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Welcome to the final installment of Trans Wars, a three-part miniseries exploring the automatic transmission. So far we’ve compared torque-converter and dual-clutch units, but these two gearboxes aren’t the only ones on the market today.
In yesterday’s installment of Trans Wars we explored the benefits and downsides of conventional automatic gearboxes, ones that feature fluid-filled torque converters. This type of transmission has been around for more than 50 years; it works well and has pretty much become the industry standard.
Join us for a three-part miniseries exploring the ins and outs of automatic transmissions. For the first installment we celebrate heritage by tipping our hats to a great motoring tradition that’s as American as baseball, apple pie and Oldsmobile. This is Trans Wars!
Raise your hand if you like functional small cars with grossly overpowered engines. Now that all of your primary upper-body appendages are above your heads, use your non-dominant hand to follow the jump and learn about Volkswagen’s latest fun-machine, the 2015 Golf R.
In the quest to find a new car, there are a lot of questions that need to be asked. Questions about cargo room, technology, options, luxuries and other various elements will come up more than a few times while shopping for a new car. However, from the car driver’s perspective, there are just three main questions: How comfortable is the driving experience? How fun is it to drive? How good is the car on fuel?
A major factor in answering those three questions has to do with the right transmission. Let’s face it, manual transmissions aren’t for everyone. They require familiarity and a level of perfection to get just right. With a traditional automatic transmission, drivers have been able to experience a fairly comfortable, yet less engaging experience. Still, an automatic transmission can leave any driving enthusiast unsatisfied. Luckily, progress has been made in the world of automatic transmissions that can help alleviate those woes.
Dual-clutch transmissions are becoming increasingly popular offerings by all automakers in the search to save every drop of fuel. But the auto-boxes have another benefit: not only do they shift faster than a traditional slushbox, they easily out-match your best manual-transmission heel-toe efforts.
Combine those two qualities and you’ve got a solution that will please the greenies and performance junkies, so it’s no surprise that everyone from Hyundai to Ford are now offering dual-clutch gearboxes.
But long before it was popular, Volkswagen introduced its DCT, the DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox). Debuting in the golf R32 and Audi TT in 2003, VW is now celebrating 3.5 million DSG units produced. Initially offered for mid-range vehicles, VW has since developed versions compatible with smaller engines, and more recently with high-performance large-displacement engines for the Audi brand.
Almost all of the DSG units were manufactured at the automaker’s Kassel Plant in Germany, while just over 100,000 have been manufactured in China.
British automotive tabloid AutoExpress is reporting that Volkswagen‘s long awaited two-seat sports car has been approved for production.
Designers have reportedly stayed true to the Bluesport concept that previewed the car at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show. The car is expected to weigh in at around 2600 pounds, roughly the same weight as a Mazda MX-5. The roadster will be powered by the familiar 1.4TFSI four-cylinder making 170 horsepower, as well as the 200 horsepower 2.0TFSI from the GTI. Staying true to the Bluesport concept car, the new roadster will also offer a 178 horsepower 2.0L diesel engine. All three choices will be available with a DSG or 6-speed manual gearbox. VW’s new sports car should hit showrooms in mid-2013.
Since 99% of us will never actually see a Bugatti Veyron, we’ll have to make do with various substitutes; photographs, sound clips, magazine articles and the like. More incredible than merely seeing one in the flesh is seeing what awesome feats the Veyron can accomplish. Fortunately, a National Geographic doucmentary available on Youtube will let you see firsthand just what the car can do.
We all know the statistics that have been constantly thrown around; 0-60 in 2.5 seconds, a top speed of 253 miles per hour, 1001 horsepower. But one of the most incredible things is seeing how the car brakes. Watch in Part 2 of the clip as the Veyron slows down from some absurd speed, to a complete stop in a matter of seconds. Yes, the Veyron is capable of making going slow cool, but you already knew that based on how many owners drive their exotics slowly, to make sure everybody sees how rich and fabulous they are.
