We like the DSG for its originality, technology, convenience, and performance. The DSG is unique because it is an auto-shifting gearbox. Most other automatic transmissions are ‘slush-boxes’ containing a traditional torque converter, clutches, valves, pumps, solenoids, and valve-bodies. The DSG doesn’t share the same internal parts and components like most automatic transmissions and it is more similar to a traditional manual gearbox than a traditional automatic. When it was first put into production, there were truly, no other comparable transmissions on the market. Today, it seems that every other automotive manufacture is attempting to build a transmission similar to the DSG.
So, if the DSG is so darn good, so innovative, and performs so well, why would there be any need to modify it? How can you improve it? What changes could be made? Simple, the programming.
While the DSG itself maybe one of the best auto-shifting transmissions ever made, it still relies on a brain, a module, something called a mechatronic, to control all the clutch and shifting functions. Luckily, changes can be made to the mechatronic programming to improve the performance and reliability of the DSG transmission.
Let me explain.
The DSG has three separate user-selected driving modes. The Auto mode, Manual mode, and Sport mode. They each have a different but, self-explanatory function.
Here’s the problem, the more I drive my A3, the more I find fault with all three modes of the DSG’s factory programming.
The Auto mode is trash. Absolute trash! It is full of strange drivability hiccups and awful surging issues. The DSG doesn’t know how to leave smoothly from a stop, or how to modulate the clutches in a parking lot at slow speeds. How did the factory miss this? In addition, can anyone explain why, in Auto mode, the DSG will shift into fourth gear while travelling through a short intersection, from a dead stop? Do I really need to be in fourth gear at 20 MPH? Do I really need to be in sixth gear at 35 MPH?
In Auto mode, while leaving from an intersection, I have trouble getting ahead of traffic because the transmission will not hold a gear long enough for me to pick up some speed! I can’t out-accelerate anyone around me! The DSG won’t stop up-shifting! During these events I can sense the DSG finding pleasure by completely pissing me off.
But, that’s not all.
There are times when I’m cruising at 45 MPH in sixth gear (Yes, that is correct, sixth gear!) and a situation presents itself where I need to accelerate. I lightly press the throttle which you obviously think will result in a down-shift and an increase in speed but, instead, I sit there, coasting, waiting for something to happen. Only after an unpleasant and forever-long delay does the DSG decide on what it wants to do and react. But, by this time, the entire reason for accelerating has past and I’m left there depressed, deflated, and dumbfounded. Seriously, this happens, all the time!
I figure that if the DSG wants to be in sixth gear at such an ungodly speed, that it could at least be prepared to down-shift and get moving when you need it to, but, no! It doesn’t want to!
The only way around these bizarre and infuriating situations is to completely ‘floor’ the accelerator pedal so the DSG understands how serious you are. This action, will then engage multiple down-shifts that unfortunately take way too long but, at least you will eventually start moving faster. However, you never know if the DSG’s reaction will be fast enough for you to accomplish your goal. The thought of having to perform a ‘full-throttle’ action for such a simple task is completely unnecessary. No, it’s actually ridiculous!
The DSG’s factory programming is so slow and lazy you almost feel bad about making it do anything it doesn’t want to do. Driving the DSG in Auto mode is no more fun than dealing with a virus on your computer. Better yet, driving the DSG in auto mode is like being forced to call the Cable Company, it’s that frustrating!
The reason why this happens is because the DSG is programmed for fuel economy and it is also trying to prepare and anticipate for its next shift. However, when you deviate from its plan, it freaks. I understand Audi and VW programmed the DSG for fuel economy but, this is unacceptable!
The Sport mode has the same drivability hiccups and surging issues that are experienced in the Auto mode. Luckily, though, the Sport mode won’t up-shift nearly as often as the Auto mode, so it is more fun to drive. However, have you ever driven on the track in Sport mode? The Sport mode still up-shifts way too early and will not allow you to hold gears when you want, or need to. Like, on a race track while driving through a corner! In fact, I never use Sport mode because quite frankly, it takes the ‘Sport’ out of driving.
The Manual mode is by far the best driving mode of the DSG. I spend all my driving time in Manual mode. However, it is also not immune to the drivability hiccups and surging issues as experienced in the other modes. In addition, if you aren’t traveling quickly, the response from the paddle shifters are too slow and the DSG won’t change gears when you need it to. I’ve experienced huge delays before the transmission actually responds to my inputs. There is no excuse for this! Moreover, up-shifts and especially down-shifts aren’t nearly as fast as you would expect. Furthermore, the most obscene Manual mode offense is if you attempt to accelerate at full-throttle, or hit the rev-limiter under acceleration, the DSG will actually up-shift and down-shift automatically! What! There is nothing Manual about that!
So what is the solution to these issues? What is the cure?
Simple. The HPA DSG Stage 2 upgrade.
The HPA DSG Stage 2 upgrade features a progressive shift response, increased torque limit, enabled launch control, and eliminated automatic shifting in M and S modes (up to 95% throttle). Two features that are not being used for my A3 include the elevated rev-limiter (which can be enabled if necessary) and the in-dash gear display which, my A3 already has.
