Everything You Need to Know About the Tiptronic Gearbox
Many car brands today boast some form of “tiptronic” transmission. But what does this word mean? Is it just another automotive buzzword designed to confuse and annoy us? Or, is it a real and tangible thing that cars use and benefit from?
Tiptronic is a very real technology and it has been a significant step forward for those who wanted to get the best of both worlds when it comes to their vehicle’s transmission. In today’s blog, we will understand what a tiptronic gearbox is, how it works, how it might benefit a car and driver, and more.
What is a Tiptronic Gearbox?
Put simply, a tiptronic gearbox is a special kind of automatic transmission that also has the ability to allow the driver the option to shift gears manually if they would like. It is designed as a gearbox to give drivers more control over their on-road experience.
Many drivers like the tiptronic gearbox especially when negotiating uphill and downhill situations where being able to shift gears yourself can offer better control, traction and torque. The system is also popular in Europe where for years the vast majority of drivers have preferred manual cars.
Even as automatic cars become more common, European drivers (and Japanese drivers, too) feel like the tiptronic transmission gives them the best of both worlds and so opt for this system when it’s available to them.
Different companies tend to use different names for their tiptronic systems, chiefly as a way to integrate this system as a part of their brand.
How Do Tiptronic Gearboxes Work?
For the most part, a tiptronic gearbox is much like that of a regular automatic transmission. When you look at the gearshift, it looks different from a regular automatic, and shifts between “N” for Neutral, “R” for Reverse and “D” for Drive, of course.
The main difference in the tiptronic gearbox function is found within its ability to switch from that same regular automatic shifting mode to an automatic one. Usually at the bottom of the gear shifter channel, there is a separate section you can push the gear shifter into. This action of pushing the shifter left or right is typically what shifts the car from regular automatic mood into tiptronic mode.
Once the car is in tiptronic mode, it is up to the driver to make the necessary shifts back up or down. This is done usually by nudging the shifter either up or down, or left to right, depending on the specific setup.
What are the Benefits of Having a Tiptronic Gearbox?
With a tiptronic gearbox, you first get all the same main benefits that you’d expect from an automatic transmission:
- Ease of use
- Strong resale value
The added benefit of having a tiptronic gearbox is that you have the option to shift to manual as and when you want. Where the more die-hard automatic fan doesn’t like to switch to any form of manual transmission, they don’t have to activate tiptronic mode.
Those who do miss the activity and sensation of manual shifting, however, can gain that by activating tiptronic mode. They may do it for all sorts of reasons:
- First, manual shifting reduces driver boredom. Many drivers remark on how soporific and dull driving can be when the car is entirely automatic, especially on longer journeys. Having to think about rpms, torque and having sufficient power and control to get up and down hill slopes, and to safely navigate corners is part of what makes driving fun and helps to keep drivers alert.
- Second, manual mode does provide more control in difficult environments like on steep inclines. When heading up or down a slope, the driver knows to quickly drop gears, but an automatic may take longer to respond, resulting in a less-than-ideal or even less safe performance on those slopes. Tiptronic puts the control back into the hands of drivers.
- Finally, it can make their car feel more like a sports car. The tiptronic transmission usually comes with wheel-mounted paddle shifters, which is a very sportscar-like feature. It adds an air of dynamism and fun to the car that a traditional automatic tends to lack.
Is There a Downside to a Tiptronic Gearbox?
Like other automatic transmissions, tiptronic systems are more complex and thus in general more expensive to maintain and repair. They tend to need more maintenance, not less, than a manual car.
Replacing the tiptronic gearbox and transmission could easily cost you £2500 or £3000 plus labour costs. It’s an expensive component to go wrong, but when it’s well maintained it will likely last a long time and won’t fail prematurely.
Some drivers have pointed to another downside, which is that if and when the driver doesn’t shift gears by hand after a given amount of time, the tiptronic system just turns itself off and it goes back to automatic transmission. If you were deliberately trying to keep it in a certain gear while driving for some reason known to you, then that could be quite tiresome. Once it reverts, you have to manually reactivate the tiptronic feature.
Conclusion: Is Tiptronic Better Than a Regular Automatic?
If you drive a car and would like to have a choice in your transmission type, then the tiptronic transmission is a perfect choice. It’s also good if you have a shared family car with at least two family members who disagree on the merits of manual and automatic transmission. The tiptronic allows each to experience what they like the most.
This versatility and adaptability are the main benefits that tiptronic has over a regular automatic transmission. At the moment, however, they are a more intricate and complex transmission to maintain and/or replace, so the difficulty of cost will always hang over the tiptronic gearbox. For many, however, it’s worth paying the price.