By on April 6, 2016

2015 BMW M235i Shifter, Image: © 2015 Alex L. Dykes/The Truth About Cars

It’s had a few good days recently, but there’s no doubt the manual transmission is a patient that’s rapidly slipping away.

BMW just did its part to hasten the demise by getting rid of the stick shift option in next year’s M5 and M6, according to comments made to Car and Driver by BMW M boss Frank van Meel.

Soon, only two pedals will sprout from the firewall of the famed performance midsizers. But don’t blame the automaker. They’re just responding to consumer demand, or lack thereof.

“Demand has dropped to zero on that car,” said van Meel.

The six-speed option was made specifically for the U.S. market, with time and expense wasted in making sure the engine’s monster torque didn’t tear the unit apart. It was met with a resounding thanks, but no thanks from consumers who’d much rather have an automatic, especially if it’s in a crossover.

The refrain “Save the manuals!” might be deafening among auto journalist circles, but it’s a barely audible whisper out there in Buyerland.

BMW is continually held up as an example of automaker dedication to driving purity, but even the sun sets in paradise, to quote a cheesy song. This year, a manual transmission option was dropped from the 328i and 428i, leaving a diminishing number of lower-end models to carry the row-your-own torch.

Last year, van Meel said that dual-clutch and conventional automatics have outpaced manuals in terms of performance and fuel economy, and the stick’s future in M models will be dependent on demand.

The brand’s legendary M3 saw its manual transmission takeup rate drop by half between the current model and previous generation. Only one in four M3s sport three pedals these days, down from over 40 percent for the previous model.

There’s still time to get in on the fun, though (if that’s how you view the completely unnecessary act of shifting your own gears). Honda recently confirmed a manual transmission for its turbocharged Civic models, while the Jaguar XE bound for U.S. shore this year will also carry a stick.

For now, anyway.

[Image: © 2015 Alex L. Dykes/The Truth About Cars]

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131 Comments on “Manual Transmissions Come to Final Grinding Halt in BMW M5, M6...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Ehh just drop the M5 too, and leave them with the X6M. It’s fine.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      Wonder what manual sales are in Europe as they really love manuals for some reason

      • 0 avatar
        CarnotCycle

        Last manual M5 in Europe was E39 more than a decade ago.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        They don’t “love” them. Go look at the typical car in Europe vs. the US. In EU they have much, much smaller engines and a manual can at least help the, feel not as slow.

        But some people choose to believe that everyone in Europe takes a pass on the Nurburgring every day on the way to work.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          No, that theory fails for Commercial Vehicles and Sportscars, both have manuals in Europe. Smaller engines? Depends on the vehicles, many have the same capacity as in the US, but unlike the US there are many diesels

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            no. going by Ford UK, the Transit there is only offered with a 2.2 liter turbodiesel in FWD, RWD, or AWD. The North American Transit is RWD only and its least powerful engine on offer is the 275 hp 3.7 liter V6.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            Absolutely nothing to with it. Japanese/ Korean manufacturers, throw in US manufacturers produce primarily Automatics. Europeans love manuals. It is very hard to get a Automatic.

          • 0 avatar
            derekson

            Sporty vehicles in Europe have a super low manual take rate. This is why the M5 stopped offering it.

            In Europe, the manual is seen as a low cost budget car thing, not an enthusiast feature.

            Grandma’s Golf has a manual. Not Dad’s 911.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            I noticed a lot of manuals on Transit’ s etc..Was a big thing with British Sportscars was to have a manual gear change., things maybe changing. Manuals WERE a big thing here, but times have changed.

  • avatar
    anomaly149

    What dealer would be so foolish as to floorplan a manual car nowadays? The turn on them has to be slow compared to automatics, and I bet a lot of folks can be convinced the flappy paddles are just as engaging.

    Want it in red with a grand on the hood?

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      True, although a lot of people do Euro Delivery or at least factory orders on M cars, especially the people who want manual transmissions, because they tend to be pickier buyers overall. But a manual 340i? Nah. Probably not.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      I saw a Chevy SS with a 6 speed manual in inventory at the local dealer the other day. It looked like it had been there a LONG time.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Depends, you still have a lot of people clamoring for a manual in the Pony car segment and some sports cars.

      A slush box is an extra cost option in the Mustang and Camaro where it used to be about 50/50 between manual and auto. I don’t know the take rate on the Camaro since it seems outside of the Z/28 and 1LE an auto is available even in trims like the ZL1 but over at Ford you can only get the Performance Pack cars and special models like the GT500 and GT350 in manual only.

      At least with the new Mustang there might be an actual reason for this limitation as police departments in Australia tested the slushbox S550 Mustang for cop duty and it went into limp mode after just a few minutes of hard driving indicating to me at least (and there have been reports on forums that the non track pack equipped GT350s also suffered an issue with cooling when used in anger on a road course) that Ford installed a fairly light duty cooling system probably to save cost and weight or perhaps the body work in an effort to maximize aero efficiency and looks really compromises the cooling system.

      99% of the time its not going to be an issue since most buyers aren’t going to push their cars that hard and don’t live in a place where conditions are as harsh as Australia so I suppose they can get away with it.

      Too bad though, GM has been able to make some rather scathing remarks with the introduction of the new Camaro and the Zl1. Mark Reuss has pointedly said no need for a “track pack” on the Zl1 in obvious reference to the GT350 which may have prompted Ford to include the track pack as standard equipment on the 2017+ GT350s.

      I’ll be anxious to see if GM can unseat the S550 Mustang as the sales king, especially in the V8 segment where the new Camaro resigns supreme.

  • avatar

    Goodbye.

    You won’t be missed.

    In two decades when cars are all EV and drive themselves, new drivers will say:

    “You have to use your hands? That’s like a kid’s toy”.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      BTSR is right. Manual, auto, floppy paddle. It doesn’t really matter. The way of the future is self-driving vehicles.

      So in a few decades driving schools, racing and automotive magazines will become a thing of the past.

