By on September 29, 2011

It probably won’t help Herr Dr Martin Winterkorn’s indigestion any, but Automotive News [sub] reports that Hyundai Motor Group (the technical umbrella firm that supplies technology to both Hyundai and Kia) is developing a new 10-speed automatic transmission, which

 will be for luxury models starting in 2014, possibly including the Hyundai Genesis and Equus luxury sedans.

Hyundai debuted an eight-speed autobox over a year ago, matching the industry standard for luxury cars. But with ZF announcing a new nine-speed box, Hyundai is taking things a step further… or is it a cog too far?

Some reviewers already complain that eight speeds is too many, and that too many cogs create an overly “busy” transmission. Also, ZF’s driveline boss Gerhard Wagner insisted back in 2009

a major step towards the reduction of fuel consumption such as the one we have seen from the automatic six to the eight-speed transmission will not be possible with more gear steps. If there was an ideal transmission, with our current solution we are only about 11 percent away from it.

Which raises an interesting question: is Hyundai leading the industry, or trolling it, taunting the titans of luxury with its extra gear? Or is this misinformation, leaked in hopes of luring the ultra-status-conscious luxury brands into a pointless investment? Either way, it ensures the name “Hyundai” will be echoing through automotive boardrooms for at least a little longer.

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56 Comments on “Are You Ready For: 10-Speed Hyundais?...”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Until I see a working model being sold on dealer lots I’m gonna believe this is “trolling.” How long would this transmission even stay in each gear on it’s way to say 75mph cruising speed? Which gear would this transmission stay in while moving around town at 35mph?

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      Why not just use a CVT if you need 10+ gears? Audi’s multitronic can (theoretically) use an arbitrary number of ratios, and provides super-smooth shifting, barely noticeable if you don’t pay attention to the tach. And it can handle 300 lbs-ft of torque so it’s no lightweight.

      Why are so few companies taking this route?

      • 0 avatar
        vbofw

        agreed, th009

        I am not a gearhead but would assume a 8-10 speed transmission is less reliable than a CVT.

        As a guy with a 95% highway commute, I will be watching this closely.

        Mrs. vbofw also drives a 4-speed slushbox. Seems like low-hanging fruit on the fuel efficiency improvement tree.

        That turbo-4 A6 with the CVT, besides being an oxymoron, is actually a nice value proposition if you can handle the presumably weak power, the lack of Quattro [completely unnecessary with FWD IMO], and if the CVT doesn’t *feel* too strange. Would love to see TTAC review that thing.

        (ahem, Senior Karesh)

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        Why not just use a CVT if you need 10+ gears?
        It’s probably due to the torque and horsepower of the their V8s combined with the fact they have to warranty it for 100k miles. I think the Audi CVT is rated for 295 ft lbs torque. The tau 5.0 is 429 hp and 376 lb. ft.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        @vbofw, the multitronic feels amazingly normal (I have driven one extensively, with the 2.7 TDI). I expected more CVT-like behaviour, but Audi programmed gear ratios into it rather than constantly varying the ratio to maintain constant rpms, and I think that’s what gives it a “normal” feel.

        @mcs, I wasn’t suggesting that Hyundai should be buying the multitronic gearbox from Audi as is — but I have seen nothing to indicate that CVT gearboxes have some sort of limit at 300 (or 350, or …) lbs-ft. So it should be possible for them to develop or license on.

        Of course that’s probably a bigger (read: more expensive) engineering project than adding a few more gears to an existing conventional slushbox.

      • 0 avatar
        stryker1

        +1

      • 0 avatar
        segfault

        vbofw, I find it strange that the 2.0T FWD A6 gets better EPA ratings than the A4 with the same powertrain. Mileage fraud like the Equinox?

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        @segfault, the A4 uses a conventional slushbox in the base version, not a multitronic like the A6 — that should explain the difference.

      • 0 avatar
        jhott997

        CVT is not as durable as a planetary automatic and it is more expensive. Plus, customer acceptance of the CVT was not there. CVT’s are very complicated.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        A CVT is way simpler than a planetary AT. I’ve taken apart both a modern CVT and a modern 6AT. Guess which one I could practically reassemble just by seeing what fit where; it wasn’t the 6AT with 5 or 6 different clutch/brake packs, loads of carriers, and dozens of different bearings. CVTs run much higher oil pressure, but otherwise, they are a simpler mechanism.

        10 gears is ridiculous, btw. That gearbox has to be heavier because of the add’l planetary sets with those extra, hardened, steel gears. The number of things that could go wrong has to have increased to a substantial degree. I can’t imagine what the valve body looks like. The codename for this gearbox should be DR: diminishing returns.

