VW GTI Interior

The Pros and Cons of Life with Volkswagen's Double Clutch Automatic Gearboxes

To the surprise of everyone but Volkswagen engineers themselves, the concept of the double-clutch automatic which this German brand pioneered has seemingly overnight become a much copied fuel saving and performance enhancing technology by the automotive competition.

Given the impressive mix of fuel economy and ultra-fast shift times it’s no wonder that models like the Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Fiat 500L, some Mitsubishi Lancer performance variants and even many Ferrari models are now using this style of gearbox. Imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery.

But what is the reality of living with a Volkswagen with a double clutch DSG automatic transmission? Thankfully VW’s engineers managed to design a much smoother operating transmission especially if you compare the German brand’s unit with similar designs found in the current Ford Focus and Dodge Dart. Both of those models suffer from annoyingly lethargic shift action at low speeds or when shifting into reverse in places like a parking lot. Oddly, the Fiat 500L we tested proved solid and capable. As for Ferrari, no one has yet handed us the keys to a California convertible so we can’t talk about its transmission.

Additionally, the DSG double clutch automatic got a bit of a reputation for being fragile when it first came out on Volkswagen models like the GTI and various vehicles equipped with the frugal and efficient TDI clean diesel motor. A lot of this was down to its initial need to have its fluid flushed regularly every 30,000 miles at not an insubstantial cost or face the real likelihood of internal mechanical failure. Thankfully in 2014 all DSG double clutch automatics sold by Volkswagen do not require fluid changes and are sealed units.

Our only caveat to potential Volkswagen buyers is that one of these exceptional double clutch automatic transmissions which operate by continually holding open the next gear with a second clutch mechanism making their shift times quicker than possible by any human is that they usually cost about $1,200 extra. Also, Volkswagen does sell some of the best manual transmissions in the industry with our personal favorites being the six speed units found in the GTI, Jetta GLI and Golf/Jetta TDI models. So if you can handle a clutch pedal we always say give a VW self shifter a try and if not then there should be no reason why one of VW’s double clutch units won’t serve any buyer perfectly.

DSG Double Clutch

Pros:

  • Easy to use in traffic.
  • Paddle shifters allow easy access to power band.
  • Upshifts happen quickly so turbocharged engines can keep supplying power when you need it.
  • When equipped with DSG the TDI motor makes a fruity rasp at upshift.

Cons:

  • Turbo lag is more evident with the DSG.
  • From a stop it can feel like it hesitates momentarily before engaging.
  • Some claim it suffers from undue harshness at low speeds compared to conventional automatics.

The Alternative: A Traditional Manual Transmission

Pros:

  1. Easy to keep motor in power band for little or no turbo lag.
  2. Transmission feel is meaty and precise.

Cons:

  1. Some claim it is a pain to have to shift and use a clutch in traffic.
  2. If you can’t handle a third pedal then you just can’t.

Comments

I liked this story. I really like the Pro and Con style and format. TN gets a lot of feedback saying the articles are too negative or too much of a love letter. This sort of avoids that. Cool.
Keep up the good work.
I own a 2013 Touran and it is a real pleasure to drive. However, while it doesn't happen always, at low speeds like slowing down to make a turn, one could feel the car momentarily trying to find the right gear to engage. Obviously,it is a design flaw; just wondering who foots the gearbox repair bills when the time comes?
I wanted to say I noticed that too I was just trying to find the right words to say it almost seems random and only at low speeds like the car shutters a little and I'm in automatic the whole time I have the S mode available I just don't use it do you have any advice. Mine is a 2011 TDI