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      06-12-2006, 05:20 PM   #8
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Drives: 2005 545i SMG & 2006 325i
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Winter Park, FL

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Originally Posted by ksfrogman
The g/f cannot drive my 6MT E90 despite my several futile attempts at teaching her--she's simply not motivated to learn. If a SMG transmission were offered for the new E92, would that be easy for her to drive?

I have a 2005 545i with SMG, so I can speak to this.

The SMG is not a common transmission so there are a lot of misconceptions about it. I'll try and set them straight here for you.

Misconception # 1: The SMG is basically an automatic with paddle shifters.

This is false. The SMG is a true manual transmission, with a clutch that is controlled electronically. While an SMG can be placed into an automatic mode, this doesn't necessarily mean it is a suitable replacement for a person who can't drive a "stick-shift." It is a manual transmission, and it has some nuances which mimic the bahavior of a stick shift.

Misconception # 2: SMG shifts are rough.

This is a common statement I see being made, especially by BMW salespeople. It is 100% false. This statement is as absurd as saying that a stick shift is rough.

As any manual transmission owner will tell you, the smoothness of the shifts depends on the skill of the driver. Smoothing out a manual shift takes practice, finesse and timing.

One description I heard someone say about the SMG was.... that it drives like a novice on a stick shift.

My response to him was that he was driving like a novice on an SMG.

Like I said above, the SMG is a true manual transmission... and it bahaves in a similar fashion. What I mean by this is... if you want smooth shifts, you can't just drive it like an automatic. You must operate the throttle in a controlled manner during your shifts to get the smoothest response. The best tip I've heard for driving an SMG came from an article on the M5 I was reading..

In that article, the authors commented on how much they loved the M5... but that the SMG was really rough. They said that on a track it was fine, but as a daily driver it wasn't great. Then they said that the BMW engineers who were present during their test gave them a quick SMG lesson. The BMW guys gave the following explanation of how to shift for smoothest operation:

1. From a stop, accelerate in 1st gear.

2. When you are ready to shift into 2nd gear, lightly release pressure from the gas pedal. They said to keep this movement small.... instead of moving your shoe off the pedal, think of lifting your foot inside your shoe. This movement will cause the weight of the car to shift forward a bit, in preparation for your shift.

3. Click the shifter to move into 2nd gear.

4. Once the gear has engaged, press the gas pedal again to accelerate in the next gear.

Repeat the procedure into 3rd, 4th, etc...

So it's accelerate, slightly lift foot, shift gear, then accelerate again.

When you shift this way, the SMG can shift as smooth as the Steptronic.

I don't think there is an easy answer to your original question. It is true that the SMG can be placed into automatic mode. However, in automatic mode the car decides when to shift. This means that it is harder to follow the procedure I listed above... since you would have to anticipate when the car wants to shift, and then release pedal pressure before that happens. It can be done, but it takes a little practice.

That said, operating the car like I said is not necessary. You can drive the car like an automatic..... it's just going to be a little jerky on the shifts.

It could be that your g/f has trouble learning to drive the stick shift, but she might be more inclinded to learn the SMG. It's not hard, it just takes a little practice. Then again, maybe she'll never get it. I just can't answer that one for you.

I guess I will close by saying what I tell anyone who asks if the SMG is right for them. If you like driving a manual, then you'll probably like the SMG. If you are just looking for an alternative to an automatic, then I don't think the SMG is for you.