Everybody wants to be the first to do something—the first to step on the moon, the first to build and fly an airplane. How about the first to produce a 9-speed automatic transmission? Well, it might not be as exciting as landing on the moon, but it is noteworthy.
When the 2014 Jeep Cherokee goes on sale soon, it will feature two world’s first features: a 9-speed automatic transmission and a front-wheel-drive biased 4×4 system. You might be wondering, “Why do transmissions keep getting more gears?” The answer: efficiency.
A decade ago, having nine gears would not have improved efficiency—the added weight of the gears would have outstripped any gains in fuel economy. Today, however, powertrain engineers are finding new ways to eliminate weight and give vehicles the fuel-saving benefits of having more gears.
The Cherokee’s other new technology, the front-wheel-drive biased 4×4 system, will also increase efficiency. The system will primarily use front-wheel-drive and then deliver four-wheel-drive traction as needed, without any interaction from the driver.
Want more information on the history of automatic transmissions? Check out this nice timeline graphic from the New York Times.
What do you think; how many gears are too many?