Accessories & Tech News

Long live the manual gearbox!

Subaru BRZ

It’s a fact of the modern automotive world that the manual gearbox is fast becoming the poor cousin of the double-clutch transmission.

Lamborghini has put a cross through the manual box and worse, the purist’s supercar—the Porsche 911 GT3—is available exclusively with PDK. The same is happening at the cheaper end of the market, too. Even the model name of the new Clio RS 200 EDC (efficient double clutch) tells us there’s no manual here.

The end is nigh.

Steve Sutcliffe from Autocar has taken a look into this phenomenon and found that, in the UK at least, the manual ‘box still lives large. A whopping 75% of all new cars sold in the UK last year was fitted with a “proper” transmission. Unsurprisingly, the US is in complete contrast with just 7% of new cars having a manual. We expect Australia is somewhere in the middle, with slushboxes and dual-clutch transmissions forming an overwhelming majority.

Autocar went to the manufacturers seeking answers and while mostly predictable, to do with gear change efficiency and fuel economy, here’s a couple of the more intriguing replies (use the source link below to check out the article in full)…

Ferrari chief of engineering, Roberto Fedeli: “Greater integration with all the vehicle’s other electronic control systems – E-diff, F1-Trac, high-performance ABS, magnetorheological suspension – allowed by the DCT has given us even more advantages, not least the ability to build a car that is supremely agile yet controllable on the limit, as well as being more frugal.”

Porsche head of GT car development, Andreas Preuninger: “The ‘simply add lightness’ philosophy to make a car faster, especially the past three GT3 generations, just does not apply any more. Nowadays, systems that add extra speed over-compensate their extra weight very clearly. Purism and performance are no longer inextricably linked. Indeed, they turn more and more into opposites today.

“It’s also vital to note that we built a 991 GT3 with a manual gearbox and ran it during development alongside prototypes with the PDK – and in all cases, both emotionally and empirically, the PDK came out on top. And that’s why we built the car this way.”

Whatever the future holds, we’ll always prefer changing gears by ourselves, no matter how much slower it might be.

[Source: Autocar]

Safety Issues Volkswagen

Volkswagen AG announces international recalls


Volkswagen AG issued an international recall notice on Friday which will affect over 2.6 million vehicles worldwide.

A total of three campaigns are being run:

  1. Tiguan vehicle lights (affecting approximately 800,000 vehicles)
  2. DQ200 DSG oil change (affecting approximately 1.6 million vehicles)
  3. Amarok fuel pipe (affecting approximately 240,000 vehicles)

Tiguans built between 2008–11 will have a fuse replaced to remove the possibility of a faulty fuse blowing and causing one of the two light circuits to fail.

All vehicles fitted with a DQ200 7-speed DSG which use synthetic oil will be recalled to replace the synthetic oil with mineral oil. This is to prevent “electric malfunctions” on vehicles “subject to a hot and humid climate, coupled with a high proportion of stop and go driving”.

Volkswagen Australia says it has already issued a recall covering 25,928 vehicles with DSG gearboxes built between June 2008 and September 2011. About 40% of owners affected by this recall have already had their gearbox oil changed and they will not need to return their vehicles for further attention as a result of this new recall.

Some Amarok models fitted with a 2.0 litre TDI engine can suffer from a leaking fuel pipe in the engine compartment. Volkswagen Australia will contact owners of affected vehicles and bring them in to fit a chafe protector to the affected areas.

Safety Issues Volkswagen

Victorian Coroner clears Volkswagen in Ryan case

Volkswagen Golf V GTI

On Friday Victorian Coroner Heather Spooner delivered her findings into the investigation of the death of Melissa Ryan in 2011. The case came to prominence earlier this year after a concerted campaign from Fairfax Media.

Ryan died from head injuries suffered after her car was hit from behind by a B-double semi trailer. The truck driver, Ivan Mumford, told Police at the scene: “She was in my peripheral vision; all of a sudden she had almost come to a stop in front of me. I stood on the brakes and at this time there was only about eight feet between us. I hit her, pushed her forward and then her car took off and stopped against the wire.”

