I recently traded in my 2013 Volkswagen GTI MK6 Autobahn for a 2017 Volkswagen GTI MK7 Sport. For the most part, it was an easy trade. The MK7 is faster and more refined, and the Sport trim included everything I had gotten used to in my old GTI — like adaptive headlights and proximity entry, alongside a cool limited-slip differential. The one hang-up I had with this particular car was that it has a DSG dual-clutch automatic, while my old car had an old-fashioned 6-speed manual.
I really like driving a manual, as any writer of words about cars should. You feel more connected to the vehicle, and it encourages you to pay more attention to the road. In short, it makes driving more interesting — even on shorter drives. I expected to miss it greatly, and I almost passed on this car because of it.
But I was wrong. As it turns out, after two weeks of ownership, I’m not missing the manual much at all. This DSG transmission is just that good.
First off, it makes the car much faster than a manual-equipped model, and that’s not hyperbole. The gears shift almost immediately, leaving very little lag while accelerating. Each gear shift almost feels like a rocket staging: There’s just suddenly more power, and you start blasting through the rev range again. I’ve experienced this transmission before in faster cars like the Audi RS 3, but I haven’t had a chance to live with these instantaneous shifts while driving on roads that I know well. There’s even a launch control setting, which is pretty awesome for a car that costs less than $30,000.
Secondly, my wife feels much more comfortable driving this car. She could drive a stick, but she just never got comfortable enough to drive my old car. That meant she relied on me to pick up bigger items for which you’d need a hatchback. Having her be able to take my car gives our family way more flexibility, which is a nice thing for sure.
Finally, the DSG has character. It doesn’t act like a standard torque-converter automatic; instead, it shifts like a really competent person driving a manual. Even in the "Normal" engine setting, it downshifts as you slow down, and it pretty accurately predicts what gear you’d want. Automatics are often a bit behind the ball during spirited driving, but the DSG is able to go from cruising efficiently to blitzing a highway on-ramp, then back to cruising, unlike any transmission I’ve ever experienced. Honestly, it’s way smarter and faster than I am — and I’m now completely okay with giving it control of the gears.
In conclusion, the DSG transmission makes the GTI into the ultimate daily driver. Manual transmissions are an absolute joy, but the DSG is capable of much more than you or me. It can act exactly the way you want it to in any situation — and it’s very smart. That being said, I only want a Miata even more now. I guess that’s what Autotrader is for.