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2004 <a class=Audi TT DSG" src="http://www.weblogsinc.com/common/images/5574704258282236.jpg?0.6822268066639015" align="top" border="1" height="132" hspace="1" vspace="4" width="250" />2005 <a class=Honda Civic Hybrid 250" src="http://www.weblogsinc.com/common/images/9276375527448363.jpg?0.06101462459747753" align="top" border="1" height="132" hspace="1" vspace="4" width="209" />

Transmission specialists are reporting that sales of CVT transmissions will increase in the U.S. and Japan while dual-clutch transmissions, also called direct shift gearbox (DSG) transmissions, are taking over Europe. CVT trannies offer better fuel economy gains but have trouble handling the torque of larger engines. DSG transmissions, the development of which has spearheaded by Volkswagen, are cheaper to produce and offer the driver a choice between an automatic mode or a more engaging clutchless shifting mode. DSGs are also lighter and fit easily into spaces engineered for a common manual transmission.

Read on for my personal rant about this debate.



I?ve driven a Honda Civic Hybrid with a CVT and an Audi TT with a DSG. The fact that these two cars are so different illustrates the point that these two transmissions are suited for two completely different categories of cars. A CVT transmission makes sense for a hybrid or small economy car because of its ability to keep engine speed at its most efficient point. DSG transmissions, however, are suited for larger cars that were designed without compromises. A DSG offers automatic shifting that?s smoother than any normal automatic could hope to achieve and a manual mode that allows the driver to perform clutchless shifts faster than a human hand. I see both of these technologies carving out their niches in opposite ends of the market, with CVT transmissions appearing in fuel efficient vehicles and DSG transmissions showing up in luxury and high-end sports cars.  






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  • 16 Comments
      • 9 Years Ago
      I think the dual-clutch tranny is the superior of the two technologies. They are a natural evolution of the good old reliable manual trannys, but with some slick wizardry. No need to reinvent the wheel here. CVTs on the other hand, have technological hurdles to overcome and their current implementations are silly, as John said above. Why do manufacturers insist on putting artifical steps/stops in a CVT? That completely defeats the purpose. And the sensation does require an open mind. I know the biggest complaint about the Nissan Murano is the CVT. Some people just never get used to it and decide to dump it for something with a conventional auto.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Yes, DSG actually refers to VW's technology, but as Kevin points out, VW's really the only one offering this transmission in North America. It's quickly becoming like "Kleenex" where DSG will be the name of all dual-clutch transmission by the time they get to market in North America. A CVT has been used by Audi with a V6, but it used a chains instead of belts to handle the extra power. Apparently chain-driven CVTs are much more expensive to produce. It's apparent that CVTs are becoming popular in the U.S. I just hope that dual-clutch transmissions begin showing up here as well, as they are a much better alternative to manumatics, which, I believe, are instruments of Satan designed to irritate me. Also, programming "steps" in a CVT transmission is silly. Basically they're little jolts at where the shift points would be to make a driver feel like he's not driving a big golf cart with no gears. I'd rather just enjoy the technology of the CVT and the smooth acceleration.
      • 9 Years Ago
      I always wonder who will pay for the transmission rebuild/replacement when this type of "evolution" goes into large production. I remember when GM put the turbo 200's into Delta 88s after starting useing them in the Monza. Thousands of people had to replace these puny slushboxes at their expense because some craphead engineer thought they would hold up in a larger car. Those who do not remember history are destined to repeat it. Got 300 horsepower? Give me an old turbo 400 any day.
      • 9 Years Ago
      md, Not to worry. The at least one manufature has herd our cries. The new BMW M5, which was originally designed for a 7-speed SMG only, is coming to America with a conventional 6-speed manual because of our complaints. The way I see it, a car does not really have to be fast to be a fun car. A car that is fun to drive is a car that makes that driver beleive he is going much faster than he really is. My girlfriend's Audi TT with DSG can build speed and corner much faster than my '89 b16A powered civic, but it is much less enjoyable at the same speed. Don't get me wrong if I was taking a car to the track it would be the SMG or DSG, but for me if I am driving for pleasure I like to be the one who rev matches for downshifts.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Thanks, guys!
      • 9 Years Ago
      So, inform me then: what kind of performance hit does VW's DSG cause? Does it run through a torque converter like automatics with gear selectors? BMW's SMG offers the same efficiency as a manual transmission, right? Isn't it just a clutchless manual with rev matching done by a computer? Sorry, I'm pretty naive with all these new terms. All these branded names don't help, either!
      • 9 Years Ago
      Remember Audi's Multitronic? It was mated to the A8's 4.2L v8 because it was smoother, fuel economy wasn't the primary benefit. It also featured pre-programmed "steps" for a tiptronic-like shifting interface. It's legitimate to use "DSG" here because, to my knowledge, VW is the only one who has a dual clutch gearbox. If you're thinking of the BMW SMG, it's a completely different monster.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Yeah, but what does all this mean for those of us who prefer the old fashioned third pedal? Manuals offer better performance and economy in many cases, but now that there are autos that do those things what will become of the clutch operated gearbox? I for one prefer having a clutch, and it seems as if they are slowly disapearing.
      • 9 Years Ago
      The benefits of DSG are much quicker shifting (preformance) economy of a manual, ease of an automatic, and less cost than an automatic. I've driven several DSG vehicles, and I can say there is no better transmission out there. The only complaints I've ever heard are that it won't hold a hill at a stop (of course not, it's just like having the clutch in on a manual) and there is no engagment feeling when you put it in drive. The shifts are lightining quick in auto or manual and unlike the SMG units there is no low speed lugging. Another downside to CVT's is that they can only handle so much power, that's why you won't see them in the Audi's with the 3.2l engine, 255hp is too much for them. Also, repair costs on CVT's are high, my dad owns a transmission shop and can't wait for the new ford's to go out of warranty, he figures it's a gold mine for him :)
      • 9 Years Ago
      Chris : DSG is a form of electronically controlled manual transmission (like SMG), except two input shafts are always engaged at the same time, allowing smoother and quicker shifts without loss (like an automatic) when selecting the next gear up/down. Since it's an electronically controlled transmission, it can be programmed to behave like an automatic. ...at least that's my understanding from what I read when it was introduced.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Actually a DSG Audi A3 is quicker than a manual, since it shifts so fast and the design doesn't waste power like a real auto. It's a very different vehicle to drive and an amazing blast.
      • 9 Years Ago
      A CVT is great if you want a boorish bland ride. Not that I like automatics in the first place, but a CVT could not me more disconected. That's why there's the option on many CVT's to have the set ratios. So the driver can still give some input and feel somewhat in control.
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