    • 0 avatar
      LeadHead

      vbofw,

      Gears in an automatic are not directly related to complexity. As an example, the ZF 8 Speed only has 5 clutch assemblies, while Chrysler’s outgoing 5/6speed has 6.

    • 0 avatar
      jhott997

      I spent 10 years in automatic transmission product development. I can assure you this is not trolling and it is not a joke.
      “shift busy-ness” is a major concern and diminishing returns is evident during testing…
      It has become a ‘gear race’ for the marketing people.

  • avatar
    jmo

    And to think the 2011 DTS has a 4-speed auto….

  • avatar
    MarkP

    Let’s see, maybe we can make it, say 12 speeds. Or, how about 25? I know, let’s give it an infinite number of gears. Then we can call it … a continuously-variable transmission!

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    Old news. I had a ten-speed Kia in college 30 years ago …

  • avatar
    srogers

    I think that it’s wasted money.
    As others have said, enough gears and you ultimately have a CVT. But many people complain that CVTs “sound funny”, hence the ongoing investment in multi-gear slush boxes. Additional CVT refinement and possibly user familiarity could solve that problem, but word on the street is that CVTs are bad.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Certain makes of CVT are bad: Honda and GM come to mind. Nissan’s are actually pretty good, and hold up about as well as your average automatic.

      Much of it is user unfamiliarity. They don’t shift, so there’s no rev/thump/shove/rev cycle, and the engine can sound strained as it’s simply pegged at maximum power as the ratio slides. Gearheads find it especially creepy because it sounds like a slipping clutch.

      Where CVTs handily outdo automatics and manuals (and to a lesser degree, DSGs) is that they don’t waste time and power hunting or in-between gears. Need a different ratio? Bam, you got it. No interruption in power delivery.

      I think a lot of enthusiasts would warm to them if you could manually adjust the ratio via some sort of sliding lever or knob.

    • 0 avatar
      forraymond

      The CVT produced by GM helped give CVT a bad name. Kind of like when GM produced diesel engines. Diesels are still a scary proposition for most Americans. Thanks, again, GM.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        In this case, Honda might have done just as much damage. And, honestly, I’ve seen Ford mechanics screw up a perfectly good Freestyle by failing to maintain it properly (eg, treating it like the automatics they see every day).

        But honestly, I think reviewers and gearheads have hurt the CVT the most. Many, many of us are pretty conservative, and technologies that dramatically change the feel of and relationship with the car get the Luddite treatment.

        I’ve been very impressed with the CVT in the Altima and Maxima, and it’s a shame to see it detuned to meet preconcieved notions of how a car should work.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        +1 on psar’s comment re the CVT in the Nisan Altima, which I have rented and driven for extended periods. Once I got acclimated to the “new normal,” everything seemed to work fine. And it was kind of cool to mash the pedal to the floor, watch the engine spool up to a certain (high) rpm and just stay there as the car gathered speed. If I had a gripe it was that the CVT was programmed to keep the engine spinning as low as 1200 rpm under very light load (but more than coasting). A 4-cylinder engine is just not smooth at that speed.

    • 0 avatar
      Pinzgauer

      I drive a Juke S with a CVT. I would normally drive a stick, but I wanted my wife to be able to drive this car so I bought the CVT. I dont think I would have bought it if it had a normal automatic. I found this car to be fun because the CVT will hold in a “gear” up hills and do alot of “downshifting” going down hill, so it feels close to how I would drive stick in some ways. Plus, with the turbo it keeps the revs in the powerband for nice acceleration. I’m used to CVT transmissions from riding big bore 4×4 ATVs so the CVT in this car feels normal to me.

      I will add that the CVT in this car is quiet. You dont hear it at all.

      Honestly, I greatly perfer CVT over a normal automatic because it is much smoother. I hate the way standard automatics shift, hunt for gears, and come in and out of locked TC all the time. The auto on our Honda pilot really annoys me because of this. The CVT is just nice a smooth.

      Another plus to the CVT is the “gearing”. At 65mph, I am only pushing around 2250RPM and the TC stays locked constantly. This makes for a nice quiet highway ride with no annoying feeling of hard downshifts when going up a hill. Just a nice smooth rev up of the motor into the boost range and the car just holds its speed. Overall very happy with the Nissan CVT.

      • 0 avatar
        jpolicke

        The quietness of the Nissan CVT makes it easier to detect the “whine of death”. Multiple replacements are not unheard of. Not a vehicle to keep beyond the manufacturer-extended 120k warranty.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Wonder how long it will be until someone decides to reintroduce multi-speed differentials to the market.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I think drivers sure could have used two speed rear ends on the 2.slow rear ratio RWD cars of the 80s. It sure would have helped the Diplomat, Crown Victoria, Caprice, et al…

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Assuming there’s the intelligence to make the thing work, and assuming its better than a CVT (which provides a nearly infinite number of “speeds”), then this is all good . . . provided that it’s coupled to an engine that’s purposely optimized for operation in a narrow RPM band. Off idle, the engine speed will be nearly constant and the function of the transmission will be to maintain that in the face of a changing vehicle speed.