Fairfax Media reported on the incident with the headline “Death prompts VW owners to speak out”. Whether by intention or otherwise the article and subsequent intense coverage from Fairfax gave the impression that Ryan’s death was linked to ongoing issues with Volkswagen models, most fitted with 7-speed DQ200 DSG transmissions and 1.4 litre TFSI engines. Ryan’s car was a 2008 Golf GTI fitted with a 6-speed manual transmission and a 2.0 litre turbo engine.

Safety Issues Volkswagen

It’s the hot weather, stupid

Volkswagen Golf VI

Volkswagen UK has felt the need to clarify a few things after being asked if they would join countries like Australia, China, Europe, Japan, New Zealand and the United States in carrying out a voluntary recall relating to the 7-speed DQ200 DSG transmission.

In short, the answer is: No!

“It is a problem that relates only to temperate countries with a high incidence of stop and start driving,” explained a VW UK spokesperson. “It requires a set of circumstances—humidity, temperature, dust and congested driving conditions—that we simply don’t see in the UK.

“We have robust systems in place to monitor potential problems and, although we have around 48,000 cars on the road equipped with DQ200 gearboxes, we haven’t seen any failures that we can attribute to this problem.”

Mechanically speaking, the specification of DQ200 transmission is the same for UK delivered cars as it is for models sold in Australia. There are country-specific software differences, though.

Volkswagen UK is at pains to point out that they have not received any complaints in line with the issues encountered in Australia. “The DSG mechatronics are programmed differently according to the country in which a vehicle will be sold,” a VW UK statement reads. “The issues recently experienced by some customers in Australia have not been repeated in the UK, nor indeed in other temperate countries.”

Volkswagen UK may very well be correct in their statement regarding the differing climate between the UK and elsewhere; we’re not suggesting it isn’t. However, prior to initiating their own voluntary recall Volkswagen Australia, too, fobbed off local complaints saying there were differences between Australia and other countries that had already issued recalls.

[Source: Autocar]

Audi Safety Issues Skoda Volkswagen

Audi, Skoda to join Australian DSG recall

Audi A1

The news just keeps getting worse for the Volkswagen Group with word that Audi and Skoda will be joining Volkswagen Australia in the voluntary recall to remedy problems with the 7-speed DSG (DQ200) transmission.

Nothing official has yet to emerge from the PR departments of Audi or Skoda but it is understood over 6200 A1 and A3 vehicles, as well as around 1750 Octavia and Superb models will be included in the recall. As with Volkswagen, the date range for the affected vehicles falls between 2008–2011.

That takes the total number of Australian sold vehicles to be included in the voluntary recall well beyond 30,000. That’s gonna take some time to work through!

[Source: Go Auto]

Safety Issues Volkswagen

Volkswagen Australia announces voluntary recall


As expected Volkswagen has this morning announced an official recall. The announcement only covers vehicles fitted with a 7-speed DSG transmission (DQ200) built from June 2008 to September 2011. Notices will go out to affected owners from next month. There is no word yet on an official recall for diesel powered models that may be affected by injector issues. Here is Volkswagen’s statement in full:

Volkswagen Group Australia Announces Voluntary Recall

Volkswagen Group Australia today announced a voluntary recall for 25,928 vehicles fitted with 7-speed DSG gearbox (DQ200).

Vehicles affected include Golf, Jetta, Polo, Passat and Caddy and were produced between June 2008 and September 2011.

In isolated cases, an electronic malfunction in the control unit inside the gearbox mechatronics may result in a power interruption. Other important vehicle systems, such as steering and braking, along with other relevant systems, will continue to be fully functional. If, in rare cases, the car loses power while driving, the driver can remain in control to safely manoeuvre the car to a stop.

Volkswagen vehicles currently being produced and sold are not affected by this issue. Australian customers can have trust, peace of mind and confidence when purchasing a new Volkswagen vehicle.

Volkswagen Group Australia will replace the gearbox mechatronic unit on all potentially affected vehicles at no cost to the customer. At the same time, we will also update customers’ vehicles with the latest software version.

Starting from July, owners of the affected vehicles will be contacted directly by Volkswagen Group Australia about the voluntary recall.

The invitation letters to schedule appointments for inspection and replacement of affected parts will be sent out in batches to the owners according to car model, production date and the supply of the necessary parts. Owners can continue to drive their vehicles as usual before the replacement.

