What is that?
It’s easy to guess why BMW didn’t bring the manual BMW M3 and M4, and a quick review of the classifieds for previous generation M3s and M4s confirms this: Not many people want to buy one.
That logic makes sense, but when Toyota announced it would be coming with a manual version of the Supra, and Porsche is highlighting what is actually a manual rear-wheel-drive version of the 911 Turbo, one might wonder if BMW should reconsider. After all, it builds manual versions on the right-hand drive of Australia and Japan, so all the engineering work is completed.
BMW probably won’t change its mind, so the more relevant question is whether we’re missing something. When I went to drive a recently modified BMW M135i, BMW pulled a manual M4 out of its German press fleet for me to try.
Brief update for the M3 and M4: In most regions, BMW offers both in “regular” and “competitive” versions. The No-Competition was always intended to be a pure option, with a manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive only. In the UK we only get the Competition, which has 30 more horsepower, only comes with a great eight-speed automatic transmission, gets some extra equipment and can be selected with BMW’s very smart all-wheel drive system.
How does it look?
The clutch is very stiff and springy, which makes it not the easiest car to drive smoothly. Torque for a straight-six from the 3.0-liter twin-turbo means stalling is nearly impossible, but a little kangaroo is easy to do. Our test car also has unbelievable carbon bucket seats with the odd trapezoidal carbon bit between your legs. It’s annoying in the car, but even more so with three pedals.
The transmission itself also has a bit of a kick, as well as the rubber feel typical of BMWs. However, the throw pitches are short, accurate (in a good way) and rewarding. Oddly enough, the transmission is located right in the middle of the center console, and since the Series 3 and 4 are now very wide cars, the gearlever is out of reach. And that’s without noting that it’s weird being in a big, fast, high-tech car and changing gear yourself.
But despite all that, I would totally choose the guide if I offered him a choice.
My dominant impression of the M3 competition is that it is so qualified that you feel like you’re going along at anything resembling reasonable (or legal) speeds. To keep it from feeling out of place, you either have to take some serious liberties with the speed limits or find a racetrack.