What is VW DSG?

Last modified on November 12th, 2020 by Martin Sanders

Images thanks to beastly_mk7 and mk7-gti-clubsport.

If you own a modern Volkswagen or looking at purchasing a new dub, you will have seen a long list of abbreviations and marketing terms. Some of these features change the way you use your vehicle more than others. The DSG dual-clutch transmission marks a significant improvement over the manual and automatic gearboxes transforming the way you enjoy your VW. 

DSG (Direktschaltgetriebe) “direct-shift gearbox” is a dual-clutch manual transmission which uses predictive technology to preselect the gear you are most likely to need next and so switching gear smoothly in milliseconds. DSG offers improvements over a standard torque-converter automatic gearbox by delivering more power to the wheels, giving improved fuel economy with quicker and smoother gear shifts. Being dual-clutch the 1st clutch handles; reverse, 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th gears. In contrast, the 2nd clutch holds 2nd, 4th, and 6th gears. DSG technology has become available within all models across the Volkswagen range. 

Conventional automatic transmissions typically have poor fuel economy and slow gear shifting characteristics. 

In a world market where in the United States some 88% of all car owners opt for automatic. And in Western Europe, where the compact car is more popular, with just 14% choosing automatic gearboxes. Volkswagen needed a transmission which would appeal to an international market.

The introduction of the first DSG in the form of the exciting 2003 mk4 Golf/Rabbit R32 (177kW / 241PS) changed VW’s transmission sales. Before the DSG gearbox was introduced some 90% of all Golfs/Rabbits featured a manual transmission. By 2018 Volkswagen fitted DSG gearboxes to some 30% of Polos, 40% of Golfs/Rabbits, 60% of Passats and a significant 90% of Tiguans. DSG transmissions have become a popular option for Volkswagen owners around the world.

DSG is available in petrol, diesel and electric plug-in hybrid models; sold as a sporty option with availability dependent on region. The dual-clutch gearbox is noted for smooth, fast changes with gears that take just a few milliseconds to switch making for an outstanding experience no matter which model of Volkswagen you happen to choose.

DSG development

Volkswagen licenced the dual-clutch manual DSG transmission, designed by BorgWarner as a Porsche in-house project intended for use in the 1980s Porsche 962.

The powerful 2003 Golf/Rabbit R32 was the first production car to feature a transverse-mounted automated DSG dual-clutch transmission. The sleek Audi TT 3.2 and all-new VW Beetle were to follow this up in 2004. The first DSG vehicles featured six forward gears and used a wet/submerged multi-plate clutch. In 2008 the first seven forward speed gearbox appeared with a torque revision in 2010. 

DSG characteristics

  • DSG is 15% more efficient than a traditional automatic transmission
  • There is no loss of torque via the transmission, meaning improved engine to road performance
  • It takes just eight milliseconds to short up-shift while taking only 600 milliseconds to downshift
  • Super smooth gear changes
  • Due to DSG gearbox complexity, DSG is not as reliable as conventional torque-converter automatic transmissions.
  • The clutch pack has a limited-lifespan
  • Expensive to manufacture and repair, requiring specialists fluids added at regular intervals
  • Delayed shifting when selecting a non-preselected gear
  • Limited aftermarket tuning modification options
  • Weighing more than manual gearboxes

DSG driving review

Driving a DSG is similar to driving a conventional automatic. Automatic transmissions provide a relaxed style, DSG adds faster gearshifts and a sporty edge providing quicker automatic and manual shifting. The technology involved detects every move in your driving style, seeing your current accelerator position, braking, pivot and momentum to preselect the most desirable gear. The DSG gearbox weighs more than a manual gearbox so is less efficient while costing more to purchase and service. DSG fitted vehicles are popular with auto buyers, selling more than 26 million vehicles, due to a perfect balance of manual involvement and automatic convenience.

Martin Sanders

A big fan of all things VW, establishing the Veedubs brand and website, sharing his interests in regular blog posts. Martin Sanders also works as a graphic designer, his work can be seen here.

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