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Once the Chevrolet Cruze goes on sale this fall, an even dozen models from the Bowtie Brand will be equipped with six-speed automatic transmissions. Adding more ratios to transmissions offers automakers more flexibility in tuning engines for better efficiency. More ratios also allow the engineers to use a wider total ratio spread so that top gears can be setup for lower engine speeds while still maintaining driveability.

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While many high-end autos are boasting seven or even eight gears in their transmissions, mainstream vehicles often are saddled with units including only half that many. The lack of mechanical gear ratios is rather detrimental to fuel economy, so we're happy to see that Ford is launching more six-speed units for both front- and rear-wheel-drive applications. The new 2009 F-150 will feature a six-speed, and considering the huge sales numbers of that vehicle, the 4 to 6 percent improvement in fuel

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