      • 0 avatar

        And that shouldn’t be allowed to happen.

        The driver is supposed to be the primary controller of the vehicle whether they choose to use Cruise Control, Adaptive Cruise Control or Automated Driving.

        The driver must have driving skills.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          Then why do you only drive automatics?

        • 0 avatar
          Synchromesh

          Exqueeze me but some of us drive only manual. I’ve owned precisely one automatic around 20 years ago which was my first car. It was a hand-me-down from my father. After that I’ve owned nothing but manuals. I can’t stand automatic, I try to avoid driving cars with it unless I have no choice and I plan on continuing buying manual cars only. Which now excludes BMW. But considering how I can’t stand BMW to begin with this works out just fine anyway.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            “Exqueeze me but some of us drive only manual. ”

            statistically, as far as the automakers are concerned you don’t exist.

          • 0 avatar
            mazdaman007

            @Synchromesh (apt handle BTW)

            Yep, you sound like me. I’m doing my small part to keep the manuals alive, never owned anything else in 35 years of driving. One of my sons (19) is the same, will not drive an automatic. Last summer he drove his manual car without air conditioning despite a newer automatic model with air sitting in my driveway available to him. So there is hope for the next generation.

            Manuals also act as a free theft deterrent.

            Don’t worry though, manuals are not disappearing in the world any time soon. Only over here.

          • 0 avatar
            KevinC

            I’ve been driving for 43 years, owned about 25 cars, and have owned exactly zero automatics in that time. It’s just personal preference.

            The new 3- and 5-series cars are getting big and numb anyways. An automatic suits them just fine. I’ve considered leasing a 340i, and though I’d probably factory-order a manual, I probably would be OK with the 8-speed auto, as long as I had another manual car in the garage too.

            I currently drive an E39 M5 (which was manual ONLY) and E46 ZHP coupé, 2 of the finest cars BMW ever produced. Probably won’t be “upgrading” anytime soon.

          • 0 avatar
            White Shadow

            BMW still has lots of MT options.

        • 0 avatar
          raph

          The powers that be want to remove the driver from the equation completely as it will be a boon for safety and efficiency (well that’s the theory at least). Over the next few decades infrastructure is going to be geared toward the driverless car and there simply wont be a need for driving a vehicle unless there is a special need like track driving or going someplace where a driverless cannot function (say off road) where you’ll either hire a specialist or become a specialist.

          I imagine it will become very expensive to actually drive your own vehicle (there will always be a need for insurance as I imagine when your driverless car malfunctions your still responsible for the mad robot) but as drivers dwindle the cost for operating such a luddite contraption and the inherent risks will drive the cost of ownership up.

          The lost ticket revenue will change the tax rate on vehicles as well and I suppose the extra cost of having to have police actually monitor driver piloted cars in a sea of driverless cars will be transferred to the owners of those cars as well.

          I wonder how motorcycles will fair in the future? Well until somebody invents the automated motorcycle at least. Also it will be interesting to see motor cyclist complain about the driving habits of automated cars.

      • 0 avatar
        Counterpoint

        The future of transportation is in autonomous electric vehicles but motorsports will live on. It’s just like how hardly anyone still uses horses for transportation anymore but affluent enthusiasts still ride for fun. Niche manufacturers will continue to offer human driven vehicles for track use only. Expect to see more private road course tracks built near wealthy neighborhoods, just like equestrian centers today.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Back in the early 80s, the US Army made a decision that all new vehicle procurements would be with automatics. Very few recruits knew how to drive manuals, and it wasn’t worth the time / effort to teach them how.

  • avatar
    Sloomis

    Jeez, why even bother with a sporty, high-performance European car if it’s an automatic? Doesn’t matter if it’s a half-second faster, it’s also 100% less fun. If you want an automatic go buy a Buick.

  • avatar
    slance66

    Modern automatics now will accelerate these cars faster than anyone can with a stick, and will beat the MPG anyone can get with a stick.

    The 5 speed manual was a great option compared to the miserable old 4 speed autos that predominated not that long ago. Now? There isn’t any tangible benefit. The real misery isn’t that the manual is going, but that these great new automatics will give way to CVTs.

    • 0 avatar
      omer333

      I’ve got a CVT in my Accord, is it natural for these things feel like they’re “hanging” onto a gear for too long?

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        Yes. You’ve probably been hearing, since it came out, that the Honda CVT was a CVT finally done right. Just recently, C&D did a comparo between the Camry, Accord, Malibu, and Mazda6. The Accord came in 3rd, because all the criticisms you’ve ever heard about Nissan CVTs were finally aimed at the Honda.

        This is the “wobble” that Jack so often writes about, applied only to a feature rather than the car itself. The Honda CVTs were always trash, most likely, just people could wash it down with a glass of high MPGs.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Probably not. They may give way to hybrid setups where an electric motor acts as the vehicle’s transmission, but the only company that seems to be seriously dedicated to CVTs in everything is Nissan.

    • 0 avatar
      ItsMeMartin

      I cannot agree with you on the MPG part, slance. Even though the modern automatic gearboxes are inherently more efficient than manuals, you CAN beat the MPG that they achieve if you want to.
      For one, you can get better mileage out of a manual because you can freewheel more often when coasting – all the automatics that I experienced wanted to stay in gear pretty much all the time. Also, you can anticipate which gear you’re gonna need instead of dealing with a transmission that downshifts every time you even think about touching the accelerator.
      Sure, a modern DCT or even a planetary AT gets better fuel economy than a manual when driven by a normal driver but they can be beat if you want to – only you have to drive very leisurely to do that, which few are willing to.

      Also, there is one very tangible benefit to a manual transmission: cost. A manual transmission is, in general, more durable than an automatic, and unless your car has north of 300HP, so is the clutch. Also, you don’t have to deal with all the reflashes, other software bugs and weird shifting patterns that seem to be common in those modern gearboxes.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Manual boxes in some cars (such as both my previous Acura TSX and my previous G8 GXP) are geared for better responsiveness (i.e., shorter). In cars geared that way it’s going to be very hard to beat the automatic even if you hypermile.

