Audi currently uses its S-Tronic dual-clutch gearboxes in almost every single one of its performance cars, thanks to its incredible performance potential. However, it wasn’t Audi’s first, or even second, dual-clutch gearbox. In fact, the four-ringed brand’s first dual-clutch gearbox came in the 1980’s in the Audi’s Sport Quattro S1 Group B Rally racer and it was actually Porsche’s PDK dual-clutch gearbox that was in it.
Back in the ’80s, both Porsche’s and Audi’s motorsport programs were being run by Ferdinand Piëch, who was testing Porsche’s PDK gearbox for the Porsche 956/962 LeMans race cars. And because Audi’s Group B Rally racing was pretty unregulated at the time, such an experimental gearbox was allowed in the Audi Sport Quattro S1 Rally racer and it made the car incredibly fast. 0-60 mph in 2.6 seconds fast, in face, making it almost too fast for the drivers.
In fact, famous driver Walter Röhrl actually blames the gearbox for a crash as its pace was just too rapid. Röhrl claims that his co-driver lost the ability to communicate the upcoming turns as the car was just so fast with the dual-clutch gearbox. Röhrl also tells a story in his biography noting that famous Audi engineer Dieter Basche needed to get out of the car, after miles of testing with Röhrl, simply saying “no more” because of its fearsome pace at the time. Other drivers also claimed that the PDK’s rapid shifts actually threw off their rhythm throughout races.
After that, the PDK transmission was banned from Group B rally racing and dual-clutch transmissions remained as such for the entire Volkswagen Group until the Volkswagen Golf R32 brought it back. Now, it’s in virtually every fast Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche, with each brand developing their own variant. Volkswagen has its DSG, Porsche has its new PDK and Audi has its own S-Tronic which is arguably the best of them all in the Audi R8 V10.
So the dual-clutch transmission started about 30 years ago but it’s still one of the biggest performance components of a sports car in today’s modern automobile.