I wanted to start this thread to discuss tips and tricks DSG drivers can use in order to get the fastest shifts, and avoid some "not so obvious" driving style pitfalls which can lead to delayed gear changes and frustrating "WTF is this thing doing" moments in MANUAL / TRIPTRONIC MODE. This isn't a discussion of Drive or sport mode, as there's really nothing to decide - Click it and stick it. This is all about shifting manually for those folks who like to drive it like a manual, and want to have the most fun with it I will be more than happy to update this original post with other tips and tricks as they come up and can be verified, and I am more than happy to update any of my findings if they are found to be less than accurate.
Note : This thread isn't to discuss why like or don't like the DSG compared to a manual. There are lots of debate threads all over, if you don't have a constructive tip or discussion, please vent your opinion elsewhere - I'm not saying its not valid - Its just not constructive here I used to be a hard set manual guy myself, and still drive them *almost* exclusively. But please keep this thread on topic.
It's All About Avoiding DSG WTF Moments
What is a DSG WTF moment? If you have driven a DSG in manual mode, I bet you have had them. You are coming up on a stoplight in 4th gear, slowing down because the light is red, but you think you will catch the green, so you take your foot off the gas to slow down just a little, still in 4th....then right on queue you get the green light....a wave of euphoria sweeps over you for managing the delay (Your caveman ancestors would be beating their chest in this clear triumph) and you slam it down 2 gears and hit the gas the the floor and brace for the impending seat crushing acceleration and......
.....absolutely nothing happens, its like you ran outta gas..... One thousand one....."What the fu----"...One thousand tw...... **PULL** **NECK SNAP** **Colorful Metaphor**.....
Thats a WTF moment. When you hit the gas expecting the car to move, but the transmission needed 1+ second to get into the right gear during which time you literally hit the engine brakes. You blame the DSG, just as your ancestors would. But unfortunately - this is all perfectly preventable (It was actually your fault) - Thats what this thread is about. Admitting you have a problem (hahah, okay okay) and looking for ways to fix it.
In almost every scenario I can think of ever having a WTF moment, the problems or unexpected behavior showed up when shifting into a lower gear from a higher one - So naturally most of the findings of this thread focus on this scenario. The DSG tends to weigh on the side of economy shifting, and you have to convince it you want anything else. You will almost never have a problem going from 0-100MPH cycling through all gears 1-6 sequentially, its going to be city driving where you downshift and the DSG simply wasn't ready for it. So how do we address that?
While the DSG is not new, I was amazed at how much misinformation I received on it, and disappointed on the lack of available information centered around how to drive it to get what you want. Everyone had an opinion, but there were very few that were based on facts. I went on a quest some time ago to answer my own questions into its "sometimes seeming bizarre behavior", and found a ton of information about the transmission, but most of it was geared towards maintenance and how it works, but very little was about mastering the use of it. So using this information I started compiling scenarios, and identifying and dissecting WTF moments, because this was the kind of information I wanted.
The DSG is not even close to an automatic - I knew this. But it took understanding some basics about how it worked to move forward in my quest. Now admittedly, I am not an engineer, and I don't pretend to know everything about a DSG, but here are some things that I have found which helped my understanding, and made driving a lot more fun. If there is a DSG engineer out there who wants to call bull**** on any of this, add 2 cents, or even anyone with conflicting findings - please be my guest to discuss it here. My goal is to share things discovered that, through theory as well as trial and error, can help everyone have more fun in the DSG. If I mis-state anything technical, just tell me, I will be more than happy to correct it.
Things Every Driver Should Probably Understand About Their DSG
To give a basis for the tips and tricks here, you first have to have a basic understanding about a couple things. Now I don't want to go into how the DSG works in whole, there are a lot of articles and some cool videos - I suggest you watch this video in particular (if you haven't already) as it gives you a nice visual to see how the clutches and gearboxes work, and how the shifts are performed. But there are a couple of key takeaways important to understand :
1) There are basically (2) gearboxes. So simplistically imagine 2 separate transmissions, each with their own clutch. This basically means that while one gearbox is in second gear with its clutch engaged to the drivetrain, the "other" gearbox is disengaged, standing by in some other adjacent gear - 1st or 3rd - whatever gear which the DSG thinks you will ask for next. This is a very important concept, as you need to realize that the way you drive influences the decision as which one is "Queued up", and the DSG constantly changes this selection based on various environmental and driver inputs.
