According to Chrysler’s calculations, there are nearly 100,000 ways one can order a 2013 Dodge Dart – but the one flavor we were previously unable to sample was one equipped with a notable option: a six-speed dual-clutch automatic.. Luckily, we recently spent some time behind the wheel of a preproduction 2013 Dart Rallye fitted with Chrysler’s first dual-clutch foray.
To be fair, the C635 dry dual-clutch transmission (DDCT, in Chrysler parlance) is a Fiat concoction, much like the only engine it’s available with on the 2013 Dart. Darts built with either the 2.0- or 2.4-liter Tigerhark I-4s utilize a conventional, Hyundai-sourced six-speed automatic, but Darts equipped with the Fiat-built turbocharged 1.4-liter I-4 can be equipped with this DDCT.
Although it’s a new offering for the Dart (and for Chrysler), it’s not exactly a brand-new transmission. The gearbox debuted in 2010, and is available abroad on vehicles like the Alfa Romeo MiTo and Giulietta. Fiat’s design allows for both six- and seven-speed forms, but the transmission bound for the 2013 Dart has only six forward gears.
So, how does it drive? Impressively well, actually. Chrysler has long hinted it was aiming to tune the dual-clutch transmission so it felt like a conventional automatic, and we’d say engineers succeeded. Gear changes aren’t quite as crisp as Volkswagen’s seven-speed DSG, but the Dart’s shifts are still quick and impressively smooth. Our only complaint comes when treating the DDCT as if it were a manual transmission. There are no steering wheel-mounted shift paddles, but a manual mode on the shifter itself allows the driver to up- and downshift by pushing fore and aft, respectively. There’s a brief delay in triggering a shift, but it only poses a problem if you’re gunning for the redline, since the gearbox will upshift even in manual mode. Shift too late, and you may find yourself up two gears instead of one.
That said, this isn’t necessarily designed to be an enthusiasts’ gearbox (those seeking manual-like command of their Darts will likely stick with the standard six-speed manual anyways), but a means of pairing the 1.4-liter turbo-four’s fuel economy benefits with an automatic transmission. Dodge says the 2013 Dart equipped with the transmission will return 27 mpg in the city, 37 mpg on the highway, and 31 mpg combined. That’s two mpg lower than a turbocharged Dart equipped with the six-speed manual, but it is an improvement over the lesser 2.0L/ 6AT combination, which is rated at 24/34 mpg (city/highway).
Much like the turbocharged 1.4-liter I-4, the DDCT is available on every 2013 Dart trim level save for the entry-level Dart SE and the top-tier, performance-inspired Dart R/T. Opting for the DCT — $1100 – is no more expensive than adding the standard automatic to a 2.0-liter Dart, but also requires buyers to pony up $1300 for the turbocharged I-4 to begin with.
Dodge expects 2013 Darts equipped with the dual-clutch transmission to reach dealers by the third quarter of 2012. For more our first impressions on the 2013 Dodge Dart, click here for our First Drive story.