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Old 01-02-2013, 08:25 AM
vavet5308 vavet5308 is offline
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amount of gears - where's the top?

When I started driving in the 90s most modern cars with auto trans had 4 speeds and manuals had 5. 3 speed automatics had been the norm since the 60s, I think?
The Corvette ZR1 came out with 6 speeds and it was all over the auto rags in the early to mid 90s. For the most part, this 4 speed auto, 5 or 6 speed manual paradigm didn't change until the early 2000's. The number of gears in automatics increased over the last decade much faster where 6, 7 and 8 speeds are now common. Where's the top? Will we have 20 speed automatics in another 10 years?

What about manuals? Is 6 the most we're going to see? I don't want to get into a big debate about the future of the manual trans vs electronically controlled manual gearboxes, like SMG or PDK. It seems like more than 6 would get to be a little awkward as far as finding the correct gear, but big rigs do it. I think that's done with transfer cases and twin speed rear ends though, I'm not really sure.

So assuming the 3 pedal manual gearbox is still available in 20 years, how many gears would a modern, middle of the road car have? How many gears will an automatic transmission have in 20 years? Will the increased number of gear ratios allow the use of smaller engines with narrow powerbands for the purpose of increasing fuel economy?
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Old 01-02-2013, 09:20 AM
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cwsqbm cwsqbm is offline
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To infinity and beyond!!!

(aka CVT)

For most manual cars, I'd expect 6 to be the optimum number for a manual, just based on use and cost. Porsche already makes a 7-speed (new 911), but that was done to share parts with the 7-speed automatic.

Big commercial trucks need the huge number of gears because big diesel engines only work well in a narrow rpm band. However, having to shift three times just to cross an intersection is something only a masochist can love - and many of those trucks are going SMG-style to automated manuals. An 18-speed manual is really just a 5-speed with a couple of add-ons. See Car and Driver for a good explanation. This idea was tried in the past in cars (not the least of which was the Corvette 4+3 manual).
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Old 01-02-2013, 02:08 PM
elistan elistan is offline
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Originally Posted by vavet5308 View Post
The number of gears in automatics increased over the last decade much faster where 6, 7 and 8 speeds are now common. Where's the top? Will we have 20 speed automatics in another 10 years?
ZF says 9.

'ZF CEO cites 9 speeds as "natural limit" for transmissions'

So going to, say, 10 gears might mean a slightly more efficient gearbox, but at a cost that's not worth the return.

FWIW - I used to have an 8spd manual Dodge Colt from the 80s. Like a 10speed bicycle doing 5x2, it had a four-ratio primary shifter and a two-ratio secondary shifter.
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Old 01-02-2013, 06:09 PM
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1985mb 1985mb is offline
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We'll probably see 6 as the limit on most traditional manuals. Porsche has gone to 7 on the 991, but other dedicated sports car manufacturers such as Ferrari have abandoned 3-pedal manuals altogether.

On automatics, probably 9 or 10. And then ultimately a better, more evolved version of CVT.
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Old 01-02-2013, 09:12 PM
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6 close with a tall 7th for fuel economy seems to be the most I could take shifting.
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Old 01-24-2013, 12:48 PM
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mtbscott mtbscott is offline
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I have the 7 speed manual in my 911. It's really tall, at 85mph, it's clocking around 2400rpms. Purely for better gas mileage at highway speeds, but it's as slick as Porsche shifters have always been, and easy to operate.
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Old 01-24-2013, 04:36 PM
swajames swajames is offline
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The new Corvette has a 7 speed manual too, plus auto rev matching on both upshifts and downshifts. My 911 experience is with the 6 speed manual, I've not driven the Porsche manual 7-speed box (only the PDK, which is awesome).
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Old 01-24-2013, 05:41 PM
usaret usaret is offline
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For me the ZF 6 speed manual in my X3 is just perfect as it shifts smooth and has just the right gear for any speed.

I've driven cars in the past that had spots where one gear was revving the engine too high but the next was lugging.
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Old 01-24-2013, 08:26 PM
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captainaudio captainaudio is offline
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In the 50s and early 60s many automatic trasmissions (i.e. the Chevy Powerglide) had 2 speeds and manuals had 3 Speeds with the shift lever mounted on the steering column ("three on the tree"). with no synchromesh on first gear. This was often called "Standard" shift as at some point the major auto manufacturers had standardized the shift pattern making it less confusing for drivers to move from one brand to another.

During the muscle/pony car era a 4 speed full synchromesh manual transmissions with floor mounted shift levers (four on the floor) was the transmission of choice on performance oriented cars. A few foreign sports cars such as Alfa Romeo and Porsche had 5 speeds with 5th gear usually being an overdrive gear but most sports cars like Jaguars, MGs, Austin Healeys, etc had "four on the floor". By the late 60s most American cars had automatic transmissions. The "standard transmission" on many american cars was the "three on the tree" but almost all family sedan type cars were sold with ATs which was an extra cost option.

In the mid to late 70s with rapidly rising gasoline prices small "econoboxes" which were 2 door hatchbacks with transversely mounted 4 cylinder engines, front wheel drive and manual transmissions (based on the design of the original Ausin Mini) became popular and there was a resurgence in the popularity of manual transmissions. The early years of the Honda Accord did not offer a true automatic transmission. They had something called a "Hondamatic" that was billed as a "semi-automatic" but sold very few. The early accords were also not available as four doors.

Large trucks have traditionally had many forward gears, a common number being 18. This was accomplished with two shift levers, one selected the 6 gears and one slected one of three drive ranges (underdrive, direct drive and overdrive). Many of these gearboxes did not have synchros and needed to be double clutched which required a lot of fancy footwork to get through 18 gears to get from a dead stop to cruising speed.

The majority of manual transmission drivers spend a lot driving in what is not the optimum gear. As there are more gears available this becomes more likely. With modern cars with lots of power and torque and relatively flat torque curves cars tend to be more "forgiving" of less than ideal gear choices.


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Last edited by captainaudio; 01-24-2013 at 08:29 PM.
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