    • 0 avatar
      qfrog

      You have only pointed out one reason for having a manual gearbox. Yes, there was an appreciable performance delta between the manual and automatic. Today, not so much. One doesn’t feel like they are being punished as badly by buying the automatic. Yet, just because the automatic is tolerable doesn’t mean in all situations it is the better choice. We need to look to the subjective reasoning behind choices not the objective for the explanation why that is so.

      The choice of a manual is now more like picking a color for a car. It probably isn’t going to make it faster but it certainly mike make somebody enjoy ownership a whole lot more.

      A manual gearbox gives the car the ability to be demanding of the driver this in turn provides a feeling of involvement to the driver. Managing the car is more difficult than it needs to be but we do things this way all the time. Why not wear a digital watch? Why not buy a point and shoot camera over a DSLR or better still a large format film camera. For some people, being involved in the process and in control of as many aspects as they can be comfortably is more important than some measurable metrics of the process.

      Why? Well some folks enjoy a challenge even when it isn’t to their benefit or advantage. Satisfaction can be had in doing something well even if there is no actual reason for doing that thing yourself other than your satisfaction.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        people still seem to act like we’re choosing between 3-speed non-OD non-lockup automatics and 5-speed OD manuals.

        sorry folks, but once automatics reached forward gear ratio parity with manuals, the fuel economy advantage of manuals diminished. now that autos have more forward gears than manuals, it’s gone completely.

        and sure, you might be able to eke out a tiny bit better mpg with a manual using some hypermiling techniques, but if you’re doing that then you’ve lost the “fun” factor.

        • 0 avatar
          qfrog

          Automatics also provide great benefits to automotive service facilities with fluid change intervals being shorter.

          • 0 avatar
            ItsMeMartin

            Fluid change? I thought the whole industry switched to “lifetime use” fluids that are designed to destroy the transmission soon after the warranty ends.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      Do automatics legitimately get better fuel economy than manuals, or is it just possible to program an automatic to perform well on standardized testing, while manuals are beholden to specific shift points predetermined by the EPA? Anecdotally, I’ve had a few rentals that, although they should get the same economy as my stick-shift subcompact, and were driven under similar conditions, used more fuel.

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      Not always. A quick look at the EPA website shows me that there are still MT cars that get better MPG than an otherwise automatic version of the same car.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        And that’s despite the lousy shift points used. The manufacturers are allowed to use shift points other than what the EPA recommends if they get approval to do so (I don’t know how often this happens), but they’re still nowhere near the low rpm programming that the automatics are allowed.

        I did notice the 2016 Mazda3 I test drove the other day had shift lights that probably allow lower shift points than the EPA schedule. I was too busy analyzing the way the car felt to pay close attention to that though. I did notice that the gearing is fairly tall. I was probably getting close to 45 mph before going into sixth. Probably why the manual carries the same highway rating as the automatic. Usually the manual gearing is quite short in comparison to the auto. It’s still 1 mpg down on the auto in the EPA city cycle.

        Or maybe it just seems tall because I’ve been babysitting my buddy’s RX-8 for the last couple of weeks. When cruising, I’m into sixth at 30 mph in that thing. It spins at least 50% faster than necessary on the highway, and there’s no purpose to the short sixth gear because you’ll still never use it on the track or at high speed. It can’t accelerate in sixth beyond the top speed of 144 mph in fifth anyway.

        I won’t believe that the new automatics outperform the manuals in fuel economy until somebody demonstrates that they can beat a driver who is actually optimizing their shifting for that purpose under the same conditions.

        Are there any automatics that don’t require some sort of fluid cooling, aside from the Ford Powershift, which simply warns the driver when it needs a cool-down period?

        I drove CVTs from Nissan, Honda, and Subaru as well within the last few days and was actually impressed with them. They seemed more pleasant than the slow and mushy shifts of so many modern geared automatics. I didn’t spend much time with them though, and my friend wasn’t considering buying any due to long-term reliability concerns. They just didn’t have any manuals available for test driving.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    I’ve never, and never will own anything but a manual sports car, or even a sporty car. If I have to explain why, you wouldn’t understand.

  • avatar
    windnsea00

    I am a die hard manual enthusiast (my 2015 M3 is a 6-speed) but the dual clutch manual transmission fits the M5/M6 driving style far better. It’s an Autobahn stormer that you can comfortably daily, I would check the box for DCT if I was buying a M5/M6.

  • avatar
    ajla

    They still make the M5?

  • avatar
    soberD

    I’ve tried a few flappy paddle cars and I just don’t get it. I would bet that the great majority of owners (lessees) never touch the paddles.

    It’s certainly much easier to stare at your phone, which is critical.

    I’ll be one of the suckers fighting over the remnants of manual cars when the inevitable price bubble comes.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    It’s an understandable move. The M5 starts at 94k and the M6 is over 110k. That’s base price. I’d imagine not many buyers/leasers of these cars would want them with a stick. If these buyers want a stick, they’re getting a 911 or an exotic.

  • avatar
    doublechili

    On a related note, I understand that Steinway is going to be transitioning to making only player pianos. Because why bother inefficiently pecking away with your fingers when their technology can do it easier and better?

    Back to cars: in 20 or 30 years, all the young dudes will be playing video games in their self-driving cars, and whenever you see a car with a big wing on the back and a MT it’ll be a geezer (like me, hopefully).

    • 0 avatar
      SunnyvaleCA

      Player piano analogy resonated with me. Thanks for that.

      I suppose the problem with the M5/M6 is that they have become so big, so fast, and so luxurious that they really aren’t “driver’s cars” anymore–regardless of transmission.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      When a car deletes the wheel I’ll accept your analogy, otherwise you’re not getting why I like driving…

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    Don’t shift for me!

    You can pry the stick from my cold dead hands.

