• Jan 11, 2011
Did your favorite brand just move to six-speed automatics? Are you already cruising along happily in seventh gear or perhaps you're enjoying the scenery with your transmission lazily churning in eighth. Well move over because ZF is getting ready to produce a nine-speed automatic gearbox.

Marking a first for front-wheel drive passenger vehicles, the ZF nine-speed will help automakers generate greater fuel-economy gains while also providing a smoother driving experience. The shift times are said to be quite short and the resulting gear changes are nearly imperceptible to passengers.

The nine-speed automatic will be produced in a brand-new manufacturing facility located near Greenville, South Carolina, and there's talk that one of its first homes will be under the hood of something from Chrysler.

[Source: ZF]
Show full PR text
ZF Develops 9-Speed Automatic Transmission for Passenger Cars

-- The world's first 9-speed automatic passenger car transmission for front-drive vehicles.

-- Significant improvements in fuel economy expected.

-- To be built at a new facility near Greenville, S.C.


DETROIT, Jan. 11, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- ZF has developed the world's first 9-speed automatic transmission for vehicles equipped with a transversely mounted engine. It will be built in a new, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility near Greenville, South Carolina.

"Already a leader in technically advanced, fuel-saving multi-speed transmissions for rear-drive vehicles, ZF's new 9-speed enables significant fuel economy improvements and delivers excellent performance characteristics for front-wheel-drive vehicles," said Hans-Georg Harter, ZF's President and CEO.

Groundbreaking for the new South Carolina factory takes place next month. Production and application details will be released later.

Fuel economy and increased performance

Compared to conventional 6-speed automatic transmissions for front-drive platforms, ZF's new 9-speed automatic transmission enhances driving performance and fuel economy. An advanced shock absorber system in the torque converter, for example, allows rapid lock up of the converter clutch, enabling greater fuel economy and lower carbon dioxide emissions.

Similar to ZF's 8-speed automatic transmission used in rear-drive platforms, the new 9-speed delivers extremely short response and shifting times that are below the threshold of perception. That means double shifts and direct multiple gearshifts occur without the driver or passenger noticing.

Sophisticated electronic controls select the right gear for the driving conditions, eliminating unnecessary "stepping" – or constant shifting. In this regard, the 9-speed carries the same precise, sporty attributes found in ZF's transmissions for rear-drive vehicles, including excellent shift characteristics, immediate response to input and exceptional smoothness.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 71 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      More powerful engines with wider RPM range efficiency should need FEWER gears, not more.

      This just reminds me of one of the false prophets in the Monty Python movie Life of Brian, who was calling for a Nine-bladed Sword.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Gears are irrelevant. Ratio spread is paramount.
        See Porsche Panamera, 10.1:1 ratio spread
        • 3 Years Ago
        I think there's something to be gained in the NVH department by having many gears with seamless shifts, rather than having the engine rail from 6000rpm to 2000rpm.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I can see 8+ speed transmissions working with trucks and suvs, as it would allow for the use of different gears for towing/hauling/off-roading vs. typical driving where taller gears can be used for fuel savings. For a car, though, I'm not so sure.

      Maybe this transmission is destined for fwd based CUVs? Something like the new Explorer where it needs to get good fuel economy, yet still needs to be able to do some towing and off-roading? Instead of a traditional (and heavy) two-speed transfer case, it could just have a really low first and second gear that only get used when needed. Otherwise, it uses the seven other gears for most driving situations.

      That would actually be a pretty neat way to set up an AWD system. Instead of having to go through the slightly complicated procedure necessary to switch a transfer case from high to low in a traditional 4x4 setup, you just hit a button on the dash for "Off-Road mode" that locks in the first two gears as well as maybe Hill Descent control. Or, maybe it could somehow be integrated into a dial system like Ford/Landrover uses. It knows which gears to use depending on what surface you have selected on the dial (Mud, Sand, Snow, Rock), then have a button for Hill Descent and for Tow/Haul mode.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I'm sure it would have to be beefed up, but I'm also willing to bet that it would be significantly lighter to have it all contained within one unit than to have a separate transmission and transfer case.
        • 3 Years Ago
        A big part of the reason a transfer case is so heavy is because it has to be built heavily to handle all the torque it generates in low range. If a transmission integrates the functionality but still produces the same torque output, then it will have to be beefed up a lot too. If it is not, then it'll just break when you use those low gears for exactly what they were put there for.
      • 3 Years Ago
      It reminds me of the GHz race in CPUs a few years back....
      • 3 Years Ago
      Look very similar to the Voltec Drive Unit 4ET50 2011 Chevrolet Volt:

      http://gmdealerblog.com/files/2010/10/4ET50-MKA-Voltec.jpg
      • 3 Years Ago
      Plain and simply I don't like the way CVTs drive, Id take a 9 speed automatic any day, Im sure it would drive smooth and thats what id like sooner than a tranny that searches or a CVT that whines, Just my opinion, I dont expect you to all agree with me.

      I can see that some of you seem to think CVT's are a New Idea, maybe in America, Dutch car maker Daf used them in the 60's.
      • 3 Years Ago
      My bike still has more gears than that lol
        • 3 Years Ago
        but less ratio spread!
      • 3 Years Ago
      MADE IN THE USA!!! Sweet!

      Save a job! Buy American.
        • 3 Years Ago
        By a German company!
        • 3 Years Ago
        It's far from the only German company in the Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson MSA and all have been great additions to the area. German or not, Laurens County really needs jobs and I don't see anything wrong with ZF's supplying them.
      • 3 Years Ago
      still has a torque converter
        • 3 Years Ago
        m, what's the difference in efficiency between a manual and an automatic with a lock-up torque converter? Back when I grew up, when automatics had 3 gears and the torque converters didn't lock up, manuals were clearly way more efficient. Times have changed.

        I still prefer to drive manuals, but I don't kid myself that I'm saving fuel.
        • 3 Years Ago
        If they are going to get 9 speeds, they had better have enough ratio spread (Porsche Panamera double clutch has 10:1) to remove the torque converter.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Exactly. Torque converter = B.S

        If I wanted to waste good gas on slipping and sliding, I'll drive my car on some mud thank you very much.

        • 3 Years Ago
        Last I saw, most AT cars got better CAFE ratings than their MT counterparts.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Automatics tend to get better numbers, because automakers tend to give them higher gearing. It's definitely not because the transmission is more efficient.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Jared,

        You're right that the difference has been dramatically reduced. Lock up torque converter automatics still lose a little during shifting to a perfectly operated manual transmission, but it's very small. I think (correct me if I'm wrong) that they also have a little higher viscous loss due to all the clutches.

        A dual clutch countershaft style automatic should have a slight edge over a manual. I'm with you though. I'll stick with my manuals.
      • 3 Years Ago
      oh gawd..make it stop...
      • 3 Years Ago
      Meanwhile at Subaru, the 4EAT soldiers on...
        • 3 Years Ago
        Worst transmission I ever owned. Horrible programming (in 2002 anyways).
      • 3 Years Ago
      I just want someone to come along with a 20 speed transmission and put this to rest.
        • 3 Years Ago
        You could buy a Ferrari and have 24 speeds! Granted 12 of them are for going backwards and 12 for going forwards, and it's a tractor, but hey, it's a Ferrari!
      • 3 Years Ago
      I don't know whether this is really cool or completely pointless. CVTs have more potential in my opinion.
    • Load More Comments