By on July 25, 2014

34 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

CVT haters, rejoice: Audi’s latest set of Multitronic CVTs will be the automaker’s last.

According to The Motor Report, the automaker believes it has done all it can with CVTs, and will instead focus on the S-tronic dual-clutch automatic family of transmissions. Both the S-tronic and traditional automatic offerings will fill the void left behind when the models so equipped with Multitronic are updated or replaced.

However, Audi may also do away with the traditional automatic, as well. Currently, the automaker is hard work on an S-tronic built to handle the torque loads and AWD that are being handled by eight-speed autos at present. No word on when the traditional auto’s day may come to pass.

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42 Comments on “Audi Leaves CVTs Behind For Dual-Clutch Automatics...”

  • avatar

    Dual Clutch auto is definitely a better system.

    • 0 avatar

      Indeed it is. The one thing that Audi still needs to work the kinks out of is the odd ‘hesitation’ that drivers can sense when starting from a stop. A lot of people find it disconcerting and that, and the somewhat sudden shifts, is the main reason why Audi has stuck with the traditional automatic in so many of their cars for so long here in the US. In Europe you can get the A4 with the dual clutch, but Audi of America found that US buyers much preferred the feel of a traditional automatic.

      The Audi 8 speed is no slouch of a transmission, but I would agree that the dual clutch systems are better in almost all regards.

      • 0 avatar

        If the new dual clutch is anything like Porsches PDK in the Cayman/Boxster buyer beware! The hesitation mentioned is definitely a deal breaker. I personally decided against buying the new Cayman because of the terrible hesitation from the dead start. There were frightening instances where I was terrified on crossing an intersection. Seems that the DCT still has kinks to work out.

        • 0 avatar

          I have the dual clutch auto in my Passat TDI and it’s the first automatic I actually like. A lot. I find the hesitation not to be objectionable, and the manual shift mode actually is usable.

    • 0 avatar

      Are there any dual [dry] clutches out there? I’ve had the occasional disaster of being stuck in DC beltway traffic that insists on going at just under 1st gear (slip, slip, slip). Is there any way to tell “don’t go that speed” to the otherwise oblivious auto user?

      I can only stand CVTs, but that has to do with weird conditioning from an age when automatic trannys just plain sucked.

    • 0 avatar

      Stuck with an auto, I’d take a CVT over a Dualclutch any day. In manual, paddle mode, the dualclutch makes sense, but not so much in auto mode on the street. Either way, just testing the two back to back is kind of pointless, since both requires familiarization to get the most out of. You have to get used to the individual engine/autobox combination to drive around the rubber banding of the CVT, and minimize the stumbling of the dualclutch.

  • avatar

    Multitronic Audis were actually quite nice to drive. But then again I’m absolutely pro-CVT.

    The true reason these boxes have to go is probably economy of scale: Audi uses the Multitronic only in models with FWD and longitudinal engines. Their use is further limited by the amount of torque they can take, even when these transmissions use a chain instead of a pushbelt. That chain business also complicates the story (low output with Audi being the sole purchaser of the things, and not in great quantities). If quality issues were the problem, we wouldn’t have seen these CVTs make it through three generations of A6s.

  • avatar

    I think you want the last line to say something like “No word on when the traditional auto’s day will finally end.” The phrase “come to pass” means “arrive” or “occur”.

    Keep up the great work at TTAC! Always love seeing these articles come up in my twitter feed.

  • avatar

    Good stuff. I live where AWD would be wasted, but I also prefer Audi’s offerings to VWs. A FWD A4 DSG wagon sounds like a nice daily driver.

  • avatar

    A few years back I test drove a clown face Mazda3 that had their new automatic transmission tech.

    IIRC, the salesman explained it to me as a traditional auto in the first one or two gears, then it switched to an automated manual for the higher gears.

    Now I own all manual transmission cars, so that is my frame of reference, but I came away with a really good impression of the shifting action in that car……

    Is this style/tech what “dual-clutch” is referring to in this post?

    It is also my understanding that this is what Acura is doing in the 2.4 TLX.

    If I were looking to get a new auto trans vehicle, I’d think that these types would give better feel, and comparable fuel economy to the CVT belt/pulley style. Don’t know about long term reliability, as I’m not sure what all is involved in replacing the clutch in an automated unit.

