GT4 race car. But Hacker said another reason for dropping them in favor of automatics is the increased refinement of the latter, particularly in low-speed maneuvers like parking.
2023 BMW M2
As for the manual, Hacker said suppliers are already starting to phase out the transmission, which will make it difficult to continue to offer one, especially given their low take-up rates.
“If you take a look around, you will see the future for manual gearbox suppliers will decrease,” he said. “So I'm not sure we will have the possibility in the future—but in the future means six, seven years in forecast.”
There’s also the issue of cars switching to electrified powertrains and adopting self-driving capability, two technologies where automakers tend to favor automatic transmissions over the alternatives. Because of their high torque at low revs, electric motors can make do with a single-speed transmission.
While Toyota is looking to develop a manual transmission for EVs, Hacker told Top Gear that BMW M won't go down that route.
Given those comments, the latest M2 with its standard 6-speed manual will likely be BMW M's last manual-equipped car.