Currently reading: DSG or manual? Which one should you choose?
Steve Sutcliffe and David Vivian lock horns - and you can have your say

Steve Sutcliffe is a fan of paddle-shift DSG gearboxes, whereas David Vivian prefers a 'proper' manual shift.

So which is better?

You can watch our comparison video below, and read Sutcliffe and Vivian's arguments below.

When you've finished, don't forget you can have your say in our forum section.

Alternatively, watch the VW Golf R - DSG versus manual video here


David Vivian

This is an argument Sutters has already won. With his DSG-equipped Scirocco, he’s backing the future. A future the PlayStation generation will slot right into. A future of seamless, computer-aided upshifts and rev-matched, lurch-free downshifts. A future in which the business of changing gear swiftly and smoothly is idiot-proof.


But what needles me is the blithe assumption that the new generation of electro-mechanical, semi-auto, dual-clutch transmissions (DSG, PDK, M DCT et al) is a valid substitute for doing it yourself and, without equivocation, a Good Thing. All right, against the clock they’re better than you, me, Sutcliffe and Walter Rohrl. Mere flesh, blood and synapses can’t compete with 80-millisecond powershifts.

Eventually, like most Americans, we’ll forget how to change gear with a stick and a clutch pedal. But not today. Just getting from my house to Beachy Head Road in East Sussex has required hundreds of manual gearchanges. Well, maybe not required; some of them were purely gratuitous.

And that’s my point. In the right car – one in which the gearchange and clutch action, and the positioning of the brake and accelerator pedals, have been honed with as much care as the camshaft lobe profiles – slotting the ratios yourself isn’t a chore. It isn’t a distraction, or an onerous chunk of manual labour that detracts from the purity of the driving experience. It’s the one unassisted, truly interactive mechanical operation left to the driver.

Transferring the energy of the engine to the driven wheels via meshing cogs and plates, by means of a lever and a pedal, requires a degree of skill. And if you’re into driving, who wouldn’t want to be physically (rather than merely cerebrally) involved in the process, the human component at the fulcrum of the drivetrain? It’s a prospect to relish, surely?


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Steve Sutcliffe

Dual-clutch gearboxes are not the future, as David Vivian suggests: they are the present. And apart from one glaringly obvious issue – they cost a small fortune to engineer and therefore ain’t cheap as an optional extra – there just aren’t many other reasons not to love ’em.


Dual-clutch gearboxes are quite staggeringly brilliant at what they do. And even when it comes to the subjective argument, I just don’t buy into the ‘manual is best’ reasoning.

For starters, the pro-manual argument falls apart if the manual in question is anything other than a very good one – and there have been plenty of rubbish manual gearboxes over the years, featuring heavy clutches with awkward biting points and gearlevers that wobble around like spaghetti.

Then there’s the false notion that there is no particular joy in operating a dual-clutch gearbox manually; for me, it’s just not valid. You can have oodles of fun and get just as much ‘connection’ out of a good DSG.

Dual-clutch gearboxes don’t merely leave you, the driver, to sit there and watch the action unfold, after all. To get the most out of one, you must interact with it in much the same way as you would a manual.

Dual-clutch gearboxes are, in their way, every bit as involving as manuals. If anything, by removing the boring bit (having to engage and disengage a clutch), it could easily be argued that dual-clutch gearboxes are more fun. They’re certainly more efficient, because they allow you to focus on what matters most – namely, when precisely to change gear.

The full Sutcliffe versus Vivian argument can be read in the latest issue of Autocar, on sale now.


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Iyas Azara 6 September 2014

Iyas Azara
carl 22 February 2013

Re: DSG or manual?

Automatic is good and fantastic, no matter how will the technology move on, the true best automatic was actually invented a hundred years ago and it's called "taxi", it's even voice-controlled


andy 31 August 2012

I tried to like the DSG,

I tried to like the DSG, borrowed a Golf GTI for 2 weeks and drove an S-Tronic Audi for about a week or so.

After a while I kept just leaving the thing in D. There's no need to change, the car will for you eventually. I got bored, it's a fancy Automatic, nothing more. I hate how they creep at lights too.

On a track it's superior. Having a bit of fun on a twisty road is tons more fun with a manual. Your basically just steering and pressing the go pedal.