    This is nothing new, as the diesel engines powering semi tractors operate in a very narrow RPM range, necessitating multi-speed transmissions and drive axles. A tractor with a 5-speed transmission and a two-speed axle is, effectively, a tractor with 10-speeds. However, it takes a skilled driver to execute “split shifts” (of both the transmission and the axle) and to effectively match the engine’s output to the load. Now, all of this “intelligence” is going to be put on a chip and the whole process automated.

    So, with the addition of turbo charging, you can expect an automotive drivetrain that spends all of its life between 1500 and 2500 rpm, other than at idle.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      So, with the addition of turbo charging, you can expect an automotive drivetrain that spends all of its life between 1500 and 2500 rpm, other than at idle.

      That would seem to be something that would reduce engine wear?

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        I would fear carbon buildup in the throttle body like a Northstar that Grandpa never takes over 3000 rpm.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        It’s about reducing pumping and friction losses. And @Dan, there likely would be no throttle body. Rather intake air volume would be controlled by how much air is dumped by the turbo wastegate and by a variable valve lift system like BMW’s valveotronic.

        In fact, left to its own devices (and the electronic brain controlling everything), my ’02 Saab wagon’s 4 cylinder turbo with autobox will maintain engine speed between 1500 and 2500 rpm from a dead stop to 65 mph accelerating moderately but not like grandma. . . and that’s with only 5-speeds and a torque converter. Like most cars these days, it’s drive-by-wire throttle and, at cruising speed on the highway, you can watch the boost gauge swing quite a bit in response to your right foot (going up and down hills, etc.) while the engine speed is a constant 1800 rpm.

        That’s how a 250 hp, 3500 lb. car does better than 30 mpg at 65 with a moderate load of passengers and cargo and the a/c running in the summer.

  • avatar
    Acubra

    With existing level of AI/software development, these things often struggle even with 5.
    Honestly do not see any sense in going any further than that (5 “gears”).
    As for the CVT – unlike good conventional ATs, these things are still pretty fragile and do not take abuse very well. There is a good reason why the CVT ‘box cases on Nissans are finned (LOTS of heat to dissipate).
    Just google “CVT problems”.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      these things often struggle even with 5.

      I’ve driven a bunch of them, Infinity, Jag, Mercedes in various conditions and never noticed a problem.

      • 0 avatar
        Acubra

        The ones you listed are not that bad, true. Subaru, Hyundai, small-engined Acuras – are among the worst. Basically, the smaller the engine – the worse the AT behaves.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        Maybe it’s lower powered cars that exhibit certain behaviors. My mother’s Honda Civic had the 5 speed autobox. In the hills of NE Ohio, it seemed like it was constantly hunting between 4th and 5th on country roads.

        Acutally, it was quite unnerving until I talked to other folks with similar cars, and they reported the same behavior. Only they didn’t see it as annoying.

        EDIT: I posted this before I was able to see Acubra’s post. Oh well…

      • 0 avatar
        Acubra

        Yeah, it is a life-saver when they have a manumatic mode. In my Sub I use it whenever I go to the Foothills/mountains.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Acutally, it was quite unnerving until I talked to other folks with similar cars, and they reported the same behavior. Only they didn’t see it as annoying.

        It depends. If it’s smooth enough you’ll rarely notice. On the more abrupt transmissions it’s really irritating, and it’s more noticeable still on units that have to step several gears (Mercedes) and can’t skip ratios.

    • 0 avatar
      jhott997

      “With existing level of AI/software development, these things often struggle even with 5.”
      Please elaborate? What do you mean? Seems to me the software and controller hardware for the transmission is the most complicated and advanced piece of the automobile.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @Acubra: “Yeah, it is a life-saver when they have a manumatic mode. In my Sub I use it whenever I go to the Foothills/mountains.”

        We have a 09 Pontiac G6 with the Ecotec 4 banger and the 6 speed autobox with the manumatic mode. Having always had big motors in my cars, it’s taken some adjusting for me to drive this car. You’re right though, with manumatic mode, you can really make the car drive well.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Enough already, I think they should have stopped at 6.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    At what point do the multiples of gears in these trannies become a further drag on the drivetrain?

    I would think that a 6 speed trans would weigh more than a 4 speed, depending upon how much more it weighed, it would start to negate the benefits of the extra gears? In addition wouldn’t there me be more internal drag, too?

