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Alfa Romeo based Dodge Dart will get a 9 speed gearbox and it worries me

By Rigval on 15 Dec 2011

Attached Image: dart3.jpg

Iíve recently read that Chryslerís new compact car, the Dodge Dart (teaser pics above and below) will be fitted with a ZF nine speed automatic transmission in 2013. Yes, a nine speed automatic torque converter based gearbox. This is really some feat of technology. Or is it?

Attached Image: dart2.jpg

Before we get to that the Dodge Dart is actually an Alfa Romeo Giulietta wearing a different dress. Platform sharing is what usually happens when car companies merge and the Dodge Dart is basically the result of the Fiat-Chrysler merger. When it is launched sometime soon it will be the first Ďcompactí car from Chrysler in quite a while using the ĎDartí name. It will get Chryslerís 2.0 and 2.4liter engines as well as Fiatís 1.4liter turbocharged engines to power it. And before that incredible 9 speed gearbox is utilized, it will get a Fiat sourced 6 speed twin clutch job.Now back to me discussing the new 9 speed automatic gearbox.

Chrysler claims the 9 speeder will give the Dodge Dart a fuel consumption of only 5.8l/100km. This is actually remarkable considering Chryslerís idea of a compact car is actually the size of a Mitsubishi Lancer. The extra efficiency of having loads more gears in the transmission is claimed to increase fuel efficiency between 10 to 16 percent over the already efficient twin clutch transmission. This also means that ZF has managed to package a 9 speed transmission well as the weight increase penalty of having more gears is still negated by its fuel efficiency.

Now while I am in agreement that this may be correct I somehow worry that things are getting carried away in the number department. The thing about having so many gears is that there are now more moving parts in such a gearbox. A few years back people were just moving over to the 5 speed automatics and now some have 6 speed boxes. But what ZF and Chrysler are telling us is that in two years time the industry norm maybe between 7 gears and above for a torque convertor based transmission.

Some may say that this is nothing compared to a CVT or continuously variable transmission which basically has infinite gear ratios between two fixed gear points but ultimately, the reason why most luxury manufacturers and any car maker that wants total smoothness in transmission and lower engine noise would keep coming back to the torque convertor based gearbox. So this isnít an issue.

The real issue is that how many gears is more than enough? Will we see 18 speed DSG gearboxes? A 30 speed automatic transmission? 10 speed manuals? I think the last one may not happen as the chase for better emissions controls have basically made shifting by yourself obsolete. The carís ECU will supposedly shift better than 99% of us out there (which is somewhat true as most of us do not even know how to drive a car with a clutch anymore). So how many gears is more than enough? I sound like I am talking about bicycles with 18 speed, 30 speed gearing instead of the one found in cars.

And more food for thought. How much is it going to cost us to get that 9 speeder fixed? I suppose this is actually another way to get people to get rid of cars after using them for some time. As we keep buying replacements, the factories and businesses keep running. This folks, it the miracle of mass production.

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Written by Rigval
Born in 1972. Married with a kid. Loves B-road drives and have driven cars from the 1950s to date.

  • 1
GrandCruiser Dec 15 2011 01:12 PM
Hyundai has already a 10-speed written on its masterplan, so what's the big deal with Alfa's 9-speed? Chill lah... :)
Rigval Dec 15 2011 02:07 PM
I cannot! too many gears to compute! :p
Mecontle Dec 15 2011 11:04 PM
even in manual i hardly use 5th gear
Mecontle Dec 15 2011 11:04 PM
even in manual i hardly use 5th gear
  • 1
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