Manual or dual-clutch transmission? While most enthusiasts will tell you they’d still rather swap cogs themselves, the answer to that question hasn’t been very clear-cut in the last 15 years or so.
In the case of the BMW M3, the sequential-manual gearbox (SMG) came as an option on the E46, which proved to be less desirable compared to the manual. Those were the early days, however, and dual-clutch systems have improved drastically since then.
With the F82 M4, it’s somewhat strange to hear that the DCT has become the standard version, while the "Pure Edition" manual has become the option. How things have changed.
Earlier this month, we were at Clark International Speedway for the BMW Driving Experience, where we sampled a string of M cars through various exercises.
The car that got our hearts racing was the M4--it was the M car we had waited so eagerly to try. And there wasn’t one, but two--the DCT and the manual. So which one’s better?
The heavens opened up just before we drove both versions, unfortunately, which meant we couldn’t sample the DCT’s launch control since traction control had to be turned off and the Sport Plus mode engaged (TC had to be left on at all times because of the wet conditions, and activating the Sport Plus mode was not permitted for safety reasons).
On a straight line, the DCT was obviously faster with lightning-quick shifts and electronics that helped manage the car. The transmission and certain electronic add-ons, however, not only made the driving experience more complicated, they also added about 40kg of weight to the M4.
The manual version, on the other hand, was as bare as it got for track purposes. Apart from the lighter gearbox, the Pure Edition didn’t feature leather seats with electric adjustment and memory. Instead, the seats were fabric with manual adjustment. To further simplify this M4, adaptive LED headlights with high-beam assistance had been replaced by xenon headlights; a more basic high-gloss black trim was in place of the black chrome trim; the Harman Kardon surround-sound system had been ditched in favor of a hi-fi loudspeaker system; there was no Comfort Access keyless entry; and there was no rearview camera.
Now, on to the driving. The clutch was actually very comfortable as it was on the soft side. With the surge of torque coming in at just 1,850rpm (all the way to 5,500rpm), controlling your right foot for a linear response was key. The shifter had short and precise throws, and just like the clutch, it had a mushy feel to it, making it friendly to use around town. This M4 also had rev-matched downshifts when it was in Sport or Efficient mode to help manage the stress placed on the crank. In Sport Plus mode, one would have to heel-and-toe in order to get the best out of the car.
Our verdict? Double-clutch systems have gained the upper hand when it comes to performance. But there’s nothing like rowing through the gears yourself. It’s simply more engaging and is still the best way to enjoy the M4.
It’s cheaper, too, at P7,750,000, compared to the DCT version at P8,790,000.