The real stars of the documentary are undoubtedly the engineers, a diverse team of some of the brightest minds in the fields of automotive, metallurgical and aerospace (yes, aerospace) engineering, brought together by Volkswagen to create the world’s most impressive car. We strongly suggest not skipping any of the four parts, and watching the whole thing to get a true appreciation of how the Veyron came to life.
Volkswagen is recalling 16,000 GTI hatchbacks built between September 2008 and August 2009 over a faulty sensor in the gearbox. The sensor could cause the transmission to think that the oil temperature is too high, causing an abrupt shift into neutral. Obviously, this sort of error could cause a crash, and Volkswagen is looking to rectify the problem.
Press release after the jump
MINI’s Future ‘Greener and More Efficient’ With Engine Updates in 2011, Dual-Clutch Transmissions Likely
MINI expects Countryman to be most fuel-efficient crossover; new Roadster model to win over Miata buyers
With the launch of the all-new MINI Countryman at the Geneva Auto Show last week we had an opportunity to sit down with the VP of MINI USA, Jim McDowell and find out more about the brand’s first crossover and what the future holds for the rest of the product range.
Starting with the Countryman, McDowell believes this is a vehicle that will help bring back brand rejecters – those who simply couldn’t justify owning a MINI for reasons ranging from size, to functionality. He even commented that in the past a father of two who bought a MINI would be seen as selfish, putting his wants ahead of his family’s needs. The Countryman lets those needs and wants come together while avoiding any social stigma.
Added usability will come in the form of fuel efficiency. While no official numbers are yet available (or any unofficial ones for that matter), McDowell says he wouldn’t be surprised if the Countryman became the most fuel efficient crossover offered in the U.S.
MINI also hopes to attract driving enthusiasts to the Countryman by offering it with a manual transmission here. In fact, when it goes on sale, it will be the only all-wheel drive crossover offered with a manual transmission. When asked if MINI’s All4 AWD setup is being planned for any other future MINI models, McDowell commented that while it was most likely possible, it’s not something they are looking at, favoring the two-wheel approach for the ideal sporty driving experience.
As for the future of the rest of the range, McDowell confirmed that the recent engine updates made on European models will arrive for the 2011 model year cars in North America. In Europe, the Cooper and Cooper S models get a slight boost in power and improved fuel economy thanks to direct-injection technology and variable valve control. The Cooper gets a 3-hp jump to 122-hp, while torque is rated at 118 ft-lbs, allowing a 0-62 mph sprint of 9.1 seconds. As for the Cooper S, it gets a new twin-scroll turbocharger that helps bring the 1.6-liter 4-cylinder to 184-hp (up 9-hp), while torque of 177 ft-lbs comes on from 1600 to 5000 rpm. The overboost function delivers 192 ft-lbs (260Nm). The Cooper S is rated at 7 seconds to 62 mph. (These numbers should change slightly for the North American market and we’ll have to wait for official EPA rated fuel economy numbers).
But beyond those updates, McDowell had more to say, specifically in regards to our questions about smaller engines and the use of dual-clutch transmissions – something particularly relevant with Volkswagen and Audi now delivering cars like the A1 and Polo GTI with 1.4-liter Twinchargers and dual-clutch transmissions. “We are continuing to add technology as quickly as it comes, while working to promote the MINI driving experience and be environmentally responsible,” he commented, following up by stating that MINI will “move forwards in minimalism,” with a future that is, “greener and more efficient.” From this it’s safe to surmise that future MINI engines will get smaller while new technology like dual-clutch transmissions (which improve both the driving experience and fuel economy) are pretty much a given.
As for the upcoming Coupe and Roadster models, we pressed McDowell on what exactly makes these cars so different. He spoke at first about the obvious lack of a hatch, more futuristic design and improved cargo room – all of which is rather obvious. When we expressed our feelings that these attributes (including the JCW engine) really didn’t set the two models apart, he admitted as much, commenting: “but you don’t know what else is coming. We have a few pleasant surprises.”
After our conversation took a bit of a detour about MINI buyers and the other sorts of vehicles they consider, McDowell brought it back on point stating that he wouldn’t be surprised if the MINI Roadster came to own the entry-level roadster segment that Mazda currently has locked-down with the Miata.