    MOLON LABE

    SIC SEMPER AUTO TYRANNIS

    An manual man is a Citizen – An automatic man is a golf cart operator.

    If manuals are outlawed, only outlaws will have manuals.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I do lament the loss of yet another >4 cylinder manual sedan (we are down to 4 or 5 by my count), but sincerely, this thing lost the plot with the F10 generation anyway. It’s as big and heavy as a SWB E38, and compared to an M3 is not much faster or practical while being significantly inferior dynamically. Truthfully I would not be sad if they killed off the M5/M6 altogether, as the M5 has fallen so far from its peak it’s not even funny, and BMW has generally softened up anyway. These cars aren’t relevant anymore.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    What!!!
    I will never buy an M5 ever again.
    Looks like I will have the Corolla for another year until BMW come to their senses!

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Good, nothing says “fun” like being behind a manual in traffic, often the drivers too fatigued to shift correctly.

    If you’re too stubborn for autos you may as well churn your own butter, both will give you a sense of “purity” I suppose, and an unwarranted “sense of superiority”.

    • 0 avatar
      mazdaman007

      So I drive a manual because I’m stubborn and have an unwarranted sense of superiority ?

      Interesting, I thought I drove it because I enjoyed it.

      • 0 avatar
        KevinC

        @mazdaman007 – exactly.

        @Ryoku75 – do you really think that those of us sounding off here about driving manuals for decades are “too fatigued to shift correctly”, or that any of that other drivel is the least bit relevant? This is TTAC, not Usenet. Sheesh.

  • avatar
    pbr

    *yawn* Seems to me the M5 and M6 are auto-trans cars. Losing manuals from the bread-n-butter 3-series annoys me more, there goes the supply of cheap stick Bimmers coming off lease.

    Anyone want to bet what the LAST car sold in the US with a manual trans is going to be? A Miata? A poverty-spec Mitsubishi?

  • avatar
    Russycle

    “(if that’s how you view the completely unnecessary act of shifting your own gears).” Burn the heretic!!

    Seems like about half the car reviews I read these days talk about how crappy the CVT or slushbox is. Sure, Porsche’s dual clutch tranny is all kinds of wonderful, but from what I’m reading the average transaxle is programmed for max economy and/or likely to grenade if you look at it funny. For slow-car-fast fun, manual please.

  • avatar

    “The refrain ‘Save the manuals!’ might be deafening among auto journalist circles, but it’s a barely audible whisper out there in Buyerland.”

    Raises the question – how relevant are autojournalists these days? Tales of some autojournalists not even owning cars, autojournalists being wined and dined at car comapnies’ expense during reviews, autojournalists not being able to drive “properly” (and for the autojurnalists who can drive “properly,” well, how many of us non-autojournalists can actually drive “properly?”), autojournalists waiting to denigrate a model of a car until the next-gen model arrives, and I wonder just how many autojournalists could afford to own an M5 or M6 – leading to the problem of them trying to evaluate a car for which they aren’t the audience for in the first place?

    Could it be that almost any car is powerful enough and safe enough and reliable enough that a consumer would have to try very hard to set a foot wrong with a newer car these days? If that’s the case, should the autojournalist go the way of the manual transmission?

  • avatar
    Quentin

    I placed an order for an AWD, 6MT, turbocharged wagon last week. I did my part.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    And as TTAC as pointed out many times, the “consumer,” in this case is the dealer who doesn’t want a manual M5 sitting on their lot, so they don’t order any, so there isn’t any demand, because we want instant gratification, and if I order a vehicle I have to wait and pay higher, but if I compromise and take this automatic, I can take it home now and anyway, it is a little faster and gets better MPG so I can justify it.

    • 0 avatar
      ...m...

      …indeed; i had to order mine from the factory and pay up-front for the privilege…i hope the option’s still there the next time i’m ready to buy a new car, otherwise i’m staying with classic vehicles for posterity…

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      You can definitely negotiate an ordered vehicle. For the one I just ordered, I went to the website of every dealer in driving distance, submitted the form saying I was interested in such and such car. Since this was a custom order, I emailed the build list to the dealers after they contacted me. I flat out told them that the best price got my order. I had 2 dealers at ~$1k over invoice on a car that is just now hitting the shores here in the US. Of course, several of them wouldn’t budge from MSRP or $500 under MSRP, but when they contacted me later about going ahead and placing that order, they got the bad news that they didn’t win the bid.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    As a consolation, you could buy a “M5 Manual Sport” badge from eBay and stick it on the boot.

  • avatar
    darex

    Fortunately, ALL MINI models are available with manual transmissions, regardless of packaging/trim/options. Hopefully, that will continue to always be the case.

    • 0 avatar
      KevinC

      If only MINI would give us a manual steering rack to go with the manual tranny. I got rid of my ’10 MCS after 2 years mainly because the numb and overboosted electric power steering made it unpleasant to drive appropriately. Make a manual rack standard, or at least available as a no-cost option.

      • 0 avatar
        darex

        I think Gen 3 has inproved the steering feel/feedback over Gen 2, plus it’s on a whole new platform. You’d be the best to judge if that’s the case. Take a test-drive.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I had a student with what I believe was an M4 on the track a few months ago and it was really hard to tell if his throttle application technique was poor or if the car’s auto-magic “sport” mode transmission just couldn’t make up its mind. Acceleration was jerky, not smooth at all. While these autos have gotten much better they are still a ways off what you can do with 3 pedals and a stick. To see BMW, a company that prides itself on building “driving machines”, ditching the manual is very sad.

    • 0 avatar
      CarnotCycle

      I love manuals, all my cars are manuals, but If one ‘manually’ works the M4’s DCT, one gets benefits of human judgement for selecting gears alongside rev-matching shifts with precision and speed beyond any human rower this side of Ayrton Senna’s ghost. And then DCT turns into fine automatic at push of a button.

