While automatic gearboxes aren’t a new invention, the introduction of double-clutch gearboxes to the mass market is much more recent. Double-clutch units can shift faster not only a regular ‘torque-converter’ auto, but faster than any human possibly could with a manual ‘box.
These quicker changes make them ideal for performance applications, but their smoothness means that even more basic models can benefit. They often have more gear ratios than older units allowing for a greater spread of power for better acceleration and efficiency. We’ve taken a look at ten of the best currently available.
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The TTS is arguably the best version yet of Audi’s stylish coupe and is now considered a true sports car. It packs a 306hp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine under the chiselled bonnet paired to a six-speed DSG. That’s enough for a rather serious 0-62mph time of just 4.6 seconds, with testers describing it as “more than willing” to encourage enthusiastic driving.
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The latest supercar from Ferrari represents a big departure for the brand – not since the iconic F40 has a mid-engined Prancing Horse featured a twin-turbocharged engine. Paired with the latest variant of the marque’s seven-speed double-clutch automatic, the performance figures are incredible – 0-62mph takes just 3.0 seconds and, flat-out, it’ll reach 205mph.
Unlike many on this list, Ford’s version of the double-clutch ‘box isn’t meant to be sporty. Designed to behave much like a regular automatic gearbox, the twin clutches allow for smoother, faster changes, while benefiting fuel efficiency at the same time.
When fitted to the Focus, it works very well, too. It’s one of the better autos offered in the family hatch segment, and helps make the car very easy and relaxing to drive. Those looking for extra space will be pleased to discover it is also available in the C-Max.
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Mercedes’ seven-speed self-shifter is standard throughout the GLA range (apart from the entry-level 200 CDI diesel, where it’s a £1,450 option). It changes ratios in a manner befitting a car from this premium brand, even its smallest SUV.
Flappy paddles are mounted behind the wheel if you wish to take greater control but, unless you’ve picked the full-fat AMG model, it’s more than pleasant enough when left to its own devices.
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The Nissan GT-R is one of the best point-to-point road cars that money can buy, and the standard-fit double-clutch gearbox plays a huge part in its epic performance. Straight line speed is so savage that only the most talented drivers would have any chance of keeping up if gear changes were left to the driver alone.
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RenaultSport Clio 220 Trophy
To some driving purists, fitting a double-clutch gearbox to a small hot hatch might seem like something of a travesty. Predecessors to the Renaultsport Clio 220 didn’t necessarily offer the most storming straight line speed but, instead, offered a level of driving interaction that many cars costing several times more can’t match.
A double-clutch ‘box does have its advantages, even here. Threading along the sort of twisty roads the Renault relishes, the flappy paddles will help to flatter even the less experienced enthusiast, enabling them to cover ground at a rate that wouldn’t be possible with a three pedal setup. Just make sure you engage the 220’s race mode to benefit from the sharpest, most responsive shifts.
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Porsche 911 GT3 RS
Some critics will argue the Porsche 911 GT3 RS cries out for the feeling of interaction that only a clutch pedal and manual ‘box can deliver. However, those same people will concede that the PDK (that’s double-clutch gearbox in Porsche-speak) is arguably the best on the market at any price.
That the rest of the car is so spectacularly capable that many drivers would struggle to keep up with a manual gearbox anyway. There are few pleasures in motoring which can compete with revving the 4.0-litre flat-six engine to almost 9,000rpm before engaging an almost instantaneous upshift via a flick of the right paddle.
SEAT Leon Cupra
Despite stiff competition from the Renault Megane 275 Trophy and the Honda Civic Type R, the SEAT Leon Cupra remains one of the fastest front-wheel drive hot-hatches on the market. With the DSG gearbox, it raises its game further still – it boasts a 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds – 0.1 seconds quicker than the six-speed manual. From a practical point of view, it’s marginally more economical, too
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The early generations of the Smart fortwo had their charms, but critics felt they were let down by a painfully slow and clunky automatic gearbox. Thanks to the latest double-clutch setup in the latest Smart, that’s no longer the case.
Thanks to its tiny dimensions and hilariously small turning circle, the fortwo is easy to drive at the best of times, but the auto helps it to become the perfect city car – as long as you can live with the slightly bouncy ride. Equipped with the 90hp 0.9-litre turbocharged petrol, it’s both nippy and frugal, too – we averaged 53.1mpg during our time behind the wheel.
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Volkswagen Golf R
There are few cars on sale today which are as well-rounded as the Volkswagen Golf R. Handsome, fast, practical and well-built, it’s a very difficult machine to fault.
Its predecessor, the Mk4 Golf R32, was the first production car to feature a double-clutch setup. For an extra £1,235, the DSG gearbox allows the R to combine the excitement of the best hot hatches with the relaxing ease of a commuter car.
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Save money on your next double-clutch car
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