AM Online

Car confidential


No information available.


Have you noticed the baffling array of gearboxes sold to today’s new-car buyers?

It used to be so simple. Would sir like the manual or the automatic? Nowadays, that choice has extended somewhat.

Perhaps sir would care for a continuously variable transmission, or maybe the robotised manual?

All a bit passé, sir? Then how about the latest craze –the new twin-clutch transmission?

Poor Average Joe in the street has little chance of comprehending what’s attached to his gearstick.

People just about understand manual and automatic ’boxes.

They could probably – on a good day – get their heads around a ‘flappy-paddle’ option (blame Jeremy Clarkson). But ask him to explain the inner workings of a CVT or describe how a DSG twin-clutch ’box actually functions and I’d guarantee a panic attack and sudden impulse to log on to Wikipedia.

Audi is the worst at inspiring Gear Fear.

It has a broader mix of transmissions than any other manufacturer – manuals, Multitronic, Tiptronic, S tronic and R tronic. Can so many ‘tronics’ be profitable in a scale-obsessed business world?

“Offering more choice is good for us – it means we can provide exactly the right option for the customer,” says Michael Schoeffmann, Audi’s transmission boss.

“A chauffeur might like a smooth and stepless CVT, whereas enthusiasts might prefer the uninterrupted acceleration of a twin-clutch ’box.”

Sounds like the plethora of choice is here to stay then.

If anything, the humble manual gearbox is falling out of favour.

Analysts claim that 70% of buyers worldwide will pick some kind of auto ’box by 2014. Even Porsche – last bastion of petrolheads – is considering replacing its manual gearbox with the 911’s new PDK twin-clutch ’box within five years.

So future generations of learners may never again have to grapple with clutch control and kangeroo starts.

Find road tests