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Taking a spin in the Dart dual-clutch

by David Zatz on

Allpar was one of many media organizations invited to take a drive in the dual-clutch (DDCT) equipped Dodge Dart. The experience was stunning: the transmission acts exactly like a traditional automatic, except for being smoother.

One of the key features of the 2013 Dodge Dart is Chrysler’s first use of a dual-clutch automatic (DDCT), which is essentially an automatically shifted automatic transmission with two clutches, one in gear, one ready for the next gear. They’re often more efficient than conventional automatics because there’s almost no time spent “out of gear,” and because, they have no fluid coupling — standard automatics spin a fluid to move power from engine to wheels, but the DDCT has a full mechanical grip. The one in the Dart is a Fiat unit, using the same gearset as the manual transmission.

We tested a 2013 Dodge Dart with the new dual-clutch at Chrysler’s Chelsea proving grounds, on a road with both high-speed stretches and deliberately “bad” pavement. The dual-clutch was stunningly smooth, feeling like the new eight-speed automatics, except with even less indication that shifting is, indeed, going on behind the scenes.

 We tried to trip up the system, slowing down and then hitting the gas, going from idle to full throttle, and suddenly going from high-throttle acceleration to coasting; it reacted quickly and smoothly to each situation without a single mis-step, unlike most conventional automatics. Still, it felt like a standard automatic when coasting, without too much of the extra drag normal for manual transmissions. In short, this is a dual-clutch automatic which, unlike some competitors’ units, will not surprise or dismay drivers new to the technology (or, for that matter, the uncaring “point A to point B” driver who just wants an appliance.)

Gas mileage on the DDCT has been revealed as being somewhat less than the stick-shift, but we were told the reason is different gearing, and that a second version would be released later.

David Zatz founded Allpar in 1998 (based on a site he had begun in 1993-94), after years of writing reviews for retail trades. He has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. Before making Allpar a full-time career, he was a consultant in organizational psychology. You can reach him by using our contact form (much preferred) or by calling (313) 766-2304


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