- Jul 2015

One more gear to brag about: Nine speed automatic

Technology Tuesday

Ah, the old discussion about gearboxes. A topic so heavily discussed by car people both young and old. Long ago, it was a cause to brag when you told someone you had a five speed gearbox. My grandfather was in awe in his later years when he found out that many cars now had six speed gearboxes. The debate was mainly between the automatic camp versus the manual camp though. Those for the automatic punted the effortless driving experience it created and the ease of driving an automatic. Those against the automatic judged it for its poor fuel economy and the lack of connection it created for the driver. Both parties were right, but in the time we’re living in, things have changed.

Automatic gearboxes have become the preferred choice for the majority, even if you are an enthusiast. The reason for that is because companies such as ZF have refined the automatic gearbox so well, you get the best of both worlds in one package. Of course you cannot heal and toe in an automatic and you don’t feel the same sensation that you feel when your’e manually changing gears. The reality though is that even if you’re a hardcore enthusiast, your’e not in “race” mode all the time. Most times you will be in “traffic” mode, “family” mode and even “it’s Friday and I’m exhausted after a long week” mode. So like it or not, the automatic is the gearbox to choose.

Enthusiasts don’t have much to winge about too since the automatics on offer nowadays in many cars aren’t sluggish, fuel guzzling and annoying as they used to be. The eight speed automatic made by ZF and found in cars such as BMW are amazing to drive. Now ZF offers something even better, a nine speed automatic. Why on earth would you need a nine speed gearbox you many wonder? Fuel economy for one and a better driving experience too. The ZF nine speed is apparently 16% more fuel efficient than a six speed automatic gearbox. In terms of better driving experience, someone once illustrated it this way, he said “a gearbox is like a manual labourer, the more tools he has, the better he can do his job”. This is very true because with right amount of gears and the right settings on the gearbox, your car will always be in the right gear for the task it needs to do.

This gearbox is available in  South Africa on cars such as the Land Rover Discovery Sport (New Freelander) and Jeep’s new Renegade but not many other cars in our country are using it at the moment. I’m sure in time though we will see more cars using the nine speed automatic soon, when they do, people will have one more gear to brag about, for good reason too. Happy Technology Tuesday.

*Photo courtesy of www.autoenthuse.com