    I would think a similar situation would exist with the 8 speed, also.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      The ZF 8-speed transmission only contains 5 internal clutch assemblies, no more than competitive 5 and 6 speed transmissions. The clutch packs that are *disengaged*, are where the frictional losses are. On the ZF unit, only two of them are disengaged at any given time.

      • 0 avatar
        jhott997

        This is true.
        Also, the ZF ‘box does a great job at managing oil in the ‘box. The new 8spd has allowing ZF to design all the learned lessons from the 6spd ‘boxes. The new ZF 8spd really is the best, most advanced transmission in the world. It probably won’t be matched by anybody because of cost and manufacturing complexity that ZF has designed in.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        Do these new trans weigh much more than the older versions? Or is it only a slight amount? I can’t claim to know the insides of automatic transmissions all that well, so I’m strictly guessing here.

        I’m imagining there are high strength components that are also light weight. Certainly not cast iron or anything of that nature. Forged steel?

        Do more gears make the trans heavier/longer/wider (in FWD applications)?

        Or can they make them roughly the same size and weight with all of the extra stuff in there?

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Some day cars will catch up to the technology in my 20 year old mountain bike — it’s got 27 “gears.”

  • avatar
    fincar1

    It’s one thing to have 13-speed transmissions in diesel trucks with their extremely narrow power band, but I have always thought that one of the advantages of gasoline engines is their ability to deliver power over a relatively wide rpm range. So why then all the gear ratios? Wouldn’t the extra weight and more rotating parts extract enough of a penalty to destroy the advantage of the extra ratios? To say nothing of the extra repair and maintenance costs for these complicated systems….

    I think what I’m saying here is that a five-speed manual is fine with me.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I’m holding out for the Spinal Tap slushbox…goes to 11! (Honestly, I’m surprised we made it to 24 posts without an ST reference)

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    I’m pretty sure my left knee would wear out with more than 6 speeds.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    When I was watching the Herr Dr Martin Winterkorn’s video I was struggling to remember who was it that ran the angry German auto executive ads a few years ago. I couldn’t remember if it was Hyundai or Cadillac.

    Thanks for the memories…and I see joyous fountains of schadenfreude in this ad running a few years ago, and the Winterkorn video.

  • avatar
    aspade

    Sub 2 liter clowncars will benefit.

    Gearing short enough at one end to get off the line on a hill comfortably with 120 lb-ft at the crank and tall enough at the other to relax on flat highway can make good use of a total range of 7-8:1. Broad enough to make use of 8 or even 10 steps for smoothness.

    In wonderfully overpowered luxury cars like the Genesis and Equus a range like that not only isn’t needed it isn’t even desireable.

    At that level of power a 6:1 spread is already bordering on excessive and 6 speeds will handle that spread just fine. Going shorter at the beginning of the box on 225mm touring tires will just blink the TCS light at you. Putting in even more ODs on the other end might net 1 more mpg, at the price of gear hunting on hills which is exactly what I bought an overpowered car to not do.

    Hyundai is doing this so they can ace the CAFE compliance test keeping it under 1400 rpm. There’s no benefit for the driver.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    Personally, if I were to be in the market for a car, it would be the 2012 Charger, V6 with 8 speed ZF trans.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    It goes right along the current tire fad or “ours are bigger than yours” edition. Most people today probably couldn’t even tell you what the difference between an OHV vs an OHC engine are or what VVT stands for or how SIDI works. So the marketing geniuses have come up with the more is better syndrome of which today’s technology obsessed youth automatically gravitate towards with little regard to the real world. Yes we are quickly approaching 8-10K out of warranty transmission replacement costs!

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    Dear God, it’s the number of blades on a razor competition, only applied to very expensive metal now.

  • avatar
    Ion

    They’re wasting all this money on a car nobody buys. What they should be spending R&D on is the Sonata hybrid, 35mpg city is waaaayyy below the bar.

  • avatar
    faco1000

    I don’t think is a very bad idea.
    In my opinion, this has great potential to increase fuel efficiency while at the same time allowing manufacturers to keep building big engines.
    The way I think this 10 ratio transmissions should be used is the followed:
    5 or 6 ratios should be used for regular acceleration under normal conditions, like if it was a normal automatic transmission.
    The 4 or 5 ratios left should, in my opinion, be used only to cruise at certain speed in order to maximize fuel consumption at such speeds. Let’s say you have a ratio that will only be used when you cruise around 30 mph, then another for 45 mph, 55 mph and so on. You get the idea. This way, the transmission won’t be busy shifting through 10 ratios just to get you from 0 to 60 or so.
    You could play around with the ratios and their uses to obtain the desired effect. Giving ratios special uses for certain situations is the way to go.
    This is just my opinion and I am in no way expert. Just a thought.


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