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F30 / F31 / F32 / F33 (2012 - current)
The sixth generation 3 series, chassis code F30. 2013 model year 328i and 335i sedans now in production. Read the F30 frequently asked question thread for all your basic question and dive into all the details in the ultimate F30 information thread.

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  #1  
Old 04-01-2013, 04:47 PM
CalfeeRider CalfeeRider is offline
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Question Transmission: MT vs. Steptronic vs "sport"

I've owned only one BMW with an automatic transmission (1988 735iL, which ate transmissions like 787s eat Li ion batteries!) My'83 533, '84 325e, '99 328i, and '06 330i have all had manuals. I'm vacillating between ordering and waiting 3 months for the 6MT I'd prefer or just picking an 8 spd Steptronic from dealer inventory since they're ALL equipped that day.

In reality, although I'm a "row your own" guy, I've never been that impressed with BMW's gearboxes compared with the RX7s and Honda sports cars I've owned, each of which had precise short throw shift levers. However, I've NEVER liked torque converters that shift when they want to, not when YOU want them to. I've test-driven a few recent BMWs with automatics, but not long enough to get a sense whether when driven in sport mode the transmission responds to my inputs, whether downshifting into a corner or upshifting on the way out or in spirited acceleration. So, I'm curious: those of you who've usually driven row-your-own gearboxes and purchased an F30 with automatic, are you disappointed or pleased?

One other question: is the "adaptive" transmission that comes with the paddle shifters the same transmission as comes by default? If I find a car equipped with one on a dealer lot am I likely to detect any real differences between the two?
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  #2  
Old 04-01-2013, 05:39 PM
sr5959 sr5959 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CalfeeRider View Post
I've owned only one BMW with an automatic transmission (1988 735iL, which ate transmissions like 787s eat Li ion batteries!) My'83 533, '84 325e, '99 328i, and '06 330i have all had manuals. I'm vacillating between ordering and waiting 3 months for the 6MT I'd prefer or just picking an 8 spd Steptronic from dealer inventory since they're ALL equipped that day.

In reality, although I'm a "row your own" guy, I've never been that impressed with BMW's gearboxes compared with the RX7s and Honda sports cars I've owned, each of which had precise short throw shift levers. However, I've NEVER liked torque converters that shift when they want to, not when YOU want them to. I've test-driven a few recent BMWs with automatics, but not long enough to get a sense whether when driven in sport mode the transmission responds to my inputs, whether downshifting into a corner or upshifting on the way out or in spirited acceleration. So, I'm curious: those of you who've usually driven row-your-own gearboxes and purchased an F30 with automatic, are you disappointed or pleased?

One other question: is the "adaptive" transmission that comes with the paddle shifters the same transmission as comes by default? If I find a car equipped with one on a dealer lot am I likely to detect any real differences between the two?
I think you should get a manual; no auto has the feel i think you're looking for.
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  #3  
Old 04-01-2013, 05:55 PM
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MMME30W MMME30W is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CalfeeRider View Post
I've owned only one BMW with an automatic transmission (1988 735iL, which ate transmissions like 787s eat Li ion batteries!) My'83 533, '84 325e, '99 328i, and '06 330i have all had manuals. I'm vacillating between ordering and waiting 3 months for the 6MT I'd prefer or just picking an 8 spd Steptronic from dealer inventory since they're ALL equipped that day.

In reality, although I'm a "row your own" guy, I've never been that impressed with BMW's gearboxes compared with the RX7s and Honda sports cars I've owned, each of which had precise short throw shift levers. However, I've NEVER liked torque converters that shift when they want to, not when YOU want them to. I've test-driven a few recent BMWs with automatics, but not long enough to get a sense whether when driven in sport mode the transmission responds to my inputs, whether downshifting into a corner or upshifting on the way out or in spirited acceleration. So, I'm curious: those of you who've usually driven row-your-own gearboxes and purchased an F30 with automatic, are you disappointed or pleased?

One other question: is the "adaptive" transmission that comes with the paddle shifters the same transmission as comes by default? If I find a car equipped with one on a dealer lot am I likely to detect any real differences between the two?
If *you* enjoy shifting an MT, it sounds like you should order one.

An AT is never going to give you that foot and hand control feeling that you get in a MT.

The F30 AT is great; responsive, smooth, efficient, effortless; hell, it's probably quicker than an MT. For me though? Nah.
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  #4  
Old 04-01-2013, 06:07 PM
Supermax Supermax is offline
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F30 AT is the best AT I've driven, I think. Only did it briefly so far on test drives, but it is truly great. When it comes to AT's, it's about as good as it gets.

