According to BMW Blog, Bavaria’s automaker is reportedly working on a dual-clutch transmission specifically designed for front-wheel drive models. Presently, the German car brand uses an eight-speed automatic made by Aisin on its front-wheel drive models (which first hit production last year).
Though there are few faults with the Aisin gearbox during daily driving, when operators wanted more of a thrill, the eight-speed transmission required too many downshifts to get into the meat of the powerband. Additionally, enthusiast drivers have complained that the rev match function on the Aisin eight-speed doesn’t perform as well as ZF-engineered dual-clutch transmissions.
Despite the number of performance-focused front-wheel drive models (mostly hatchbacks) in circulation, there are few dual-clutch transmissions optimized for that power delivery. Volkswagen notably has a winning DCT in models like the GTI and Golf R, so BMW has something to aspire to for its transmission.
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The difficulty is overcoming dreaded torque steer (when a healthy amount of torque is applied to the front wheels, which must also direct the vehicle). To combat the problem, some automakers limit the available power when a car is initially accelerating until there’s better traction. Others use electronic differentials to recognize torque steer and compensate with opposite-wheel braking or optimized power application. Yet another fix can come from suspension geometry tuning, as seen in Ford’s RevoKnuckle system, which keeps the steering wheel straight.
Chances are, BMW will use multiple practices to eliminate torque steer on upcoming performance models like the planned BMW X1 M and upcoming X2. MINI’s higher-spec models, like the John Cooper Works (JCW) variants, will likely employ BMW’s new dual-clutch transmission as well.
Though many have scoffed at the concept of front-wheel drive BMWs, if the automaker can develop a great transmission (in addition to the classic six-speed manual) to match high outputs and sporty handling, the critics may have to relinquish their soapboxes.