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One Giant Leap for Chrysler

New 9-speed ZF transmissions will make all the difference.

By James Tate Jan 18, 2011 4:33AM

ZF TransmissionsTransmission manufacturer ZF has just announced that the company is hard at work on an all-new 9-speed automatic transmission. Automakers have been increasingly turning to higher gear counts as a way to maximize power and increase the fuel efficiency of their engines, and while the trend has helped the once-exotic 6-speed automatic displace the lowly 4-speed as the go-to gearbox, it’s also pushed transmission manufacturers to come up with ever loftier numbers of gears. Hence, the ZF 9-speed gearbox.


Interestingly enough, ZF says that Chrysler will be the first automaker to take advantage of the new transmission.

Chrysler’s products have been famously hobbled by transmissions designed shortly after Eli Whitney cobbled together his first cotton gin. While the company’s engine architecture is just now beginning to catch up to the competition -- thanks to the arrival of the Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 -- the company's history is filled with oddly programmed and inefficient 4-speed automatic transmissions that have done little to improve drivability or fuel efficiency.

When the company begins slipping the new ZF gearbox into its products, buyers can expect to see double-digit improvements in fuel economy. That’s no small claim, and if it turns out to be true, this new ZF tranny should instantly catapult Chrysler products from the Stone Age to the Space Age. As of right now, there’s no indication when the 9-speed automatic will arrive, nor what vehicles will use it. We do know that ZF says that the gearbox is designed to be used with a transversely mounted engine, meaning cars, crossovers and SUVs with front-wheel drive are likely to be the sole benefactors.

[Source: Autopia]

Jan 18, 2011 11:23AM
5 more gears to go wrong. 5 times the expense to repair/replace when it goes wrong...... Not to mention I can imagine the first generation of these being full of gremlins.... I'll stick with my standard tranny, thanks.

Cynicism aside - it's refreshing to see this kind of risk-taking forward thinking coming from an American automaker rather than the past theme of obfuscate, complain, whine, and finally adopt the technology long after it became standard on cars in ever other part of the world. Good for them. FINALLY Detroit has gotten the message that there are advantages to LEADING as opposed to FOLLOWING. Best of luck, Chrysler (and I actually mean it).

Jan 20, 2011 11:49AM

COACHFOX, come back when you know what you're talking about.....if that's even possible.  Are you related to bababooey70 by any chance?


Aberdale, Fiat only has a 20% stake in Chrysler right now.  The unions and U.S./Canadian governments own the majority.  At 20% Chrysler can hardly be considered a subsidiary of Fiat.   

Jan 18, 2011 7:31AM
Put me in the "skeptical" category, for now.  Increasing the number of gear ratios in a transmission, even a quick-shifter with DSG, is a game of diminishing performance returns.  By the time you get to seven or eight ratios, there's always a cog within spitting distance of optimal, no matter what the conditions or engine speed.  Nine speeds is getting perilously close to pointless.  What does increase however, is the complexity and mechanical vulnerability of these uber-boxes, not to mention their weight.  A nine-speed from a company whose four-speeds routinely break?  I'd say they need to work their way up in smaller steps.  Yeah, I know, its a ZF box, not a Mopar, but I still think it's an awfully big bite to chew, and it's more of an image-improver than a real drive train improver.    
Jan 20, 2011 6:45AM



Before start calling people "slow," you might want to get familiar with this new invention.  We call it a "joke."  Sometimes people like to bust other people's chops when they slip up.  Obviously we all knew what you were talking about, but you worded that very poorly.  So we are giving you a hard time. 


If you don't like jokes, you are going to have a very hard time getting through life.  When you are older you will understand. 


INSERT RANDOM should get out more.

Isn't that the pot calling the kettle black?

Jan 19, 2011 11:08AM
I have to agree with MN Gearhead.  I have never met someone like COACHFOX who actually WANTS their transmission to fail during the life of the vehicle.  That is one of the few parts on an automobile that I am not very comfortable servicing myself.  It is definitely the one part I want to last longer then anything else.
Jan 28, 2011 11:13AM
I have posted a link to the SAE website that describes the reasoning behind the new ZF transmission. After reading it I was like, ah, so that is why they are going so big.
aaron.h20, interesting article.  Thanks for sharing it.
Jan 27, 2011 3:48PM
Come on!!! Why can't I post the link to the article???

Jan 27, 2011 3:47PM
I have posted a link to the SAE website that describes the reasoning behind the new ZF transmission. After reading it I was like, ah, so that is why they are going so big.
Jan 18, 2011 7:18PM
Aberdale, you are obviously not familiar with DSG transmissions (concerning performance and efficiency of automatics).  These dual clutch transmissions provide the efficiency of a manual and performance that's actually better due to their lightning fast shifts.  They don't have a torque converter like conventional automatics so very little power is wasted.
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