    Do I have my understanding of “dual-clutch” correct?

    • 0 avatar

      A dual clutch feels much like a manual when you pull away from a standstill. A dry-clutch box in particular because the clutch setup is more or less identical, with a robot doing more or less what you are doing yourself when driving a manual. It lifts the clutch and applies throttle as needed to not stall. Wet-clutch boxes are a bit harder to tell apart from a traditional auto but anyone that knows how a transmission works will notice the difference.

    • 0 avatar

      The Mazda Skyactiv automatic is, in my opinion, the most rational transmission on the market.

      It has a normal torque converter, that only operates up to a few mph, then the converter is locked solid giving a direct engine drive to a separate multiplate clutch after the torque converter, which then unlocks to allow shifts between planetary gears, and relocks to resume drive once the shift is complete. This gives smooth torque converter style starts, then almost dual-clutch shift speeds. Why nobody else thought of it before is a mystery, because it has no automated-manual three (dual clutch, wet or dry) gear shafts to waste both power and energy. Good example of lateral thinking, that all the rest of the manufacturers should copy, but have not. Too obsessed with “not invented here” syndrome, I’d guess.

      The new Acura automated manual, in typical Japanese fashion which favors smooth starts (unlike Ford’s Focus dual clutch tranny, say), uses a torque converter that locks up early in similar fashion to Mazda’s, then blows it all by using a dual clutch automated manual after that.

      I think Mazda’s approach is by far the best way. Planetary gearing imposes no shaft bending loads unlike any two-shaft manual, let alone a three shaft DCT. It’s very clever and works very well.

      • 0 avatar

        What you describe in the Mazda is a typical lock-up torque converter in a traditional planetary automatic transmission. They have been used for 20+ years. The Mazda (Aisin designed and manufactured) transmission you describe is nothing new or even novel and Mazda certainly is not the first to apply a lock-up torque converter as a starting device.
        Lock-up torque converters are just that, they “lock up” at preprogrammed positions based on engine torque, vehicle speed, throttle position, etc. They unlock for NHV reasons, prevent engine stall at 0 vehicle speed and allow TC slip for input torque multiplication.
        In fact, Chrysler created the first lock-up torque converter in a mass-produced vehicle over 25 years ago; the A604.

        The dct in the Acura TLX does NOT have a torque converter. It uses twin wet clutches as launch device and torque transfer device between gears.

        Some dct (Getrag unit in the Ford Fiesta, FIAT dct, VW DQ250, small GM/SAIC gearbox) have dry input clutches. Many of the high torque application dct have wet input clutches.

        What do you mean “Planetary gearing imposes no shaft bending loads”? When you have two gears in mesh transferring torque there is a component of load that separates the meshed gears. If you have seen the oil requirements of a planetary gearset you will quickly recognize the significant forces inside trying to “bend” apart the pins and gears.

        “gear shafts to waste both power and energy”
        A layshaft cross-section gearbox is about 10% more efficient than a planetary gearset. Once pumping losses are accounted for in the planetary transmission lubrication system a layshaft gearbox is nearly 25% more efficient. So, gear shafts don’t “waste power” compared a planetary gearset arrangement.

        • 0 avatar

          “In fact, Chrysler created the first lock-up torque converter in a mass-produced vehicle over 25 years ago; the A604.”

          False. Packard was first, in 1949, and other transmissions had them in the ’50s.

          In the modern era, Ford included a lock-up converter in the AOD in MY1980. GM had some around the same time; I’m not sure which actually hit the market first.

          As for Mazda, I believe what’s unusual about the SKYACTIV is the wider range of speeds at which the lockup is used.

          • 0 avatar

            The A604 wasn’t even the first Chrysler use of lockup. The A904 had the feature in the late 70’s.

          • 0 avatar

            Those were lock up with no slip control.
            Chrysler A604 had slip control which is the standard for all lock-up torque converters of today.

            I should have clarified between lock-up with and without slip control. I assumed we all knew modern torque converters have slip-control built into their control systems.

          • 0 avatar

            Mazda uses a slip control strategy that is common in the industry.

      • 0 avatar

        A planetary gear set is less effecient than a simple counter shaft spur gear set up. It can however be more robust because it does limit the bending forces and uses more meshed teeth to transmit the force.

