Exclusive: BMW Goes From SMG to DCT

The Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) was the predecessor to the recently released DCT for performance oriented BMW models.

There were original plans to introduce the SMG in the E90 3 series sedan after 10/2005 as an option that required the then N52 330i engine and the Sport Package (ZSP). All of the training materials and press releases at the time stated the SMG would eventually be offered. BMW even completed a product comparison between it and the VW/Audi DSG of the time. This all changed weeks before these cars were to be built, BMW had made the decision to forego the SMG in non-//M cars until further notice. There were many unhappy soon-to-be SMG owners.

There was little explanation as to why, but many in the know talked of BMW having access to their own 7 speed dual clutch setup and that being the possible reason. Other reasons included the US customers not warming to the SMG and the countless warranty claims filed. As we have previously stated the //M5/6 engine was designed to be used solely with the SMG; though modification were made and the manual transmission was offered specifically at the request of the US market.

In 2005, ZF had reached the end stages of development of a 7 speed dual-clutch transmission. The official announcement came mid-September; the same time BMW pulled the plug on the SMG in the 3 series. This raised suspicion that BMW would offer this instead of the SMG. When this did not happen it was assumed it would at least make its way into the newly designed coupe, and it was close.

While testing was going on for the DCT, ZF had also created a new transmission that had increased efficiency, had ultra fast shift times but in comparison to the DCT it would be 6 speeds and significantly cheaper to produce initially. This was because it relied on a modified torque converter and additional modified components found in existing slush-box automatics. This transmission has since gone on to be acclaimed as one of the best true autos in the world and can be found throughout the BMW lineup in such cars as the 335i. The DCT was obviously held back by BMW.

When designing the newest //M3 BMW had no choice but to go to a V8 engine that revved sky high in order to out do the competition. This is where the original Audi DSG (S-tronic) designed by Borg-Warner could not compete, it could not handle the high revs or torque a modern performance engine would throw at it (Although recently Audi has previewed a new performance version). So instead of using the SMG in the //M3 BMW decided to use the DCT, which can handle up to 500 ft/lbs. and 9000 RPMs without issue. This not only gave BMW a V8 engine for the //M3 but a transmission that would outclass the competition. We would not be surprised to see the added to the other //M cars as well this fall.

So for two plus years BMW tested the transmission and designed the software programs marketed as Drivelogic until it was recently released. The BMW gearbox has 11 Drivelogic control (shift) programs, five in automatic (Drive) and six in manual (Sport) that tailors the transmission to specific driving styles. The driver can shift for himself by putting the lever into S mode and then shifting along in sequence. The paddle shifters on the steering wheel (right for upshifts, left for downshifts) are similar to the former SMG. It ‘s worth noting that many of these programs are meant for //M cars only.

With the LCI (Life Cycle Impulse) of the E90 already in the works and rumored to be scheduled for release this coming fall the possibility of the DCT making its way into the car should finally occur. It will be a stripped down version in comparison to the //M. Drivelogic will not be as necessary and more than likely will not be a part of the system or at most it will feature a couple of shift pattern options.

This transmission in conjunction with the N54 engine will be a good pairing. If you add in the idea that the e-diff from the 1-Series (as reported previously on BF, this will also be added to the E90 lineup) this makes for an excellent performance car and something even the new to market A4 will have trouble competing with.

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  • Great info Michael! This completely makes sense based on the info I got about the DCT coming out next year on the 3 Series.

  • Chris B.

    Quattro + 7 spd DSG + Audi’s own forthcoming active rear performance differential. I’m not sure Audi will be the one having the trouble.

  • Rubber Ducky

    The existing Steptronic being as wonderful as it is (esp. paddles-only), one wonders what driving advantage the DCT would bring to the non-M models…

  • Jon

    Great find Michael.

    Have been reading also that the E89 is likely to have a DCT option.

  • Chris B. Quattro + 7 spd DSG + Audi’s own forthcoming active rear performance differential. I’m not sure Audi will be the one having the trouble.

    I doubt you will see this combo at the release of the car. The current 7 speed DSG can only handle 250 ft/lbs of torque and works only with transverse engines….. no Quattro (unless Haldex). The high performance version will be used only in the Lambo/R8 etc. not the lower price point cars. The rear diff will not be available on the A4 either. Here is how it will be released and this will NOT compete with the updates the 335 will receive. And just so you know, I do not just drink the BMW flavored Cool Aid, there is also an Audi in the garage…. as it says somewhere, mein auto: depends on the day! There is a future 7 speed DSG but will it make it into the A4?:

    A4 Powertrain • 3.2L V6 with FSI direct injection and Audi Valvelift System (AVS) • 265hp – 243 lb-ft (3000-5000 rpm) • 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds (EU data) • AVS uses lower cam for efficiency, higher cam for power; increases fuel economy 5% • Reduced frictional losses compared to previous 3.2, which increases fuel economy by 5% • Standard 6-speed Tiptronic (new fast-shifting design) • quattro AWD – latest generation with asymmetric torque split (40/60) • 3.2 quattro at launch, other powertrain offerings to be announced later

    Innovations and available features (options) • MMI operating logic standard (with central display screen) • Audi Drive Select – varies the engine, transmission, steering, and suspension damping characteristics to suit the driver’s preferences • Self-opening trunk lid • Audi Intelligent Key – stores service information in the key • Advanced Key keyless entry and starting • Bluetooth hands-free telephone interface • Bi-xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights • Audi Parking System rear with rearview camera • Electromechanical parking brake • DVD-based Navigation system • Audi Side Assist lane change assistant • Bang & Olufsen 505W 14-speaker sound system • Tiptronic 6-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel shift paddles

  • Ron

    I wish BMW would hurry up! Ever car in their line-up needs DCT, including the MINI. I can’t really get excited about any car in their line up right now. Even with its problems, I liked the old SMG. I don’t want a stick, but none of the Steptronics are that good (although they aren’t bad). But if the 135i had DCT as an option I don’t think I could hold myself back from ordering one.

  • Rick McN

    The New Audi S tronic: Direct Shift Gearbox for Longitudinal Applications

    Seven Gears for Dynamics and Efficiency

    Mar 20, 2008

    source: Audi AG

    • News high-tech transmission with twin-clutch technology • Shifts at lightning speed with high efficiency • Suitable for longitudinal installation and quattro drive

    Seven gears that shift at lightning speed without interrupting traction – Audi presents a new phase in the evolution of transmission systems. The seven-speed S tronic combines its dynamic working method with high efficiency. The new twin-clutch transmission is designed to work with longitudinally installed engines and the quattro all-wheel drive system, and its 550 Nm torque capacity makes it suitable for a wide range of sporty models. Audi will introduce the new S tronic into multiple model lines in series production during the course of this year.

  • Chris B.

    Micheal, where have you been???


    Thinking more about it, the BMW will still have the advantage: weight. 🙂

  • Micheal, where have you been??? http://www.fourtitude.com/news/publish/AudiNews/article3842.shtml Thinking more about it, the BMW will still have the advantage: weight.

    Chris, I know about the longitudinal version and that it will work with Quattro.(your link does not work BTW) I just highly doubt Audi is going to launch the new model with them. Over the years Audi has always been slow to market with new items in the US for the same reason BMW is, to keep interest. If they drop all of the new stuff in the new model from the get go that would be nice, but I doubt it. The first year of production the A4 always has more interior amenities, than later years, b/c they decrease spending on the interior and place it elsewhere. I can see the DSG as an option with the S-line next year. I am still considering the A4 as my winter car, b/c the current XI is not as good in the snow but it is better in every other situation.

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