By on December 13, 2016

2017 Malibu 9T50 nine-speed automatic - Image: General Motors

We moved past three on the tree. We’ve long since bid farewell to four on the floor. The ZF six-speed automatic transmission that helped to make the 2001 BMW 7 Series seem so forward-thinking at the dawn of the millennium was usurped by a seven-speed unit from Mercedes-Benz a couple of years later, and then by the Lexus LS’s eight-speed automatic in 2007.

Nine-speed automatics are all over the place: in the 2017 Acura MDX I’m driving this week, in numerous Fiat Chrysler Automobiles products, and in ten General Motors models by the end of 2017. Now the most popular line of vehicles in North America, the Ford F-Series, is arriving at dealers near you with ten-speed automatic transmissions.

But when is enough enough? How many gears is too many? Are there diminishing returns as the number of gears in an automatic transmission increases?

GM says nine is enough. Okay, ten is plenty if you insist. Ah, whatever, maybe more would be wonderful. 

GM’s new nine-speed automatic first appears in the 2017 Chevrolet Malibu, then the diesel-powered 2017 Chevrolet Cruze, and then the already-revealed 2018 Chevrolet Equinox — all front-wheel-drive foundations. The ten-speed unit, with which GM and Ford also shared development, is intended for rear-wheel-drive applications.

Yet, when speaking with Wards Auto, GM’s executive director for transmission and electrification hardware engineering Chris Meagher said, “We don’t see the benefit of going higher than 10 forward speeds.”

But could more gears be possible? Acknowledging that the idea of nine and ten-speed automatics seemed unimaginable a decade ago, “You never really know for sure,” GM’s Meagher said.

Ford F-150 10-speed automatic transmission - Image: Ford

While these seven, eight, nine, and now ten-speed automatics have certainly made their way into the public consciousness, Wards says six-speed automatics accounted for 55 percent of all new vehicles sold in the United States in the 2016 model year.

That percentage could fall fast, however, as ten-speed automatics become common in the most popular vehicles in America: pickup trucks.

[Images: General Motors, Ford]

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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140 Comments on “How Many Gears Is Too Many? General Motors Says Nine Is Enough, Or Ten, Or Maybe More...”


  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    34 gears are too many.

    I’m pining for 24 gears in my next automatic transmission-equipped vehicle, to get me to and fro in stop and go traffic, on my daily treks.

    I’d like a lot more hunting and indecisiveness, particularly, at speeds between 1 mph and 30 mph.

    • 0 avatar
      Tandoor

      Give me an engine with a power band between 3240 and 3265rpm.
      At what point, like a polygon with infinite sides, do these transmissions just become CVTs?

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-Iron

        I was going to say that what I need is a transmission that could vary the ratios infinitely, continuously you might say, between its lower and upper ratios, but everyone already made the joke.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      “I’d like a lot more hunting and indecisiveness, particularly, at speeds between 1 mph and 30 mph.”

      Also, it would be ideal if absolutely no acceleration occurs for at least two seconds after I floor it, just to make sure I’m serious. I hate how these new transmissions only take a full second to do anything. It doesn’t quite allow enough time for me to change my mind.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      The new Ford/GM ten speed is pretty awesome in the F150. I haven’t driven the ZL1, but I imagine it is awesome in that as well. I didn’t notice any indecisiveness or hunting. As far as I’m concerned, it is a big upgrade over 6R.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Someone complained earlier this am that I don’t rant enough anymore.

        Here goes: The 2016 Impala POS rental I had in Las Vegas (for all of maybe 7 hours before returning) not only had an AWFUL transmission, but retard-mode start/stop, which made the vehicle feel like it had moderate diarrhea at every stop, as it passed the byproduct of last night’s Burrito Bowl into the intersection.

        I’m not sure how many gears it had (probably 6) as I was sure to hit every curb and parking block on my way to return it to Sixt, which had the pleasant side effect of distracting me from its erratic and delayed responses, as I swapped it for a no-charge upgrade to a Mercedes C Class.