      Might be sad but the reality is undeniable: Drivers are not getting too lazy, technically illiterate, or ‘soft,’ or whatever to handle a manual transmission, it is that the other options (advanced automatics like the ZF and DSG transmissions in general) are superior in every objective measure (with possible exception of installed weight) to manual transmissions.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Yes, drivers are getting too lazy. When it comes to BMWs, it’s hardly ever about the “driving” anyway. It’s all about the “badge”, and might as well call it ‘badge of honor’ with typical M-series buyers. It’s more about the ‘owning experience’ than anything else.

        Make that Leasing Experience.

        • 0 avatar
          CarnotCycle

          I don’t think it’s lazy, just that DCT’s are both more convenient and higher-performance than manual transmissions – especially for M-car ethos of cars that are both truly high performance and practical.

          Not to say BMW isn’t losing that ethos chasing the social-climbing leaser demographic; the current F10 M5 is a barge no matter installed transmission, with basically a tuner options-package on a corporate-spec engine. Not very ‘M’ at all.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Is it bedtime? Did I ask for a bedtime story???

            You can stop with all the “It’s all about the higher performance and lightning fast shifts…”

            It’s laziness. And not know how to drive a stick, for most BMW faithful.

            It’s OK, just call it what it is. We won’t judge…

          • 0 avatar
            CarnotCycle

            “Is it bedtime? Did I ask for a bedtime story???”

            But manual transmissions are excellent for bedtime, because they slow everything down.

            “You can stop with all the “It’s all about the higher performance and lightning fast shifts…”

            But I can’t stop with the reality that all other things being equal, manual transmission car is slower than a DCT car. BMW can’t help but notice either. Ferrari has kinda caught on as well. These are not outfits anxious to Novocain their cars. If one wants the best performing car, DCT is the way to go. Facts and stuff.

            “It’s OK, just call it what it is. We won’t judge…”

            It’s ok to call manual-fetish what it is: Nostalgia. Henry Ford pined for cable-operated breaks once, instead of those overly complex newfangled hydraulic ones with no ‘feel.’ Henry Ford would think same way about DCT’s these days for sure.

            And where does the purista-shtick stop? If we want to be purists, why have a starter? It’s just deadweight 99.9% of the time slowing you down. What, too wimpy (lazy?) to turn your own crank? Pfft, yuppie, now go lease your Lexus with all the rest.

            I think BMW had manual option at all in F10 not because they were so more ‘M’ back then, but because the E60’s SMG unit was clunky, a reliability nightmare, and technical dead-end. After going through clinical steps-through-denial over the SMG, BMW learned lesson and hedged bets with a manual from the start with F10, in case m-DCT agitated the peanut gallery like SMG unit did. Since m-DCT has been a universal success in driver-satisfaction and reliability, they feel safe (again) ditching the manual.

            Everyone who misses a manual transmission M5 apparently are not being missed by BMW, because when manuals are available these mystery enthusiasts still aren’t biting.

            And I say all this as (enthusiastic) owner of a E60 M5 with the 6-speed manual.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Crank starters? Ya dude, let’s have those!!

            Really?? Ad hominem much?

            Ferraris and Lambos? You’re serious? They’re all simply symbols of wealth and rock stardom anymore. Enthusiasts (buying new cars) are mostly stuck with Miatas, Mustangs and such anymore. Damn fine cars if you ask me.

            But yes I know, some driving enthusiasts do happen to be multi millionaires with money to burn on a car, but that’s not normally the case.

            And yeah you can be an enthusiast *and* lazy too, and or can’t drive a stick, but again, call it like it is.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          DenverMike,

          can we stop with the “lazy” horsesh*t? The simple fact is that 99.9999% of the driving that 99.99% of car owners do is out of *necessity,* and a manual transmission is a needless hassle. In terms of the market as a whole, those who drive for fun are very few in number, even if we like to think we’re not.

          and the vast majority certainly don’t care one bit about your peacocking.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            So it’s a “needless hassle” to yourself and most of the driving public? 1st it’s not a “hassle” when you enjoy the act of doing something, such as driving, or sex, or anything.

            Much of what I do is a “hassle” for most. Like running (almost) every morning with my dog in the hills.

            But then you don’t even think about shifting and working the clutch, once you’re used to it (and maybe love it). It just automatically happens.

            The only time it’s a “hassle” in the slightest is when also trying to down a cheeseburger, fries, a Coke while holding the phone up to my ear.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            “Peacocking”? That was never my intention and sorry if it sounds that way, but you probably also run like a girl and sit down to pee..

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            I didn’t say anything about what I drive, you a**hole.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        It’s just not the same though. I’ve driven DCT cars from GTIs up through 458 Italias. They work really well, objectively. When I play Forza, I use the paddles (but no clutch). Again, works great to that end. But on the street I’m not trying to set a lap time or win a race. I want to have fun. And a 3 pedal setup is just more fun. It’s more engaging. Before I even turn the car on I am engaged (I generally park in gear). Not so much with a DCT setup.

        I think the performance car game has got so wrapped up in numbers and objective metrics we are losing sight of what makes driving FUN. I drove the 458 & a GT-R at a track on the same day. 458 was fun, GT-R was pretty bad. In any case I was glad to get back into my slower but very analog 350Z 6MT. If a car has so much speed that it has to take control away from me for me to safely enjoy it… maybe it has too much speed?

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      BMW is just answering their clienteles demand – BMWs ceased being about the driving experience sometime in the 80’s when they became a status symbol.

      I watched a then brand new M3 go from the dealers lot through several owners and get “customized” each step of the way until going to the crusher was an act of mercy.

      I imagine in the beginning the purchaser of the brand new car had to have the “it” model and then when the luster wore off and the M3 only offered its capability as a driver’s car it was traded in on a something more plush and so on down the line.

      A local stealership by the name of Checkered Flag BMW had it right when they used to air commercials that said only Winners buy BMWs (I cant remember if they said from a Winner like Checkered Flag but it seems to fit) and that about sums up what you need to know about your typical BMW owner.

