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by Tim Beissmann

The Range Rover Evoque will become the first regular production car equipped with a nine-speed automatic transmission when it debuts at next week’s 2013 Geneva motor show.

The ‘9HP’ nine-speed auto, developed in collaboration with German transmission specialist ZF, will initially replace the existing six-speed auto in the Evoque line-up before likely being rolled out into other models in the Land Rover and Range Rover portfolios.

Land Rover Australia’s James Scrimshaw confirmed the nine-speed auto would supersede the six-speed in all petrol- and diesel-powered Evoque models from January 2014, a few months after it launches in the UK and other European markets. The six-speed manual will continue to be offered as an option.

Land Rover promises a “significant improvement” in fuel economy and CO2 emissions by increasing the number of gear ratios from six to nine.

The premium British car maker says the upgrade to the nine-speed gearbox also leads to improved acceleration response, reduced noise during high-speed cruising and a more refined shift quality.

The 9HP’s lowest ratio is far lower than that of the outgoing six-speed and has been specifically designed for off-road use, towing and extremes of gradient and altitude to give the driver a heightened sense of control.

Unlike the 6HP, which can only make shifts sequentially (moving one gear at a time), the 9HP has a skip-shift function for swifter downshifting under rapid deceleration or from greater driver input demands.

The torque converter also incorporates a multi-stage damper system for smoother pulling away and improved refinement.

Despite cramming in three extra ratios, the nine-speed auto is 7.5kg lighter than the outgoing six-speed and just 6mm longer. It has been specifically designed for transverse applications – that is, vehicles whose engines are positioned east-west, the layout favoured by front- and all-wheel-drive models.

The Range Rover Evoque nine-speed auto will debut in Geneva on March 5.