It's nowhere near as fun as a MT though

I would absolutely go with the MT if I didn't have to sit in rush hour traffic every day.
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  #5  
Old 04-01-2013, 06:15 PM
Supermax Supermax is offline
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Originally Posted by CalfeeRider View Post
One other question: is the "adaptive" transmission that comes with the paddle shifters the same transmission as comes by default? If I find a car equipped with one on a dealer lot am I likely to detect any real differences between the two?
I think you mean the sport transmission. I believe the only difference is the paddle shifters.

I think there's some conspiracy on these forums, because when I wanted to confirm that, everybody just ignored the question....kind of like here.....

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  #6  
Old 04-01-2013, 06:38 PM
HokieXDriver HokieXDriver is offline
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At least according to the user manual, the sport AT in manual mode will not shift unless you request it. Not even at redline.
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  #7  
Old 04-01-2013, 07:08 PM
namelessman namelessman is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CalfeeRider View Post
So, I'm curious: those of you who've usually driven row-your-own gearboxes and purchased an F30 with automatic, are you disappointed or pleased?

One other question: is the "adaptive" transmission that comes with the paddle shifters the same transmission as comes by default? If I find a car equipped with one on a dealer lot am I likely to detect any real differences between the two?
My F30 328i is my first AT, I am pleasantly surprised by its ZF's nimble shifts, and BMW's mating of this ZF to the engine power deliveries. I don't have the sports transmission with paddles, so I can't comment on that. As a lifetime MT driver, the one pet peeve for AT(probably on any AT) is that, instead of original brakes lasting 90k+, now I would need brakes at 20-30k(I don't use AT manual mode that much).
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  #8  
Old 04-01-2013, 07:30 PM
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Orient330iNYC Orient330iNYC is online now
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the at shifts faster and smoother than any manual tranny could. it also gets better gas mileage. 0-60 is on par or better than the MT. it is one of the most refined and technologically advanced automatic transmissions available. it will rev match your downshift, skip gears when needed, things ATs could never do.

......

I still got the 6mt even though i live in manhattan and sometimes have to deal with traffic that has me moving two blocks in 30 minutes on an incline. Why? when i had my 6AT E90 with PPK and PE, i was.... bored.... i test drove an 8AT F30 and was.... bored.
if you feel the way I do, get the 6MT. the slight annoyance of rowing in traffic is far offset by nailing a perfect heel toe downshift. or not nailing it, and trying again at the next corner.
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  #9  
Old 04-01-2013, 07:44 PM
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mr_clueless mr_clueless is offline
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Originally Posted by Orient330iNYC View Post
the at shifts faster and smoother than any manual tranny could. it also gets better gas mileage. 0-60 is on par or better than the MT.
Depends on which car. For the 328 manual is still better than auto.
http://www.bmwusa.com/Standard/Conte...fications.aspx
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  #10  
Old 04-01-2013, 07:57 PM
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BmwFlooner BmwFlooner is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Orient330iNYC View Post
if you feel the way I do, get the 6MT. the slight annoyance of rowing in traffic is far offset by nailing a perfect heel toe downshift. or not nailing it, and trying again at the next corner.
This. I seriously debated getting the AT after driving a MT for many years. But I like the constant skill tests presented by a MT too much to give it up.
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  #11  
Old 04-01-2013, 08:21 PM
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slave2gravity slave2gravity is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Orient330iNYC View Post
the slight annoyance of rowing in traffic is far offset by nailing a perfect heel toe downshift. or not nailing it, and trying again at the next corner.
Couldn't agree more and a 3mo wait for the car you want is far better than a several year relationship with the car you merely settled for.

I've now extensively test driven both autos (good luck finding a manual on the lot) and can compare it to the e46's SMG and the improved e90's dual clutch, and at the end of the day I don't like them over a proper manual, and you probably won't, either. If you are going to get an AT, DEFINITELY at least pop for the $500 paddle shifters. The trans itself is the same, but it's nice not having to take your hands off the wheel to swat at a fake shifter to change gears.

Switching between driving modes (eco, comfort, sport / sport +) shows a significant change in transmission characteristics. For example, at freeway speeds in eco / comfort, the tach is a good 700 rpm lower than when in sport for the same speed. Shifts themselves are also lazier, but totally smooth and almost transparent. In Sport settings, they come quick, but not neck snapping quick / abrupt like the last two gen SMG setups on the M3. I should add that I"m not a huge fan of a 7 or 8 spd AT with paddles only because that's a lot of shifting around and I inevitably forget that there's another gear or two available. That would probably go away with time and acclimation, but that's always been my experience driving paddle shift cars with 7+ gears.

