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SST Gearbox

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Posted 07-05-2012 at 13:21 by Aidy
Updated 02-11-2014 at 22:00 by Aidy
Tags evo x, gearbox, sst, ten

The SST (Sportronic Shift Transmission) offering in the Evo X is Mitsubishi's take at a twin-clutch, 6 speed, semi-automatic transmission. In a nutshell, the twin-clutch design means that two gears can be selected at the same time on separate input shafts; one odd gear and one even. So going up the box, while you are in second gear, third might also be selected so when it comes to change from second to third the clutches are just swapped and third gear is engaged much quicker and smoother than is possible with a manual gear box. The advantages of this are obviously smoother acceleration, less time off the power, and the gear ratios can be shorter. Conversely when braking down the box the smoother changes give the car better stability and less shifting of weight.

The disadvantage is that "something" has to control this wizardry. To that affect the car has three automatic modes; normal, sport and super sport. You change modes by way of a rocker switch next to the "gearstick" - push it forward for sport, forward and hold for super sport, pull it back for normal mode. As well as the SST modes, the gear stick acts like a regular automatic where you move it forward and backward to select park, reverse, neutral, drive etc. Can you stall the car? No, you can't. If you are in manual mode and ever slow to the point of stalling, the car will take over, downshift and select automatic mode. As I said - it's all very clever.

Normal mode keeps the selected gear fairly high (5th when cruising at 30 for example), and the revs low (it will change up around 3,000) and the gear changes are slower and more gentle. The effect is a very un-evo like evo; the throttle is slow and unresponsive, if you are being a bit quick up the box, the numerous and early gear changes make it somewhat jerky.

Sport mode delays the gear change until higher in the revs, keeps the car in lower gears and also makes the changes themselves a bit quicker. This is closer to how you probably drive your car around town normally. Super sport, as you can imagine, lets the car rev even higher, keeps the gears even lower and makes the changes even faster.

The problem with normal mode is that it's fine for pootling around, but if you need to quickly (safely, if you prefer) pull out of a junction, or onto a roundabout...mmm...doesn't really work. Instead you get a car trying to accelerate from 10 to 30 in 4th gear keeping it under 3000 revs. You can punch the gas harder, but 5th gear at 3000 revs isn't much faster The solution is to switch to sport mode first...but that means having to "do something". In a manual car you're always working the gears anyway, so the amount of acceleration you need is always on tap no matter the occasion. With the car in normal mode you get quite passive, and you have to think "junction coming up, better put it in sport mode...right, that's me at 30mph, back into normal mode" and so on. In a manual transmission car if you want more acceleration you simply delay changing the gear you're currently in.

If you're thinking "why not just leave it in sport mode?" - that's the crux of the issue As previously mentioned, with a manual transmission you are basically switching between all the "modes" instantly with each gear change. You can pull out in 1st, get lots of thrust, quickly into second for a bit more...then gently into 3rd, 4th and relax. By leaving the car in sport mode when you're cruising along, it is holding low gears, high revs and simply touching the gas makes it want to kick down and roar off. Leaving it in sport mode is like leaving your car in 2nd when driving at 30mph – it holds high revs, is very jerky and keen to go, plus not very economical. So rather than the car being a bit more intelligent and knowing when you want to "go" and when you want to "cruise", it is always in either "cruise" mode (normal) or "go" mode (sport), but real driving just isn't like that.

That brings us onto Super Sport. Jeez, what an animal of a mode. This is for balls-out driving; very responsive throttle, very aggressive gear changing, good use of the torque available at higher revs. Extending the sport mode issue, let's say you use this mode to quickly join a motorway...sure you'll tear up the gears in no time, but when you've joined the motorway and have backed off the throttle, the car is probably holding 6000 revs, just daring you to even breathe on the loud pedal. You now need to scramble to get the box back into normal before the engine jumps out of the car. It has all the problems of sport mode, only amplified. At this point I might as well let you know the worst thing about super sport...the super spoil sports at Mitsubishi don't want you using it on the road You can only engage it from stand-still. This means that if you're cruising through a village and the NSL sign looms in the distance, you can't just flip the switch and unleash hell...if you want to put it in super sport you'll need to pull over and stop first :\ (hopefully someone has found a way to bypass that "feature").

To the sum the auto modes up; they are fine at what they do...but what you do changes quite quickly and fluidly. A manual box allows you to go quickly through the gears, slowly through, quick then slow, slow then quick...a manual box is ultimate freedom and control. With the SST modes you have to be selecting the one that suits you *right now*, but *right now* will change from corner to corner.

