Manual transmissions are sporty (more), automatic transmissions comfortable but thirsty.

Books can be filled with prejudices about transmission options. And then there are also dual clutch transmissions, CVTs and automated shifts.

And now that: Mercedes and VW want to offer new series only with double clutch systems. This marked the end of the repair-friendly and inexpensive handset. Even today, of the 5838 models, only 1870 are available with a classic gearshift.

BILD gives a brief overview of which gearboxes are popular, what advantages and disadvantages they have and how problems can be avoided.

Manual transmission

Classic manual gearbox: previously there was almost no alternative, now a discontinued model

Photo: Roman Raetzke / AUTO BILD

The manual transmission is the oldest form of power transmission from Motor to the wheels through a gearbox. A mechanism is built into the multi-stage gear train, which is connected to the gearshift lever by a linkage or a cable.

The lever actuates so-called shift sleeves, which establish the connection between the input and output shafts. Before the driver shifts, the power flow must be interrupted by a clutch. While three- and four-speed manual transmissions were common in the past, modern cars usually have five or six gears.

This will prevent damage to the transmission

Greetings from the gearbox: That’s what you say when it cracks out of the gear train because the driver has treated it incorrectly. However, the cause of defects can also be of a technical nature.

The clearest signs of gearbox damage are oil stains. If the lubricant does not come from the engine but from the transmission, the car should be taken to the workshop as quickly as possible.

Other warning signs are unusual, especially howling noises, restless driving behavior or jerking off. Even if gears jump out or are difficult to engage, there is a risk of trouble.

Double clutch transmission (DKG, DSC etc.)

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In 2003, VW introduced the dual clutch transmission in large-scale production under the name DSG (direct shift transmission)

Photo: Ronald Sassen / AUTO BILD

In the dual clutch transmission, two automated sub-transmissions are each equipped with a clutch. The uneven gears are in one sub-transmission, the even gears in the other.

Depending on the speed and speed, electronics control an actuator in the transmission housing and change gears not only more comfortably than manual shifting, but also faster and more efficiently.

Means: VW models with DSG are more economical. VW wants to sell Tiguan and Passat exclusively with DSG from 2023.

Converter transmission

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On Mercedes models, the gear steps are set using a lever on the steering wheel

Photo: Christoph Boerries / AUTO BILD

The converter transmission is also called a torque converter. The classic form of the automatic was introduced by Oldsmobile in the USA in 1939 under the name Hydramatic and had four speed levels.

Inside the bell housing there are various planetary gears, the number of which form the gears. Multi-disc clutches ensure the frictional connection of the planetary sets between the input and output shaft.

The control was hydraulic until the 80s. In modern automobiles, the clutches are operated electrically through hydraulic valves and control is electronic.


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CVT stands for “Continuously Variable Transmission”, which translates as: continuously variable transmission

Photo: Hans-Joachim Mau / AUTO BILD

CVT refers to a continuously variable transmission. This constantly adapts its gear ratio to the current situation and has no fixed speed levels.

In 1958 it went into series production at DAF as the Variomatic. The main component is a variator. This consists of displaceable pairs of conical pulleys on which V-belts or chains run. One pair of conical pulleys is connected to the drive, the other to the motor.

By moving one conical disk on the shaft while the other conical disks are fixed, a stepless transmission ratio is created depending on the speed. At Audi, a CVT is used as a multitronic in longitudinal engine models with front-wheel drive.

Automated manual transmission

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Automated manual transmissions are used, for example, in high-powered BMW models

Photo: Lena Willgalis / AUTO BILD

Automated manual transmissions (ASG) are installed in both small and sports cars. For example, M models from BMW have sequential manual options as an option Transmission (SMG). The Smart Fortwo was equipped with an automated six-speed gearbox as standard.

In principle, an ASG corresponds to a manual control that is expanded to include an automatic control. Instead of the driver, hydraulic cylinders and electric servomotors work together with the control unit to change gears.


In addition to the design and engine, the transmission is one of the most emotional components of a car. Whether this is commanded by hand or it switches automatically has split the PS regular table for ages. There will soon be one less point of contention there. New combustion engine series such as the next VW Tiguan will only be offered with DKG. As a result, the technical diversity and a defining difference to e-cars are disappearing. They have always had no gearshift.

Gearbox comparison for sports cars: which version is faster?

To illustrate the effects of the transmission, here are the measured values ​​from different transmissions in three sporty models.

► Audi R8: The super sports car from Audi with 525 hp was available with three types of transmission: with 6-speed manual transmission, the automated R tronic manual transmission with six stages and the 7-speed S tronic dual clutch transmission.

The comparison of the AUTO BILD measured values ​​shows clear advantages in terms of acceleration and consumption for the S-tronic version.

R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI quattro R8 5.2 FSI quattro R tronic R8 5.2 FSI quattro S tronic
Construction year 2010 2009 2013
Number of gears 6th 6th 7th
0-100 km / h (s) 3.9 4.1 3.6
Test consumption (l / 100 km) 16.1 15.2 14.6
Weight (kg) 1920 1910 [1945
Vmax (km / h) 316 316 314

* Factory specification

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Audi R8

Photo: Toni Bader / AUTO BILD

Porsche 718: There are also many arguments in favor of the 7-speed double clutch (PDK) for the Boxster (Roadster) and Cayman (Coupé), also known as the Porsche 718.

The six-cylinder boxer with 400 hp and PDK sprints much more quickly than the six-speed manual switch; but it is 6 km / h faster at the top. In the AUTO BILD test round, the consumption was identical.

718 Boxster GTS 4.0 718 Cayman GTS 4.0 PDK
Construction year 2020 2020
Number of gears 6th 7th
0-100 km / h (s) 4.3 3.6
Test consumption (l / 100 km) 10.4 10.4
Weight (kg) 1700 1730
Vmax (km / h) 294 288

* Factory specification

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Porsche 718

Photo: manufacturer

VW Golf R: The powerful Golf with a 300 hp four-cylinder turbo engine and permanent all-wheel drive (4Motion) could be ordered with a direct shift gearbox (DSG) or traditional manual gearbox.

Both models have six gears each. VW introduced the DSG in large-scale production. Consumption, acceleration and comfort speak in favor of the DSG here too.

The Golf R with DSG accelerates faster and uses less fuel.

Golf R 4Motion BMT Golf R 4Motion BMT DSG
Construction year 2016 2015
Number of gears 6th 6th
0-100 km / h (s) 5.5 4.8
Test consumption (l / 100 km) 9.8 9.1
Weight (kg) 1990 1980
Vmax (km / h) 250 250

* Factory specification

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VW Golf R

Photo: Toni Bader / AUTO BILD

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You can read more exciting auto topics in the current issue of AUTO BILD

Photo: Auto Bild


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