Driven: 2008 BMW M3 DCT
By Mike Meredith of MSN Autos
The BMW M3 has been a high-performance benchmark for many years, but a number of new competitors loom large in the market. With the new 2008 M3, BMW has upped the ante with the all-new M Double-Clutch Transmission (DCT) with Drivelogic. Paired with the new, high-revving 414-horsepower V8 engine, the DCT is a 7-speed automated-manual gearbox that uses two clutches to shift in a fraction of a second. With no need for the driver to lift the throttle during shifts, there is no perceivable gap in power delivery or traction.
In automatic mode with the throttle pinned to the floor, the shifts are lightning quick but equally smooth as the engine speed jumps instantly to the rpm needed for the next gear. But the DCT is equally impressive under moderate acceleration, with nearly undetectable one- or two-gear upshifts providing the desired acceleration at the lowest and most efficient rpm.
The new DCT is both smoother and quicker than the sequential manual gearbox (SMG) transmission in the previous generation M3, which worked well when pushing hard but could be somewhat temperamental at slower speeds and at less than full-throttle. Exclusive to the M3, the driver can choose to shift manually with a center-console-mounted shift lever, or via paddles on the steering wheel. New owners will be wise to take time to sort through the six programs available for manual shifting and five for automatic shifting in order to tailor the car to their preferences.
BMW has created a quandary for driving enthusiasts with the DCT because the available 6-speed manual gearbox is also terrific. For those who prefer old-school shifting, the take-up of the twin-disc clutch is smooth and the shifter allows crisp, precise gear changes — the perfect tools for enthusiast drivers to hone their skills. Even the most accomplished driver will never come close to matching the DCT for speed and precision. But the fun and satisfaction of executing a textbook heel-and-toe downshift with the 6-speed manual just might outweigh the fraction of a second that could be saved. The good news is that with these two choices, there are no wrong answers.