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SMG snub

Self-shifter: New M3 will receive an automated manual transmission.

BMW to embrace a new dual-clutch gearbox for M3, among a host of new model variants

19 Jul 2007

THE bahnstorming new V8 M3 coupe has hit Europe in a hurry and, three months before its release here, is already a sell-out success in Australia. But BMW’s scintillating new super-coupe is only the beginning of yet another new-model avalanche from the German car giant.

Only 120 six-speed manual versions of the fourth-generation M3 will arrive Down Under following its official local debut at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney in October this year, and all of them are already spoken for.

A further 380 examples are expected to be available here in 2008, including many featuring BMW’s all-new “M-DCT” seven-speed twin-clutch transmission, which is being developed by German transmission specialist Getrag as a direct response to the Volkswagen Group’s successful DSG automated manual gearbox.

Expected to debut globally in March, Getrag’s dual-clutch transmission will be specifically tuned for the M3, in which it will be mated to steering wheel paddle shifters, before filtering down to garden-variety BMW models.

It belongs to the same transmission family that Ford will dub “PowerShift” for its future models including the Falcon, and which will be manufactured in the US from 2009 in a joint-venture arrangement with the Chrysler Group.

Getrag has a range of twin-clutch transmissions under development, including the 75kg 6DCT250 six-speed unit that has a torque rating of 250Nm and is suitable for transverse front-drive applications, and the 79kg/seven-speed 7DCI600, which features wet clutches, can handle up to 600Nm and is designed for rear-drive vehicles.

In a radical departure from BMW’s latest-generation seven-speed Sequential M Gearbox (SMG) – the sole transmission available for its M5 performance flagship – the two-pedal M-DCT variant is expected to attract a vastly broader audience for the new M3.

Asked whether he was sad to see BMW’s trademark SMG transmission dumped from the latest M3’s menu, M engine program chief Helmut Himmel told GoAuto: “Yes and no. There are advantages with other systems.

“Comfort is sometimes an issue, because a lot of people use our vehicles as company cars, so they want a Jekyll and Hyde personality of both performance and comfort. These days people want everything and the double-clutch is the best of both worlds.”

14 center imageLeft: 135i Coupe, Getrag’s seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox (7DCI600) and current SMG (below).

Similarly, the sales and marketing manager for M vehicles and BMW Individual Ulrich Mehring suggested the polarising SMG transmission had reached the end of its service life.

“SMG is our link to F1, but it is only one technical solution,” he told GoAuto. “Maybe in the future we have another solution. It’s too early to talk about others, but any potential solution has to fit with the M-car character and overall package.

“We have to make further developments. What is the next step from SMG? It will be interesting what comes up in the next year or so in terms of transmissions. But it was a simple decision to start only with the manual transmission,” he said.

Mr Mehring said BMW did not expect criticism over the fact the new M3 is 85kg heavier than its forebear, despite employing a lighter engine and carbon-fibre roof technology.

“No we didn’t expect any reaction for one reason: if you look at only one number, one number doesn’t describe the car – you have to drive it to understand the whole package.” He would not comment on the possibility that the M3 badge could be shared across coupe, sedan and convertible body derivatives for the first time, but would not rule out M versions of any current BMW model, including the X3, X5 and 1 Series (coupe).

It is unclear whether the M-DCT version will carry a premium over the conventional manual M3’s expected price of around $160,000.

Despite going on sale in Europe this month, the M3 will not make its official public debut until September’s Frankfurt motor show, where the all-new X6 crossover, slick new 1 Series coupe and facelifted 6 Series range will also be unveiled for the first time.

The latter goes on sale in Australia from October, but the ground-breaking new X6 is still 12 months away from our shores.

In the meantime, BMW Australia has two new entry-level diesel engines for the X3 and 5 Series sedan and yet another twin-turbocharged 3 Series derivative to release, along with the hotly-anticipated 225kW/400Nm 135i coupe – the only two-door 1 Series variant to be sold here.

The latter will make its local entrance at the Melbourne International Motor Show in March, but both the X3 2.0d and 520d will hit BMW showrooms in December. The 335i Touring is not fully confirmed for Australia yet, but is likely to go on sale here during the second quarter of 2008.

Both the X3 2.0d and 520d are powered by a 125kW/340Nm version of the 115kW/330Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder that powers the 320d.

They will bring the number of BMW diesel models to seven, including the 120d, 320d, 530d, X3 3.0d and X5 3.0d. BMW claims one in five premium diesel vehicles sold in Australia is a BMW and that diesel accounts for 70 per cent of X5 sales and 50 per cent of X3 sales.

The six-speed auto-only 520d will become the new entry-level variant for BMW’s 5 Series range, which currently comprises the 520d, 523i, 525i, 530i, 530d, 540i and 550i sedans, and the 530i Touring.

The 520d sprints to 100km/h in a claimed 8.6 seconds, will come with the same specifications as the base 523i and will undercut the diesel 530d ($115,000) by up to $35,000 with a price of around $80,000.

It is a similar story with the auto-only X3 2.0d, which will supersede the X3 2.5si ($65,900 manual) as the least-expensive X3 variant with a price of around $62,500 – about $13,000 less than the 150kW/480Nm X3 3.0d ($75,900).

The X3 2.0d claims average fuel consumption of 7.0L/100km and will carry the same standard equipment as the X3 2.5si.

Finally, the 335i Touring is odds-on to join the brilliant 335i coupe, 335i convertible and 335i sedan on sale here in 2008 – as a direct response to customer demand for BMW’s ripping new direct-injection twin-turbo straight six, deliveries of which are out to mid-2008 for some models.

Like the 335i sedan (and unlike the 335i coupe and convertible), the twin-turbo 3 Series wagon will be an auto-only proposition in Australia, and comes as an additional variant to the entry-level 323i Touring.

The 335i Touring sprints to 100km/h in a claimed 5.9 seconds – one-tenth quicker than the auto 335i Convertible but one-tenth slower than the 335i auto sedan and two-tenths slower than the 335i auto coupe.

It will be positioned between the sedan and convertible in terms of pricing, which at around $115,000 represents a $45,000-odd premium over the 323i Touring ($68,900 manual, $71,500 auto).

It is believed BMW’s M skunkworks is also attempting to extract more power from the M5/M6’s 5.0-litre V10, via the direct petrol-injection technology that features on the 335i twin-turbo straight six. If it can be applied successfully to the high-revving V10, expect direct-injection to eventually feature on the M3’s 4.0-litre V8.

What’s coming from BMW:
M3 coupe October
6 Series facelift October
X3 2.0d December
520d sedan December
135i coupe March 2008
M3 coupe M-DCT March 2008
335i Touring 2nd qtr 2008
X6 crossover 2nd half 2008

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