What is a DSG gearbox?

There was a time when buying a new car meant a choice between a manual or automatic gearbox. Now there’s another type of transmission to consider – a DSG gearbox.

So, what exactly is a DSG gearbox car, and can it impact your car insurance?

There was a time when buying a new car meant a choice between a manual or automatic gearbox. Now there’s another type of transmission to consider – a DSG gearbox.

So, what exactly is a DSG gearbox car, and can it impact your car insurance?

Daniel Hutson
Motor insurance expert
minute read
Do you know someone who could benefit from this article?
Posted 26 APRIL 2021

What is a DSG gearbox?

DSG stands for direct shift gearbox. Also known as a dual-clutch, twin-clutch gearbox or DCT, it’s very similar to an automatic gearbox, but with two clutches instead of one. The clutches are built one inside the other, so only one gear stick is visible, just like a conventional automatic. 

While the first clutch is engaged, the second clutch is ready to change gears in response to the way you drive. Sensors in the gearbox can measure how fast you’re going, how hard the engine is working, and how much you’re accelerating. It then intuitively works out when to change gear. The result is a smoother, faster gear shift with virtually no pause. 

Thanks to the seamless, responsive gear shifts, DSG gearboxes are fast becoming a popular feature in many modern sports models.

Simply put, a DSG gearbox gives you the best of both worlds – the comfort and ease of an automatic, with the option of taking full control of the car by shifting into manual mode.

How do you drive a DSG gearbox car?

Driving a DSG gearbox car is very similar to driving a conventional automatic. It has two pedals – the brake and the accelerator – and typically Park, Reverse, Drive and Neutral lever settings. And like most automatics, you’ll usually have to put your foot on the brake to switch between the settings.

While the DSG technology is controlled by a computer, most modern DSG cars are also equipped with a manual mode that lets you override the automatic gear changes. For example, if you want to select a lower gear for climbing a steep hill or overtaking.

Depending on the model, you usually do this by shifting the gear lever to manual mode or by using the + and – finger controls on paddles behind the steering wheel, much like a F1 racing driver.

DSG vs conventional automatic

It’s easy to see why many drivers prefer an automatic to a manual car, especially in congested, slow-moving traffic – mainly because there’s no need to have your foot constantly on and off the clutch.

But why would you choose a DSG over a conventional automatic?

The main advantage of a DSG over a conventional auto is that it gives you a smoother and faster change of gears. This is because it works with a two-clutch system. While the first clutch is engaged, the second is already preparing the next gear shift and is able to choose the optimal moment to change up or down. It can do this in just a few hundredths of a second.

In comparison, a conventional automatic uses a torque converter to change gears. It’s not quite as seamless and responsive as the intuitive, DSG dual-clutch system. Torque converters also waste more energy, so can be less fuel efficient than DSG systems.

Which car manufacturers offer the DSG gearbox?

The DSG was first introduced by the Volkswagen Group in 2003. It’s now widely used in sports models for brands in the VW Group including Volkswagen, Audi, SEAT, Skoda and Porsche.

Other popular car manufacturers including Ford, Volvo, BMW, Nissan, Citroen and Peugeot also offer DSG-style transmissions. Some use different names for their direct shift gearboxes, for example:

  • Audi – S Tronic
  • Porsche – PDK
  • BMW – DCT
  • Ford – Powershift
  • Peugeot – DCS
  • Volvo - Powershift

Do cars with DSG transmission cost more to buy?

It depends on the make, model, trim and optional features, but yes, in general, if you opt for a DSG transmission it will likely cost more than the manual version.

What about fuel efficiency?

Older six-speed DSGs use two ‘wet’ clutches that are heavier than single manual transmissions, so tend to be slightly less fuel-efficient.

But newer, seven-speed DSGs are now equipped with two ‘dry’ clutches which weigh less, offering better fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions than most manual versions.

How reliable are DSG gearboxes?

With care and proper maintenance, a DSG gearbox should be no less reliable than other types of transmissions. But over time, signs of wear and tear can start to show.

Common faults, especially in older, six-speed DSGs include:

  • noisy bearings
  • juddering and shuddering
  • slow to change gears
  • struggling to speed up in some gears

But no gearbox is 100% reliable, especially with a fair amount of mileage on the clock. DSGs are fully automated, so unlike manual transmissions, they don’t risk gear ‘crunching’ from heavy-handed drivers, which can cause the clutch to wear out prematurely.

Do DSG gearbox cars cost more to insure?

The complex technology used to make up a DSG gearbox means that repairs and replacement parts are going to cost more. This means that you’ll most likely pay more to insure a DSG car compared to its manual counterpart.

The cost of your premium can also be affected by the car insurance group your car is in. The higher the group, the more expensive your car insurance is likely to be.

Many brands fit DSG gearboxes in their sports models, which can typically be found the higher insurance groups.

You also need to factor in your own circumstances, for example, where you live, your driving history, your job and where you park your car at night.

The good news is that average car insurance premiums have dropped to the lowest level this winter in five years. According to Compare the Market’s latest Premium Drivers report, the average car insurance premium for Q4 (September to November 2020) fell to £707 – down by £24 from the year before.

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One of the best ways to save money on your DSG car insurance is to shop around and compare quotes.

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