        A typical planetary gear set has 3 planets. So at the sun gear there are 3 sets of meshing teeth and then at the ring gear there are 3 more sets of meshing teeth. With a counter shaft set up you have one set of meshing teeth at the input to counter shaft connection and another set at the counter shaft to output shaft interface. So the Planetary set can have 3 times the frictional losses generated by the gears meshing. You can reduce that somewhat by using narrower gears in a planetary set since the load is distributed over 3 times as many gears.

        You also have additional frictional losses at the shafts the planets rotate on.

        The planetary gear set is stronger, assuming it is built with equally strong gears, since you are using 3 sets of meshed teeth to transmit the load and 3 sets of meshed teeth at the ring gear. This not only divides the load between 3 times as many teeth, the planet to ring gear interfaces create a separating force that counters the separating force generated at the planets interface to the sun gear. You do however have a bending load on the shafts of the carrier that the planets ride on.

        Which is why many manufacturers are going away from planetary transmissions and adopting automated manual transmissions instead, as it has lower frictional losses.

        • 0 avatar
          Timur Apakidze

          Be careful with sweeping generalizations, especially with something as nuanced as a transmission. There are often no right or wrong answers when it comes to transmissions.

      • 0 avatar

        1994 Ford Taurus I owned (bought used) had the same type AXOD AT as Mazda. How do I know? It had Torque Converter Clutch slip problem that was not fixed even after transmission rebuild (which was due to this problem in the first place). It was shifting harsh destroying transmission. I wished it come with the old 3 speed transmission. But anyway I bought it with over 100K miles so it was expected (with Taurus with new 4 speed AT). And since I never drove vehicle with AT before I had no idea that something was wrong until grew into full blown failure.

        Regarding dual clutch AT it does not make sense to me. If you like how MT feels – just drive MT, it has more better feel and flexibility in how you engage gears, esp important during winter driving. I cannot imagine how it is possible to drive AT car on snow.

    • 0 avatar

      No you are not correct in your understanding of what a “dual clutch transmission” is. A dct has two input clutches attached to two concentric input shafts connecting to two layshafts. Compared to a conventional planetary automatic transmission with a torque converter launch device which the transmission in the Mazda is.

  • avatar

    That’s good. I’ve always thought it was kind of spiteful of Audi to give you a CVT if you didn’t opt for Quattro. The again, the CVT is pretty smooth in the A6 in a way that a dual-clutch system could probably never be.

  • avatar

    Saturation Dive Please
    Saturation Dive Please
    Saturation Dive Please

    • 0 avatar
      Timur Apakidze

      I am not sure I understand the request, saturation dive on a DCT? CVTs are boring, there is not much to talk about really, unless it is the Toyota/Ford Hybrid CVT.

  • avatar

    I salute Audi for leading the way (in at least implicitly, and I’d argue expressly, by deed) in shouting that CVTs SUCK BALLS from the highest mountain top.

    May CVT transmissions all die in a fiery, burning cauldron of Hades.

    • 0 avatar

      I disagree with you. For hybrids, they work well and are a natural fit. For conventional gasoline engine cars, they can be made to work well and are more fuel efficient.

      I think the issue most drivers have with them are more related to NVH issues with the engine. If, under moderate acceleration, the engine is going to pop up to 4000 rpm, it needs to be reasonably quiet and vibration free there, and some cars aren’t.

      Having said that, I do believe that Audi is right in dropping the CVT, I think it’s out of character with their lineup. Seems like more of a Lexus kind of thing than an Audi.

      • 0 avatar

        But the CVT used by Ford and Toyota in their hybrids share nothing design wise with a CVT used in a non-hybrid. The CVT used in the Ford/Toyota eCVT most closely resembles an old school 2sp planetary automatic. The only difference is that instead of using clutches and bands to engage and stop elements you have an element attached to a motor/generator. By manipulating the speed of the element connected to that MG you can obtain virtually any reduction or overdrive ratio. Since it is a planetary set it is very robust and there is no belt or chain to wear or limit torque capacity. There is also less frictional loss between the sun, planets and ring gears than there is at the belt/chain interface with the drive and driven sheaves.

