Late next year, dual clutch gearboxes will cease to be a Volkswagen Group exclusive when Volvo introduces a similar design in their S40/V50 models. The dual clutch gearbox first appeared in the mid-1980s in some Porsche 962 endurance racers and Audi Quattro rally cars. They disappeared through most of the 1990s until a few years ago when they started appearing on some VW and Audi models. Since then they have become a popular option where they're available. Since they're essentially the same as manual gearboxes with a mechanical connection to the engine, they have all the efficiency advantages of stick shifting. However, the dual clutch layout allows for faster shifting without complete disengagement and easy automation.

The box that Volvo will use is built by Getrag while Borg-Warner supplies the Volkswagen units. Initially availability will be limited to diesel engined variants, but it will expand to gas engined units and other vehicles built from the same platform such as the European Focus, the new Freelander and the Mazda 3. Eventually the gearbox may also appear in US Ford models. The dual clutch box offers a ten percent boost in fuel economy compared to a conventional automatic transmission. Given the timing this probably means that some patents on the original dual clutch design are probably expiring which is allowing Getrag to hop on this bandwagon. Hopefully it's just a matter of time before these transmissions become more widespread.

[Source: Automotive News - subscription req'd]


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