BMW Manuals Are Apparently Going Away. Good Riddance
Here’s the thing about BMW’s manual transmissions: They aren’t very good.
Earlier this week, word hit the airwaves that BMW is doing away with its dual-clutch and manual transmissions in favor of its admittedly very good torque-converter automatics, and that the current M2 would be the final BMW M car to come with three pedals. The death of yet another manual transmission would usually come with much hand-wringing and perhaps a few tears from folks like myself. In this case, though, I found myself thinking, "Good riddance."
Here's the thing about BMW's manual transmissions: They aren't very good. And as far as I can tell, they've never been very good. It didn't matter if it was the E34 540i my buddy had in high school, the E39 M5 he eventually graduated to, or, yes, the one installed in the new M2, I have yet to pilot a manual BMW and come away from the experience being like, "Wow, yeah, what a great gearbox."
The shift action is always rubbery, the clutch is always placed too far to the right (i.e. too close to the brake pedal), and getting to grips with it in stop-and-go traffic always feels notably more cumbersome compared to other manuals.
That clutch-placement thing in particular—pardon the pun—really grinds my gears. On more than one occasion during my time with the M2, I found myself inadvertently either left-foot braking on the way in or getting my shoe caught on some trim on the side of the dead pedal letting the thing out. That third pedal is never really where you want it to be and the margin for error is way too small.
Granted, some might argue that a subpar manual is better than no manual at all, and to that, I'd simply agree to disagree. In any case, what BMW is good at—those old SMGs notwithstanding—are automatics and, if you ask me, it's a smart move that the company is choosing to focus on those. The ZF eight-speed present in a bunch of its stuff nowadays is a straight-up gem. And in its most aggressive M4 CSL form, I once described it as "a triumph" with "manual shifts that feel noticeably more brisk and mid-corner downshifts smoothed out so as not to disrupt balance—video game-level response right here."
In other words, "Wow, yeah, what a great gearbox."
Wanna yell at the author about how he probably just sucks at driving manual? You can reach him here: firstname.lastname@example.org