Time to talk about manual transmissions—and wagons—two attention-grabbing topics for the majority of enthusiasts, especially since both seem to be on the Endangered Options list these days. And yes, the title of this piece is a throwback to the show Heroes, which apparently came out a whopping sixteen years ago. I only made it through a season of that show, but I do recall the “save the cheerleader, save the world” phrase being prevalent everywhere. It was a simpler time.
Enough about yesteryear and on to why you’re here: BMW hasn’t given up on manual transmissions. In fact, despite declining sales of manual-transmission-optioned vehicles over the years, MINI recently launched a program for those who don’t know how to row their own gears to learn how. In an early-November press release, BMW touted that they would be “bringing back the fun of driving a manual transmission by launching a new MINI Manual Driving School at the BMW Performance Center in Thermal, California.” This news broke just after MINI announced that they’d also be bringing back manual transmissions to a subset of models last month.The new 2023 M2 also will be served up with a manual transmission option. As with most—can I say all?—modern manuals, they are slower than their automatic counterparts, be they DCT, SMG, or traditional torque-converter automatics. But those who appreciate the nostalgia and driver engagement that an old-school manual can provide don’t really care about a few tenths of a second when they’re carving up their favorite back roads, right? To go with the theme of bringing things back (in this case, to the U.S.), the next G99-chassis M5 Touring will be coming to our shores in 2025. Yes, it will be a six-figure car. Yes, it will be larger and likely heavier than previous long-roof M vehicles. But despite all that, it’s going to be one tasty performance wagon that will compete with the likes of the Audi RS6. Will it come with a manual transmission option? I’m guessing not, but we can dream. Yesterday, BimmerPost released renderings of what it could look like, as well as some salivating stats, like the S68 in hybrid setup tuned to 700 horsepower. Manual transmissions and wagons: Are they simply coming back into style, like fashions or music? Or are they coming back because buyers and enthusiasts have been more vocal about their desire to purchase new vehicles with these features? We covered a similar story in October, reporting that BMW M CEO Frank van Meel acknowledged, “We do see the demand [for wagons] increasing, especially in regard to M, because the U.S. is our single biggest market, our most important market. We listened to our dealers and our customers, and they’re coming more and more, asking for a Touring. So we are taking that into consideration.”
How does this save the world? Well, wouldn’t we all just be happier and more optimistic people living in a land of wagons and manual transmissions—you know, the land of milk and honey?—Mike Bevels
[Photos courtesy of BMW and BimmerPost.]