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Nein? Ja, a Nine-Speed Gearbox From Mercedes-Benz

How many gears is too many? Benz engineers say 9 is probably the limit.

by on Jul.19, 2010

The next-generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class could very well sport a 9-speed automatic gearbox.

The gearbox wars continue to heat up.  Mercedes-Benz engineers are trying to determine just how many transmission cogs are enough – and perhaps more importantly, how many the public will accept.

Numbers always seem to matter in the auto industry.  But in an era of increasing fuel-efficiency, it’s harder to put a positive spin on big displacement figures, and V6s and I4s are gaining more credibility as the fortunes of the V8 and V12 begin to fade away.

But it’s an entirely different story when it comes to gearboxes.  And where a 4-speed automatic might have seemed like plenty, just a decade ago, the numbers have more recently climbed to 5, 6, 7, and even 8.  Now, it seems, the Germans are pushing even higher.

New reports suggest that Mercedes is looking at a 9-speed option that would be used with its larger-displacement engines, something that could prove critical if the maker hopes to meet upcoming mileage standards in the U.S., and the strict new CO2 regulations coming in Europe, reports the British magazine AutoCar

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But don’t expect the automaker to begin work on a 10-speed once the 9 hits the road. Mercedes engineers contend – not surprisingly – that 9 is the upper limit when weighing cost, complexity, size and weight against greater efficiency.