New BMW M boss Frank van Meel has done little this week to offer purists any assurances on the future of their beloved manual transmissions. Talk of a manual-free M range has kept fans applying the Deep Heat to chilled spines for sometime now, with previous BMW M Friedrich Nitschke often advocating a switch to dual-clutch transmissions exclusively.
Speaking with the UK’s Autocar, van Meel said that the future “does not look bright for manual gearboxes”, highlighting the impressive shift speeds and fuel consumption figures of the brand’s seven-speed DCT and eight-speed torque-converter units.
All is not lost, however, with van Meel again echoing his predecessor’s position that BMW M will continue to listen to the calls of its fans.
"It’s difficult to say we’ll stick to the manual, but we still have a big fan community for manuals and we are not going to take away something the customer wants to have,” van Meel said.
Still, data reveals that cries for a manual option are those of a loud minority - automatics make up around 95 percent of BMW M sales, although many are already not available with a manual - and this could eventually lead to the business case for row-your-own shifters being declared untenable.
We may also now be looking at the cooling of at least one front in the power war, with van Meel confirming that the 447kW produced by the special M5 Jahre is the most we’ll see for a while.
“For now, 600bhp is the most you can get in an M car,” he said. “We’re at the limit. If you go on adding more horsepower and torque, it’d probably be over the limits.”