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BMW 3 Series eight-speed auto

Given BMW’s reputation for building the ‘ultimate driving machine’, you’d have thought a manual gearbox-equipped BMW 3 Series would be our pick.

Given BMW’s reputation for building the ‘ultimate driving machine’, you’d have thought a manual gearbox-equipped BMW 3 Series would be our pick. However, while the light and precise six-speed manual is good, the optional eight-speed auto is better. It’s not cheap, but it does promise lower running costs thanks to its lower CO2 emissions and stronger fuel economy.

More importantly it enhances the 3 Series’ already excellent driving experience. Like the best torque convertor autos it smoothly slurs gears for the ultimate in relaxed motoring. Yet when you want to have fun the transmission responds with the quick crispness of the best twin-clutch units. The pricier Sport Auto gearbox features the same internals but delivers even faster shifts and comes with a paddleshift set up.

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