Yes, you read that title correctly. According to latest reports coming out of the UK Mercedes-Benz is looking to one-up the competition with the release of a nine-speed automatic gearbox. The automaker is reportedly in the process of designing the new gearbox, which it plans to use for its large-capacity engines.
The information comes from a senior source at Mercedes-Benz who revealed to Autocar that the new gearbox design will offer significant improvements to fuel economy and CO2 emissions. Closest rivals Audi, BMW and Lexus already use eight-speed gearboxes, and some even have faster shifting dual clutch units.
If dual clutch transmissions can shift faster than automatics, and have also been shown to be more fuel efficient, than why would an automaker like Mercedes-Benz go to the trouble to design a new nine-speed automatic? That’s because conventional automatics have some clear advantages over dual clutch units; they tend to be lighter, more reliable, less complex and cheaper to manufacture.
Simply adding an extra gear is no easy task, however, and Mercedes-Benz is unlikely to go further with anymore gears. According to the source, nine ratios are the maximum that is technically possible, as well as being the most that customers will be able to cope with.
Of course, all this remains speculation as Mercedes-Benz is yet to confirm any of the details.