In Volkswagen owners are invited to call the Customer Service Centre hotline on 1800 504 076 for this and all other technical inquiries Customer satisfaction is Volkswagen’s highest priority.

UPDATE: The ACCC has published a notice regarding the Volkswagen recall (see below). Interestingly they state vehicles built between 2009–2012 are affected, which is different to Volkswagen’s own date range above.

UPDATE #2: The website has been corrected to indicate cars affected were built in 2008–2011. Other edits were made to the text relating to the defects and hazards. You can compare both notices below.

Safety Issues Volkswagen

Volkswagen Australia responds to Fairfax Media


In a not unexpected development Volkswagen has issued an official response to yesterday’s Fairfax Media article:

Volkswagen Group Australia Response to Fairfax

The coronial inquest regarding the death of Ms. Ryan is still ongoing, we will not comment on the investigation, except to say that we are cooperating fully and the assertion by Fairfax that Ms Ryan’s death appears to have been caused by sudden deceleration is incorrect. There has been no finding of this nature by the Coroner.

There is also no correlation between the inquest, and the customer reports presented in the media regarding issues with diesel engines and DSG transmissions.

The vehicle at the centre of the inquest is equipped with a petrol engine and a manual transmission. Neither of the customer’s interviewed for the story has a vehicle fitted with a DSG transmission either.

Safety Issues Volkswagen

Has your Volkswagen suddenly lost power?

Volkswagen Golf V

We alert you to a troubling article regarding the Volkswagen Golf published by Fairfax Media. Most of the issues reported on relate to Mk5 Golfs and centre around the 2011 death of 32-year-old Melissa Ryan on Melbourne’s Monash Freeway:

A coroner this week investigated the death of Ms Ryan, who was killed when a prime mover with two trailers hit her Golf from behind. The truck driver and Ms Ryan’s family believe her car dramatically and inexplicably slowed before the crash. After Fairfax’s reporting of the coronial inquest, 15 owners of Volkswagens have spoken of frightening experiences when their cars, including Golf, Passat, Polo and Eos models, suddenly lost power on highways and, in one case, a train line.

“I did not feel safe driving a car like that. It was frightening,” said Jean Lim, who was driving a 2007 Golf automatic that suddenly decelerated. VW replaced the gearbox but the issue returned. Another driver, who owned a 2008 Golf automatic, said she drove “in constant terror”. “The light comes up, the car just dies and you just pray that you’re not smashed into,” said the driver, who declined to be named.

We suggest you read the article in full. If you drive a recent model Volkswagen and have experienced similar problems we’d like to hear from you in the comments section below.

For the interests of transparency we spent over six years at the wheel of a 2006 Golf GTI (6-speed manual) and never encountered anything at all like this. The car went back to Volkswagen for three voluntary recalls, although the car was not exhibiting any of the problems covered by the recalls at the time.


VIDEO: Volkswagen Golf R – Manual v DSG

VW Golf R

Word on the street is the new Volkswagen Golf R will be launched in mid-June. While Australian specs have emerged, there’s still nothing concrete on pricing, other than a hint at an entry level list price of mid-50s.

Should you get the manual or DSG transmission to go with your 188kW/330Nm and trick Haldex all-wheel drive system? I guess it all depends on just how important traffic light grands prix are to you, as opposed to the feeling of having control at all times.

If you’re undecided as to which way to go, below you can see a pretty rudimentary comparison below thanks to Autocar. It’s a bit crude, but the results on the 0-100km/h test are conclusive.

Audi Volkswagen

A closer look at Audi’s new 7 speed S-tronic transmission

Audi's 7 speed S-tronic transmission

Audi’s new Q5 and the new Volkswagen Mk6 Golf will be the latest in the Volkswagen Audi Group to provide the option of an all new 7 speed S-tronic transmission. The Q5 is due for release in March, while the new Golf will be in Australian showrooms later this month. The only difference being, the transmission is called DSG on the Volkswagen options list.

Audi’s dual clutch transmission technology can trace its roots back to 1985 when Walter Röhrl was at the top of the world rally charts. Current S-tronic technology offers super smooth gear changes, as well as better acceleration and improved fuel economy over traditional manual transmissions. Its lightning quick gear changes have all but made a mockery of some the more fancied names offering “F1-style” flappy paddle gearboxes.

