Around the M5, there have been extensive discussions not only about automatic transmissions but also about the future of BMW Motorsport. We're talking about transmissions, my friends. According to M, the dual-clutch transmission is on its way out, and the manual transmission is living its final moments. After that, torque converters will take over until future single-speed electric vehicles assume control.
DUAL-CLUTCH, TORQUE CONVERTER—WHAT ARE THEY?
Automatic transmissions with torque converters and dual-clutch transmissions are two types of transmissions used in modern cars. Here's how each works and their respective advantages:
Torque converter automatic transmission: A torque converter automatic transmission utilizes a hydraulic device called a torque converter to transmit power from the engine to the wheels. When the driver selects a gear, the torque converter adapts to enable smooth torque transfer. This results in seamless and smooth gear shifts. Torque converter automatic transmissions are appreciated for their driving comfort and ease of use. They are particularly suitable for urban driving and relaxed driving experiences.
Dual-clutch transmission: A dual-clutch transmission uses two sets of clutches, one for even-numbered gears and the other for odd-numbered gears. The idea is to pre-select the next gear, allowing for quick and nearly instant gear changes. While the vehicle is still running on one gear, the next gear is already pre-engaged and ready to be engaged. This results in extremely fast gear shifts without any interruption in torque. Dual-clutch transmissions are favored by sporty drivers as they offer ultra-fast gear changes and a more dynamic driving sensation.
In summary, torque converter automatic transmissions are better suited for comfortable and relaxed driving, while dual-clutch transmissions offer sporty performance and rapid gear shifts. BMW M's decision to prioritize torque converter automatic transmissions may disappoint some fans of sporty driving. However, it allows for a better driving experience for a larger number of drivers, especially in terms of comfort and everyday usability.
WHAT'S THE FUTURE FOR BMW?
The disappearance of the manual transmission seems inevitable; we are seeing fewer and fewer of these types of gearboxes in modern cars. Unfortunately, it's highly likely that the recent M2 will be the last BMW M equipped with a manual transmission. Expect to see an M2 Competition in a few years, a facelifted version in four years, an M2 CS at some point, and then a gradual decline until the M2 burns its tires for the last time around 2030.
But here's the twist: the dual-clutch transmission is also meeting the same fate! Despite being praised and appreciated by manufacturers for its instantaneous shifts, it is currently not used in any BMW M car, and it won't make a comeback either. We could have guessed this when the M4 CSL arrived last year with the same eight-speed automatic gearbox as the rest of the M3/M4 lineup. And now, Dirk Hacker, Head of Development at BMW M, has confirmed it.
"From BMW M's perspective, the dual-clutch transmission is a thing of the past," he said. "Now we have the choice between manual or automatic transmission, and the automatic will be electrified in the future."
Why did they opt for the torque converter automatic instead of the dual-clutch transmission? "Around the M5, there have been extensive discussions not only about the automatic transmission but also about other aspects. The decision was not only made for cost reasons but also for comfort reasons. We have received a lot of feedback from our customers regarding maneuvering, parking, the absence of roll when you release the pedal, and so on."
In other words, the automatic transmission won over the dual-clutch because it is easier to use on a daily basis. However, Hacker claims that "the torque converter automatic offers better performance than the dual-clutch transmission. In the M4 CSL, gear changes are faster, and on the other hand, we also use this automatic transmission in the new M4 GTR race car." But let's be honest, those who have driven the latest M4 CSL and experienced the delayed downshifts and slight jerks during upshifts know that it's not as smooth, instantaneous, and satisfying to use as the dual-clutch gearbox of the F80 M3 and other models.
THE END OF THE MANUAL GEARBOX?
What about electrifying the manual transmission? "I think it could be done, but we won't do it," Hacker responds. Thus, does the manual gearbox disappear with the M2? "It's not just BMW's decision; it's also a decision of the suppliers. If you look around, you'll see that the future of manual gearbox suppliers is declining. So, I'm not sure if we'll have that option in the future. But when I talk about the future, I'm talking about six or seven years ahead."
The new M5 is expected to arrive next year. It's said to be a hybrid, although Hacker doesn't want to make comparisons with the poorly received Mercedes AMG C63. But it's reasonable to assume that it will have a similar technical setup to the XM, with a hybrid twin-turbo V8 powering all four wheels. We can forgive the automatic in this case, but let's just hope it won't weigh 2.6 tons.
A NEW ERA
There you have it, my friends. Your current M car, if you choose an M2 (or a 480 hp manual M3), can be equipped with a manual gearbox. Your next M car will be equipped with an automatic transmission. The one after that probably won't even have a gear lever.
After naturally aspirated engines, it's now time to bid farewell to the manual gearbox in the future.