Up until now we’ve only really had the Germans who could pull off double clutch magic in an everyday road car. The Volkswagen DSG system being the most prominent and widely adopted, then S-Tronic, PDK (all from the same family) and a few high performance BMW’s and a gull-winged Mercedes-Benz supercar of late. Sure, there’s the Nissan GT-R, the new Ferrari’s and the McLaren MP4-12C too, but those are cars of an exclusive breed, proving that double clutch technology belongs in rarefied territory.
Recently though, Ford and Volvo have introduced their own version of the same tech, but there have been several complaints, in the USA especially, about their lack of refinement and poor responsiveness. I personally didn’t find the twin clutch gearbox all that bad in the 2.0 TDCi Ford Focus I drove last year, but I did find it pretty cringe worthy in a petrol-powered T3 Volvo V40. It launched aggressively from standstill no matter how much you feathered the throttle and then it lurched and surged all the way through its gears. They weren’t the only manufacturers to struggle with small displacement, small output engines and dual clutch gearboxes. The same phenomenon plagues the lesser powered 1.4 TSI engines from Volkswagen. The 90 kW paired with a DSG is quite uncouth; the 118 kW is smoother and works better with more power on tap.
The Italians have now decided to have a go and the Alfa Romeo, six speed, Twin Clutch Transmission TCT is now available on the Mito and the Giulietta – both on their MultiAir engines. All the top performing QV’s will stick with the six speed manual. Alfa Romeo claims this new gearbox improves every aspect of the motoring experience: economy, emissions, driver enjoyment and performance. The TCT in the Mito (100 kW & 230 Nm) will get it to 100 km/h in 8.2-seconds and still average 5.5 L/100km when combined with the engine stop/start function and help it produce just 126 g/km of CO2. On the bigger Giulietta (125 kW & 250 Nm) it uses just 5.2 L/100km and sprints to 100 km/h in 7.7-seconds, outperforming the manual version, both in speed and economy. In combination with the engine stop/start and the new TCT, the Giulietta achieves a brilliant figure of 121 g/km of CO2.
The Alfa Romeo transmission is a ‘dry’ twin clutch system that is 10% more efficient than an automatic and has the ability to actively adapt to various road conditions and shifting needs, such as if the roads are very wet, or you’re driving aggressively, etc. The control unit is fully integrated with the Alfa Romeo DNA system. That’s motivation enough to not let your girlfriend use the car when you’re not looking, because when you climb back in it, the shift pattern will have automatically adapted to her, likely, safer style.
Alfa defend their use of ‘dry’ clutches by saying the ‘wet’ clutches that operate in an oil bath are less efficient because of frictional losses in their viscous operation and they also require a form of forced oil cooling all the time and more oil to run. Dry clutches are 6% more efficient than wet clutch equivalents. The gearbox can handle a 350 Nm of maximum torque passing through it and it saves 10 kg over a regular wet clutch system. I guess we’ll take Alfa Romeo at their word on the efficiency front, but what about drivability?
Well, the TCT is a quantum leap ahead of the MTA contraption the Fiat group used to offer up. That automated manual thing left you head banging between shifts like you were at a Metallica concert, the TCT is much more civilised in urban environments. Once you’re on the move at speed however, the Mito TCT doesn’t feel quite as well synchronised to its 100 kW engine as the Giulietta does to its 125 kW unit; true to form I’d like to think, my theory about higher outputs being better for a dual clutch transmissions rings true here. The Mito has a slightly more droning disposition as you see the revs rise towards the red line.
The Giulietta feels more at home shifting sportily in Dynamic mode on the DNA. That little bit of extra power reassures you the next gear has hit home too, so you invariably feel more feedback from behind the steering wheel. The paddle shifters on the steering wheel could be a little more substantial, a little less plastic for a more satisfying shift. I don’t think the TCT in the Mito is going to be a game changer and based on the skint 2% market for automatics in its segment, it doesn’t really need to be.
However, 20% of the C-segment, where the Giulietta competes, is already offered with two-peddle transmissions and that bodes well for the Alfa Romeo, which genuinely benefits from this fresh addition of new technology. In urban driving and ‘N’ mode engaged on the DNA it shifts seamlessly and with little fuss. When the mood strikes, the road opens up and you slip it into ‘D’ mode, the gearbox holds the revs cleanly to the red line and gives sufficient sporting feedback. The needle probably plays a slightly less urgent tune on the rev counter when compared to a Volkswagen DSG with its very assured shifts and exhaust resonance, but subjectively at least, the TCT seems more talented than the Volvo or Ford equivalent dual clutch. We look forward to getting these three transmissions together in the future and doing some more thorough tests. For now though, it’s so far so good for Alfa Romeos first venture into twin clutch technology.
|Pricing (incl. VAT and CO2 Tax)|
|Alfa Romeo Mito MultiAir 100kW Distinctive TCT||R265 000|
|Alfa Romeo Giulietta MultiAir 125kW Distinctive TCT||R315 000|
Prices include a 5-year/150 000km warranty and 6-year service plan.