Tony O'Kane | Jun 26, 2009

BRITISH ENGINEERING FIRM Ricardo has announced that it will collaborate with Weifang Shengrui Power Machinery Technology on the development of an advanced eight-speed automatic gearbox.

The Ricardo-Shengrui deal will result in a gearbox that will have more ratios than any other Chinese-made transmission, but will also - its makers claim - rival some of the world's most prestigious automakers for driveline sophistication.

Currently, Lexus is the only manufacturer to offer an eight-speed torque converter-equipped automatic transmission, which is fitted to its LS range, GS 460 and the hi-po IS-F sports sedan.

BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Hyundai currently have plans to introduce a ZF-sourced eight-speed auto (pictured at top), but an introduction date for their gearboxes has yet to be firmed up.

ws-ricardo_8-speed_trans_01

While an agreement has been knocked up between Ricardo and Shengrui, it's not yet clear what Chinese brands will utilise the new eight-speed. As a parts supplier, Shengrui could feasibly supply any of China's numerous car companies with the hi-tech transmission, but so far a buyer has yet to make themselves known.

What is known, however, is that the emergence of a semi-indigenous eight-ratio gearbox will allow China's automakers to really up the ante in the quality, performance and fuel economy stakes.

The new gearbox will be designed to be compatible with four-wheel-drive systems and hybrid powertrains, and opens up a wealth of possibilities for manufacturers who choose it for their vehicles.

Given Ricardo is the company responsible for the Veyron's tungsten-tough seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox, Shengrui's '8AT' is bound to be a good piece of kit.

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