If you subscribe to the theory that more is better, then you’ll like this. VW has just announced the latest version of its groundbreaking DSG dual-clutch gearbox with seven gears instead of six. It’s designed for smaller engine cars of up to 168bhp and 184lb ft torque, leaving the original six-speed launched in 2003 for the heftier end of the range.
The new DSG will be available first as an option on the Golf 1.4-litre TSI (driven here) and it boasts two world firsts. Not only is it the first seven-speed gearbox on a transverse engine, but it’s also the first dual-clutch gearbox with dry, instead of wet clutches like its sister, the six-speed. This means the clutches run freely in air instead of struggling in an oil bath and that’s better for both power and fuel economy.
So what’s it like to drive?
Surprisingly good. If this were a manual gearbox, it would probably be a nightmare with just too many gears, each drive becoming a melee of stick-stirring and fumbled starts in traffic. But with an automated manual, there’s no problem. You can either shove it in fully auto and let the computer take the strain. Or you can use the selector lever or wheel-mounted paddles to shift manually as before.
Handling this many ratios with a paddle shift is somehow more intuitive than with fewer gears and a conventional stick. It’s hard to know which gear you are in at any given time - but so what? You make the choice based purely on feel and the sound of the engine.
It’s fast too. Flick the paddle with the throttle drilled to the mat and the DSG swaps one pre-selected ratio for the other like you’re flicking a switch. There are both Drive and Sport modes for fully auto, Sport holding onto the gears a little longer letting the engine work harder. Good fun on the twisty mountain test route near Barcelona.
So the seven-speed DSG is better than the six-speeder?
Not obviously. Blatting a number of existing six-speed DSG Golfs around a test track for comparison proved one thing: the seven-speeder doesn’t shift noticeably quicker. But a wider spread of gear ratios gives a lower first gear for better acceleration away from the line, and decent overdrive to save fuel when cruising.
There’s a natty hill start function too. Pull up on an incline and the brake stays on until the throttle goes down, making hill starts easy but also protecting those internal clutches from excess wear through driver abuse. VW claims both the clutches and the oil in the ‘box are good for the life of the car which is more than you could say for a conventional manual clutch.
Would you want one?
What’s not to like? Back in the day, automated manuals were slow and turgid - but not any more. This one betters the six-speed for economy by a healthy 6 percent, dropping from 44.9mpg to 47.8mpg and hammering CO2 emissions down from 149g/km to 139gm/km on this 1.4 TSI engine.
On average, the seven-Speed option will cost £1300 more than a manual. It’s a tempting choice on the basis of the fun factor alone but if you’re hankering after an auto to offset those rush-hour blues, this one’s a no-brainer.