Automatic holy war – single clutch, dual clutch or old school torque converter?


Nowadays consumers have wide variety of options when buying a car. Of course, the more expensive it is the more money you can spend on additional equipment. This is true not just for comfort and technological devices, but also for such essential part like gearbox.

Not long ago customers had to choose only between manual and typical 4-5-speed automatic. Both options had their pros and cons. There were always two sides at war – enthusiasts claiming driving experience and regular car users who wanted just to keep rolling. Meanwhile, engineers were working hard to combine these two types of transmissions and create the best possible solution.

And they have come up with a hybrid – stickshift with automatically operated clutch. Sounds good nice, but only in theory. First devices like Toyota’s MMT, Fiat’s Dualogic and Ford’s Durashift from customers’ perspective were horrible and hopeless with unknown shifting logic and jerky operation. It’s not only cheap cars that were affected, lots of potential buyers refused to have Maserati’s first Quattroporte because it didn’t have a properly smooth gearbox.

By today the situation has improved significantly – we have a Nissan GT-R, Lamborghini Aventador and Porsche 911 Turbo S. All those sportcars are capable of blistering under three seconds 0-60 sprint, which is possible due to automatic gearboxes and four-wheel drive. While most of modern high performance cars are equipped with dual-clutch transmissions (like Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari F12, McLaren MP4-12C and many others), Lamborghini decided to make a single-clutch unit to stress Aventador’s huge power with brutal shifts, but that’s more a nontrivial move.


In the mass produced cars there are widespread dual-clutch DSG from VW, Ford’s PowerShift and TC-SST by Mitsubishi (mostly known for Lancer Evolution). Also let’s not forget about more scooter-like CVT transmissions. They can be found in Hondas, most of Mistubishis, Renault-Nissans and lower class Audi cars.

Let numbers do the talking: torque converted ATs are still in the lead (35.3% of all cars in produced 2010), CVTs were installed in 8.2% cars, double-clutch got 1.6% of share and the last one is jerky single-clutch transmission – 0.8%. Therefore customers are ready to buy cars with more efficient types of automated gearboxes, but the technology still has to be improved.

However, let’s not forget about glorious and wonderful stick shift that’s getting less and less attention and, unfortunately, love as well.




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