        I had called beforehand to request a swap, and confidently barked “already scratched and dented!” as I stepped out of the Chevy Impooola and handed the pleasant Sixt attendant the ginormous GM key FOB, like Stafford handing the ball to Zenner.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          “Someone complained earlier this am that I don’t rant enough anymore.”

          They don’t speak for all of us.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          Start/stop on a 2016 Impala means you had the 2.5L I4 (same engine from the base ATS!) and something from the 6T40 family.

          And start/stop in general is the Devil’s scrotum. I’m driving a loaner Jeep Cherokee 3.2L while my Charger gets more sh*t fixed and the S/S on the Jeep is just ridiculously jarring.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Yep.

            It was the 2.5. Awful motor in general, but especially for a large car.

            And I hate auto stop/start in any vehicle I’ve experienced it.

          • 0 avatar
            ect

            Our B250 has auto start/stop, and I don’t like it either. I’m also inclined to wonder if it actually reduces fuel consumption in the real world, or is merely a device to get a better EPA rating?

            In any event, when I start the car, I hit the button on the dash to disable it. Can you not do this on the Impala or Cherokee?

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            DeadWeight: “And I hate auto stop/start in any vehicle I’ve experienced it.”

            Have you driven a real hybrid? Start/stop works very well in the Prius.

            Anyway, good rant.

          • 0 avatar
            Russycle

            A 4 in an Impala? That’s…so wrong. And I say this as someone who’s owned mostly 4-bangers. Please, GM, stop the madness!

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            it seems worse on V6s than it is on I4s for some reason. I found it unobtrusive on a 1.5 Escape, but noticeable on a 2.7 F-150 and Audi Q5, and utterly disgusting on an F-Pace.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      I’m alwaysimpressed by an concise assertive goal driven individual! 23 is too few and 25 to 84 too much!

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      My dad had a Mack truck that was 5×4. “triplex” with “lo lo” given 24 gears on 2 separate sticks. Talk about keeping busy on a long up hill.

  • avatar
    quaquaqua

    I have a six speed auto in my Mazda6 and I still can’t fathom having more than that. My parents ’98 Caravan had a 3 speed, for crap’s sake. Yes, that was ridiculous (as were the 14″ wheels) but I don’t think anything would really benefit from 7+ speeds. And it also means manufacturers aren’t refining their existing transmissions anymore if they’re just constantly redesigning them.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      So, let’s say you’re in 11th gear cruising down the highway, and you get stuck behind a truck going 50 mph. A gap opens in the left lane, but it’s not a big one so you need some quick acceleration. You step on the throttle and the transmission decides it needs to downshift five times.

      That’s too long, once you get past six ratios, might as well go to a CVT.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Your parents’ 3-speed auto in that caravan was a torqueflite that was probably working fine when the caravan was crushed. Good luck expecting that kind of durability in a 9-10-xx speed. Even ZF said more than ten speeds would make the transmission too heavy.

      But the ZF guy was probably thinking of durable transmissions. You can keep the weight down at the cost of durability, so to keep the trans from grenading on you, don’t just replace the fluid at 30k, replace the entire transmission!

      • 0 avatar
        quaquaqua

        You’ve gotta be kidding me. You just complimented a Chrysler 3 speed auto from the 90s? Since you asked, no, it was rebuilt completely by 60k and needed even more work at 90k. It’s the only car my parents ever dumped before 100k. Piece of total crap.

        • 0 avatar
          forum1

          My sympathies, quaquaqua. For some strange reason a contingent of my family kept buying 90s era Chryslers and they all had transmission failures, often stranding someone on the side of the road. Most of the repairs/replacements were covered by initial factory or extended warranty, but who needs that in their life. It’s the only time when I felt paying for an extended powertrain warranty made sense, if you were so enamored with the car that you just had to have it. If I recall correctly there was a Spirit, Dynasty, and LHS all fairly maligned. We also had a friend with an Intrepid that got driven hard and that went through at least three transmissions. The marketing and the engineering certainly did not mesh on that car.

