Mercedes-Benz has officially introduced the world’s first nine-speed automatic transmission with torque converter in its new E 350 BlueTEC.
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Transmissions seem to be adding gears faster than razors are adding blades, with ZF announcing today at the Detroit Auto Show a new 9-speed automatic unit.
Described as a “major step for front-wheel drive cars in terms of fuel consumption” by ZF executive vice president Michael Paul, the new unit will be offered in future Chrysler vehicles.
Little in the way of details were provided, but ZF says it should will provide as much as a 10-mpg improvement in fuel economy over current models (likely those running a 6-speed unit). ZF already makes an 8-speed automatic transmission and this new 9-speed unit is touted to be roughly the same size and weight.
Production of the new transmission will begin in 2012 at the company’s Greenville, S.C. facility, so expect it to be included in new Chrysler brand products starting in 2013.
News of a new 8-speed automatic for rear-drive Chrysler vehicles has been floating around for a few months now, but it appears as though the American automaker has one more trick – or should we say one more gear – up its sleeve. At Chrysler’s recent dealer meeting (the first in three years) those in attendance heard about a new Viper and a host of other upcoming products. They were also told of a new 9-speed automatic transmission in the works. The new 9-speed auto-box is being built for front drive applications, although Marchionne did say that it will also be adaptable to AWD and hybrid setups. He gave no indication on when the unit would be available in a production model.
As for the 8-speed box, it is a version of the ZF 8-speed unit currently found on many BMW products and will first appear in rear-drive Chrysler products (like the 300C, Dodge Charger and Challenger) in 2012, significantly improving both fuel economy and acceleration.
The new 9-speed automatic would be suitable for AWD versions of cars like the Chrysler 300.
When Mercedes introduced its 7-speed transmission, the German automaker launched a new era of multi-geared auto-boxes with all other luxury automakers taking part in a bid to offer increased performance and fuel economy. Lexus responded with an 8-speed automatic transmission, Infiniti developed a 7-speed box and both BMW and Audi now have 8-speed units as well. So what is Mercedes to do if it wants to stay at the top? Develop a 9-speed of course!
And that is just what engineers at the luxury automaker are doing, reports AutoCar. According to sources inside the company familiar with future engineering products, a new 9-speed automatic transmission is being developed that will drastically improve fuel economy.
According to those same sources, the new slushbox will be used on large displacement engines, meaning that it will most certainly come equipped on AMG models. Anything more than a 9-speed is unlikely though, as engineers believe that along with certain technical obstacles, consumers don’t want that much shifting.
The insider source gave no clues as to how far along in the development phase the new 9-speed unit is, or when we might first see it on a production model.