Auto Week recently expressed concerns that dual clutch transmissions are not smooth-shifting enough for Americans, which prompted Chrysler to change its plans to equip some models with one. This is quite true. Dual clutch transmissions are popular in Europe (and I know them well, having driven several cars with one). Volkswagen pioneered the technology in 2003, but it was invented by Porsche on its 956 race cars some 30 years ago. It’s a great technology because it’s fast and efficient. It quickly became a hit in Europe, where it’s available on most cars from the Volkswagen group. Ford also offers it on its Fiesta and Focus, and many buyers are getting the option. But there’s no arguing that dual clutch transmissions are not as smooth as a conventional automatic transmission.
Dual clutch transmissions don’t have a torque converter to smooth their operation. Gear changes are faster, but they’re somewhat more brutal. This is mostly noticeable in low speed city driving. There’s also less creep (though this can be tuned), but the great advantage of dual clutch transmissions is that they’re more fuel efficient. There’s not much difference on the highway, but in the city, fuel economy is 10% better over a conventional automatic. Aren’t Americans willing to trade some driving comfort for lower fuel bills? Many Europeans made the economy choice years ago, they don’t regret it.