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Volkswagen's Three Mode DSG Automatic Transmission

Updated on May 14, 2012

Which Driving Mode is Best?

New owners to the Volkswagen automatic transmission often are a bit confused to the three modes they offer. While true, may cars offer the automatic transmission with the ability to become like a "stick", VW and other German carmakers provide three modes.

The first mode is D (Drive). The second mode is S (Sport). The third requires the driver to move the shift knob to activate manual mode.

In Drive, the transmission shifts to higher gears early in order to minimize engine noise and maximize fuel economy, while Sport mode holds the lower gears longer in order to keep the engine in its powerband. The driver in D mode will notice a lugging or lack of power in the low gears. From a stop, it is painfully slow, IMO. Usually, by the time you are 40 mph, you are already in 5th-6th gear. I suggest using D mode on the highway for slightly better MPG. D mode in stop and go driving is lacking torque. Sport mode provides much more aggressive downshifts with less accelerator pedal pressure. Engaging Sport mode also causes the car to react more aggressively to the accelerator pedal. Sport mode is tends not to shift as quickly through the gears as D mode does. Thus, it is likely to remain in 5th gear until 65 MPH, when 6th gear kicks in. What I like is the fast drop in speed when you take off the gas, if you are able to judge the distance to a stop, you will barely have to use your brakes until he end. This is not the case with D mode. In S mode, the shifts are generally every 7 mph, for instance, if a gear shifts at 20 mph, the next shift is at 27 mph. As far as MPG, the loss of economy is negligible, at best. I have driven both, and the MPG is about the same. Sport mode is much faster from a stop and it has the impression of a sport car.

The final mode is manual. This is where the driver actually controls when the car shifts. Using this does simulate a stickshift well and usually MPG suffers much more than when the computer controls it for optimal MPG. Of course, the driver is free to move into any of the modes while moving. Volkswagen's DSG takes about 8 milliseconds to upshift, which fast. The VW DSG is slightly faster in the 0-60 than a standard stickshift.

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