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Transmissions: Manual vs CVT vs DSG vs AMT Explained!

The Transmission…That thing without which the Fast and the Furious franchise wouldn’t exist. Jokes aside, a car transmission plays a pivotal role in taming all those horses the engine churns out.

Quoting the coveted Engineering Bible, one cannot just fasten the motor directly to the wheels, This is considered as blasphemy in the eye of the Gods, the reason being inefficiency; particularly power loss.
This is where a Transmission comes in which is a vital linkage between the motor and the wheels that ensure smooth and efficient power delivery.

You might have seen (or even driven) a Car with a different sort of transmission and for sure you wonder what in heavens name jargons like AT, MT, CVT, AMT, DSG mean? These are all common transmission variants, and we are here to explain it all.

So buckle up, shift to overdrive and ride along…

The Manual Transmission

First, let’s give the ole’ trusty and humble Manual Transmission a mention:
The one that started it all, the granddaddy of all Transmissions, a way of life that is prevalent (and popular) even today quite widely. Manual Trans is the simplest and oldest one here; In layman’s lingo, a Manual Transmission is a Clutch and few Gears that are manually selected through a shifter which in turn regulates the power to the wheels. These come in as low as two gears and as many as seven gears.

Here’s an excellent video for how a manual works.

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  • Cheap to manufacture, in turn, reduces the manufacturing cost of the vehicle. MTs have long been in the industry hence have gone through a lot many evolutions.
  • Cheap to maintain, as it is a straightforward system and has no complicated parts
  • A minimum necessity for an enthusiast in a Driver’s car (This is a must-have for the Adrenaline Rush)

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  • Can be a bit intimidating for some, learning to drive a stick can get you to see frequent stalls, jerks and mishaps (aks the ‘Mericans)
  • Operating a stick in traffic conditions is a not a pleasant experience, Lord be with you if you have one of those heavy clutch pedals.

The Automatic Transmission

When the pedal feels heavy, and drive feels jerky, The Automatic comes to your rescue. Some say this is a revolution in the automotive industry and but some term it as a profane attempt at tarnishing the driving experience (You decide).

In today’s fast-paced lifestyle, for some shifting gears can become a cumbersome task and the same can be observed in the trend that follows. The western market had for long accepted and adapted to the Automatic and what we’re seeing is that India is on the way. With recent launches, almost every manufacturer is offering an Automatic variant of the car. From premium sedans to economy hatchbacks everyone’s getting the Automatic treatment. Believe us when we say this, There was a time when an Automatic transmission used to be a premium feature in a car and would cost a bomb.

Know more about automatics here:

Simply put, An Automatic Transmission is a type of transmission that transmits the power from the engine to road seamlessly requiring less or no human interference.
There are various subtypes within the Automatic CVT, AMT, DSG, DCT to name a few

First, there’s the Conventional AT- also known as the Traditional Automatic Transmission is the primary type which employs a Hydraulic Fluid Coupler also known as a Torque Converter to put down power to the wheels

Venturing deep into AT territory we see some more transmission sub-types

CVT (Continuous Variable Transmission)

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Continuously Variable Transmission, a remarkable feat in Automatic technology that uses belts and conical pulleys which provide “virtual” gear ratios. By virtual we mean, there are no gears involved; it’s just the diameter of the conical pulley that is altered due to hydraulic pressure which in turn varies the speed via the output shaft…To complicated ?? In short, there are no shifting points just clever engineering.

Check out this video:

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  • A CVT drives a lot smoother than its counterparts, as said there are no gears hence, a no-jerk just continuous pull from the engine.
  • Increased mileage/litre, CVT, thanks to its functional geometry, provides better fuel efficiency
  • A bliss if you live a jam-packed traffic life.

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  • You don’t get the feeling of driving a car, A weak Car-Driver engagement. Although recent innovations have introduced a paddle shifter as compensation, still feels very wrong.
  • High maintenance and service cost is an issue that said this is being sorted out as CVTs are becoming popular day by day.

DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox)

DSG or Direct Shift Gearbox or “Direkt Schalt Getriebe” for the linguaphile, is the prodigal son of the Manual and the Automatic Transmission. This is an AT but acts as an MT. The best of both worlds.

A popular variant of the DSG is the DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission). Designed by the legendary BorgWarner and licensed to The Volkswagen Group. DSG is an electronically controlled, Dual-clutch, multiple shafts manual gearbox with a clutch pedal.

What happens is that there are two clutches cramped into one unit as primary and secondary where the primary takes care of the odd gears, and the secondary handles the even

Know more here:

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  • Lighting fast shifts, thanks to the dual-clutch design. It’s like a manual on STEROIDS !!!
  • DSG can handle a lot of torque again thanks to the dual-clutch geometry.

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  • Just like every Automatic, DSG is also plagued with costly service repairs courtesy the complicated manufacturing.
  • DSG is EXPENSIVE! You gotta shell those greens if you want the feel.

AMT (Automatic Manual Transmission)

AMT stands for Automatic Manual Transmission, the twisted lovechild of the Auto and the Manual. Also known as Semi-Automatic Transmission or Clutchless Manual Transmission.
This variant does have a clutch but is taken care of by the computer onboard. This is a system that uses sensors and actuators to handle the gear shifting.

Watch this video to understand more about AMT used in the Maruti Suzuki Celerio:

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  • Decent fuel efficiency, due to less human inputs
  • Relatively cheap to manufacture and service

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  • Can be a bit jolty & jerky if driven aggressively, the computer cant handle uncertainty
Akshat Ajeya
Akshat Ajeya
Lead, Content & Creatives at GoMechanic | Automobile Scale Model Collector | DIY guy | Consumer of many foods | CVT is not that bad



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