Over the past few years, several BMW decisions have left fans scratching their heads over what happened to the "Ultimate Driving Machine." News about subscription heated seats (which the automaker eventually ended) and monstrosities like the XM made even the most fervent loyalists question their beloved brand. Today, there's hope that BMW's still listening, because the United States-spec 2024 Z4 M40i is receiving a six-speed manual transmission option.
Update Dec. 11, 2023, 12:32 PM: A BMW representative told The Drive that the manual M40i was made available for media testing as part of an "extremely small preview" event, and that "more information will be made available through the usual channels at the end of January." In other words, expect an official launch in a little more than a month's time.
According to Car and Driver, the Z4 M40i will get a comprehensive package (which could cost around $3,500) that will come with the six-speed manual, slightly sharper steering, and firmer adaptive dampers.
This has been a long time coming, as rumors of a manual BMW Z4 began swirling as soon as the Toyota Supra—the Z4's mechanical twin—gained a manual option. Thankfully, the rumors were true, and, sweetening the deal further, BMW isn't limiting the manual to an exclusive special edition. Instead, BMW will build however many it can sell.
It's worth noting that the current-generation Z4 has had a manual option in certain markets, such as Australia, but only with the lesser four-cylinder engine option. This will be the first time BMW is offering a manual in the six-cylinder Z4 M40i, and the first manual G29 Z4 in the U.S.
Interestingly, according to BMWBlog, the Z4's manual transmission was not only designed specifically for the United States market, but tuned specifically for the Z4. While the Z4's basic ZF-sourced transmission is the same as the Supra's, it has unique shift linkages and a shorter gear lever. Even more interesting is that BMW seems to have listened to customer criticism of its recent manuals, which have felt rubbery and vague, and given the Z4 shorter, tighter shift throws.
The engine remains the same: a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six with 382 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. Drive still goes only to the rear wheels, via a limited-slip differential. With the manual, the Z4 M40i will naturally be a bit slower than the automatic-equipped car, but that small drop in straight-line performance is well worth the added engagement of the manual.
The Z4 M40i is probably BMW's most underappreciated car. I've personally spent several weeks in the Z4 and know it well; it's one of the best-driving cars to wear a blue-and-white Roundel. It isn't as sharp as a Boxster, but it has a hooligan attitude thanks to its punchy straight-six and willingness to shred its rear tires. And that makes it a blast, especially with the top down. Adding a manual transmission to the mix should only increase the thrill.
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