BMW M Boss Confirms Rear-Drive Manual Version of Next M3 and M4

Chris Perkins
Photo credit: BMW

From Road & Track

You may not be able to get a new manual-transmission 3-Series in the U.S. anymore, but that won't be the case with the 2021 BMW M3. At the Los Angeles Auto Show, BMW M boss Markus Flasch confirmed to Road & Track that manual versions of the next M3 and M4 are on their way, and they'll be rear-wheel drive only.

"The next M3 will be a challenge because we have more variation in the powertrain than we used to have," Flasch said. "We will offer all-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive. We will offer both manual and auto."

And when Flasch says "auto," he means a traditional torque-converter automatic—not a dual-clutch like those used in the last two generations of M3. BMW M first eschewed the DCT for a traditional automatic with the current-generation M5, and the M8, and M versions of the X3, X4, X5, and X6 have all followed suit. In the next M3 and M4, the automatic will be paired with a version of the fully variable all-wheel drive system used in the M5 and many other M cars. "There's no reason for changing a winning system and pretty much carrying over what we know from the M5," he said.

"Power output gets to an extent with this generation where it's really difficult to get it to the road if the conditions are not perfect," he added. "We also have quite a significant group of customers that live in places that are not spoiled with weather like [Los Angeles]. If you look to the competition, to other brands, there is a demand for high performance cars in all-wheel drive in the segment.

"We have the technical chance to [make an AWD M3] with the foundations that we laid with the M5. We figured 'Why not offer it?'"

BMW M's all-wheel drive system allows drivers to decouple the front axle entirely in the M5 and M8, so power only gets sent rearwards. The next M3 and M4 will take things a step further by offering an actual rear-drive model. Flasch says it's possible to make a stick-shift all-wheel drive M3, but he doesn't think there would be demand. If you go for the purist transmission, you're going to want the purist driveline, too, the thinking goes.

Flasch says there's no demand for larger manual-transmission M cars, but there's a strong buisness case for continuing to offer stick-shifts in cars like the M3. Even though adding a rear-drive manual version adds to the homologation cost.

Both the next M3 and M4 will be powered by the new S58 straight-six that debuted with the new X3 and X4 M. That 3.0-liter twin-turbo makes 503 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque in the X3 and X4 M Competition, but Flasch says there's even more on the table for eventual CS and CSL versions of the M3 and M4. How much more, he declined to say, just jokingly saying "we haven't brought it to the point of exploding it."

While he didn't say anything specific about the M4, Flasch did tell us the next M3 will debut towards the end of 2020 and begin production in 2021. Perhaps we'll see it in a year's time at the LA show.

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