There have been times when I’ve wished that Nissan had commanded its Jatco operation to bestow more than four gears on poor Gwendolyn, who is capable of even greater acceleration when she’s not wrestling against the ratios inflicted on her. For that matter, there’s a hot-rod SUV comparo in the current Car and Driver, assuming one accepts the idea of a hot-rod SUV, and the least-complicated slushbox represented is a 5-speed auto. The other competitors: six, seven, and eight.
It doesn’t stop there, either:
German transmission supplier ZF has a nine-speed automatic that will be introduced next year, and reports have said Hyundai is looking to pack ten forward gears into a forthcoming gearbox.
When do we reach the point of diminishing returns? Right about now:
ZF North American president Julio Caspari … tells Automotive News that the gear race is “close to the limit.” AN says Caspari thinks marketing may be a bigger factor than engineering when it comes to developing transmissions with additional gears, citing just an 11-percent difference between the best transmissions today and a theoretically perfect unit.
I wonder what they mean by “theoretically perfect.” No driveline loss? Not gonna happen. On the other hand, there’s a lot to be said for the old two-speed Powerglide, even though I burned one up in my old Chevy Nova. (Rebuild: $175. Those were the days.)