      In all the years I’ve been in the tire biz or around it and gone to car meets like Cars & Coffee I’ve meet probably only a handful of BMW owners who couldn’t be labeled poseurs. All the rest were just into the brand.

  • avatar
    redav

    For all the “manual shifting is essential to driving” thinking, the reality is that shifting is not intrinsic to driving, period. The transmission only exists due to the deficiencies of the engine, especially torque at zero rpm.

    We can see this with EVs. They use 1 speed transmissions. IMO, that’s a more ‘pure’ driving experience. That’s the future.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      This comment has it.

      Honestly, my favorite powertrains right now all have some sort of electric assist. Pure electric is the most satisfying, but I also enjoy the Toyota planetary-gearset hybrid systems. It’s really too bad they’re all tuned for maximum economy and installed in boring cars. I’d love to see a variant of either the 2.5L or 3.5L installed in a real performance car of appropriate size and tuned for enthusiastic driving. The powertrains are smooth, instantly responsive, and extremely flexible.

      In particular, I think Toyota blew a huge opportunity by not producing the speculated Lexus CT300h — Camry Hybrid powertrain in a smaller, lighter car. Instead, the CT was saddled with the Prius powertrain that made it slower than a decent bicyclist.

    • 0 avatar
      hybridkiller

      “For all the “manual shifting is essential to driving” thinking, the reality is that shifting is not intrinsic to driving, period.”

      +1

      Part of that thinking is in my view a product of two things.

      1. The majority of MT snobs don’t have ready access to really fun roads. How do I know this? Because the majority of people don’t live in such places. So if the bulk of your driving experience is on flat, mostly straight roads, then you might be more inclined to think that two pedals is boring.

      (Before I get flamed, not all people who prefer MTs are “snobs” – just the ones who dis people who choose ATs)

      2. The majority of MT snobs have never driven a DCT. How do I know this? Because they would never compromise their “manhood” or whatever it is that non-MT drivers supposedly lack.

      I’ve said this before and it bears repeating – on mountain twisties with lots of switchbacks and corkscrews, the ability to keep both hands on the wheel makes for some wicked fun and engaging driving, and the manual driver in an otherwise comparable car will be having “fun” with his clutch as he watches my tail lights disappear around the next curve ahead of him.

      fwiw, half the vehicles I have owned had MTs, including the 5 speed TJ Wrangler I currently have – so I have plenty of experience with both (DD is a DSG Golf).

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        I don’t think that removing one hand from the wheel for a fraction of a second at every shift makes much difference in the fun or engagement of driving, and the difference in performance capability between a manual and DSG is negligible compared to the difference in performance capability between two random drivers when it comes to cornering and exit speeds.

        The manual driver would certainly need to very competent at shifting to not lose significant time though. It’s an extra layer that requires a lot of development to become something that happens in the background of the mind. Though if it’s done in conjunction with all other performance driving training it shouldn’t distract much from the other necessary components of skilled driving.

        • 0 avatar
          hybridkiller

          “I don’t think that removing one hand from the wheel for a fraction of a second at every shift makes much difference…”

          It makes a huge difference on the kind of roads I’m talking about – the kind of roads that literally have NO straights, most of the turns are fairly tight, and you are alternately either climbing or descending. My point was simply that I’m having AT LEAST as much fun as you are, because I’m able to push the car a bit harder in the turns – same high level of concentration and engagement, but I can focus all my attention on actually controlling the car without having to manage the drivetrain.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            But it is possible to reach the point where there’s no attention lost to managing the drivetrain. It all becomes muscle memory. The same cognitive process that tells a person to click a paddle also tells the body to initiate the shifting process, and then there’s no more thought involved; it just happens. I’m not saying I’ve personally perfected manually shifting in all situations, but it’s something to aspire to and if practiced enough a person would get there, and there is some satisfaction in doing it well.

            A somewhat unusual example of that for me is that I could not rev match a downshift without double-clutching if I tried. I never liked the feeling of relying on the synchros to force a shifter into gear in the upper half of the rev range so that’s all I practiced when I was first learning and now it just happens automatically whether I’m coasting toward a casual corner entry and want to enjoy the exit or actually heel-toeing during hard braking on track. I don’t have to think about it at all, but I would have to think if I wanted to do it in a simpler way, because I’ve done it the other way so many thousands of times before. There are more physical processes involved, but it doesn’t matter because I’ve programmed myself to do it without thought.

            The only situation I can think of in which a driver might be able to push harder in a turn due to an automated transmission is while downshifting during a trail-braking event or while steering with the brakes, since there is far less risk of upsetting the balance, and it could be done while left foot braking. But there always is a risk of losing stability or hitting an unexpected and compromising surface condition in those situations, so these are not things I want to do intentionally on public roads anyway. I consider those the safety net for a misjudgement in braking. I’ve never practiced downshifts in those situations on track or even on simulators. If that happens I just ride it out and shift once I’m back under the limit. I get my downshifting done while braking in a straight line and will trail brake in gear from there. Even if the road isn’t straight, it’s always possible to make a straight line setup into a corner.

            I don’t disagree that you’re having just as much fun though. While the art of seamlessly integrating manual shifts into performance driving is tricky, the objective is simple: stay in the optimal gear at all times. The goal in that situation is to make the shifts a quick and completely forgettable part of the experience, just as they are with a good automated manual. The only really memorable downshifts are ones you screw up.

            The best comparison I could find is this one, from R&T, using Mitsubishi Lancers:

            roadandtrack.com/new-cars/car-technology/news/a15248/manual-vs-paddle-shift-gearboxes/

            The automated manual managed a one second advantage in a fifty second lap. The difference between an expert and novice driver over a fifty second lap would probably be something like twenty seconds, so not a big deal when it comes to public road driving. Differences between tires would also be a much bigger factor. With two equal drivers in equal cars apart from the transmission, I think it would come down to risk tolerance. The GoPro of my buddy showing up a 350z and completely losing a Mini on the curviest parts of the Pacific Coast Highway while driving a 1986 4×4 6.2L diesel Suburban on cheap all-season tires is quite amusing. He wasn’t even taking proper lines through the curves; just staying in his lane.