2) The gearboxes are gear specific, which means one gearbox handles gears 1,3,5 and the other gearbox handles 2,4, and R (in the NA 6 speed versions). The takeaway here is that each gearbox handles alternating gears. The power of a DSG is that while gear changes on one gearbox are relatively slow (anywhere up to ~800ms), the clutches can hand-off power from one gearbox to the other (changing your gear) almost in-perceptively quick, allowing the unused gearbox to shift to the next anticipated gear without the time being a factor.
3) The rules that govern the shifting behavior of the DSG are NOT adaptive. Lets be clear about this. The DSG does NOT change the rules governing shifting behavior based on your driving style - It doesn't "Learn" those - These were hard coded sets of rules established by the engineers of the DSG software. It does dynamically change its operating parameters internally to account for clutch wear, etc - But none of that effects the rules for deciding gear changes - these are STATICALLY PROGRAMMED. This means you can reliably use what you know to influence the decision it makes by influencing some of the factors it takes into account. And that 2 drivers with the same DSG software in the same exact scenario will have the same outcome no matter what their previous driving "Style".
The DSG is a Game - Play it - Really!
I have written a few other posts here and there, and I always refer to driving with a DSG as a game. Recently one of my friends asked me why I call it that, and I said "Because it literally takes strategy to do properly." This alone accounts for why I personally get more enjoyment out of driving my DSG than I did a manual. A manual let me do exactly what I wanted, when I wanted - But it was always the same motions - I could only improve if I got faster, and this was a physical limit. Driving a DSG on the other hand has serious shift speed potential, limited only by your mental strategy. And if you play the "game" right, you can get more out of it than you would a manual, with shifts a manual could never perform. Think of it like less of a tool, and more of a game. You have to constantly think ahead, to whats coming next - Plan ahead, direct the car to "know" what you will do next instead of reacting in the moment and confusing it. The two things that I isolated which allow you to get the most out of the DSG are :
- Always do your best to make sure the gear you want to be in next is queued up in the other gearbox. After all, if that alternate gear is queued up correctly, you will get a 800ms (Sometimes a lot more), and possibly some unpleasant side effects.
- Identify habits *you* have that give the DSG mixed signals and mess up your attempt to perfect your ability to set the alternate gear.
Disclaimer : These tips are just that - tips. There are MANY factors which influence the gear selection of the DSG, so far I haven't found just ONE thing that always works in every situation. Thats what makes it a game But the things I have listed below seem to be prerequisites to other inputs working. i.e. at certain times, speed and RPM might force a different gear selection even if you do your best with pedal position - So if you can find some methods, post them!
Tip - Always let your clutch packs warm up.
I used to not think this was such a big deal, but its probably the biggest deal. Not only for reliability and longevity of your DSG, but for predicting its operation. The brains of the DSG will completely ignore "Driver Input Parameters" if its worried about making sure the "Prime Directive" (Haha - Yeah I know) is met. Don't think for a second that the reason you had odd behavior between hitting the gas and the car starting to move wasn't because you just started the car 20 seconds ago, and no fluid is where its supposed to be yet. Relax. Give it a minute, especially before you ride it hard and put it away wet.
Tip - Avoiding the Dreaded DSG Startup Lag - Release the brake, and don't throttle up until you feel the car inch forward or until you give it a half second count.
This is seen when you go from a full stop *BRAKES ON* position directly to the throttle, and there is a half to one second delay before you start moving. It happens regardless of hill hold settings, launch control, or various other settings.