          • 0 avatar
            wumpus

            Don’t ask how, but I managed to break a *manual* 90s mopar transmission (not the clutch, the cables that switched gears). Oddly enough, even Honda failed at making transmissions during that era. What were either of them thinking.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        Just because they were marketed under the Torqueflite name does not put the 31TH or A670 FWD transmissions in the same category as the 727 or 904.

        • 0 avatar
          JustPassinThru

          I had several of those minivans, from 1988 to 2006 MYs. The Ultradrive transmissions were of course a time bomb in whatever they were used; but the lower-priced three-speed transmissions, according to my independent wrench, were just miniaturized TorqueFlites. Separated, converter from gearbox for transaxle installation, but he said he was surprised with the first one he had out, how similar it was to the older MoPar autos.

          I had one Ultradrive fail on a used 1997 and sold my 2006 with 60,000 miles on it because I was sure abuse would be catching up…but on my Ram Mini Van and my 1996 Plymouth Caravan, the three-speed auto did just fine.

          Of course, one owner’s experience does not a proof make…

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    More gears means more complexity and higher cost both to buy initially and to repair in the future. Eventually, additional gears will cost more than they save. I wonder if we aren’t already past that point.

    How many gears does it take to make a transmission equivalent to a CVT?

  • avatar
    wintermutt

    i figure the whole gear thing will go away along with the IC engine, but until it does the the only limit on gears will be engineering. look at bicycles, every 3 years they increase the number of gears. i think they are up to 36 now.

    • 0 avatar
      ventdiver

      Mountain bikes have actually started going to fewer gears. 10 or 11 gears on the rear with a single front chainring. Simpler, lighter, and still enough spread of ratios for most riders.

      • 0 avatar
        wumpus

        Road bikes have long tossed the center front gear. I think they are running 11 on the back (and 12 wouldn’t surprise me, but if the mountain bikes don’t have it they probably won’t bother) but only two up front.

        I wanted three up front and am starting to regret it (it isn’t all that reliable).

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Maybe Saturday Night Live will do a commercial about an automatic transmission with twenty gears, like their triple blade razor parody back in the day.

    “Because you’ll believe anything.”

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      My Gillette Echelon Ultra bespoke razor has 18 blade cartridges, and is the best a man can get.

      (Just kidding – I use a Panasonic $59 wet/dry shaver that’s worked very well for 3 years now – better than a prior $160+ Braun – and never even gives me razor rash, let alone nicks my face).

      * Deadweight PSA (you’re welcome) For those who use blades, as I once did, Dorco makes blades for many of the branded razor blade companies, and you can direct order them for 1/8th the price of Gillette and even 1/3 the price of Dollar Shave Club:

      http://lifehacker.com/5903771/forget-dollar-shave-clubbuy-the-same-high-quality-razors-for-a-third-of-the-price#_ga=1.116965775.840211027.1447695655

      “In order to get the best deal, you need to make a bulk purchase about the size of a Kleenex box. Consider: The highest-end Dollar Shave Club razor is “The Executive,” with six stainless-steel blades, lube strips and a pivoting head, runs $90 over 10 months (razor plus 3 catridges per month). Dorco sells a six-blade model with the same features, the SXA1000. Buying directly from Dorco, a 10-month supply — the razor plus 30 cartridges — costs just $28.66.
      Popken later discovers that Dorco actually is the supplier for Dollar Shave Club’s six-blade razor”

      • 0 avatar
        Higheriq

        Amen on the Panasonic – best and most economical shave you can get.

        • 0 avatar
          psarhjinian

          The most economical shave you can get is to grow a beard.

          • 0 avatar
            Zackman

            Once upon a time I had a beard for about 8 years.

            All I can say is it’s much more pleasant to shave than keep a beard trimmed properly, which is a never-ending, aggravating chore unless one wants to look like someone living on skid row or ZZ Top.

          • 0 avatar
            jkross22

            Not if you buy any of the 20 some odd things you can put on or in your beard. The shave store in the mall had all sorts of crap to use if you have a beard. Fortunately they also sold blades to avoid the hassle altogether.

