Test driving two BMW M4s
"You’d be working much harder in the manual car"
Double clutch semi-automatic gearboxes are finding their way into most supercars and high performance cars these days.
The technology of course is very good, able to achieve gear-changes in only a fraction of a second thus creating a considerable performance advantage over a manual version of the same car. The purists amongst us, however, argue that manual is best because it demands greater skill and is more engaging and rewarding to the driver.
It remains an unresolved debate with manufacturers keeping a close eye on its sway.
Spending an extra £6,000 or so (in this case) on equipping your car with carbon ceramic brakes (where it is an option) is also subject to debate. Carbon ceramics are highly effective and efficient braking systems providing consistent stable friction from very high speeds. Whilst great for competitive racing, such as Formula 1, many drivers are asking is the investment really worth it for road use?
We decided to find out by putting a BMW M4 test car fitted with dual-clutch transmission and ceramic brakes up against the same model fitted with manual transmission and the standard BMW M compound factory supplied brakes. We drove them hard for over 200 miles through some of the finest drivers roads North Wales had to offer.
Both cars were driven with attitude to get the best out of them; there was no question, the DCT equipped car was quickest by quite a margin and certainly required less skill to drive it hard. The ceramic brakes really came into their own simply because you could brake much later and grab a quick down change on the way, allowing technology to sort out the gear-changing whilst matching the revs in mega quick time.
By contrast you’d be working much harder in the manual car but rewardingly so, the length of the gap between the manual and the DCT car up ahead being ultimately down to your skill as a driver. In the manual car ceramics were of much less significance as engine compression aligned to manual downshifting, by default, needed less braking effort and the standard M4 brakes were more than up to the job required anyway.
The driver or technology?
Conclusion? The DCT is the quicker car and works best with the fitting of ceramic brakes. The manual car, however, is the real driver’s challenge suiting those who want to develop their own driving skill as a priority and go very quickly. We didn’t think ceramic brakes mattered all that much for the manual transmission car due to added initial engine compression from manual down changes, combined with the necessary clutch induced gear changing sequence.
If your overriding priority is to maximise the performance of your M4 and achieve the quickest lap times on track or get that slight millisecond advantage on the road then you should opt for DCT and ceramics, but if you want to hone your own skills and enjoy the amazing capabilities of this fabulous car, the manual has to be your choice.
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