In what ways is the dual-clutch transmission from VW better than any regular automatic?

It seems now Audi and Mercedes models are also coming with this unique transmission.

F.K., Canada

Dual-clutch transmissions are actually two automated manual transmissions, each with its own clutch (but no clutch pedal for the driver to operate). The advantages of a dual-clutch transmission are that they can provide faster, smoother gear changes, and better fuel economy and performance compared to conventional automatics. That, at least, is what manufacturers such as Volkswagen, Porsche, Ford and others say their DCTs will deliver.


How they work is that one transmission contains the odd-numbered gears (1, 3, 5) and the other has the even-numbered gears. While one transmission is shifting into 3rd gear, for example, the other is already engaging 4th gear, so shifts are supposed to be quicker and less noticeable.

In practice, however, DCTs don't always deliver on that promise.

For example, the Ford Fiesta's dual-clutch transmission proved jerky and slow to react to the throttle in our test, which you can read here. In our review of a VW Golf TDI, the six-speed dual-clutch transmission hurried into the higher gears but was leisurely about downshifting.

Are they really better? We sure didn't find them a clear leap ahead of conventional automatics in the two cases cited above. In some cars, they are smooth and responsive, but in others not so much.

Our advice is to try before you buy to see whether a DCT will suit your driving style. Don't be intimidated by the salesperson sitting next to you on the test drive. Slow down and speed up several times to get a good feel for transmission behavior. You should floor the throttle a few times from low speeds and at higher speeds to see how the transmission reacts as well as seeing how it behaves with a light throttle foot.

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Answered by Rick Popely on April 8, 2013 in I'm Just Wondering , volkswagen | Permalink

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