- Dual-clutch transmissions got their start on race cars, but nowadays they’re common on supercars.
- More recently, DCTs have moved to less expensive vehicles.
- Typically, they can operate in automatic or manual mode, using paddle shifters on the steering column.
- I’ve driven many DCT-equipped cars. Following is a rundown of my favourites.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
As you all know, I love stick shifts!
But as the manual transmission has faded from the automotive landscape, it’s been replaced by a high-end technology that was actually invented in the middle of the 20th century but didn’t wind up in application until Porsche and Audi started to use it for endurance racers.
It’s called a “dual” or “twin” clutch. In a nutshell, a dual-clutch transmission divides the gears into two sets, odd and even, and enables an interrupted flow of torque from the engine to the driveshaft. This eliminates the need for a clutch pedal and, typically by using paddle shifters located behind the steering wheel, enables the driver to click through gears quite quickly.
Matching engine revs on downshifts isn’t necessary, and the transmission can also operate in full automatic mode. (DCTs are part of the overall global automotive supply chain; big makers include ZF Friedrichshafen, Getrag, and BorgWarner.)
Dual-clutches are their own kind of fun. I most often encounter them in high-horsepower supercars and sports cars, where they offer obvious advantages. But in recent years, “DCTs” have begun to appear more often on cheaper vehicles.
I’ve driven plenty – here’s a ranking of my favourites.
1. The magnificent Ford GT! There’s a 647-horsepower, 3.5-litre twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 engine, mounted amidships. Price? $US400,000.
I drove the GT on a track in Utah in 2017, a year after the race-car version won the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans in its class.
The Ford GT has a seven-speed dual-clutch — and some absolutely gorgeous and purposeful paddle shifters. The shifts are like sledgehammers: bang, bang, bang.
2. The Ferrari 488 GTB rocks a 661-horsepower turbocharged V8. And it cost $US360,000 when we tested it several years ago (the 488 nameplate has been replaced by the F8 Tributo).
Check out those LONG carbon-fibre paddles for the 488 GTB’s seven-speed transmission. The Ferrari doesn’t shift as fast as the McLaren, but it shifts with more drama and aggression. It feels visceral rather than technical.
3. The McLaren 720S has a new 710-horsepower, 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 engine. Price? Call it $US300,000.
The 720S’s seven-speed DCT is the fastest I’ve ever used — but that’s something it has in common with other McClarens I’ve driven. These cars almost predict where you want to shift.
4. The all-new Porsche 911 4S is the best 911 I’ve ever driven. Price? $US141,000, as tested. My review car had a twin-turbo boxer six engine, making 443 horsepower.
The Stuttgart company calls its dual-clutch a “Porsche Doppelkupplung,” or PDK. It’s a marvellous eight-speed that can find abundant torque no matter what the gear.
5. The Acura NSX was Business Insider’s Car of the Year in 2016. The NSX has a hybrid-gas-electric drivetrain, making 573 horsepower, with a twin-turbocharged V6. Price? A relatively budget-friendly $US160,000!
Some nice, long, elegant paddles for operating the nine-speed dual clutch. The NSX is impressively easy to operate in both automatic and manual mode — and if you’re paddling, the shift are notably smooth.
6. The mighty Nissan GT-R! “Godzilla” has a twin-turbocharged, 3.8-litre V6 that can be up-tuned to 600 horsepower. The GT-R is a legend for combining performance, reliability, and price — about $US120,000.
Unlike other DCTs on my list, the GT-R has a six-speed unit — and I rather liked not having to worry about flicking into the upper gears.
7. Guess what? DCT’s aren’t confined to staggeringly expensive supercars. Take for example the VW Golf R. A mere $US42,000, with a 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder engine, making 288 horsepower.
The paddles are hiding behind the wheel! The seven-speed sends power smoothly and briskly to the all-wheel-drive system. OK, we’re not really in Ferrari territory here, but the VW Golf R is a joy to drive.
8. The Porsche Panamera GTS Sport Turismo is a mega-wagon that stickered at $US144,000, as tested.
The eight-speed dual-clutch transmission pipes the oomph from the 453-horsepower V8 to a stout all-wheel-drive system. It gives the Panamera the capability to smoothly cruise and to effortlessly shift to sporty driving.
9. The Audi R8 is Iron Man’s supercar. We’ve tested a bunch of variations. I find it to be one of the easiest supercars to drive. Pricing is around $US200,000.
The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is, as one would expect from Audi, superb. Like the Acura NSX’s, the R8’s easily switches from easygoing driving to spirited motoring.
10. The Alfa Romeo 4C, at about $US75,000, is an incredible value.
A 1.7-litre, 237-horsepower, turbocharged inline-four sends power to a snappy six-speed twin-clutch. If you’re looking for a budget, mid-engine Ferrari — minus the prancing horse badge — this is your car.
11. Don’t want to spend $US75,000? Then how does $US67,000 strike you, for the wonderful BMW M2 Competition?
The impressive 405-horsepower, inline six-cylinder engine can be mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that might not be as much fun as the stock six-speed manual, but it is precise and fluid.
11. Business Insider’s 2018 Car of the Year, the Kia Stinger, is taking the fight to BMW and Audi as upstart sport sedan. I drove several trims, but I started with the $US52,000 all-wheel-drive GT.
An impeccable 3.3-litre, twin-turbo V6 send a tasty 365 horsepower through an eight-speed DCT. For the money, it’s hard to beat.
12. How about some Lamborghinis? Let’s start with the $US320,000 Lamborghini Huracán Performante.
The 5.2-litre, 631-horsepower V10 engine has no supercharger nor turbochargers. Just old-school power. Torque? That’s 443 pound-feet of push. The transmission is a banging seven-speed dual-clutch unit.
In case you’re wondering why the Lambos aren’t ranked higher on my list, it’s because I tend to drive these cars for the sounds the engines make, less than for strictly performance reasons.