The â€˜gear-headsâ€™ at ZF Friedrichshafen AG or â€˜ZFâ€™ for short have just released details of their new 8-speed automatic transmission co-incidentally following the debut of an 8-speed automatic in the new Lexus LS460.
The brand new 8-speed automatic was presented to 1000 engineers at last weeks annual International Vienna Motor Symposium. It is hard to fathom exactly why we need 8-speed gear boxes but they will be common-place in our motoring future and it should help to keep the tree-huggers happy. It seems incremental increases in fuel efficiency can be achieved with talk of 6% reductions in fuel consumption being possible when compared the current ZF 6-speed as currently used by BMW, Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo and Ford.
The new ZF 8-speed box in respect to gear ratios is said to better the 6-speed it will replace as well as the Mercedes-Benz 7-speed 7G-Tronic auto. Not only does it improve fuel consumption but its design is said to reduce power loss and takes up no more space than the current 6-speed unit.
"Our main development target was to find a transmission concept which allows for significant additional fuel consumption reduction and thus offers tangible added value to our customers and drivers without making any compromises in terms of performance," said ZF's executive vice-president, technology and group executive of the car driveline technology division, Dr Michael Paul.
ZF claims that the new 8-speed will offer fuel consumption savings of up to 14% over the average 5-speed auto which all helps to justify the need for our future cars using more gears than some trucks.
The new ZF8 can handle more torque input than the current ZF6 which means keep an eye out for it in some serious performance applications. Shift quality, response and overall feel at least match the current ZF6 which is widely regarded as the best there is.
The new transmission has been designed to be utilized in a variety of configurations with an eye on the future including all currently known hybrid layouts, as well as all-wheel-drive. A date for production is not known at this stage but when it is available you can expect to see it being used by the manufacturers currently using the ZF6 which includes Ford with their Falcon and Territory.
So will the 2008 Ford Falcon â€˜Orionâ€™ come with 8 speeds? Unlikely at this stage but Iâ€™d certainly be keeping an eye out for it in the performance variants and FPV models.