The installation process is straight forward. It can be done by HPA, an authorized dealer, or yourself. It is that easy. All the information is read and uploaded through the factory OBD port under the left side of the dashboard, or the DSG port under the hood underneath the air cleaner assembly. All you need to do is simply plug the HPA tool into the OBD/DSG port and let the magic happen. The information that is taken from the car is sent to HPA for them to analyze and recode. Once that has been done, the HPA tool is reconnected to the OBD/DSG port and the new programming is uploaded. The whole process takes about an hour, which can seem like a year, when you are sweating with sweet anticipation.
How does it work? What is it like?
The Auto mode basically remains unchanged with the HPA DSG Stage 2 upgrade. The only difference with the HPA Stage 2 and the factory programmed DSG, is quicker shift times and the elimination of the majority of low-speed drivability hiccups, and surging. Which is nice but, that’s it. So, unfortunately, the factory programmed up-shifting shenanigans and frustrations remain. In order to have HPA solve all the DSG Auto mode issues you have to go with their Stage 3 DSG programming where all the calibrations of the Auto mode are changed. I personally don’t drive in Auto mode, so I don’t care but, for those of you that do, you either have to fork-out some more cash, or go with a different DSG upgrade.
The Sport mode is modified with quicker shifts, the elimination of most low-speed hiccups and surging, and by enabling the DSG to hold gears longer, up to 95% throttle, which will help during spirited and track driving. The improvements are significant but, still not enough to tempt me to use it on a regular basis. I honestly didn’t spend much time trying to explore the extent of HPA’s Sport mode modifications because I was looking forward to the M mode.
The HPA modified M mode performance is what this upgrade is all about. Driving with the Stage 2 DSG upgrade is an absolute blast! The most notable improvements are the quicker shifts, no automatic up-shifting, or down-shifting, much faster response from the paddle shifters, a 3,700 RPM launch control feature, and like the other two modes, the virtual elimination of the surging and hiccups at low-speeds.
Yeah, that’ll leave a mark.
Haha! Launch control. Select M mode and press the ESP button while pushing the brake pedal with your left foot. Then, gently press on the accelerator pedal with your right foot to bring up the RPM’s. When they reach the limit, release the brake pedal and mash the accelerator pedal to the floor. That, is how you engage the new launch control feature.
With the HPA DSG Stage 2 launch control set at 3,700 RPM’s combined with a HPA’s Stage 1 ECU tune, my FWD A3 shreds the tires with ease producing an epic cloud of smoke. It makes me feel like I’m sixteen again. The tires don’t stand a chance with the amount of power available at 3,700 RPM’s. HPA’s launch control feature is a gloriously violent event which I find extremely enjoyable. I don’t think that the launch control will help my acceleration times (well, maybe with slick tires) but, the fun factor has been raised exponentially. It will definitely impress your friends and on-lookers. Just make sure you know who is watching. Folks will definitely take notice and sadly, not everybody enjoys a good burn-out.
In my opinion, to take full advantage of the HPA launch control, you really need to have AWD, but since my A3 is FWD, I’ll just have to work on my throttle modulation. Or not!
The new and improved HPA programming shifts fast, real fast. I can even feel and sense the change in normal driving but, once I start driving aggressively, man, the DSG makes some super-fast shifts. They claim that the DSG shifts 60% faster with their Stage 2 upgrade, yeah, I believe it! The DSG responds immediately to my paddle shifter inputs and each shift engagement is way more solid, positive, and much more direct than before. The down-shifts are also more direct, mechanical, solid, and much faster. I don’t know if it is due to the changes to the clutch programming but, the car just feels stronger during acceleration.
In addition, it’s nice to be able to give my A3 full-throttle and not have the DSG down-shift automatically. Moreover, I like having the ability to bounce of the rev-limiter in each gear if I want to. Though, I don’t plan on making that a habit. Finally! No automatic shifting in Manual mode!
My DSG experience has definitely been improved and enhanced by HPA. The HPA Stage 2 DSG upgrade virtually eliminated all the quirks, hiccups, surging, and ridiculous delays caused by the factory programming. The features of the Stage 2 upgrade function flawlessly. It’s funny how the factory couldn’t get it right. Thank God, we have companies like HPA that are willing to invest their time and money to correct and improve the DSG’s performance for the enthusiast. The new HPA Stage 2 programming is all business and it gets the job done. It performs as advertised and it is too much fun and far too effective to ignore.
If you have a DSG equipped vehicle, use M mode, and have yet to install a DSG upgrade, then you don’t know what you are missing, because… You are missing everything! You can’t go wrong with HPA’s DSG stage 2 upgrade. This upgrade is worth every penny.
2009 Audi A3 2.0T DSG S-Line: HPA Stage 1, HPA DSG Stage 2, APR Carbonio Intake, S2T Paddle Shifters, ST Coilovers...