People Innovation Excellence

Tiptronic Transmission Technology: A Modern Gear-Shifting System?

Figure 1. Tiptronic Paddle Shifter(Source: canadianautoreview.ca).

How many times have we heard the contentious saying “Real men use three pedals” or rather “Classy men use two pedals”? Well thanks to them, nowadays, when deciding to buy a new vehicle for self-use, people would tend to spend a quite ridiculous amount of time, thinking either to take the automatic transmission’s feature or the manual transmission’s feature. Both advantages and disadvantages exist in the two features, however, it seems that the automatic transmission’s feature is a more dominant choice when compared to the manual transmission’s feature due to the better comfort that the feature brings to most people. Despite the fact that automatics allow drivers an effortless drive, which generally brings ease and more favorable, some drivers, would still prefer more interactions when it comes to driving by means manually changing the gear, abandoning computer’s help like in the automatics. But, how about those drivers who desire both features? Tiptronic transmission technology can be the answer.

Going back to the past, the late 1930s to be precise, vehicle companies such as Packard and Chrysler made experiments to try to adopt automatic characteristics into a manual gearbox which known as semi-automatics where the transmission shows clutch movements during gear shifts without the driver interfering it[1]. In contrast to the semi-automatics, the Tiptronic transmission technology uses a torque converter instead of a clutch and adopts manual traits to an automatic gearbox, which allow drivers to choose the desired gears manually instead of using the built-in computer to control normal shifting[1]. The torque converter, which is a type of fluid coupling, allows the engine to spin independently of the transmission, letting it turn while the wheels and the gears in the transmission reaching a stop[2].

Moreover, the term “Tiptronic” itself was originated as a trademark name for a manual-shifting automatic transmission pioneered by Porsche and the technology was first used on the 1990 Porsche 911 by which the principles were later mirrored by BMW Steptronic and Chrysler’s Autostick[1]. Initially, Porsche introduced Sportomatic in response to the demand of those drivers or rather racers who yearn the possibility of manual driving but do not want to continuously rely on the skill of heel and toe shifting, by which the technology was manual with a vacuum-operated single-disc dry clutch and torque converter was used to replace the flywheel allowing the vehicle to remain stationary when the clutch was engaged[3]. Sportomatic was innovative and famous until 1980 and about 10 years later, newer technology came arise, the Tiptronic[3]. The so-called Tiptronic was designed to cover the flaws in Sportomatic plus with a couple of new updates and innovations where the technology became famous and widely used.

Generally, the Tiptronic transmission technology allows drivers to override the automatic mode in automatics by moving the shift lever into the Tiptronic shift gate by which the gate is equipped with two spring-loaded positions, either the “upshift” or the “downshift”, which then letting the drivers to take over most of the gear shifting decisions that are normally done by a computer, thus, drivers may delay an upshift for an increased in acceleration in order to wait for the perfect timing or to perform a deliberate downshift to enhance the braking effect of the engine, similarly like when using manual transmission vehicle[4]. Furthermore, when the Tiptronic system is not being used, the transmission runs like a conventional automatic controlled by a computer through which electronically the selection of shifts are done via gears[1].

In continuation, the Tiptronic transmission system has both benefits and negatives like most other systems. On the benefit side, the Tiptronic shifting mode provides a more controllable engine braking during downshifts and the system also has safeguards, which prevent possible engine damage when drivers oversee the engine’s RPM (Rotation Per Minute) red line during manual shifting as the system would revert back to automatic setting when undergoing the circumstance[1]. In addition, Tiptronic transmissions provide a smooth yet swift motion when it comes to shifting gears as the gear shifts are performed by the computer controlled gearbox, which would be really helpful to those new drivers.

On the negative side, most Tiptronic transmission requires heavier components of an automatic transmission thus leading to a larger unit in overall which may affect the car’s performance and the automatic’s torque converter usually is not as responsive when compared to a clutch on manual transmissions[1]. Furthermore, the components found in the Tiptronic transmission are more complex and could be costly or difficult to fix when something goes wrong thus it can be said that the service done on the manual transmission is more favorable.

Like most technologies, Tiptronic transmission’s system has proven itself to be useful for humans. To start with, the system brings safety to drivers, as the built-in safeguards, prevent damage to the engine by reverting back to automatic setting when drivers oversee the engine’s RPM red line when shifting gears manually since damaged engine could be dangerous to drivers, for example, the explosion contact as a result of overheat on the engine. Moreover, more people could use cars to help their daily activities, as it does not require much skill to be able to use the Tiptronic system since a computer will back the driver up.

 

In terms of innovation, many automakers have tried to develop their own modified version of the Tiptronic transmission technology. The prominent Mercedes-Benz for instance, has its own Tiptronic like transmission technology called the 7G-Tronic Plus by which the technology is an enhanced version of the Tiptronic in which a new hydraulic circuit, newer converter characteristics, and the transmission’s electro-hydraulic control unit are being used to enhance the overall car’s performance as well as to smoothen the running of the torque converter[5]. All in all, the Tiptronic transmission technology and the others similar transmission technology, ultimately are created to give drivers a better comfort, automation, and the answer to those who seek for both automatic and manual feature when driving.

 

Contributor : Nicholas Phandinata (ARE Semester 1 2017/2018)

 

References:

  1. Autotropolis Contributors. (2017, October 21). What is a Tiptronic Transmission? Retrieved October 22, 2017, from Autobytel: https://www.autobytel.com/audi/a5/2009/car-buying-guides/what-is-a-tiptronic-transmission-105708/
  2. Nice, K. (2000, October 25). How Torque Converters Work. Retrieved October 22, 2017, from Howstuffworks: https://auto.howstuffworks.com/auto-parts/towing/towing-capacity/information/torque-converter1.htm#
  3. Stoklosa, A. (2014, December 10). Shift This: A History of Porsche’s Sportomatic, Tiptronic, and PDK Transmissions. Retrieved October 22, 2017, from Caranddriver: https://blog.caranddriver.com/shift-this-a-history-of-porsches-sportomatic-tiptronic-and-pdk-transmissions/
  4. Marquis, R. (2009, September 27). Tiptronic. Retrieved October 22, 2017, from Wikicars: http://wikicars.org/en/Tiptronic
  5. South Bay Autohaus. (2017, April 20). All About the Mercedes-Benz Tiptronic Transmission System. Retrieved October 26, 2017, from autohaussouthbay: https://www.autohaussouthbay.com/2017/04/20/all-about-the-mercedes-benz-tiptronic-transmission-system/

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