“BMW has invited itself to a party that Porsche started. Someone trolling through patent filings found drawings submitted by BMW for two slightly different takes on a seven-speed manual transmission. The first take is a more conventional setup that provides an honest clutch pedal. The second variant uses a shift-by-wire system to swap gears through an electromechanical actuator. To prevent drivers from accidentally engaging an engine-damaging gear in such a closely spaced pattern, both rely on an electromagnetic fluid inside a shifting module that can change viscosity to prevent the ‘lever’ from making a shift.
According to the filing, the system can work with up to eight(!) gears. It isn’t clear if, even in the system with the clutch, the gear lever is actually attached to any of those gears.
What’s also notable about the drawings is the shift pattern. Porsche’s seven-speed shift pattern in the 991-series 911 places reverse and the odd gears above, the even gears below. But the BMW pattern in the drawing places reverse and seventh gear in opposing positions at the ends of the axis that is normally, entirely, neutral. Also, the shift pattern is drawn on what looks more like an iDrive-shaped stick, not the usual BMW manual transmission knob, nor the stubby dual-clutch stick as found in the BMW M6 whose reverse gear is still located above neutral.
Who knows if or when we’ll ever see it, but it’s encouraging just to know that advanced, row-your-own transmissions are still on drawing boards somewhere.”