Not all gearboxes are built the same and that is why we have so many different titles, only when you dig deep do you find out what do these automatics means. The majority of automatic gearboxes are sequential, which means each gear is used in order, similar to a manual starting with the largest gear in first followed by second and then third, etc.
These types of gearbox have been used in cars for decades, simply they use the torque generated by accelerating to activate the gear change increasing or the deceleration from braking or coasting to change down through the gears. All of the mechanical shifting is controlled by the ECU or engine control unit.
One of the least common automatic gearboxes on the British market, semi-automatic gearboxes are typical of sports cars. Sometimes called clutchless systems, a semi-automatic gearbox is an additional option allowing the driver manual control over the gear selection. Cheaper models may not have an automatic transmission and instead require drivers to use gear selectors or paddles behind the steering wheel to select gears also known as flappy paddle gearboxes.
CVT automatic gearboxes mean continuously variable transmission. Continuous, because there are a series of pulleys and belts that controls the varying gear ratio to provide the best drive possible, used by manufacturers like Toyota. This system is best for fuel economy and smooth acceleration as gear changes are seamless, offsets for this include engine noise and high-end performance.
An original product of sports car manufacturer Porsche the Tiptronic gearbox was first made in the 1990s for road cars, often nicknamed the manumatic, like Semi-auto gearboxes Tiptronic transmission removes the clutch assembly and pedal and uses a torque converter, similar to a traditional auto to shift gears. Unlike most traditional automatics the gear selector is used to climb or descend the gearbox.
DSG is an acronym for Direct Shift Gearbox, very similar to a dual-clutch system, the DSG has two clutches in the case that engages and disengages alternately when changing gears ensuring that two gears are always spinning so changes are so fast they’re almost unnoticeable to the driver. DSG transmission in modern vehicles has also become so effective at shifting gears they have become more efficient than manual gearboxes. Where the DSG differs from a Dual-clutch is the use of transmission fluid making it a wet clutch gearbox, this lubrication helps with long term wear and tear.
Self-explanatory the dual-clutch transmission has two clutches in the gearbox, one assigned to odd gears while the second manages even number gears. Changes are managed by the individual shifter instead of a torque converter. The double clutch makes changes faster and smoother at first, while the lack of transmission fluid used to reduce friction, also called a dry clutch, wear and tear on the components can cause gear changes to feel rougher as parts wear.
Abarth, the performance manufacturer currently linked with Fiat has kept the easy to recognise Auto name tag. The engine is a turbo injected 1.4-litre 4 cylinders paired with a 6-speed gearbox.
The traditional automatic is again just called auto, previously named the TCT is a twin-clutch transmission. The current gearbox on offer is an 8-speed installed in most Alfa's pushing power to the rear.
Sports car and supercars like those from Aston Martin are either track-ready road cars or grand tourers. And the latest generation of Touchtronic uses 8 gears selected by a wire control system. The delivery allows full automation and driver override for the inner racing driver.
One of the most popular types of gearboxes on the road is Audi’s S Tronic, a manumatic that allows drivers a smooth and comfortable auto with the punch from a manual when required. The S represents either six or seven referencing the number of the gears. The Audi S tronic is a dual clutch transmission, while the performance-based Tiptronic gearbox used in their flagship and RS models is a classic torque-converter gearbox with either six or eight cogs.
Not one to mince their words Bentley sell their cars with an 8-speed close ratio gearbox making it smooth between gear while also being able to handle the substantial torque and power from the master crafted engine.
Most BMW’s have a Step Auto transmission which is another Tronic transmission utilising automatic shifting to save your left leg from clutch depression on the commute to work, while the manual sequential selector lets the driver take control when they want to use more power. BMW uses a DCT gearbox in their performance M cars, the dual clutch transmission guarantees sharp shifts reducing waste pressure between gears. The dry clutch system is perfect for a more connected drive.
