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Shifting Attention: Transmission Makes a Manual seem Vintage

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But a week of testing the VW GTI with direct-shift gearbox has me planning another exit.

Volkswagen calls its DSG an automatic, but that's misleading. It's more of an automated manual transmission. Or is it a semiautomatic?

There are a few of these transmissions on the market - from BMW, Ferrari and Volkswagen-Audi - but VW has the simplest engineering.

These are sport systems but practical because they are lighter and more compact than traditional automatic transmissions. They also are more fuel-efficient, reduce engine emissions and give quicker acceleration because there isn't the power drain from a torque converter to change gears.

To prevent teeth-gnashing criticism from tech-types, I must say that this is not an automatic transmission, though it does have a full automatic drive mode for comfort and commuting. But it's missing a pedal for it to be a traditional manual.

I'll call it a computer-controlled manual transmission, one that gives quicker shift points than are humanly possible. Put the pedal down and the transmission clicks off upshifts with Formula 1 intensity and blips the throttle on downshifts.

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