            But my preference for a manual is more related to typical public road driving, where a manual simply provides additional choices to how a vehicle can be enjoyed at any time. I have complete control over how I want the experience to feel. The downside being that it can become tedious in heavy, low speed traffic. My sympathies go out to people who have to commute in such conditions!

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            I know the kind of road you are talking about. Honestly the transmission choice on that kind of road doesn’t even matter, because odds are very high such a road can be driven in 1 gear. So as long as the car enables you to pick & hold a gear, it doesn’t matter.

            Unfortunately many of us do the bulk of our driving on roads with straights, so transmission choice does become an issue. Personally, I find manually shifting a real manual transmission to be highly satisfying and a much needed break in the monotony of the daily grind.

            Like I said before I’ve driven the best of the best when it comes to DCTs. They do work really well, especially at the track. But with the daily grind and an automotive environment where engines are becoming homogeneous and characterless (the ubiquitous 2.0T), electric power steering is completely sapping all the feel from the wheel, and manufacturers and “enthusiasts” alike are prioritizing objective performance over character, I’m taking any scrap of engagement I can get, which means a 3 pedal stickshift over anything else. A DCT may score better in performance tests and all that but it’s just not as fun, to me at least. I almost bought a DCT GTI but I just couldn’t commit to the transmission. Went with a stickshift Civic instead.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            rpn453 & sportyaccordy –

            I have no real quarrel with you guys, and I’m not saying one choice is better or objectively more enjoyable than the other (cuz that would be silly, right?). I just get weary of the same old fanboi rant telling me I’m lazy, unskilled, and don’t understand the “true” driving experience.

            I’ll concede that I’m spoiled having a home in the southern Appalachians where I get to drive some of the most fun roads on the planet almost on a daily basis. As a result I find suburban/urban/interstate driving boring by comparison, regardless of transmission choice. Shifting gears for me personally is just an extra chore that doesn’t add to my enjoyment of the car, and as I said I’ve done enough of it in my life to understand the difference. I might still prefer a manual over a legacy slushbox – and I would never want an AT in my Wrangler – but the DSG is an entirely different feel.

            To each his own. Everyone should drive whatever they like (and can afford) without having to justify their choices.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            I wish I had easy access to roads like that. I only get to drive the good stuff when I make a trip to BC.

            I do respect a good automatic transmission, whether it be a slushbox or an automated manual. Possibly even some CVTs, though I need more experience to be sure. I actually exclusively used paddle shifters on Gran Turismo 5/6 for many years and many thousands of hours of simulated track driving. Back when my buddies and I first started playing driving simulators at a relatively advanced age – inspired by attending Bondurant – it was a struggle to beat the highest levels/achievements of the game and be competitive in online racing. But after almost a decade of those driving simulators, I felt like I had completely plateaued and there wasn’t much challenge left beyond trying to keep up with the truly fast guys who had played since they were children. That, and beginning to play Assetto Corsa where the manual vehicles can only be driven in manual form convinced me that it was time to use the clutch and shifter to make things interesting again. Despite having driven manual transmission C6 Vettes, a Mazda formula race car, and my own Mazda3 on track, I had to start over again driving slow cars to be able to incorporate the shifting into all the techniques I’d learned for each track. But the learning curve was steep and now, after a few hundred hours, it’s like second nature. It doesn’t slow me down at all beyond the little bit of extra shift time.

            When my buddy spent a few days driving the Nurburgring a few years back, he drove a FWD car the first day followed by a 335i the next two days, both with manuals. At that point, I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to drive a manual on a fast, dangerous track like that, especially one where I was so used to driving exclusively with paddle shifters. Two people were even killed on track while he was there. But he had spent the year leading up to that driving the track for an hour or two almost every night on GT5 in manual mode and ended up quite comfortable with it. He didn’t care about doing anything in that game beyond being able to drive a fast MT vehicle around the Nordschleife, so for him the faster paddle shifters were irrelevant. He seemed very comfortable hunting down both a GT-R and 458 in his manual C6 Z06 in the fast group when I rode along with him at the last track day we attended.

            The Ford Powershift in the 2016 Focus I test drove a few days ago is actually the first DCT I’ve driven, and I just let it do its thing. We were mostly on the highway so I didn’t get to experience it much in city driving, and I had a chaperone so I did no aggressive driving. It felt better than most newer geared automatics I’ve driven.

            I was impressed with that car. It felt solid, with excellent suspension damping, and firm steering with good feel. The engine also sounded lovely during acceleration, unlike the new Mazda Skyactivs that remind me of OHV 4-bangers from the early eighties. It was a welcome change from the thrashy noise the CVT-equipped vehicles I recently drove provided when using full throttle.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    Who cares? The M6 is an abomination anyway. The M5 is a autobahn cruiser 2 ton sedan so why would you want a manual? I love the e39 but its an anomoly of that age when automatic transmissions werent acceptable in sporting saloons.

    The salient point to take is that the M3/M4 whatever has 25% uptake.

    Come back when Mustangs Challengers Corvettes Camaros force a ZF 8 speed on you.

    I love manual, have always tried to own manual but concede that maybe a dual clutch in a high performance car… even a something like a Corvette, may not be a bad thing.

    If they try to force a conventional torque converter into a traditional V8 rwd sports car muscle car whatever, then we’re going to have words.

  • avatar

    My problem with automatics — including a DSG I drove a few years ago — is it seems like I’m always fighting them instead of working *with* them. When I want to “shit and get” they want to dilly-dally. When I’m just commuting in slow traffic they jump down two gears when I only need to speed up a few miles per hour. And the whole manu-matic self control setup on most conventional automatics is horrific. Depending on the car, I’ve had them shift on their own even when I wanted to hold RPMs, or upshift even when I specifically didn’t want them to. Because some nerd who programmed a CPU knows better, I guess. Also, I don’t want to count “one-onethousand, two-onethousand” between pressing a button or pulling a lever and the transmission clunking into a new gear.