Both of Citroens EAT gearboxes are named because of the Efficient Automatic Transmission with either 6 or 8 gears, while the smaller system is sufficient for the small models in the range the larger mechanism reduces fuel consumption and is lighter while providing a smoother less throttle heavy shift.
As part of the Citroen Group, DS motor uses the same EAT6 in the Citroen DS 3 hatchback and the EAT8 in the DS7 Crossback.
Ferrari hasn’t used full manual gearboxes in any of their cars for more than 25 years, and the GT cars available today have a Semi-Auto transmission that can if desired be turn off to make the car fully automatic.
Fiat uses a range of automatic gearboxes depending on the vehicle and performance required, DDCT stands for Dual Dry Clutch Transmission which is currently available on the Fiat Tipo range. A DCT is also used on models such as the 500X. Most confusing of the Fiat automatic range is the DuaLogic, is an electrohydraulic servo controlled semi-auto system that has fully automatic capabilities along with a manual intervention for the best combination of economy and performance for the conditions.
In a bid to not confuse their customers Ford have continued to use the standard automatic for the Ford fleet. Although the development name is PowerShift, the gearbox is made of 6 gears assembled with a Semi-automatic activation and uses a dry clutch actuated by an electrically controlled solenoid.
The CVT used by Honda is a complex series of pulleys and tensioners that adjust the speed of the driveshaft without the need for gears, the system is perfect for weight reduction although top end speed is often affected. The ECVT used on the CR-V used an electronic continuously variable transmission. An electric motor and not torque pressure adjust the belts and pulleys to ensure that the car provides the best rotation range for the circumstances.
Depending on the model and range Hyundai offers a DCT or dual-clutch transmission as well as a conventional automatic gearbox using torque conversion to select gears. The DCT is computer operated while the ECU monitors and adjusts the single clutch option.
As a subsidiary of Nissan producing premium quality cars, the producer uses a DCT configuration in all of their automatics that give customers a simultaneous gearshift without interruption making for a smooth ride in all new cars.
Jaguar is a brand that has built itself around the idea of stealth, the gearbox is no different when used as a fully automatic, gear changes are smooth. While the manual override of the Tronic gives the driver control, allowing them to use the full rev range before manually shifting.
Jeep is well known for their 4WD system, as well as their off-road SUVs. The front wheel drive version of their cars are available with a dual dry clutch transmission, using 6 gears giving a smooth transition from when new with higher mileage cars feeling rougher. The four-wheel drive system uses a single clutch system with 9 gears to better manage the torque to all wheels.
Kia’s DCT is a 7-speed automatic available on the Optima, Ceed and Pro Ceed as well as the Sportage. Once again sports models require a stiffer gearbox to handle the power and performance delivered from the power plant and the Kia Stinger uses an 8-speed auto for quicker shifting. With a higher range.
Whether you choose an off-roader like the Discovery or you want luxury in your all-terrain vehicle with a Range Rover, the automatic gearbox is shared with Jaguar, some minor adaptations change the Tronic to a sequential gearbox using Land Rover’s Command Shift.
A popular choice for Japanese manufacturer's like Lexus is the use of a CVT transmission, and the majority of the range use this complex mechanism system with only one gear. Lexus also uses a Tronic gearbox in their high performance and limited edition models a simple single drive eight-speed transmission.
As a manufacturer that focuses on the experience of driving, Lotus offer stripped back cars that are as light as possible to maximise weight to power ratios and part of that is to not use an automatic gearbox, however, Lotus’ IPS which stands for Intelligent Precision Shift is an optional 6 gear semi-auto transmission.
Mazda keeps the simple Automatic title for their transmission but has changed the title to just AT, the same gearbox is used across the range from the sporty Mazda 6 to the crossover CX-5 a standard 6-speed that is lightweight, and smooth without the need for complex torque adjustments.