One thing that is evident is that it is caused by a purposeful delay in the clutch engagement by the DSG when the brakes were *just* released (Including the handbrake, tried that). I am pretty sure the DSG waits until the brakes have been released for a specific amount of time before engaging the clutch. If you release the brake and wait until you feel the car inch forward then hit the throttle - you will start right up with no delay. Hill hold may prevent this workaround if you are on an incline, so if its bothersome you may consider disabling it. Have experiences with this? Post them!
Incidentally, I believe (my opinion) this is actually a "Feature" - a designed behavior for a DSG, not a bug or unintended effect. Common sense would suggest that if you were stopped at a light, it would be ridiculous for the DSG to be applying partial clutch pressure in the event you might want instant GO - just imagine the excess wear on the expensive clutch packs that would cause. The DSG instead monitors the brakes, and while you are stopped and the brakes on, the clutches have no need to be engaged (No need to cause all that wear). The delay you witness when stomping on the gas from a stopped brake position is likely just the sum of the time it takes for your brakes to release and the clutch to engage, so my guess is there really isn't much you can do to get rid of this designed behavior, just anticipate and work around it using the above tip. My 2 cents!
Tip - Increase Throttle Position *Before* a Downshift, Not After.
Accelerator position is a major KEY in influencing the alternate gear selection. While there are many, many factors that go into telling the brains of the DSG what gear to switch the alternate gearbox into (And its impossible to get a handle on them all), "Intent" is a huge one. The DSG uses the throttle position to determine if you are thinking of accelerating (queues up a lower gear for performance) or not accelerating / decelerating (Queues up a higher gear for economy) -Seems pretty "Duh" right? If you are wanting to accelerate, you put the pedal down. If you don't want accelerate, you let off the throttle or hold it at minimal. Nobody would argue with that. But what you may not think about is that if you are used to driving a manual, and are now driving a DSG - your habits may *actually confuse* the DSG and make it think you want the opposite of what you are about to do. Here is what I mean. Lets look at a manual transmission driving scenario for downshifting from 3rd to 2nd to accelerate :
Let off Accelerator -> Clutch In -> Downshift -> Accelerate / Clutch Out
So now lets say you do the same thing in a DSG, so out of habit you do everything but the clutch :
Let off Accelerator -> Downshift -> Accelerate
If you do this (Which I found is exactly what I did) - This actually gives the DSG the wrong idea. If you are not on the accelerator, it assumes you don't want to accelerate. It assumes you want economy, not performance. So the alternate gearbox had a higher gear (4th) instead of a lower gear (2nd) chosen. Boom. You just caused an 800ms gear change instead of a 200ms one, and during that time you were off the accelerator during a time you could have been on it (You dont have a clutch now, you dont have to let off!) so you didnt even have propulsion the whole time you could have.
So what if you broke the habit to let off the accelerator before a shift, and instead pressed the accelerator down *then* changed gears? You're letting the DSG know you want to accelerate - It will have the lower gear ready for you because you are telling it from the pedal position you want performance - not economy. Breaking this single habit was personally a game changer for me - I realized it was simply something left over from 20+ years of pressing in a clutch. Now granted, you cant just expect to be at zero throttle position, hit the gas and downshift and expect a quick change. You have to think ahead, and already have been accelerating by the time you need the downshift. Its a habit change to not try to let off the accelerator before a downshift, or at all if you don't need to - and do the opposite. This takes some discipline, and feels odd at first, but once you get rewarded with a quick pick up - It gets easier.
If you can master this, I bet you will start noticing a substantial difference in gear availability. I noticed that I was able to start predicting when I would need the downshift a second ahead, hit the gas, pause, down shift and -Bam-. You end up not losing that second of "no power" driving during the shift due to your reaction time, momentum isn't broken, and you optimize the DSG's ability to help you out.
Tip - Avoid downshifting more than 2 gears at once - Manage the gears down one at a time individually.
