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When BMW released the redesigned 7-series back in 2001, they were the first to offer a six-speed automatic transmission. Two years later, Mercedes upped the ante by throwing an additional cog into the mix, equipping their new S-class with a seven-speed auto. Now that Lexus is offering an eight-speed slush box in their waftastic LS460, BMW has vowed not be left behind in the ratio wars and plans to bring an nine- eight-speed transmission to market by the end of the decade.

The next 7-series will be due for a substantial redesign by 2009 or 2010, so that's when industry analysts expect the eight-speed box to find its way into BMW's luxury sedan. The engineering haus, ZF Friedrichsafen, has been tapped to create the new automatic and has plenty of experience increasing fuel economy, while decreasing build costs, on the current model's six-speed automatic.

When will this cog-swapping numbers race end? We're not entirely sure, but as soon as manufacturers start cresting the double digits, we doubt anyone will even be paying attention.

[Source: Automotive News – Sub. Req.]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      its just becaue lexus has 8
      • 8 Years Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      This seems like another case of technology for the purpose of advertising "best in class". The new Honda 5-speed auto added 1 mpg over the 4-speed in the Element. How much can an 8 speed add in performance or economy over a 6 speed? Too little to measure. Personally I wouldn't want to add unneeded complexity to the car, it only adds more things to go wrong.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Funny. It was a horsepower race early this decade. And now its a transmission race.
      • 8 Years Ago
      6 speed, 7 speed, 8 speed - what's the big deal. My seven year old road bike has 18. ;-)
      • 8 Years Ago
      CVTs have LESS ratio spread.
      The CVT in the Nissan Altima, Maxima, and Murano only has 5.4:1 ratio spread. The CVT in the QR25 altima has 6:1 rato coverage
      The latest Audi Multitronic has ~6.25:1
      The ZF 6 speed autos are 6:1
      The ZF 7 speed auto (no torque converter) is 7.28:1, and no one has used it.
      MB 7 speed auto only has 6:1, and still has two reverse gears, and has a 1:1 gear (5th)
      Aisin-Warner's 8 speed auto has 6.7:1 ratio spread, and only has 1 reverse gear (and has a 1:1 6th gear)
      The 6 speed auto used in the LS430 previous to the LS460 had 6.6:1 spread (for a tall 40mph/1000 in 6th gear)

      What people are thinking of is the IVT (infinitely variable transmission) as used in the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drivetrain, or the ToroTrak.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Tremelune - That was comedy gold man. Thank you.
      • 8 Years Ago
      All ZF needs to do is to add another gear that their engineering group screws up.... I have an Audi A8 and ZF royally screwed that up.... but of course, German engineering is king and the ZF transmission is "life time". Life time of maybe a mayfly....
      • 8 Years Ago
      This kind of reminds me of the scene in Something about Mary when Ben Stiller picks up the crazy hitch hiker. His idea for a new product is the 6 minute abs because the one on the infomercial is 7 minuite abs. His reasoning is why would anyone buy 7 minute abs when 6 minute abs are available.

      6, 7, 8 speed trannys seem to me to be much the same thing, at what point is it just bragging rights? Sure, there may be some minor difference, but at what point is it just excess and being able to say "I have more gears than you do..."
      • 8 Years Ago
      Anyone who buys a 7-series usually has more money than automotive sense. It is about bragging rights -- from the buyer. When a car gets into the 80, 90 and 100K range, it is no longer a matter of practical sense but how much you can show off. Many of these people know nothing about cars but they can brag all day about the 8 gears. On the highway it does not really matter -- in city driving the additional gears should give you a smoother ride and help save a little on gas.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Some estimates place REPAIR costs as high as $12,000 for six and seven speed automatic transmissions.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Assuming they're not going for outright top speed, what kind of engine would go well with 8 gears? It's my understanding that a lower number of gears is best mated with a wide, flat power band. Whereas a higher number of gears works better with a peaky engine because of the closer ratio. So if BMW is going with 8 gears, will they be tuning their engines more like Honda? *shudder*
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