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How many gears are enough? While it seems that six-speed automatic transmissions are just now becoming the de facto standard in most circles, Mercedes-Benz has been working with seven ratios for a while now and Lexus did its German rival one better by designing its own eight-speed. Not content to sit idle while other marques earn bragging rights, Audi and BMW have recently utilized eight-speeders of their own for their latest flagship models.

Citing unnamed sources within Audi, the crew at Inside Line are suggesting that the automaker will spread the eight-gear love across its model line, including even the lowly entry-level A3 hatchback with its 2.0-liter turbocharged four. Why all those gears? More ratios to choose from generally equals quicker and smoother acceleration along with increased fuel efficiency and reduced emissions.

As an aside, we're not quite sure where the law of diminishing returns will intersect with the desire for performance and bragging rights when it comes to automatic transmissions. In other words, what are the chances that we'll someday see nine or 10-speed gearboxes in luxury cars? Time will tell.

[Source: Inside Line]


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  • 53 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      I don't get what all these gears are for. In my car at least it can unlock the torque converter in any gear. So I can press the pedal at 45mph or so and watch the revs jump from 1400 to 2500 without even going down a gear, just by unlocking the TC.

      All I can figure they are for is that they aren't for acceleration at all, they are for steady state driving. Unlocking the TC means you're using more fuel because of power lost in the TC, so you can't afford to leave the TC unlocked once you reach a cruising speed. So these 8 speeds will give you a wider range of speeds where you can cruise at an efficient low rev count.

      But then the natural question becomes, do I really use all those speeds? Do I cruise at 32mph often enough to have a gear specifically for that?

      I dunno, I'm baffled. I really don't want my car shifting 7 times to highway speeds, I know that. I understand the weight/mass on these transmissions is reasonable, so I have no beef there.

      Can these gearboxes at least skip gears when I'm accelerating lightly, so I don't have to endure 7 shifts to 65?
        • 5 Years Ago
        'all these gears' is so the torque converter can be removed.

        ZF jumped the gun on that one with the 7p-transmission [stillborn]
        Ironically, that has greater ratio spread than the 8hp.

        'endure', the shift time is basically at the perception limit of most people.
        If you weren't looking for them, you wouldn't notice them.
      • 5 Years Ago
      They can stick as many cogs in a slushbox as they want, just so long as they keep making manual trannies.
      • 5 Years Ago
      AAhhhhhyesss. Lets make something so complicated that there is simply no repair. Send it back to the factory for a $7000.00 transmission. Perrrrfect.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This is getting kind of out of hand. Is there really a purpose to all these speeds? As I understand it, they're just making the range of each gear smaller, and keeping the overall range the same. What's the point? Maybe I could understand a 6th or 7th super overdrive gear to save on gas for a large, torquey motor.

      But if you're just keeping it overall the same, you get a heavier transmission (more fuel burned to haul the drivetrain), more expensive (higher prices), more complicated (more expensive repairs and replacements), and then you get a crapload of gear hunting (even if they're smooth changes, it's annoying for the driver and passengers).
      • 5 Years Ago
      7 was a lot... 8 is ridiculous... 9 and more (if it happens) is just ugh. friggin turning into mountain bikes.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Nobody drive a stick shift in the US? Simple and fun.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Most of these 8 speed transmissions are actually lighter and use less parts than many 6 speed transmissions.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Thank you for this post because I was going to write the same thing.

        Many of these transmissions have LESS parts and LESS weight than their 6 speed counterparts, so if they have a broader ratio, then i am all for them - lower gears for acceleration and higher ones for better fuel economy.

        Why the hell wouldn't you want this? And don't give me this BS that "they are too complex"... yeah, like a 5-speed transmission is somehow NOT complex? Get real.

        (don't get me wrong, I personally am all about driving a standard transmission, but the reality is that 90% of the cars sold in this country have an automatic)
      • 5 Years Ago
      7 speed automatics are useful for only a handful of cars (sport cars on grippy tires, that have a very low first gear). 8 speed is way too many, it only causes the gearbox to flick the gears back and forth for no reason.
        • 5 Years Ago
        No one is forcing you to use all gears directly all the time.