Are they a gimmick? I'd say "no", not a gimmick, just not very practical. You will use sport mode at junctions etc, but it's annoying that you have to keep switching from normal to sport to normal and so on. When you're on an empty country road, super sport mode will put a smile on your will grin from ear to ear as the car lurches under you like a horse fighting its reins, desperate to gallop away if you're coming for the ride or not...but it still can't read the road like you do, and a car doing the gears for you is like your mother putting your clothes out.

So the automatic modes of the gear box are realistically only fine for driving to Tesco, they're not the best for back-road barnstorming, and no-one buys an evo just to pick up chicken nuggets and toilet paper. It's not all doom and gloom, though, as the gear stick doesn't just go back and forward, it slides to the right too. When you slide the stick right the car goes into manual mode. You now have control over the gears and can change them via the paddles on the wheel, or you can use the gearstick which now acts like a sequential shifter, letting you push forward to go down a gear and pull back to go up a gear (there is no clutch, by the way, you just keep your foot down). The auto modes still apply in manual mode in as much as they dictate the gear change speed and how responsive the throttle is. The gear paddles are fixed to the steering column, they don't move with the wheel, so if you keep your hands at "3 and 9", the further into a turn the less able you are to change gear. This helps promote better driving, but sometimes in the real world you do have to change gear mid-turn which is where the sequential stick can really help you. If you are stationary coming onto a smallish roundabout you can turn into the roundabout while going up the box sequentially with the stick. On the other hand, if you "shuffle" the wheel then your bad driving is further enhanced by being able to change gear via the paddles mid-corner to your heart's content

Manual mode alleviates all of the issues with faffing around with the automatic can go like an animal through the gears, or slowly through the gears. You can hold any revs in any gear, when looking to overtake you can drop a few gears first at hold it at peak torque, or you can drop gears for engine braking (though sport and super sport do help with this if you use them), when you are cornering in a gear you stay in it to ensure cornering balance rather than the box deciding to change gear for you mid-corner. On a country road you are back in control, selecting the right gears for any situation or corner, as no matter how clever the car is (and it is very clever), it can't see the road ahead, it will never drive the car better than a human can. Given that you'd never use super sport on track, and you can't select it on a whim while on the road, the manual mode does make super sport a bit gimmicky. Fun as hell but gimmicky.

So what's the difference between SST manual and a "proper" manual? First of all, you don't need to take your hands off the wheel to change gear, you should be able to drive your car and never leave "3 and 9", and now you can. The changes are quicker as the next gear is already selected, you're simply switching input shafts. You don't have to take your foot off the gas so turbo lag is almost gone; more time on power means faster from A to B. The speed of the gear changes mean the car remains more balanced which leads to better handling. This is most evident going down the box; when you come to a corner and brake hard and go down the box, the speed of the gear changes make it a joy, the car remains so much more balanced and stable with less weight-shifting, setting you up well for the corner ahead. In terms of driving fast (which is what we bought our evos for) is the SST better? Yes it is. It's clever as hell, it's smooth as just flows.

The best thing about manual mode, however, is the psychology of selecting it. You're driving through some village in normal mode...30mph in 5th gear and life is good. The village thins out, the NSL sign approaches...sliding the gearstick to the right is like turning your baseball cap around backwards. Your whole inner being changes, your senses heighten and your heart races cos you know that now it's business time.
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  1. Old Comment
    evo/nut's Avatar
    Thats a good write up I think.

    Only driven a manual 300 X and i found it too refined for me but the SST does sound like a more fun drive.
    Posted 07-05-2012 at 19:09 by evo/nut evo/nut is offline
  2. Old Comment
    A very useful and insightful write-up. :smthumbup

    I’ve not driven an SST before, but owned a V6 Audi with DSG. I must say that the DSG system was spot on – in “normal” and “sport” and didn’t have any of the quirks of the SST as highlighted in your write-up. I’m surprised how “normal” mode seems so slugglish on the SST..... surely it kicks-down if needed for a quick get-away? :confused: The DSG certainly did – and kept the revs all the way to the redline if you kept your foot planted... a slight lift once you’ve gotten out of the "situation" and the gears would change up. You could almost dictate (in normal mode) where you wanted the gear change to happen in the rev range.... simply be varying how much throttle you applied. Super good system.... and with the added bonus of built in launch control which was just excellent (sport mode, traction off, brake pedal on hard, foot to the floor full throttle..... it would hold revs at just over 3K like this..... release brake..... and you’re off!... :mhihi:)
    Posted 08-05-2012 at 10:08 by Rafkoo Rafkoo is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Aidy's Avatar
    That kind of "intelligence" is what the system lacks. It can't work out that you need to go now. Planting it will give you more power, but still much less than is possible and in a sluggish way. In emergency situations it's just not feasible to switch the box into sport mode...your instinct is to just floor it....but where's the power???
    Posted 08-05-2012 at 20:35 by Aidy Aidy is offline

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