          • 0 avatar
            Russycle

            “it’s much more pleasant to shave than keep a beard trimmed properly, which is a never-ending, aggravating chore unless one wants to look like someone living on skid row or ZZ Top.”

            I’ve never lived on ZZ Top, but I hear the view is nice.

      • 0 avatar
        Adam Tonge

        The Panasonic wet/dry shaver doesn’t irritate your skin? My last electric shaver made my face all irritated.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          No, and I have never even replaced the foil, which is recommended every 6-12 months.

          It’s unbelievable.

          The Braun have me razor rash. Norelcos and similar spinny things are all garbage supreme.

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            I shall buy.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            https://www.amazon.com/Panasonic-ES8103S-Electric-Nanotech-Cordless/

            This is it.

            Forget the much more expensive ones with the base cleaner. They don’t work any better.

            Just clean it (razor block) once every two weeks by putting mild soap and hydrogen peroxide inside the foil and then put razor in self-clean mode by holding power button down for 4 seconds.

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            Thanks. It will be at my place of residence in two days time.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            What about that Blazer?

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            Too much $$$

            The guy stored it for the winter and I shall wait.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            The waiting game sucks, let’s play Hungry Hungry Hippos.

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            He’s pricing himself into full sized Blazer territory. I’d prefer the S10 based SUV, but I’m not going to pay full sized Blazer prices for it. He may eventually get what he wants, but he’ll have to sit on it longer.

            Also, his winter beater is a Jag XK8.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “his winter beater is a Jag XK8.”

            Bold choice for Michigan.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            Adam,
            Being so close to Christmas you should insist “Santa” gifts you with the Panasocic Nano.

            It saves you shopping and wasting time that could be better spent drinking beer.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Santa used to be my uncle but then he and my aunt got divorced. People don’t realize he’s on his sixth Mrs. Claus.

        • 0 avatar
          Waftable Torque

          It’s a function of speed. The higher the cutter speed the less irritating the shave. AFAIK only Panasonic sell shavers that go to 13,000 rpm. Anything below 10,000 rpm will disappoint you.

      • 0 avatar
        jpolicke

        Humbug. I never saw a professional barber use one of those multi-bladed monstrosities. All you need is one sharp blade. I use a double edge in my butterfly safety razor twice and replace with another dime’s worth of steel.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          There is no doubt that a blade (particularly a straight razor kept sharp by an experienced barber) will give the closest shave by a wide margin, but that’s when there’s approx 2-5 days worth of stubble/low-height beard already present, and shaving with a blade every day, at least for me, is very rough in my face.

          When I shaved with a blade every day, even super high quality ones, even using a fresh blade every 2-3 shaves, it still have me nicks, cuts and rash, no matter how careful I was, especially in certain spots, and was hella more expensive.

          The Panasonic wet/dry electric I’m using does a good enough job, with zero nicks, cuts or rash areas, and as an odd benefit, I have just enough stubble by the next morning to get another relatively close shave, clean shave.

          With a really close razor shave, it’s almost as if I had to wait for 2-3 days of beard growth to get another clean shave without tearing up my skin.

          • 0 avatar
            jpolicke

            I can justify the spend for a good electric for that reason. But the multi-blade stuff is just a scam because Gillette can’t make much profit off the old blades.

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    We have just introduced the new XVHI-32 32-cylinder engine connected to the all-new 28 speed continuously direct automanual transmission. And just to sweeten the pot, with every purchase of this new powertrain we’re giving away a free, all new 12 blade razor! Because MOAR is always BETTAH!

    And in conclusion, I’d just like to say….HELLCAT! :)

  • avatar
    JimZ

    probably because adding any more ratios requires another gearset, which will lengthen the transmission and probably be impossible to package in a transaxle for FWD applications.

  • avatar
    lzaffuto

    While the 8-speed auto in my dad’s Charger R/T is a good transmission, I still think that 5 speeds are best whether it is manual or automatic. It just seems like engineers hit the sweet spot with the ratios on 5 speeds. I had a bunch of 4 speed autos that I despised, I liked my 5 speeds, and I’ve found that many 6 speeds just seem to be too indecisive and take too long to kick down. Similarly, I’ve found that 6 speed manuals are often too high in 6th gear and too low on 5th gear on the highway, where the 5 speed is *just* right. First example off the top of my head is the second generation Miata.

