A transmission, otherwise known as the gearbox, is an enclosed part of the car that is made up of a series of gears. The function of the transmission is to take the rotational power from the car’s engine to the wheels of the car. Without this, the vehicle can’t move.
- Here's the Fastest Shifting Transmission in the Word
- Types of transmission systems
- How Fast Can the DCT Shift?
- How Fast Can a PDK Shift?
- How Fast Can a ZF8 Shift?
- How Fast Can a Human Change gears?
- Is DSG the Fastest Shifting Transmission In the World?
- Sequential transmission vs. DSG
By acting as the middleman between the engine and the wheels of the car, the transmission inadvertently controls how much power the wheels get, and by this, it determines how fast the car moves. This is done by shifting between the gears that reside within the transmission system. The speed of the gear shift depends on your vehicle’s transmission type.
Here’s the Fastest Shifting Transmission in the Word
The fastest-shifting transmission in a production car is the one Tesla uses (4ms), followed closely by the dual-clutch used in Lamborghini Huracan (8ms) and the DSG used in Bugatti cars (8ms). These shift times are considerably shorter than the 500ms-1s it takes an average driver to manually change gears.
Types of transmission systems
Most modern vehicles come equipped with either the manual (Stick shift or standard transmission system) or the automatic transmission system.
In a manual transmission, the driver is required to manually shift between gears while driving. This is done by moving the gear stick located just beside the driver (either on the right or left-hand side). Aside from the gear stick, the manual transmission also requires the use of clutch pedals to disengage the engine from the transmission while the gears are being changed.
So the process of changing gears, either from a higher to a lower gear or lower to a higher gear in a manual transmission, involves three steps; first, the driver depresses the clutch pedal to disengage the engine; then selects the right gear using the gear shift, and finally releases the clutch pedals so that the engine is once again connected to the transmission.
For the automatic transmission, no action is required from the driver except to place the gear stick (or nob) on D (which signifies Drive). Once this is done, the driver can accelerate and decelerate at will while the shifting process is carried out automatically within the transmission.
This means that the gear shifting is much faster in automatic than in manual transmission. Although this is often in the range of milliseconds, the shifting time becomes very important depending on its application. Racing cars often need lower shifting time, and there is a debate on the fastest shifting transmission.
In this regard, I will be talking about different shifting transmissions, including the DCT, PDK, and ZF8, and also establishing which is the fastest transmission in the world.
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How Fast Can the DCT Shift?
DCT stands for Dual Clutch Transmission. Just like the name suggests, DCT operates using two clutch plates. If you are familiar with the operation of the manual transmission we discussed earlier, then you will understand what the function of the clutch plate is.
But despite having two clutch plates, vehicles that come installed with the dual-clutch transmission have no clutch pedal. However, drivers can still manually select gears using a shift stick, but no need to engage any clutch pedal if they choose to. This is known as a clutch-less manual. On the other hand, the gear shift can also be done automatically.
So basically, the dual-clutch transmission offers drivers the best of both worlds. This type of transmission system is called Semi-automatic transmission. Apart from giving drivers the ability to choose either a manual or automatic mode of driving, the DCT also has impressive shift timing. It takes about 8 milliseconds for the transmission to go from one gear to the next. Because of this, the DCT is used in performance and racing cars where a lot of milliseconds difference in gear shift timing.
How Fast Can a PDK Shift?
PDK stands for Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe, which is German for Porsche Double-clutch transmission. And yes, if you haven’t figured it out already, the PDK is a type of DCT. This means it works similarly to the dual-clutch transmission I discussed previously.
The only difference is that the PDK is essentially made for Porsche. PDK transmission was designed in the 1980s and first put to the test in the Porsche 962. The car went ahead to claim 54 victories in different championships, making it one of the most successful racing sports cars in history.
Inside the PDK are two gearboxes with hydraulic-actuated wet-clutch packs for lubrication. Power is alternated to the engine via two driveshafts. The two gearboxes work in perfect sync, making gear shift instantaneous and nearly unnoticeable.
Depending on the model of your vehicle, the PDK may have between 7 to 8 gears. However, the 6th gear is reckoned to be the fastest gear, while gears 7 and 8 aim to provide better fuel economy and comfort. The gear shift time of the PDK is similar to that of modern DCTs, typically below 100 milliseconds.
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How Fast Can a ZF8 Shift?