This happens a lot to me, and is the source for most of my personal WTF moments. I am driving in 4th, and find I need to get on it - HARD - to pass someone. So I do what I did in my manual. Shift into 2nd with 2 quick clicks on the paddles and floor it. And what happens? You feel like you hit the engine brakes - the car actually slows down - You hit your head on your steering wheel, and 1.5 seconds later you go into light speed and your neck snaps back in the seat. Ever had that happen??? (Okay maybe I embellished that a little) This is because you told the DSG to do the one thing it cant, and set it up for the worst case scenario. Remember that if you go 2 gears any direction, the dual gearbox cant help you, because the gearbox you are in handles both your current gear and the one you want. So what does it do? I have found that timing has a lot to do with it, and if the transmission detects the gear request with any delay at all between - but Something like this :
- The alternate gearbox had 5th gear queued up instead of 3rd because you didn't have the accelerator down (Doh! Tip on accelerator position above), so it cant take the handoff from the current gearbox.
- The clutch on your current gearbox has to disengage to perform the switch to second gear, but cant because the second gearbox isn't ready yet.
- At this point Mass chaos ensues. I have personally seen different behavior on what happens next depending on if you have stock software or a custom DSG tune, but both feel close to the same...
- On one, it seemed to say screw it, disengaged both clutches, you lose all power, it changes both gearboxes (from 4th to 2nd, and 5th to 3rd) but since they both finish at the same time, it skips the handoff to the alternate gearbox and just re-applies the current gearbox which is now in 2nd (And during that entire time you have no power to the wheels - at all).
- With other software I noticed that there was still an 800ms initial delay (with no power, seemingly limited from the ECU not the clutch) as the alternate gearbox changed into 3rd to receive the switch, then the clutch for the alternate gearbox (now in 3rd gear) engaged, then another delay while the first gearbox changed from 4th to 2nd then did a 200ms switch back. This is like a 2 second+ delay. One was smoother yes, but no matter how you slice it, its a WTF moment lasting much longer than it should.
Avoid this by always having the accelerator significantly down before the gear change, and then managing the down shifts one at a time. While this might technically be slower than allowing the DSG to change as fast as it could, I have found it almost always results in a faster transition with a smoother feel and less downtime - and avoids the DSG getting confused and throwing you around.
Tip - Be Consistent and Purposeful in Your Throttle Position.
The only thing worse than having the alternate gearbox being in the wrong gear is having the alternate gearbox "on its way" to the wrong gear when you need it. This doubles the time of your shift because its got to complete the cycle time to the wrong gear before it can start its journey back to the one you wanted.
What will cause this? Treating the accelerator like your first date, and being all over the place. Accelerating hard then backing off only to feather the throttle. This increases the chance you are gonna be sending the alternate gearbox somewhere you don't want it. I tended to do this sometimes, like when you're on a 2 lane road, backing a semi, and looking for an opportunity to pass. If you play with the throttle up and down, don't be surprised when you pull out into your gap and find that your power doesn't kick in for a good second. Try to be mindful of those situations, as it has an effect on the gear availability. Also, realize that pressing in the throttle 5% isn't likely to sway the DSG into thinking you want performance. You will have to commit to a large enough throttle position change to warrant attention.
Tip - When Slowing Down, Downshift Accordingly. Don't Wait Until You Need to Re-accelerate to Request a Downshift - from Pelican18TQA4
While some other methods described help alleviate any pauses in acceleration, if you're downshifting as you slow, you'll already have the appropriate gear for re-accelerating.
I love this observation. Maybe you already do this - Maybe it matched your previous manual driving style. If so, you probably had fewer issues with gear availability when driving the DSG. But if it wasn't, or if you used neutral and coasted on the clutch a lot, or even if you did a little of both for some passenger comfort - what mattered little in manual matters a lot in the DSG. It's just a matter of changing your mindset to stay in a gear, even if it wraps up the RPM's, adopting the engine brake mentality. If you want instant-on performance, ride the gears down, keep the RPM's in your sweet spot as you slow, and you'll not have to convince the DSG anything if you decide to hit it. (Not to mention your brakes will probably LOVE you for it)
Do you have any tips and tricks? Think these are Crap? Lets hear from you.