Less than 50 years ago, a two-speed automatic transmission wasn't uncommon. For decades, four gears were more than enough for your run-of-the-mill auto box. These days, though, five-speed automatics are considered behind the times and seven- and eight-speed gearboxes are already starting to replace six-speeds. Where does it all end? At nine gears, if you ask Mercedes-Benz.
According to Autocar, the minds at Mercedes-Benz's engineering department are hard at work on a new nine-speed automatic transmission for large-displacement engines. This new transmission is said to offer major increases in fuel economy and a significant reduction in CO2 emissions as the car's onboard computer would have more options for keeping the engine at its optimum speed under any condition.
While more ratios tend to mean more efficiency, Mercedes' engineers think they've reached the upper limit. At some point, packaging, weight and complexity all become issues and the tech wizards at Mercedes think that nine gears is the technological limit. Coincidentally, it's also what they believe to be the limit of customer's patience. After all, we're talking about luxury sedans, not 18-wheelers.
What do you think? While we here have lauded some vehicles with six or more cogs for their efficiency and smoothness, we've also found fault with indecisive transmissions that can't pick a gear and stick with it. From an enthusiast perspective, some have also complained that six gears is the most they want to shift through in manual mode, with seven or more proving frustrating.
Tell us you maximum gear count in the comments below.