Auto Review: The dual-clutch Dart
By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Fri., Mar. 29, 2013
A few months ago, we introduced you to the all-new Dodge Dart; a name from the past that has found new life in a fresh, contemporary platform. It’s a great compact front-drive car (with Alfa Romeo roots) that offers a broad selection of powertrains, and the model we first tested was equipped with a 1.4-liter Turbocharged MultiAir Inline Four mated to a six-speed manual transmission. This was an entertaining drivetrain, but the folks at Dodge are also excited about a new automatic gearbox on the Dart, which is called a Dual Dry Clutch Transmission (DDCT). This innovative gearbox is available with the 1.4-liter Turbo engine, while the other Inline Fours get a more conventional six-speed automatic as an option. Chrysler explain the operation of the DDCT thusly:
“By design, the DDCT operates much like a manual transmission with two clutch discs driven independently by a common flywheel assembly. Odd-numbered gears (1, 3 and 5) are located on one shaft assembly, while even gears (2, 4 and 6) on the other. With two gearboxes running in parallel of each other, each with its own clutch, this allows for the selection and engagement of subsequent gears while the previous gear is still engaged. Gear changes are gradual, rather than sudden and abrupt, ensuring a continuous delivery of engine torque and traction. As one clutch is opened, the other is closed to allow shifting without torque interruption and resulting in faster acceleration and near-seamless shifting.”
This gearbox is a true automatic even though there are clutches involved, for the driver is not saddled with a clutch pedal. This transmission along with the 160 horsepower MultiAir engine delivers smooth, economical operation, with the DDCT feeling a bit different from time to time compared with the automatics we’re used to, but is still delivering efficient operation that’s easy to live with. This is all the more interesting when you consider this is more closely related to a manual transmission than an automatic one (and there is, of course, a crisp-shifting manual mode). Like our previous test Dart, acceleration is acceptably brisk (although not at the level of sports sedans), and the ride quality is quite impressive with smooth, controlled suspension compliance that makes the Dart feel like it’s a much bigger car than it actually is. The long wheelbase helps here, yet in no way compromises maneuverability in tight quarters. Both the front and rear seats offer good room and support, with the rear bench impressing with more spaciousness than you might expect given the compact classification. Also bigger than expected is the optional Uconnect 8.4-inch central touch screen that houses sound system, ventilation and navigation functions in a very easy-to-read unit. The workmanship is excellent, and there are a total of 14 different color and trim combinations available. All in all, it’s an advanced, contemporary design in a practical, fun-to-drive package.
The 2013 Dodge Dart Limited is EPA rated 27 MPG city/37 highway and has a base price of $19,995. www.dodge.com