Car Buying

Buying a Car: What's a Dual-Clutch Transmission?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro October 2015

An increasing number of today's vehicles tout dual-clutch automatic transmissions as a new high-tech feature, from the Ford Focus to the Hyundai Tucson and the Volkswagen Passat. If you're like most shoppers interested in buying a car, you probably don't know what a dual-clutch transmission is, and many salespeople aren't entirely sure, either. As a result, we've provided a general overview of the dual-clutch transmission for drivers who are considering one of the many new cars offering the feature.

How Does It Work?

First, it's important to learn about cars with manual transmissions: In a manual car, a driver must frequently depress a clutch pedal, which briefly disconnects the engine from the transmission to change gears.

In a dual-clutch car, there are two clutches, but there are no pedals. The clutches are controlled by a series of computers, which change gears for the driver. More importantly, the two clutches operate different gears, which allows for gear changes to happen without disconnecting the engine from the transmission and interrupting power flow.

What Are the Benefits?

There are several benefits to dual-clutch transmissions. When compared to manual transmissions and traditional automatics, dual-clutch automatics are quicker to shift. The powertrain never has to be disconnected from the transmission, which allows for lightning-quick gear changes. The result is improved acceleration compared to a traditional manual or a regular automatic.

Dual-clutch transmissions also offer two more benefits over a standard manual or automatic. One is efficiency. Since dual-clutch transmissions don't have an inefficient torque converter (like regular automatics) and don't interrupt power flow to the engine, they offer better fuel economy than most traditional automatic or manual transmissions.

Dual-clutch transmissions are often smoother than most other transmission types, as well. A well-tuned dual-clutch makes it difficult to notice gear changes at all, a major benefit compared to most automatics and manuals that can sometimes have clunky gear changes, reducing ride comfort.

Should You Buy a Dual-Clutch Car?

Although we strongly recommend taking a test drive in any car before signing the papers, we think highly of dual-clutch technology, and we recommend you give it a try if it's available in the car you're considering. We suspect you'll find a smoother ride, quicker acceleration and better gas mileage than you're used to -- all benefits when buying a car, in our book.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Car: What's a Dual-Clutch Transmission? - Autotrader