    • 0 avatar
      Jerome10

      I won’t say I completely disagree…

      But in the case of the Miata, and I wanna say the Honda Fit, they took the spread of the 5 gears and basically spread it across 6. And the Miata 5 speed I still often skip shift.

      I never understood why they didn’t just take the 5 speeds and add a nice tall highway cruising gear for 6.

      • 0 avatar
        993cc

        I tell people that our Versa has six gears… and they’re all third.

        I think it has to do with passing emissions testing. Relatively steady load and RPM during the EPA test (which tops out at a fairly low speed) is the goal. Too bad it has nothing to do with real world driving.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al From 'Murica

        I owned a first gen Miata and a second gen Mazdaspeed Miata at the same time. The 5 speed was better in every way. The 6 was not by and the ratios were such that it always felt like you needed to shift it at the wrong time. It was quick but I often wanted to take the suspension, rear ended, and engine and drop it in my first gen.

    • 0 avatar
      wumpus

      Close. Give me a regular 5 speed and put at least one gear above and below* the existing five speed and I would be even happier. Generally the distance between gears is fine (ask those who have driven both 5 and 6 speed Fit), but if you get more range out of those gears it is better.

      * obviously not a sport/muscle car, in that case it is typically one lower iff you move the final gear ratio half a notch higher (or otherwise manage useful torque out of first).

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    One gear is sufficient for EVs. At first, it’s unnerving to not experience gear changes. Then you begin to appreciate what it’s like to not worry about transmission trouble.

    For other cars, I say 5-6 gears seem about right. Too much shifting interferes with the driving experience.

  • avatar
    ACCvsBig10

    How many of these cars are acutally hitting 8th and 9th gears when driving?

  • avatar
    threeer

    And how many people really notice? My mother drove her 2003 Corolla with a *gasp* four-speed auto for ten years before buying her Verano. She just tossed it into “D” and drove it. Us gearheads talk about more and more gears, but I would venture to guess if you asked the common driver, they either wouldn’t know (or wouldn’t care) how many gears their AT had.

    • 0 avatar
      wumpus

      I certainly notice, but largely due to freaky training by weird cars.

      I learned to drive on both a:
      chevy wagon with a 305V8(4barrel) with a 3-speed auto (fill up gas tank if it ever shifts into passing gear).
      A 1.4l Datsun B-210 “honeybee” (4MT): to accelerate downshift, floor it, and wait for a downhill (lack of a tach helped limit extreme downshifting).

      This means I absolutely *hate* being surprised by an auto changing gears on me. I have no issues driving a CVT. I do have issues with *owning* a CVT and suspect that there is too much to go wrong (Prius/Volt style excepted, but I can’t say I want the cars they are in). My main hope is that the manual will last long enough that electric motors will be a solved problem by then.

      But I really doubt this type of thing is typical (maybe it is, thus “manual mode” in autos).

  • avatar
    davewg

    All I know is I’d take a properly engineered and programmed multi-geared transmission over a CVT every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      That’s the issue: a lot of them aren’t well-programmed. I’ve driven three 6ATs on a regular basis and found they hunt—and in two cases, hunt quite a bit—between the upper gears when cruising. It’s unpleasant and annoying.

      Meanwhile, the last CVT I tried (a Honda CR/V) was a much nicer experience: no shift-shock, hunting or lags while the transmission controller decided which gear to hit.

      • 0 avatar
        wumpus

        The nissan I’ve driven works wonders. And somehow reads the driver’s mind and drives “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” around 4k while the owner revs through residential neighborhoods but moseys around efficiently for me.

  • avatar
    carguy

    The number that really matters is the gearbox percentage theoretical efficiency. A couple of years back I heard the head of ZF engineering claim that their 8 speed is already at 92% theoretical efficiency. It certainly looks as if any potential future gains will be modest

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    All those spinny gears in that little box?!!