The ZF8 speed transmission is an automatic transmission that is manufactured by the German company ZF. It is considered one of the best automatic transmission systems in the market. Competing closely with the dual-clutch transmission for the title of the fastest transmission. Unlike most other transmissions, the ZF focused on producing a lightweight transmission with excellent fuel economy and versatility without compromising on speed. The ZF8 can perform multiple gear shifts instantly in a non-sequential pattern.
That is to say, it can move from the third gear to the sixth without any lag. This gives the vehicle an instant boost in power. When it comes to shifting timing, the ZF8 is said to switch between gears in 0.2 seconds (200 milliseconds). This might seem like nothing compared to the 0.1 seconds shift time of the dual-clutch transmission. But the ZF8 makes up for the difference in speed by being very light, which means the car can accelerate faster when compared to the heavier but faster DCT.
How Fast Can a Human Change gears?
When it comes to shifting timing, automatic transmissions tend the get the upper hand. I have talked about some of the best automatic and semi-automatic transmissions that deliver lightening fast speeds. Here is a trivia to give you an idea of how fast these transmissions are.
The human eye blinks in 100 milliseconds. You can even go lower than 100 milliseconds with perfect tuning with a dual-clutch transmission. Manual transmission depends entirely on the timing of the driver. On average, a car driver would take between 500 ms to 1 second to perform a vertical shift.
That is moving the gears in sequential order from the 1st gear to the 5th or 6th gear. However, horizontal shift time is typically within 1 to 2 seconds.
These values are approximated as the actual value will vary depending on the design of the gearbox, the distance between the gears, ease of movement (stiffer gear sticks will have longer shift times), the design of the gear sticks (ergonomy), and overall condition of the gearbox.
Is DSG the Fastest Shifting Transmission In the World?
The dual-clutch transmission, also known as direct shift gear, has long been considered the king of performance cars. Whether you call it DCT, DSG, or PDK, they are all the same thing. The only difference comes down to the manufacturer. These types of transmission are very common in modern cars and have achieved incredible shift times.
Two of the fastest cars in the world (according to Top speed), the Mclaren Speedtail and the Bugatti Chiron, are equipped with a dual-clutch transmission. But they are not the only sports cars with the DSG. The Volkswagen Golf GTI (7th Gen.) also has a dual-clutch gearbox and is said to attain a shift time of 8 milliseconds. This is incredibly fast, but there is a contention that the DSG may not be the fastest transmission. Who is the supposed contender? Well, it is called Sequential Transmission.
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Sequential transmission vs. DSG
They are mostly used in racing cars. I am sure you have seen race car drivers change gears like in a manual transmission. Sequential transmission does share certain similarities with manual transmission. But its design and operation are much more similar to that of the manual mode in a dual-clutch transmission. The first thing you’ll notice about the sequential transmission is its weight. Sequential transmissions are lighter than DSG (about 100 Kg less). They also come with two instead of three-gear shafts and a lighter flywheel. The light weight means less load for the engine, which often translates to more speed.
In addition, sequential gears move either forward or backward only. They don’t follow an H-pattern common with the dual-clutch transmission. This straight-cut approach (referring to the movement of the gear shift) reduces power loss. Another difference between the sequential transmission and DSG is in the geared connector.
DSG uses synchromesh rings (or synchro rings) to ensure a smooth movement between gears. Whereas sequential transmission uses dog gears which force the gears together. From the perspective of power transmission, the DSG gears are much more effective. However, they are also very loud and have a shorter lifespan.
So yes, sequential transmissions are slightly faster than direct shift gear or dual-clutch transmissions. But they have a shorter lifespan which makes them unfit for street cars. After all, you wouldn’t want to replace your transmission box every few miles.
When it comes down to speed, it is not only how fast the engine is but how well the power is transmitted to the wheels. Perhaps for everyday driving, it doesn’t matter how long it takes to shift from one gear to the next. But fans of sports cars like the Bugatti Veyron, Lamborghini, or Maclaren may notice the slightest difference that makes one transmission better than the other. As you can see, the fastest shift transmissions shift faster than the blink of an eye.
Iliah is the co-founder of Mechanic Ask, where he writes detailed step-by-step tutorials for repairs and mods. He also posts videos walking through things like engine swaps, suspension lifts, and tuning chips. Iliah uses his blog as an educational resource for car enthusiasts based on the knowledge he’s gained from 15 years as an ASE-certified master technician. His repair manuals provide even novice readers the confidence to take on big projects.