Australian motorists first got a taste of the previous 6 speed dual clutch transmission through the Volkswagen Mk5 Golf, most notably on the GTI. No matter what car the gearbox is fitted to in the Volkswagen Audi Group model range it nearly always brings wide acclaim. The new 7-speed version is likely to attract similar levels of praise. Although, as noted in our interview with a current Mk6 Golf owner in Germany, the 7-speed does tend to race through the gears quite quickly when left in “automatic” D mode.

Aftermarket tuners will be most pleased to learn that the new 7 speed S-tronic is designed to cope with maximum revs of 9000rpm and is said to be capable of handling up to 550Nm of torque.

Included below is a detailed press statement that touches on the inner workings of the latest S-tronic transmission. Hopefully it will satisfy the inner car geek within. You can also click on the image above to load a 2000px version, just in case you need to get even closer to all those cogs.

Reviews Tried & Tested Volkswagen

Tried & Tested: Volkswagen Golf VI 1.4 TSI

Golf VI 1.4 TSI with DSG

Welcome to AUSmotive’s second Tried & Tested review. This time, with a bit of a difference. As you can see we’re discussing the new Mk6 Golf, and with the new Golf not making its Australian debut until later this month I have had to follow a few leads via the VWvortex forums to file this report. This has led me right to the heart of Volkswagen, with the owner of this Mk6 Golf, Jimmy, an ex-pat US citizen now residing in Wolfsburg. Jimmy has been kind enough answer a few questions about his new wheels…

Q. Can you please list the full spec of your car, how long you have owned it and kilometres travelled.

A. I have the 1.4 litre TSI 160PS (approx 117kw) engine and the 7-speed DSG transmission, with flappy paddles on the steering wheel. It is only a few months old and I have completed just 1500 kilometyres so far.

It also has heated leather seats with power lumbar, the new generation RNS-510 sat nav system (with the hard disk drive). There is also Park Assist, although no reverse camera, just sensors in the bumpers, and it can also parallel park automagically.

Obviously by the pictures you can see it is a three door version. As of right now new Mk6 Golf is still quite rare, even here in Wolfsburg. I’ve only seen one or two others like it, quite unique for a town that renamed itself “Golfsburg” a few years ago.

My car was made in Mosel (Zwickau) and not in Wolfsburg.

[Ed: This is interesting, as I had previously heard that all Mk6 Golf production was to take place in Wolfsburg, perhaps all Golf production will now be in Germany, rather than Wolfsburg itself.]


Audi S1 plans all-wheel drive attack on MINI JCW

Audi S1 quattro
Audi S1 quattro

AutoExpress has again led with images that will excite hot hatch enthusiasts. News has been around for a while about the Audi S1, but initial speculation suggested the S1 would be powered by the 2-litre turbo found in the current Mk5 Golf GTI. This latest report says the S1 will be powered by a 200bhp+ 1.4-litre twin charge engine, similar to the one used in the new Polo GTI. Of course, the S badging means the S1 will get that power to the ground using Audi’s familiar quattro technology.

From an Australian perspective, the spunky S1 looks to be the only car to match the MINI John Cooper Works in both driving thrills and desirability. While the feisty Renault Clio 197 might push both cars to the limit on tight mountain roads, it can’t match the cachet of either brand, let alone the build quality.

The aggressively styled S1 looks sensational and I, for one, can’t wait to test the car’s driving capabilities. I will have to wait a while though. The A1, the car on which the S1 will be based, is still over 12 months away from European release, so we’re likely to be looking at late 2011, at best, for the S1 to reach Australian shores.

Along with the supercharged and turbocharged technology of the engine, the S1 is said to showcase more of Audi’s gadgets, such as full LED lighting, a 7-speed S-tronic transmission and magnetic ride suspension, which will be electronically adjustable from inside the cabin. Most surprising, however, is the claim the quattro system will have a rearward bias, sending up to 60 per cent its power to the rear wheels under regular conditions.

Premium products command premium pricing, of course, so don’t expect much change from AU$55,000 by the time time you drive the S1 off the showroom floor. Something I look forward to doing myself when the opprtunity presents itself.

Source: AutoExpress