High Performance Transmission Auto, Manual, DCT or CVT?

There are many elements that factor into a car’s performance, and one of them is performance transmission. Car aficionados give a lot of thought to the type of transmission that they want to have on their next vehicle. A few years ago, the choice was simple: you either went for a “stick-shift”/standard or for an automatic. Things aren’t as simple as they were back then. More and more choices have become available in the age of technology. Just thinking about electric vehicles and their wide range of specialized transmissions can become confusing.

A vehicle buyer should be able to make the educated decision when it comes to high performance transmissions. In order to do this he must first understand what exactly transmission is and how it manages to put the car in motion. As the name state, transmissions, which are almost always located between the engine and wheels, ‘transmit’ power generated by the engine towards the wheels.

But suitable torque (turning force), which is generated by the engine, can have a narrow range of speeds which depend on the turning rate of the crankshaft. The idea is that, for different speeds, wheels must turn with the appropriate torque. When speed becomes constant, the engine will turn an input shaft on the transmission which will then turn the wheels at the desired speed. Let’s take a look at the basic capabilities of different transmission types.

1. Automatic Transmission

Automatic transmission became a reality in the 1920s. Also referred to as ‘auto’, this type of transmission has been continuously fine-tuned by Cummins Diesel since its inception. Most modern cars are equipped with automatic transmission because most drivers prefer convenience over direct control over the car. All you have to do in order to create suitable torque is to put your foot on the gas.

Automatic transmissions may seem fairly simple, but they are actually extremely complicated compared to manual transmission. Their biggest downside is increased miles-per-gallon (because they are heavier than other transmission types) and inefficiency. Most automatic transmission cars operate with eight gears in order to maximize fuel efficiency.

Should you Buy Automatic Transmission?

If you value convenience over efficiency and car control then, yes, you should go for automatic transmission.

2. Manual Transmission

We have already mentioned “stick shift” above. This type of transmission is widely popular in European countries and car aficionados prefer it because it offers very direct control over the car. The concept is extremely simple: in order to change gears the driver must push down the clutch pedal and simultaneously change gears.

The number of speeds usually varies from five to six (reverse isn’t counted). The high majority of old cars use manual transmission, but newer models are also equipped with this type of transmission. The biggest downside to manual transmission is the fact that the driver  must take one hand off the steering wheel in order to operate the clutch.

Should you Buy Manual Transmission?

The first thing you need to know about manual transmission cars is the fact that they are more affordable than automatics. Purchase cost aside, you will also be spared from extra consumption and maintenance costs that come with automatic transmission.

“Those that are buying their first car or even a subsequent car and want to do so within a smaller budget should consider buying a manual,” – Viraf Baliwalla, Automall Network President

Another reason why drivers prefer manual transmission cars is because they’re fun. There is nothing that can beat the sweet-sweet feeling of doing something yourself, and manual car owners know how satisfying it can be to hear the engine purr after every command. Lastly, statistics show us that car thieves are highly likely to abandon cars with manual transmission simply because they do not know how to drive them.

Manual and automatic transmissions aside, let’s take a closer look at sub-genres and modern transmission technologies:

3. Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)

Continuously variable transmission is beguiling in its simplicity. All CVTs are comprised of two pulleys which communicate through a belt. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill pulleys as they can change their size in order to correctly „gear in” the vehicle. In addition to this, there isn’t a set number of gears when it comes to CVT transmission, because the system can freely choose the exact gear ratio needed to maintain continuum between ratios.

From a driver’s perspective, CVT is extremely similar to automatic transmission: it changes gears automatically. This type of transmission is gaining popularity with auto-makers but it is definitely not the solution for speed junkies.

Should you Buy Continuously Variable Transmission?

This depends solely on your needs. If you’re looking for an energy-efficient and convenient transmission system then the answer may be yes. However, if high-performance is what you’re aiming for you might want to pass on on what CVT has to offer. The technology still needs time to mature.

4. Automatic Transmission with Manual Controls

If you want to enjoy the driving pleasures of manual transmission without having to give up on the benefits of automatics you will be happy to hear more about automatic transmission with manual controls. To offer the best of both worlds, auto-makers have given automatic transmissions the option to be controlled manually through the use of a „shifting” position on the gear selector. Computer controls have managed to make the „automatic-with-manual-control” an inexpensive, efficient and rather enjoyable alternative.

Should you Buy Automatic Transmission with Manual Controls?

It’s hard to say no to a transmission type with so many benefits. It is believed that this type of transmission will eventually replace manual transmissions altogether.

5. Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT)

Widely popular with high-end race and sports cars, DCT (also referred to as PDK) represents the ultimate mash-up between manual transmission, automatic transmission and computer technology.

As you have probably already imagined, this unique system uses two clutches for gear changing. DCT can be used in two mods: either as a fully automatic, where the computer predetermines gear changes, or as a manual where the driver uses paddles and buttons to change speeds. This makes it possible for the driver to develop a signature driving style and enjoy performance at lightning speeds.

Should you buy DCT transmission?

If you are not a sports car fan, a generous car enthusiast or race driver then the answer is probably no. That’s because DCT transmission can only be found on extremely expensive sports cars or customized racing vehicles. The benefits of dual-clutch transmission include excellent gear toggling speed, fairly small size and durability.

Performance Transmission Customization

Why settle for stock-type transmission when you can get more horsepower through simple customizations? Irrespective of what you drive, may it be a Ford or a Mopar, tuned torque converters, accessories and track-tested transmissions can offer more power to your rear-wheels.

Manufacturers such as TCI transmission have specifically engineered components that will help you pull out race-worthy numbers. TCI transmissions models combine cutting edge technology with high-quality materials to deliver outstanding performance. The company has extremely strict quality control procedures that assess the valve body (for proper alignment and gear shifting), internal hydraulics and shifting sequences with an Axiline dyno test. Their products are suitable not only for racers but also for daily drivers who simply want more horsepower (example: the inexpensive TCI Street Rodder).

Another option would be to purchase upgrades directly from the car manufacturer. For example, chevy transmissions can be found on the company’s official website. In the transmission sub-section you can view upgrades such as the SuperMaltic 4L85-E, 4L70-E, the MG9 TR6060, Hydra-Maltic 4L65-E or T56 Super Magnum. The same rule applies for most car manufacturers. Some of the best car transmission pieces at the moment include 4r100, 700r4, GM 4L60e, 3l80e, 46re etc.

In conclusion, high performance customizations exist for almost all types of engines and car models. We would probably need an entire book to describe the possibilities of transmission performance fine-tuning. Even then we would not be able to cover all aspects, especially since drivers are free to experiment. A quick glance at this GM4L80E transmission performance guide should give you an idea about the complexity that transmission customization involves. The ideal solution would be to decide on a desired transmission model and a budget (by consulting reviews and performance indicators) then to start reading specific tuning guides.

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