    Those people must know like *geometry* or something!

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    At what point do the divisions between gears get so small and the complexity get so great that these transmissions resemble a CVT in function and reliability?

    I sometimes wonder about having a CVT with an extra control for the target RPM. Basically, you have a go-pedal for speed and a lever for how much power to make. Want to cruise around economically? Set it to minimum. Want to blast around a track? Move the lever up to 11.

  • avatar

    In North America back in the day when vehicles had bigger than smaller engines a 3 speed automatic with a torque converter was comparable to a 4 speed manual (add 1 gear for the torque converter).

    As engines are getting smaller (4 cylinders) a multi speed automatic compensates for the smaller engine by providing a lower starting gear (1st gear) and a couple of OD gears on top.

    All vehicles accelerate faster today due to multispeed automatics, and cruise at lower revolutions with the OD gears (better fuel economy).

    How many gears is enough? Trucks (heavy duty) have topped out at 13 speed transmissions for decades.

    A 10 speed auto in a rear wheel drive, you can run a few lower ratio gears like 1 to 4, a 3:73 rear axle ratio (or lower), for superior acceleration or to lift a load in a pick up. Plus 3 OD gear on top 0.85 – 0.65 – 0.50 as an example.

    Correctly setting up the controls to have the engine and transmission work seamlessly without a lag time is the challenge.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    I made the comment on another car enthusiast site that in my opinion six was all you really needed, and boy was I roasted for it.

    I’ve driven several 8-speed and 9-speed applications, and as Deadweight says above, they are indecisive and sluggish when trying to figure out what gear to downshift to. Even in the nicest ZF installation in a big Audi, the downshift from 8 to whatever the computer decides is the correct gear to accelerate in is sloppy. And the 9-speed in my mother’s Renegade? Ugh.

    We’re testing a new Pacifica tomorrow, but that 9-speed gives me pause. I’ve been told that it is much better and a non-issue, but I’m skeptical.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Well, the more gears the tranny has, the brighter the future is for AAMCO.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      A coming golden age for the transmission repair business.

      Seriously though my tranny guy explained the new CVT units are designed to be disposable and all his shop does it replace them. There will be no rebuilding, or even servicing, these in the future. He did not comment on the conventional transverse ones with ten gears.

      Hey industry this strategy works great until you can’t get replacement parts, but its not like that would ever happen. /s

  • avatar
    rcx141

    It seems to me ridiculous to have so many gears but I guess when you are a volume manufacturer with an eye on CAFE regulations the tiny fuel savings add up. I think my wife’s new BMW 320 has something like seven or eight gears but it’s hard to tell.

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    How many gears? Depends on what, how and where you drive. When I take my toy car to work, its a suburban commute. Three gears in an MT are fine; I can forget the other three. Its possible to run in 5th-6th, but not much torque is available in either, plus you need to keep plenty of oil circulating and thrashing it around with the rotating bits is helpful.
    Less of an outlier is my wife’s 4cylinder Camry with I forget how many gears – 5 or 6 I guess. It heads right for top gear ASAP and at suburban commuting speeds works just fine with minimal hunting. It is averaging 31mpg and maybe they can wring a bit more out in a test cycle from more gears, but at what cost in complexity and maybe more hunting in the real world.
    I still prefer manual shifting, where I can hold a non-optimal gear to time a light rather than scrubbing off all speed from reaching the light sooner. And when an AT can understand winter driving, I’ll be really impressed.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Does anyone have actual evidence that adding gears reduces reliability? Because my impression is that the vast majority of today’s 6+ gear automatics are far more reliable than the 5- automatics of the past.

    Because I appreciate all the opinions, just wondered whether they were anchored in anything beyond a visceral distrust of change.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      We’d need data and ideally we’d need it to be more than five years out beyond “designed service life”.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Well some 5 and 6 speeds are really the old 4sp (3+ OD) of the past. For example a common 5sp arrangement is 1, 2, 2 OD, 3, 3 OD.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I don’t know about reliability but consumers generally don’t seem to enjoy the driving characteristics of these new transmissions.