        However because they do use a planetary set up there are some significant frictional losses inherit to a planetary gear set. You also have losses due to the fact that for a steady state cruise condition you need the second MG, the one directly attached to the output, to generate electricity to run the MG that creates the variable gearing and provides the link between the engine and output shaft.

        Which is why the new Accord is more efficient than the Ford/Toyota eCVT. Once you get to a certain speed there is a direct link between the engine and output shaft and you are not drawing power that could be used to power the vehicle to make it all work.

    • 0 avatar

      Short of potential longevity concerns, what makes CVTs so much worse than traditional automatics? I’d driven a couple, and completely failed to notice anything exceptionally hateful about them.

      Mind you, after the crippling pain an Altima’s seats inflicted on me during a 5-hour highway drive, I probably wouldn’t have noticed if the exhaust spouted flames, the radio started ranting about how it would own my soul, and a strong sulphur smell came out of the vents.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        True dat. I’m in a rental Altima now with low miles and I find the CVT just fine, handling mountains and flatlands with aplomb. Need more juice for a steep on-ramp? Click the o/d off. I’m also enjoying the 35-42 mpgs on highway driving with 3 passengers and luggage.

        But yes, the non-power driver’s seat sucks. And the shiny finishes on the dash/console are distracting with the steep windshield angle.

  • avatar

    I’m not for or against CVT transmissions in general. We had an A3 with the DSG and an A4 with a CVT. Both of them worked well. The A4 was my wifes car and she much preferred the CVT over the DSG, and over the standard auto in the BMW she bought to replace the A4.

    Having driven many CVT equipped cars, I thought that Audi had the CVT experience worked out pretty well.

    • 0 avatar

      Any reliability issues, cbrworm? I’ve seen some hate for CVTs on Audi owner forums, but (a) that may’ve been early CVTs and (b) internet complainers are something of a self-selecting sample. In playing with Audi’s online configurator a year or two ago, I concluded that the FWD, CVT-equipped A4 was the Audi that best suited my needs. Not that I actually was in the market at the time. Reliability would have been a concern, though.

  • avatar

    It’s about time! I hate selling CVTs as they have no place in a sports sedan. I understand they get better fuel economy but once you have tried the DCT in the new A3 you are hooked. 5.8 sec 0-60 in the 2.0 rocks!

  • avatar

    It’s funny how people’s perceptions have been shaped(sheeped?) by the FIA banning CVTs in Formula 1 to limit performance by hobbling teams with automated sequential gearboxes.

  • avatar

    The center console of that well-equipped Audi is dirty and should have been cleaned by now.

    I love Audi interiors, and the way I feel when I’m driving one. When I have more moneys I shall get back into my Audi habit.

  • avatar

    Has the engineering author, not sure of his name, done a write-up of how DCTs work and CVTs? I’ve read around online and have gotten the very dry, very meandering explanations.

    I have the DCT in the Escape and really enjoy it, especially when revving high. No, I don’t pretend this is a sports car, but it makes getting on the freeway a bit entertaining.

    The only experience I have in a CVT was the 2008 Sentra and that thing was a load of bollocks.

  • avatar

    I have the DSG in my 2011 VW GTI and i love it. I have driven manual for over 60 years and after retiring and my wife unable to drive a manual any more i tested a DSG and noticed i could not shift as fast as this transmission. To be honest i don’t even feel it shifting unless i look at the tech and see the RPM’s dropping with each shift. Also the DSG gets better mileage then the manual. The only drawback is the transmission has to have the fluid and filter changed every 40,000 miles. I will be doing mine in the fall. About 45 minutes work and the change kit cost all of $110.00. I have my Miata Manual for the weekends. Another thing i like is getting on to a highway with the pedal to the floor and hearing the small backfire during every shift.

  • avatar

    i really had no idea Audi was still using CVT’s, thought they gave up late last decade when the A4/A6 were replaced

  • avatar

    Thanks Audi because I still don’t want a car with a CVT. I need the feel of shifts, smooth ones. However, it’d be nice if they adopted the dual clutch 7 or 8 speed from Aisin. Current Audi trans seem to be a big hit or miss. My 911 has a PDK made by Aisin and it’s the best I’ve had yet with no issues. Anyway, good move Audi!

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