Mercedes-Benz is a manufacturer that is well versed in automatic gearbox design, often considered a luxury, the currently use a 9G-Tronic transmission in models above the C-Class which is simply a 9-gear transmission that also has a manual selector override. The 9G-Tronic is the natural successor of the previously criticised 7G-Tronic. For smaller and lower models in the Mercedes roster, the 7-gear automatic is used in place of the larger and heavier nine gear selection. Both gearboxes use a double clutch to ensure the next gear is ready to be served up whenever selected.
MG came back to the British market in 2006 and currently offers a reasonably limited range of vehicles with the cheapest MG 3 not having any automatic option, the larger GS and MG ZS use a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Part of the BMW group Mini installs a Tronic gearbox with two clutches to give the smoothest change as well as a quick up or downshift. The Tronic selection allows for driver intervention for short shifting or to use a wider band of the revolution range.
Mitsubishi uses the popular Japanese developed Continuous Variable Transmission set up with pulleys and belts that adjust to increase in speed by contracting around the prop shaft and expanding to reduce speed according to the torque.
Another Japanese manufacturer producing automatic gearboxes, Nissan uses a dual clutch transmission in the Juke and Qashqai while the higher demand engine in the 370Z and GTR uses a 7-speed automatic Tronic gearbox with magnesium shifters behind the steering wheel.
As part of the PSA group Peugeot use the same automatic gearboxes found in rival Citroen, the Efficient Automatic Transmission or EAT is available as either a 6 or 8 gear transmission and is available on almost every model in the Peugeot range.
Not to be left behind in the luxury market Porsche use a Double Clutch gearbox that has a Tronic override function that can be manually controlled by the 7-Speed Porsche automatic gearbox. PDK stands for Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe which is translated to Porsche Double Clutch Transmission.
The Renault engine is designed to be efficient and so is their gearbox timing, that is why Renault named the automatic used in all of their cars the EDC which standard for Efficient Dual Clutch a six-speed transmission that uses dry friction between the clutch and plates to transfer drive. Gear selection is controlled by the ECU.
Part of the Volkswagen group it is expected that they will use some of the same designs and parts, and the SEAT Leon typically shares parts with the VW golf including the DSG gearbox options. The lubricated engagement dual clutch system used is almost identical in parts to that on the modern Golf.
Another subsidiary of the VW group Skoda also uses the same wet clutch found in most VW vehicles, the Rapid uses a 7-speed automatic. While small models like the City Go are reserved to using a 5-speed automatic known as an ASK or Automated Shift Gearbox, a traditional torque controlled transmission with a single clutch. With manual gear selection if required.
Smart cars produced by Mercedes-Benz are available in a 5-speed manual or an automatic variety, despite the simple automatic name Smart uses a 6-speed dual clutch transmission in their cars that they have nicknamed the Twinamic thanks to the Tronic setting that gives gear control back to the driver.
Not to overcomplicate their names, SsangYong decided to name their automatics, Auto. and uses exactly the same number of gears as their manual petrol and diesel counterparts. Almost as if SsangYong took the manual gearbox added an automatic gear changer and installed it in their range.
A brand somewhat forgotten in the new car market, Subaru has produced a strong gearbox and engine pair for decades and the latest Lineartronic is a six-speed automatic with the manual selector for drivers preference when using the advanced 4WD system tackling any road conditions. The Lineartronic gearbox is a CVT selector that although increases engine noise reduces the loss of efficiency when selecting gears.
CVT engines have been used to control Toyota’s automatic transmission for decades, the variable tension gives the best efficiency and a smooth driving feel, while the fast, performance-based vehicles like the GT86 and the new Toyota Supra will be using a 6-speed wet clutch that will deliver all of the power to the rear wheels.
As previously mention Volkswagen produces a range of gearboxes that it shares with other manufacturers in the group, the Automatic Shift Gearbox (ASG) is used in the UP!. While the Polo and larger vehicles use Volkswagens DSG which stands for Direct Shift Gearbox has a wet dual clutch that runs the even and odd number gears alternately for the best performance.