Next BMW M3 and M4 will have manual transmission, AWD


2020 BMW M3 spy shots - Image via S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

2020 BMW M3 spy shots - Image via S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

At the 2018 LA Auto Show, BMW offered some clarification on its back-and-forth stance on the manual transmission.

Klaus Fröhlich, head of vehicle development, told Road & Track in an interview published Thursday that there will absolutely be a manual transmission in the next BMW M3 and M4. His statement nixes the notion that BMW's M division planned to kill off the manual, which we first heard in 2017.

2020 BMW M3 spy shots - Image via S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

2020 BMW M3 spy shots - Image via S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

However, like former M Boss Frank van Meel, Fröhlich warned the day will eventually come when the three-pedal setup will die. He explained the transmission creates major headaches for engineers who must update the gearboxes to handle massive amounts of torque. The executive added no transmission partner will even look into developing a new manual gearbox and it's completely unprofitable to serve a small sliver of buyers.

Instead, Fröhlich is concerned with prolonging the manual transmission's life, and it appears the manual will stick around for a while. He added the next-generation M3 and M4 will be built until 2027 or 2028. That will give both cars about an 8-year lifespan and create a "fortress" to protect the manual transmission for the majority of next decade. After that, it's unclear what BMW and the M division will do, but "(the manual transmission) should die in an M4, as late as possible," he said.

2018 BMW M4

2018 BMW M4

The executive also confirmed a rumor that has swirled since the introduction of the 2018 BMW M5: the M3 and M4 will get an all-wheel-drive system. But, it likely won't come standard. Fröhlich said great demand still exists for rear-wheel-drive sport sedans and coupes, and all-wheel drive will be a "variant" for the next sports cars.

The latest M5 is slightly lighter than its predecessor despite the AWD setup, which can be shut off with the push of a button. The system in an M3 or M4 should work similarly.

Speaking of variants, look for many. Fröhlich said he admires Porsche and its 911 variants and said the M division has missed an opportunity to do something similar. That will change when the new sports cars debut next year as 2020 models.

 
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