In terms of absolute performance, yes the ATs are probably faster based on instrumented tests I've read, and that's why today's sports cars are disproportionately sold with them vs. standard manuals. Here's my rebuttal to that - who cares about the extra 2 tenths? The only place you'll see that is on the racetrack, and as someone who spends a lot of time taking a motorcycle to the track, I care less about the absolute fastest time I can set as an extension of equipment and setup (i.e. manual vs. dual clutch paddles) and more about improving over my relative time on each outing. I won't feel any more pleased with myself b/c I took aa paddle shift car around a track a couple tenths quicker than I could take the same car with a manual, but I feel immensely satistifed every time I take a tenth out of a lap in whatever I'm driving / riding. So given that, I'd rather have the additional enjoyment / involvement of a proper three pedal setup.

And so, with the end of that novella, I now wait out (not so patiently) the next 8 weeks until my new 335i M Sport is delievered with a proper stick.
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  #12  
Old 04-01-2013, 09:03 PM
Rhinozeroone Rhinozeroone is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Supermax View Post
I think you mean the sport transmission. I believe the only difference is the paddle shifters.

I think there's some conspiracy on these forums, because when I wanted to confirm that, everybody just ignored the question....kind of like here.....

The differences I know of are as you said the paddles, the console shifter itself (different shifter and leather boot as opposed to plastic) and I've read that it has different software mapping for 200ms shifts. The physical transmission, I have read, is the same.
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  #13  
Old 04-01-2013, 09:12 PM
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If you want impressive automatic engineering (regular automatic, manu-matic or paddle shifting whenever you want) go Sport Auto. The shifts are fast, smooth, and responsive.
If you want to work at making your BMW go and have more interactive control, get the 6MT.
For me it was hard not getting a manual transmission because ever since I was a teenager it's been stick...good thing I still have my old car...didn't bug me driving thru DC beltway traffic or cross country highways.
Good luck.
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  #14  
Old 04-02-2013, 12:54 PM
terryn terryn is offline
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I've driven manuals all my life. I'm getting the sport AT on the 328 I ordered. MT is not offered with xDrive, and I didn't want to pay 3K more to get it on the 335 (after accounting for included options such as moonroof and Xenons). So I added the sport AT option to minimize chances of MT regrets.

I was very impressed with the shifting of the non-sport AT I test drove. I decided to give this AT a chance. The Auto certainly shifts faster than I do, and I will have the paddles for control. Only time will tell if I miss the clutch and that ebb and surge of shifting a manual.

I think this is as much about driving habits as anything. I'd like to think I am not so set in my ways that I can't try something different. I'll let you know how it goes. I expect that the AT will do smoother gear changes such as downshifting while going around corners. It's possible I may find that I like it even better than a stick. It'll be easier to drink my beer while cruising around (kidding). Maybe it'll be easier to hold hands with that blonde babe in the passenger seat (dreaming).
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  #15  
Old 04-02-2013, 01:40 PM
Robert A Robert A is offline
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Look at my sig -- we've had cars in common. All of mine have been MTs as well.

I've driven several F30s with automatics. They're "fine" just as everyone says. Then I drove a 335i/MT, and that car talked to me.

I haven't bought one yet, but if I do, I will seriously consider getting an MT again.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CalfeeRider View Post
I've owned only one BMW with an automatic transmission (1988 735iL,
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  #16  
Old 04-02-2013, 01:42 PM
samualcc samualcc is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Supermax View Post
I think you mean the sport transmission. I believe the only difference is the paddle shifters.

I think there's some conspiracy on these forums, because when I wanted to confirm that, everybody just ignored the question....kind of like here.....

I think the problem is we don't have official BMW documentation about the real differences between the standard AT and the Sport AT.

My own personal experience after having a loaner with the standard auto is that the sport auto seems more aggressive when pushed hard. Especially with the paddle shifters in sport mode. Some of the shifts are down right abusive feeling and incredibly fast for an auto. If I didn't know I would have thought I was driving my friends DCT 335IS

