By Patrick Rall
If you have built a 2013 Dodge Dart on the Dodge.com website
you may have noticed that if you add the optional 1.4L MultiAir Turbo motor you
cannot select an automatic transmission.
That is due to the fact that the traditional fluid-driven automatic
transmission that is offered with the entry level 2.0L Tigershark engine will
not be offered with the 1.4L Fiat motor but this small, powerful motor will
instead be fitted with a new 6-speed dry dual clutch transmission (DDCT). That new high tech transmission is not listed
in the 2013 Dart configurator because it will not be available until later this
year but we had a chance to drive the new Dart with the DDCT recently at the
Chrysler Chelsea Proving Grounds.
The first dual clutch automatic transmission was intended to
arrive in the Chrysler 200 and the Dodge Avenger but Chrysler scrapped those
plans when early testing combined with fiercely negative critics of other automaker’s
dual clutch transmissions led Chrysler management to go back to the drawing
board. In short, automakers like Ford
Motor Company were being heavily criticized for the function of their dual
clutch automatics so rather than face the same negative feedback – Chrysler shelved
the plans for the DDCT in the midsized sedans.
The goal for the engineers behind the 2013 Dodge Dart’s dry
dual clutch transmission was to design a unit that essentially shifted as
smoothly and as ‘regularly’ as a traditional fluid driven automatic
transmission. Older dual clutch systems
are frowned upon because they can react more like a slipping transmission or,
as I once heard it described as “riding with someone learning how to drive a
stickshift”. However, in spending a few
miles behind the wheel of a 1.4L turbocharged Dart sedan with the new 6-Speed
DDCT, I can attest that this self-shifting transmission is far less likely to
face the criticisms of other duel clutch units on the market.
I fully believe that if you put an average compact sedan
buyer in a 2013 Dodge Dart fitted with the new DDCT and simply told them that
it was a 6-speed automatic transmission, they wouldn’t have any questions
regarding the automatic transmission. In
fine dual clutch technology fashion, the shifts were quick and crisp but under
non-performance driving situations, the shifts were still fairly smooth – much like
you would expect from a traditional fluid driven automatic.
Also, unlike other automakers’ dual clutch automatic transmissions, the 2013 Dodge Dart Turbo with the new DDCT allows the driver to control the shifts via a manual shift mode on the console-mounted shifter. This allowed me to control the gear selection on the road course for the best possible acceleration in and out of the turns as well as adding a level of fun-to-drive factor to this new automatic transmission.
The 1.4L turbocharged engine in the 2013 Dodge Dart is an
awesome engine, packing great power and even greater fuel economy but right
now, Dart buyers can only opt for the 6-speed manual transmission. However, when the dry dual clutch 6-speed
automatic transmission arrives later this year – those who cannot or do not
want to deal with the clutch pedal will have a smooth yet sporty dual clutch transmission
that should offer great fuel economy without the downfalls of other companies’