      That results in IQS dings and resources devoted to engineering reflashes/software updates to keep people happy.

      “It’s designed to be crappy” isn’t much of a salve when you’ve got 70 more payments to go.

      • 0 avatar
        Felix Hoenikker

        If you can not put 20% down and finance the rest in 48 months, you can’t afford the vehicle. The exception is 0% interest for 60 or 72 months which s free money, but you probable have to pay MSPP so you need to compare the discount vs the interest on a shorter loan. Taking the discount usually wins.
        Just sayin

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      For once we agree VoGo. I bet back in the day these folks would have been arguing against the needless complexity that putting the valves in the head versus having them in the block added and that those synchro bands on a transmission were just another point of failure and double clutching was the true mark of a driver.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    My god, has TTAC been triggered by the election? What is all this woe-is-meing about?

    “B-b-b-but it’s gonna be less reliable!” Does anyone actually have any proof that more gears = less reliability? How is that not mitigated by better tolerances/design/materials science?

    “B-b-b-but it’s gonna be more expensive to replace!” When is the last time anyone here had a broken transmission? Did you have it torn down and fixed or replaced? I’m seeing used F-150 6ATs for ~$700 and rebuilt ones for $2,000. Every part in a car has a finite service life and replacement is NBD. I just replaced the whole engine in my Civic for about $1100 parts and labor!

    “B-b-b-b-but we’re past the point of diminishing returns!” Are you serious? If that’s the case why would Ford/GM go through the trouble of making these new transmissions? Obviously there is meat left on the table…. and you look at any car that went from a 6AT to 8AT, gas mileage improves appreciably (335i is probably the best example)

    This place is becoming unbearable with all the poo pooing about OEMs going against the infinite wisdom of the B&B…. give it a rest guys

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      They have a different perspective because they control the means of production and have an interest in always keeping said production humming. We want to buy a product and get maximum use/service life out of it, and this isn’t necessarily high on the list of producer priorities (assuming there isn’t an official corporate element of planned obsolescence in play as well).

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        I don’t think there is any planned obsolescence here (can someone confirm if these have transmission fluid caps and plugs?), nor do I think adding more gears will make transmissions less durable. Technology marches forward, and with it enables better materials science and general design capability. There’s not anything in these transmissions that are exotic- the planetary gearset is as old as the automatic transmission itself. These worries are akin to fretting over manuals getting extra cogs.

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          Adding more ratios can make the transmission less durable- you’re stuffing more parts (clutches, gears) in a finite space and if you stuff too many in there then you have to make those parts smaller. And that’s kind of the question with these super transmissions.

          Getting more ratios out of the old fashioned 3 speed automatics, with no loss of durability, was always quite possible. Those almost always used two identical planetary gearsets. Identical because that made them cheaper to produce but it meant duplicate reduction ratios (there was more than one way to achieve the ratios for 1st and 2nd). Spend more money to have two slightly different planetary sets and voila, more ratios available. Or bolt a separate gearbox on the output shaft which makes the transmission overall bigger (how BW did it to make their 3 speeds into 4 speeds, then they licensed it to AW). These super transmissions do that, lots and lots of gears, one way or the other…

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            there are no more “gears” in a 10 speed than there are in an 8 speed.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            “there are no more “gears” in a 10 speed than there are in an 8 speed.”

            I think you missed my point; I wasn’t only talking about 9 or 10 speeds.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            I don’t see how going from a 3 speed to a 6 speed auto is quite possible, but going from a 6 speed to a 9 speed makes stuff less durable.

            Yes, more parts in a smaller space = a higher propensity for stuff to go wrong, but that’s largely canceled out by those parts being stronger, having tighter tolerances, and being much better designed. That old 3 speed auto was designed on pen and paper; these new 9-10 speeds are designed and simulated on super computers and built with materials that would have been considered space age.

            Plus computer control can help minimize clutch wear and the like. I think the worries are overblown.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            and in my past experience, the things which tend to break on automatic transmissions are independent of # of speeds. stuff like pump failures, or some stupid little sprag shearing. the gearsets practically never fail, the clutches and brakes don’t either unless something else damages them, and so on.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            Going from a 3 to 6 speed doesn’t really take any more parts, it just takes some *different* parts (unless you go the “more parts” route that BW did in the early 1980s). Going more than that does take more parts.