    Now, I will admit that an automatic Mazda 6 Skyactiv that I drove recently was decent enough for light duty, everyday driving. It didn’t annoying me too much, but I still felt like I was acquiescing to the car’s demands and not the other way around, especially when pulling into traffic or entering a freeway on ramp.

  • avatar
    motorrad

    We have 4 cars all manuals. I taught both kids on an Integra GSR 5 speed. My 18 year old boy has that and I just bought a 91 Celica GT convertible 5 speed for my 16 yo daughter. The boys in her class think it’s awesome that she drive a manual. I’m trying to do my part.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    If we look at the current BMW drivers, the SUVs that BMW makes, BMW not having a manual option, and the cushiness of the ride in many BMWs, we can only conclude: BMW is the new Buick.

  • avatar
    doublechili

    MT is all about being engaged. I suppose paddle shifters or even auto would be fine for driving on the edge. But an MT (especially one with a high-revving engine) allows me to be really engaged in driving even around town.

    Conversely, somehow this is true even though I’ve been shifting so long that it’s nearly “automatic” for me. People make comments about shifting in traffic. Doesn’t bother me in the least. What shifting?

    I guess it’s that I don’t really notice MT that much until I drive someone’s automatic. And then, something’s missing. And it’s worse, not better. Less involvement. Less pleasurable.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    There is always the Chevy SS.

  • avatar
    JustPassinThru

    This is a natural progression – not unlike Mercedes.

    Both, in their day, made their name as drivers’ cars. Granted, the M-B models were always dowdy and ponderous; but still they were for the engaged driver. But M-B abandoned, first, a mindset that the driver WANTED control of his car; and then one of quality first and always. Daimler-Benz saw that their models were purchased, reflexively, by retired Ob-Gyns who did no shopping or consideration of other models.

    Just buy the newest Merc. A passive, dependable clientele breeds bad habits; and as we all saw with DaimlerChrysler, quality was just a word. Manipulation of stocks and hyping of product, and resistance to any innovation, were the reality.

    Now it’s BMW’s turn. I have never owned a BMW automobile; but I’ve had two of their motorcycles. As of five years ago, the quality of design, that is, of ergonomics and chassis development, was second to none. Reliability, however, has gone a long way. In the WRONG direction. BMW bikes can now scarcely be fixed on the road; and a trip to a BMW dealer, be it two wheels or four, is a very costly experience.

    Apparently on the auto side, BMW, like Benz, is selling STATUS – to soccer-moms completely uninterested in engineering or driving. Only in wowing the other soccer-moms at the country club.

    That market…is a death spiral. It doesn’t grow; it doesn’t gain new converts. The existing buyers get old and die; and no one replaces them. As happened to Lincoln; to Cadillac; to M-B.

    And BMW does not have pockets as deep. This is probably the beginning of the end; where they start to look about for a “partner.” Or just shrink and finally close or sell the remnants in a fire-sale

  • avatar
    mazdaman007

    One big reason I like manuals is for winter driving (in Ottawa we get snow 5 months of the year). Lots of times I can recover control by clutching in, steering, and staying off the brakes which limits the potential to introduce a skid. I think this is something people in warmer climates don’t consider because they’ve never faced this situation. I feel a lot more uncomfortable in slippery conditions in an automatic as my options for car control are diminished as I only have the brakes available. (And yeah I know you could put it into N but seriously, who actually does that in an emergency ?)

    But to be clear I’m not here to act holier than thou about manuals. Some people like manuals, some like automatics. Big deal, drive what you like. I don’t drive a manual because I think it’s “purist” or I think I’m a better driver or whatever crap, I drive a manual because I get a lot more enjoyment from it. That’s as complicated as it gets for me.

    • 0 avatar
      doublechili

      Well said all around. The first paragraph is very true and often overlooked, and the second paragraph sums up my feelings too (although it is frustrating that the MT options are dwindling at such a rapid rate).

      You should save this and re-post it every time the topic comes up. :)

    • 0 avatar
      CarnotCycle

      I agree very much this feature – engine braking via clutch – is manual’s last redoubt being unquestionably better than any other kind of transmission. Slow-speed controllability in snow and ice with a manual is unbeatable; for competent driver an M5 is not just safe, but actually tons of fun to operate in those conditions with that manual controllability.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      The best thing about driving a manual in winter is knowing exactly how much wheel slip is occurring. It’s really hard to get a precise sense of that when the engine can vary in speed independently of the drive wheels. I suppose an automated manual wouldn’t have that problem though.

      Aside from that, there’s the fact that vehicles which offer manuals are typically much more communicative, so you can actually tell how much grip is available before you really need it.

      But I grew up driving automatics and I’m fully comfortable driving automatics in winter, provided they are on good tires and communicate the road conditions to me through the steering and suspension. The brakes are what slow me down when I actually need to stop, and the processes of recovering grip during oversteer and understeer are identical between manuals and automatics, relying almost entirely on what you do with the steering wheel and brakes.

  • avatar
    laserwizard

    I love manuals. At one time I owned a manual transmission car and was given a Lincoln Town Car as a gift after helping bring it back to its glory one summer with my brother in law. I loved the Town Car but experienced ghost clutch and shift arm movements as I was so used to driving a stick. Alas, the Lincoln is gone as is my brother-in-law, but the manual car remains because I love driving it. The Lincoln was like driving a living room – never fun – but sometimes it was just nice to ride in a parade float with friends who never complained about leg room.

  • avatar
    Edgy36-39

    E39 M5 and E46 M3 here, so I’m an ancient diehard. The new M3/4 has gotten so large and plush, I’m actually surprised there is still a 25% rate on manual.

    Nicest thing about F10 M5 manual for me — great looking illuminated shift knob that can be retrofitted into my M3.

    I’ll bet the M2 takeup rate is higher. Too many comments, sorry if this has been referenced already.

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