German transmission manufacturer ZF has developed the world’s first nine-speed automatic transmission for passenger vehicles equipped with a transversely mounted engine.
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Similar to ZF’s eight-speed automatic gearbox – currently used in rear-wheel drive vehicles from Audi, Bentley, BMW, Range Rover and Rolls-Royce – the nine-speed will be better suited to premium front-wheel drive products.

ZF says the new transmission delivers extremely short shifting times and is exceptionally smooth, utilising electronic controls to select the right gear for the driving conditions, eliminating unnecessary stepping and constant shifting.

ZF President and CEO, Hans-Georg Harter, said the new nine-speed transmission would also offer enhanced driving performance and fuel economy over the brand’s conventional six-speed automatic.

“ZF's new nine-speed enables significant fuel economy improvements and delivers excellent performance characteristics for front-wheel drive vehicles,” Mr Harter said.

He confirmed the new nine-speed transmission would be built at a new manufacturing plant in South Carolina.

Details of its application (i.e. which vehicles it will be used in) will be announced in the coming months, although upcoming Fiat and Chrysler products are already believed to be among the first to benefit from the new technology.