In comfort mode they seem the same. Only when you start using the paddles do I really appreciate just how fast this transmission shifts.
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  #17  
Old 04-02-2013, 02:09 PM
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lqaddict lqaddict is offline
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I had a z4 with an 8-speed sport transmission (flappy paddles) while my car was in the shop for repairs.
I cannot phantom the idea of why BMW will fit a slash box in it, but besides that point - driving that car in manual mode became a chore and gimmick after first 10 miles in it. I couldn't tell which gear I was in without looking at the cluster, and on few occasions downshifted too many gears at once to end up whiplashing myself. So for the rest of the rental affair it stayed in "D".
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  #18  
Old 04-02-2013, 02:17 PM
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mr_clueless mr_clueless is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lqaddict View Post
I had a z4 with an 8-speed sport transmission (flappy paddles) while my car was in the shop for repairs.
I cannot phantom the idea of why BMW will fit a slash box in it, but besides that point - driving that car in manual mode became a chore and gimmick after first 10 miles in it. I couldn't tell which gear I was in without looking at the cluster, and on few occasions downshifted too many gears at once to end up whiplashing myself. So for the rest of the rental affair it stayed in "D".
They're designed to wean the manual addict off the manual, not to actually work.

In other words, that option is present so a manual addict might think "I get the best of both worlds" and decides to buy the car. Once that is done, he/she tries the manual mode only to get frustrated and eventually becomes an obedient auto driver.
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Old 04-02-2013, 02:24 PM
terryn terryn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr_clueless View Post
They're designed to wean the manual addict off the manual, not to actually work.

In other words, that option is present so a manual addict might think "I get the best of both worlds" and decides to buy the car. Once that is done, he/she tries the manual mode only to get frustrated and eventually becomes an obedient auto driver.
uh -oh a devious and cunning plan.

I was thinking I would most likely end up letting the sport Auto upshift for me and mostly just use the paddles for downshifting.

It's a difficult thing to predict with just test drives. It will take a few months driving to know for sure. But I expect that what many have already said is true, you really can't go wrong with either the MT or AT.
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  #20  
Old 04-02-2013, 02:48 PM
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mr_clueless mr_clueless is offline
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Originally Posted by terryn View Post
uh -oh a devious and cunning plan.

I was thinking I would most likely end up letting the sport Auto upshift for me and mostly just use the paddles for downshifting.

It's a difficult thing to predict with just test drives. It will take a few months driving to know for sure. But I expect that what many have already said is true, you really can't go wrong with either the MT or AT.
And by offering an MT as a no-cost option (as opposed to being $1000-1500 cheaper) BMW is pretty much testing how many enthusiasts remain. They've pretty much gotten rid of the financial and performance incentive for getting a manual.

Without an MT, for me at least the driving experience is halved. (I may have to eat those words some day, but not yet.) I can live with the car, but it's not as much fun and I'll find myself fantasizing about driving a manual. I don't think I've ever fantasized about wanting an auto in my car. (I might if I were to develop a condition that makes shifting a difficult ordeal.)
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  #21  
Old 04-02-2013, 02:51 PM
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slave2gravity slave2gravity is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr_clueless View Post
I can live with the car, but it's not as much fun and I'll find myself fantasizing about driving a manual. I don't think I've ever fantasized about wanting an auto in my car. (I might if I were to develop a condition that makes shifting a difficult ordeal.)
Its funny you say that, because every time I fantasize about my new car, it's always me rocking the shifter back in forth in the neutral position before sliding the shifter into 1st for the first time and feeling that nice little "snick" of engagement.

The writing is on the wall for manuals, but I'm going to hold on to the very last, bitter end!
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  #22  
Old 04-02-2013, 07:22 PM
samualcc samualcc is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slave2gravity View Post
Its funny you say that, because every time I fantasize about my new car, it's always me rocking the shifter back in forth in the neutral position before sliding the shifter into 1st for the first time and feeling that nice little "snick" of engagement.

The writing is on the wall for manuals, but I'm going to hold on to the very last, bitter end!
If you read only the bold sections of your post above, it ends up being extremely hilarious.
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  #23  
Old 04-02-2013, 07:27 PM
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slave2gravity slave2gravity is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samualcc View Post
If you read only the bold sections of your post above, it ends up being extremely hilarious.


Well played, sir. Definitely NOT the first time my words have been misconstrued...
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  #24  
Old 04-02-2013, 07:38 PM
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lqaddict lqaddict is offline
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Manuals might be on the verge of disappearance but I'd be damned, I hear more often than not: " oh man, you got a stick shift, I wish..." Complete the dots, and all I am thinking "why didn't you get a stick shift" but I am not here to impose it upon people
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  #25  
Old 04-02-2013, 08:29 PM
Donjhen Donjhen is offline
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I have a 328i manual. I love it and enjoy it much more than the auto I had for several days. It seemed like the automatic was constantly shifting. And the sound bugged me. The car seemed to gasp with each shift. I couldn't get used to it
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