            The engineering work for gear sizing (and the other moving parts) doesn’t really benefit from computer analysis over pen and paper. That said, it’s a straightforward thing to predict whether the parts last or don’t last in service.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “give it a rest guys”

      No. I will go down in a virtual vineyard of sour grapes.

  • avatar
    Frode

    I think 6 speeds is probably ideal for an automatic, although I have heard good reports on the ZF 8-speed. I have a 5-speed automatic in my 2008 Grand Cherokee and it shifts smoothly, but I wish it had another gear for a lower first and a taller 6th. My mother’s 2014 Cherokee with the 9-speed has been recalled twice and still does not shift smoothly. It’s also really an 8-speed. I don’t think it’s ever been into 9th. At 80 mph on the Interstate on a long, slightly downhill stretch, I pulled the gear lever into “autostick” mode and the readout showed it was in 8th. If it’s not going to be in 9th under those conditions, it’s never going to be. It was still under 2,000 rpm. The top four gears are all overdrives. Ridiculous.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    As one who drove the old 2-speed automatics (Powerglide) that GM put in its base-engine sedans (6 cylinder), the use of fewer gears was accompanied by varying the slippage of the torque converter — a very wasteful and power-robbing practice. With the bigger, torquier V-8s of the era, which had plenty of torque, this wasn’t much of a problem. But, if you had the misfortune to drive one of the early “European” or Japanese cars with an automatic (usually 3-speeds), they were a disaster. I remember my first boss (1972) had a Volvo 244 with an automatic — same car that my dad had with a 4-speed manual. The autobox made the car into a real snail; my dad’s car felt quick enough at least until you got above 50 mph.

    So, if you have an engine that doesn’t generate much torque and are asking it to move a heavy vehicle, lots of speeds in the tranny are required to keep the engine in its peak torque band. That describes a lot of today’s cars.

    With pickup trucks, which are rated to tow up to about 10,000 lbs., the use of a large number of gears avoids the trade off between a fuel economy penalty resulting from a numerically high rear axle ratio and not enough power to get the load moving. The 8-speed in my truck, which I have used extensively to tow a 7600 lb. gross weight travel trailer does a nice job, and it doesn’t hunt, either pulling the load up a mountain, or empty (I’ve done both with it). Typically, in tow/haul mode it does not use 8th gear even it 60-65 mph, when the engine is turning around 1750 rpm.

    I’m having a hard time seeing the utility of 10 speeds, however. As it is, my truck, when unloaded, has already shifted out of 2nd gear before a I cross an intersection from a dead stop.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    What is the real world fuel economy gain from say a 5 or 6 speed to a 10 speed on some different applications?

    Because I’m willing to wager it represents a rounding error in terms of gains and is simply a huge burden to consumers in order to comply with government regulations.

  • avatar
    FalcoDog

    I remember when I got my first 10 speed. A schwinn it was. All the other kids were amazed!

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Meanwhile, Toyota will still sell you a 4-speed automatic if you buy a Yaris hatchback. I hear it’s pretty awful.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      If it’s the same 4-speed that soldiered on in the xB until it’s demise, it’s not that bad. But not as good as the 4-speed that was in my GrandAm. GM gets so much wrong, but when they get something right…damn! ‘Course, that can take a decade or two of trial and error.

  • avatar
    W126

    The new 10 speed auto developed in cooperation by Ford and Chevy is a beast of a transmission, it shifts super fast, and will be in the 2017 Camaro ZL1 and Ford Raptor, I can’t wait to see what it will do if put into the Corvette, right now I would choose a manual Corvette, but if they put the super fast shifting 10-speed in it I would strongly consider the auto. This particular transmission is not just about fuel economy, which I’m sure Camaro ZL1 and Ford Raptor buyers care deeply about, it’s about improving acceleration times to get people to buy these high performance vehicles.

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