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No Stickshift for New Z4:
What is BMW thinking?

December 23, 2018 by Matt

Buried in Car and Driver‘s report on the new BMW Z4 is this little gem of a statement:

Sadly, there is no manual-transmission option; a ZF eight-speed automatic will be the only transmission…

It’s not entirely unexpected given that the upcoming BMW 3-series, the G20, is equally bereft of a manual transmission option, but the fact that it isn’t even an option for the Z4 is utterly baffling to me. The new BMW roadster is positioned as the most driver-focused, most “compromised” car in the automaker’s lineup, so why shouldn’t every option that fosters driver engagement be at least available? Especially if the car’s primary targets—the Porsche 718 Boxster/Cayman twins—practically flaunt their third pedals by comparison…

What if tomorrow Mazda announced it was discontinuing the manual option on the MX-5 Miata? Or Toyota decided to pull the plug on the 86’s stickshift? I understand rowing your own gears is a dying art, and completely void of any kind of performance advantage the way it used to be. Still—if an automaker positions itself as the enthusiast’s choice; offers a model purporting to carry the top-down, classic roadster torch; and wants to maintain any kind of enthusiast cred whatsoever, it should develop a manual option for that model, even if the take rate is too low to make sense economically. Sell a few more X5s and you’ll break even, BMW.

The other thing that confuses the hell out of me is the fact that BMW offers a manual option with all 2-series models—an arguably less driver-focused and certainly more practical car than the Z4. But that could just be a “legacy transmission” BMW keeps on the option sheet until the next-generation 2-series bows a year or two from now…

The new Z4’s performance is irrelevant. I don’t care if it laps the ‘Ring five minutes faster than the old car, the steering brings back the classic BMW feel and the (admittedly turbocharged) I6 under the hood sings from the classic BMW engine hymnal—without a manual transmission option, it’s nothing more than a boulevardier, a car for retirees to cruise along the A1A at sunset with the top down. It’s a shame.

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Filed under: BMW, News

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