        For trucks, 1-7 in tow/haul, 2-8 otherwise

        Take the ZF 8hp70, that should be in the Dodge Ram now!
        4.696, 3.13, 2.104, 1.667, 1.285, 1, 0.839, 0.667; reverse 3.3
        Ram 545rfe (5 speed automatic) 3.0, 1.667 upshift / 1.5 downshift, 1, 0.75, 0.667, reverse 3.0


      • 5 Years Ago
      considering the t-reg gets one I would assume all audi models save the R8 will be getting one... though the r8 needs one... bad. And i'd like one too... let's get the 4mo VR6 up to 30mpg on the highway w00t
        • 5 Years Ago
        Seeing how the CVT transmissions never fulfilled the claim of better fuel economy due to the engine operating more in it's peak efficiency I fail to see how an automatic or dual clutch box with more gears will deliver on that either.
        • 5 Years Ago
        mnmlist 5:43PM (2/16/2010)

        "Another example of cars becoming too complicated."

        You're aware these 7 and 8 gear transmissions are LIGHTER and have FEWER PARTS than existing 5 or 6 gear transmissions?

        You're the Sarah Palin of Autoblog; a lot of whining, discontent and zero fact.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @mnmlist
        claiming cars are getting too complicated + username: minimalist = fail
        • 5 Years Ago
        "...any enjoyment gained from having conventional gears ends as soon as the car starts picking them for me."

        The best statement I've read all week PJ :)
        • 5 Years Ago
        Another example of cars becoming too complicated.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Transverse applications seem unlikely.

        There are two gearsets for Audi's longitudinal 7 speed double clutch, an 8:1 & 6:1.
        8:1 ratio spread is greater than ZF's 8 speed auto.
        I'd like to see the 2.0T in the Q5 with that transmission.

        The 8 speed auto in the new VW Touareg & Audi Q7 is supposed to be an Aisin design. (new design)
        So, 8 speed autos: Aisin, ZF, Aisin (different design), Hyundai powertech, GM?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Woah, that comment about Nissan wasn't mine... Another AB reader with the tag "RWD" replying to the same comment?

        What are the odds?
        invisiblepigeon3
        • 5 Years Ago
        Weren't you the one complaining that Lexus 8 speed transmissions have too many gears zamafir?
      • 5 Years Ago
      The 8 speed auto in the IS-F is the best attempt at an auto yet. TC lock-up in gears 2 through 8, 100 ms shifts.

      It does have a few issues, like not being able to skip gears in manual mode, but there are many people who track the car that feel the gearbox outperforms a manual tranny.
      • 5 Years Ago
      its all a gimmick if you ask me. Lexus LS needs to stand out somehow from its competitors so it now has a 7 speed automatic. Rich dumb guys will show this feature off to their other rich dumb friends without really not understanding it is unnessary for any cars to have to motivate it (like 500 horses on a sedan is unnessary).

      6 speed auto is awfully ideal like how 1080p resolution is for a flatscreen and anymore gear or resolution is overkilling, wasting money, time and increasing pollution



      • 5 Years Ago
      Just about three years after the first 8-speed appeared in a Lexus... Vorsprung what????
        invisiblepigeon3
        • 5 Years Ago
        zamafir

        Why do you hate on Toyota and Lexus so much, but own two of them?
        • 5 Years Ago
        lol, last i checked audi was the first to put dsg in a production car many years before lexus. like most of their tech they've pioneered... like... say... awd... which audi had 20 years before lexus existed.

        Give me a call when lexus manages to sell 1,000,000 cars a year, and offers more than two sport models, or any that can compete with its competitors on cost and performance.
        • 5 Years Ago
        zamafir, your Audi/ VW group fanboyism is showing... Last time I checked, AWD was not pioneered nor was it invented by Audi. Also, you do realize that Lexus is part of Toyota, right? And they sold 7.81 million cars last year. VW group sold 6.29 million. Trust me, I'm not a fan of the automotive beige that exemplifies Toyota, and hey, if VW can make 8 speeds work, great. In trucks, this many ratios, and even more is practical, in cars, why not just develop a better CVT?
        • 5 Years Ago
        @zamafir These are not DSG boxes and Kitko is correct in saying lexus was the first to produce a car with an 8-speed gearbox (lexus LS460), its an auto not a DSG, just like the ones in this article. Audi has been using standard Automatics on their A8, Q7 and other big diesel models because the DSG gearbox couldn't take the torque. I do believe that eventually the smaller A3 will get an 8 speed, just as the VW polo (and other models) should be getting the 7 speed DSG soon (used by skoda).
        The A3, A4 and possibly A6 model 8-speed will have to be a proper DSG in order to even fit under the bonnet and be useful, DSG's are usually not only more compact but can be a lot lighter
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