As a brand, MINI is expanding significantly with new dealerships poping up all over the U.S. Over the next two years the Countrman (and soon the Coupe and Roadster) will double MINI’s lineup of products aimed at delivering performance and fuel economy in packages with the sort of universal appeal that has always made MINI models “global cars,” long before such a concet became popular.
With the new A3 due out in 2011 rumors of performance and hybrid versions of the car have already emerged.
In the performance category Audi is expected to release an RS3, which will be powered by the same turbocharged five-cylinder currently found in the TT-RS. Output won’t be quite as significant, but expect lots of boost on tap and a much as 335hp and 332 ft-lbs of torque. The RS3 will also make use of Audi’s quattro system and will use a new seven-speed DSG gearbox.
The car will be aimed squarely at the Ford Focus RS as well as BMW’s 135 – which increases the likelihood of this high-performance A3 model actually making it to the U.S.
In the fuel-efficient category, a hybrid version of the A3 is also expected and will use the same essential system that will power the upcoming hybrid Golf. The car will be the result of VW’s TwinDrive program and feature a 1.6-liter diesel engine with 105hp mated to a 30kW electric motor for the front wheels and two 30kW motors for the rear wheels. A lithium-ion battery pack will also be a part of the package. This system would essentially allow the A3 Hybrid to function as an all-wheel drive vehicle at low speeds and until the stored energy is depleted.
The A3 Hybrid, or A3 TwinDrive as it is likely to be called, would be able to travel on pure electric power for 31 miles and could get as much as 113 mpg.
As for the upcoming A3, expect a four-door version for sale in North America.
[Photo Credit: MTM]
The future of Lincoln? Yea right...
Used to highlight the potential of the Microsoft SYNC system found in modern FoMoCo vehicles, the Lincoln C Concept is quite obviously a technology concept and not a production concept – even if it is based on Ford’s global small car platform.
The futuristic SYNC system in the C Concept allows drivers to interact with a computer personality by voice and have the computer perform tasks, such as adding meetings to an address book, making calls and providing you with navigation instructions – essentially things that GM’s onStar already does, although the SYNC system would perform the tasks itself, rather than a person on the other end of the phone.
Most impressively, however, is the fact that the conceptual SYNC system can search the internet for you, find articles or items of interest and even read them to you while you drive.
The C Concept show in Detroit features a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 180hp and 180 ft-lbs of torque, all the while getting 43 miles per gallon on the highway. The transmission on the concept is a dual-clutch system (likes Audi’s DSG system) that is operated by paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
Now if only Ford could produce a car with this engine/drivetrain combo. That would be exciting!
Official release after the jump:
A diesel roadster for environmentally-friendly fun
This roadster for the environmentally conscious is powered by a clean diesel TDI engine that makes an
impressive 180hp and yet can achieve a rating of 55 mpg! Thanks to VW’s revolutionary DSG gearbox the BlueSport Roadster Concept can accelerate to 62 mph in just 6.2 seconds. The low slung body of the BlueSport Roadster and massive 19-inch wheels make for a sporty and fun
look. Desing and material quality is very high and judging from the innovative yet realistic interior and reasonable proportions, expect to see this model hit production in the next few years.
Official release after the jump:
"No state-of-the-art dual-clutch transmission for you," Chrysler says to North America
Chrysler continues to expand the use of its new dual-clutch transmission, offering it in a total of three models – just not in North American. Originally offered in the Dodge Journey in European markets, the transmission will now also be available in the Avenger and Sebring.
Designed in partnership with Getrag, the state of the art transmission is similar in design to Audi’s DSG unit or the new PDK transmission found on new Porsches. Essentially it operates like an automatic transmission from the driver’s perspective, and gears can be selected through a manumatic-type system. Because of the dual-clutches, the next gear is always pre-loaded, meaning gear changes are incredibly quick and smooth.
According to Chrysler, it also makes for an improvement in fuel economy of six percent.
Currently the dual-clutch transmission is only available on 2.0-liter turbo diesel engines found in the Journey, Avenger and Sebring overseas.
Official release after the jump: