In 2009 Italian car company, Fiat purchased Chrysler Motor Co., who in turn owns Dodge. Should we have been scared? Maybe. Are we scared for the new 2012 Challenger? No… One of the defining points that has been made however, is over the Chrysler 300 and the Charger as both will be equipped with the 3.6L Pentastar V-6 and be mated with the new ZF 8-speed automatic transmissions. The new transmission will pull an 11% increase in fuel efficiency, and drops shift times down from 350ms to 200ms. A pretty big advantage considering the cost of the new transmission is exactly the same as the previous generation’s transmission. The new eight speed is going to not only improve the manufacturers standing with CAFE- but serves as more continued forward thinking by the Fiat-who-owns-Chrysler-who-owns-Dodge company. A lot to follow, I know.
The main advantage to having eight speeds is the ability to have the engine almost constantly in its peak output range. There is a claimed 98% efficiency with these transmissions, which considering the success they’ve been enjoying with companies like BMW and Porsche—this fact comes as no surprise. The design is a purely ZF design that incorporate Chrysler gearing ratios for the Charger and 300, along with Pentastar mating specifications. Most of the transmissions going into the cars will be built at the Kokomo, Indiana plant for Chrysler. It should however be noted that ZF has built a Greenville, South Carolina plant that will be the company’s first plant in the United States. Chrysler has invested $300M into the Kokomo plant to accommodate production of the new transmission. The cost of the new 8-speed is actually cheaper than the previous five speed, and the same price as the 6 speed. With increased efficiency, and the same price, with better fuel economy this seems like a no brainer.
According to Allpar, “There are three basic versions of this transmission; the input torque ranges from 300 to 1,000 Nm, and it can be combined with various starting systems, and as a mild or full hybrid (The 8HP 90 Powershift transmission allows input torque up to 900 Nm, or 664 lb-ft. 1,000 Nm is around 737 lb-ft. While the most powerful Chrysler gas engine produces 470 lb-ft, the Cummins B-engine has the capability to go much higher).” The decision has been to start using the 8R70, as it is known for Chrysler purposes, beginning with the Charger, then later the 300. These should start surfacing sometime around late summer, and continue to be put into production through 2012. They have decided to keep the 5 speed transmissions in the Challenger as of now, but expect to see this change over the course of the next year. With CAFE becoming a serious force, and the latest push for fuel economy- Chrysler will be hard pressed to defend using the five speed. I think this might be a trial run of sorts, to see how the transmission reacts to the Pentastar, and how it works in production with Chrysler. If it goes smoothly, and I expect it will, we will see this transmission emerge throughout the fleet.