The most exciting breakthrough in road car gearbox technology for almost 100 years is taking to Britain’s roads this month. Appropriately enough, the brand famous for Vorsprung durch Technik is pioneering the ingenious new manual and automatic hybrid transmission, which makes its debut in the latest version of the Audi TT.
Since Panhard et Lavassor invented the first gearbox in 1895, progress in the field of car transmission technology has been very slow – the automatic gearbox design widely used today, for example, essentially dates back almost 100 years to 1905. The innovative new gearbox featured first by Audi is arguably the most significant advance since that date. It betters the quickest of today’s manual and sequential manual gearboxes with a lightning fast manual shift that takes just 0.02 seconds and, uniquely, never interrupts the engine’s power delivery. At the flick of a lever it can also be transformed into a full automatic, without the drain on power output or fuel economy normally demanded in return for the convenience of ‘hands-free’ shifting.
This remarkable new departure is the Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) – the world’s first double clutch gearbox that makes a manual transmission operate automatically and brings the huge advantage of uninterrupted power delivery during shifting thanks to advanced electro-hydraulic controls and the alternate use of each of the two clutches.
This major step forward means that for the first time, sequential gear-shifting can be achieved without the ‘shunt’ which dulls the performance of more basic single clutch systems.
Another unique highlight of this state-of-the-art transmission system is the Formula One-style ‘Launch control’ feature. Appearing for the first time in a production road car, Launch Control helps the driver to extract the very best performance from the car by automatically selecting optimum gear change points under full acceleration.
Audi has never shied away from a challenge to the status quo. It was, for example, the first car manufacturer to introduce quattro four-wheel-drive, as featured by the TT, back in the 1980s, and more recently it has flouted convention with the unique and exceptionally efficient multitronic continuously variable automatic transmission (‘CVT’) for its mid-range automatic models.
Britain is the first market in the world to offer the new Audi TT featuring the Direct Shift Gearbox, as Audi has produced right-hand drive models a month ahead of cars bound for its domestic German customers.