Doctor Diesel

An enviable choice

dd3an-enviable-choice-23A question for you regarding automatic transmissions Doctor. I have had some experience with driving twin-clutch automatics (not owned by myself) and I can’t say that I am totally impressed with them, in terms of their smoothness of operation, and I know that there have been some reliability issues. What I think that I want is a good, old-fashioned (if you want to call it that) torque converter automatic, in a good mid-size quality five-seater saloon, or maybe even a larger hatchback (or even perhaps an SUV if I could be persuaded), perhaps around £30 to £35k, with a strong 2.0-litre diesel engine. What are my best options, in terms of the transmission and general quality and reliability? I am not too fussed about having steering wheel paddles for manual override changes, as I don’t drive that fast, and I want a car with an engine that’s got enough flexibility not to need that sort of thing. Will sticking to a traditional choice of torque converter automatic cost me much in higher fuel consumption, by the way? Aren’t twin-clutch boxes supposed to be more economical?

Jim Cook

You don’t mention what you’re driving just now, which would have helped, but I sense that maybe you’ve been running quite nice company cars and now have the need to buy one of your own. If you want a good torque converter automatic, in the sort of market area that you mention, then the available options are pretty clear Jim. There’s Jaguar, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Mazda and I guess Land Rover. I may have forgotten somebody there, but if they are that easily forgettable, then that would probably be for good reasons.

If I were you, and if I were not tempted towards something less traditional, like the new Jaguar F-Pace, then I would be looking at the BMW 3 and 5 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C- and E-Class, although I sense that the rather trendy styling of the latest Mercedes-Benz saloons might not be quite to your taste. You might also find the Jaguar XE on the tight side for space.

So for me, it’s down to a twin-test shoot-out between the 5 Series and the Jaguar XF, the latter being a significantly better car than its predecessor, very good though that was. Both use the very latest eight-speed torque converter transmissions that are so smooth that you will barely notice the ratio changes ñ which of course is partly because the ratios are so close together when there are eight of them.

Be cheeky, and ask to borrow prospective cars for 24 hours, or even a weekend. You’re planning to spend some decent money and you need more than just a short test run to help you make your decision. And don’t be fobbed off with any old test car that isn’t pretty close to the specification of the car that you would want to order, particularly in terms of the engine and the transmission. The dealer networks have access to moving demonstrator cars around the country, or borrowing them from a central car pool, so if they see you as a serious prospective buyer, they should put themselves out to get hold of a suitable loan car for you. That’s a good test of the sort of service that you might be able to expect from your local dealer.

You do mention the possibility of an SUV, and one should always be open-minded to change, so do slip into the Jaguar F-Pace to see if the easy access and high seat position, plus the practicality for storage of golfing equipment and so on might suit you. The Discovery Sport is well worth checking out, too. That then might (or might not!) give you reason to seek out a Mazda showroom and sneak a look (and maybe a test drive) of their CX-5, which is an excellent car. A point worth making is that most of these SUVs are shorter and easier to park than the saloon or estate of similar capacity, which is a strong positive.

Be assured that with the latest torque converter transmissions you will use very little more fuel than in a manual, or twin-clutch automatic (all the figures for manuals and for all automatics are in our data pages) or possibly even less, if your driving is high speed open road stuff, as these transmissions usually give you a higher top gear that’s more economical for cruising along.

I hope these few words help with your decisions Jim, and do find time to let me know what you end up buying ñ I would be interested to know, and for what reasons!


Doc D

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