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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.

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Last year, Lexus became the first automaker to introduce a production eight-speed automatic transmission in the latest LS460. Recently, German transmission manufacturer ZF announced a new eight-speed of its own which is claimed to provide a 14-percent boost in fuel efficiency compared to a five-speed. It looks like Audi and BMW will likely be the first to directly challenge Lexus when they start using the ZF. Audi may be first out of the gate in 2009, with eight-speed installations in the A8, Q7

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