M Division chief executive Frank van Meel suggests that BMW M cars with manual ‘boxes will be rare in the future, and that peak power outputs will probably be pegged at 441 kW, but CAR technical editor Nicol Louw remains sceptical.
When interviewed by Autocar recently, Van Meel was quoted as saying: “From a technical standpoint, the future doesn’t look very bright for manual gearboxes. The M-DCT and auto ‘boxes are faster and they have better fuel consumption.
“It’s difficult to say we’ll stick to the manual, but we have a big fan community for manuals and we aren’t going to take away something the customer wants,” he added.
Given the passage of time since CAR last tested an M car with a manual transmission (the limited-production 1M Coupé in August 2011), we’re inclined to believe Van Meel, although we could see “stick-shift” being a popular choice in the upcoming M2 Coupé.
“The marketing department will determine what the customer wants and the bean counters will set a limit to the engineering budget to achieve the set goals,” says CAR’s technical editor. “Therefore if only a low percentage of BMW M car buyers prefer a manual transmission it does not make financial sense to develop and build such a unit. It is then predictable that manual transmissions will eventually disappear…”
Sensationally, Van Meel also suggested that the Munich-based company would cap the output of M models at about 600 horsepower (the facelifted M6 with Competition Pack produces 441 kW, with is the equivalent of 600 hp). Earlier this year, CARmag.co.za reported BMW’s M Division was planning to adopt all-wheel drive as at least an option on future sedan and hatchback-based models (such as the next-gen M5), owing, inter alia, to the cars that have been spied and what the majority of customers of rival Mercedes-AMG’s products were demanding from their products.
Furthermore, when CAR has tested and compared super saloons (usually German in origin and producing outputs comfortably above 300 kW – sometimes into the 400s), we’ve experienced difficulties in achieving representative acceleration times with RWD contenders. And, when driving conditions offer less than ideal grip levels, we’ve found those cars’ acceleration blunted by stability systems overwhelmed by wheelspin.
“We’re at the limit. If you go on adding more horsepower and torque, it’d probably be over the limits,” Van Meel said about future M models in the Autocar interview. Its believed the next-generation M5 will not have higher outputs than the current generation car (with the power-hiking performance pack addition, we might add). Lightweight technology and AWD will make the upcoming car faster, however.
“Hiking the power outputs of modern performance engines is easier than ever thanks turbocharging,” says Nicol. “The performance potential of a 400 kW-plus RHD car is limited by grip in many situations (even in the dry!) and the skill levels of most drivers.
“But the reason why the outright engine outputs of the Teutonic manufacturers’ wares keep going up has everything to do with bragging rights. BMW’s apparent bid to curb power output is perhaps a bit premature.
“If rivalling firms’ engines offer more power and torque than those of BMW, the Munich-based firm would have to rejoin the power race to avoid losing sales.
“I believe the real power curb will come through legislation to increase road safety. Some European countries have already placed a limit on outputs (in France, motorcycles may not produce more than 100 hp).
“This might be a blessing in disguise for manufacturers that can then spend their R&D money on other things,” he concludes.