World's first 9-speed automatic gears up for Range Rover Evoque
Chrysler will also use the new transmission, which claims to boost fuel economy and acceleration.
ZF, a German transmission manufacturer that gave us the first 6-speed automatic, is really upping the ante this time. The result is a 9-speed gearbox that promises to be the calmest and most fuel-efficient conventional automatic on the market.
Before you think 9 is an odd number, remember that ZF already builds 8-speed automatics that have popped up everywhere from the Dodge Charger to the BMW 7-Series. Automakers, pushed by tougher fuel-economy mandates, have turned transmissions into yet another competition, and ZF, which built the world's first 7-speed manual for Porsche, is leading that charge.
ZF says the 9-speed automatic is slim enough to wedge into front- or all-wheel-drive cars (where the engine is mounted lengthwise across the axle) and, most importantly, can save fuel without the performance-sapping traits of a continuously variable transmission. Rear-wheel-drive cars, which have the engine mounted the opposite way, can't use the 9-speed automatic. All-wheel-drive versions of rear-wheel-drive cars will also likely be barred as well, due to space requirements.
When compared with its 6-speed automatic -- a more common transmission and the one used on current Range Rover models -- ZF says the 9-speed reduces engine revs by 700 rpm at 120 kph (74.5 mph) and can hit 62 mph two seconds faster thanks to closer gear steps and lower ratios for the first few gears. Basically, at highway speeds, the engine is reduced to a whimper, but can quickly skip multiple gears (the 8-speed can drop from 8 to 2 within a second, for example).
That means, due to reduced engine noise, that it'll be even easier to hit 80 mph and seriously think you're doing 65. I'd recommend ZF include a radar detector with every gearbox when it begins shipping them from its Greenville, S.C., plant.
Chrysler will also use the ZF 9-speed this year, likely on the Dodge Dart and a redesigned Avenger, and possibly on the upcoming 2014 Jeep Cherokee.
[Source: ZF, Land Rover]
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