Hooniverse Asks: How Many Gears is Too Many Gears?

Honda_11_Speed__1_
Honda recently received from the Japanese Patent Office a patent for an 11-speed, three clutch transmission. Now, we’re all pretty used to five and six speed automatics as the norm, and while they are not as common as their torque converter brethren, the CVT transmissions are becoming less the exception these days as well. Those infinitely variable gear-less gearboxes however tend to be less reliable, limited in the amount of power they can channel, and are as dull as dishwater to drive.
Give me good old gears. Sure, they’re not as variable as a CVT but with enough of them packed in there, you’re likely to find one to fit your mood. The thing of it is, the more you pack in, the tighter everything has to fit, the closer the tolerances need to be, and there’s lots more to go wrong. Honda says eleven isn’t too many, and today I want to know if you agree with the gear-obsessed Japanese company. What do you think, how many gears is too many gears when it comes to a transmission?
Image: yallamotor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

110 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: How Many Gears is Too Many Gears?”

  1. Kiefmo Avatar
    Kiefmo

    If I’m shifting myself — 7 is too many. I like having a solid left-middle-right gate on the top and bottom of the shift pattern. If I have to train my hand to discern between left-middle and right-middle, that’s too many possibilities.
    If I’m not shifting, I don’t care. I’m leaving it up to a computer to decide, and the engineers who designed the algorithms, to determine how to manage all of them gears.

    1. smalleyxb122 Avatar
      smalleyxb122

      7 might not be too many in an auto, but it is still unnecessary. Most people with automatics don’t have any idea how many gears their transmission has. 6 ratios is enough for most engines to operate in an efficient range at any speed without constantly hunting for the right gear. That’s all the driver will notice.
      I think you’re right with 7 on the manual. I think your 7 is also the answer for an automatic.

    2. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      You can still have more manual gears than that.
      I saw it in some movies.
      http://a2.files.blazepress.com/image/upload/c_fit,cs_srgb,dpr_1.0,q_80,w_620/MTI4OTkxMjU2NjU0MTI5Nzk1.jpg

      1. Vairship Avatar
        Vairship

        ‘R’ stands for ‘Race’, right?

        1. theskitter Avatar

          Rakieta.

  2. theskitter Avatar

    I can skip gears, right?
    I dunno, 33?

    1. Tiberiuswise Avatar

      If I had a dollar for every time I 1,2,3,5’d my ’85 Mustang back in the day, I could afford to find it again and have it restored.

      1. JayP Avatar
        JayP

        Hell… I’m going 1-4 all the time.
        Thanks Ford’s floppy trans mounts.

      2. salguod Avatar

        I do a 1-2-5 in the Mazda3 and the 318ti all the time. If I’m going to accel hard, with a decently high redline (6500 in both cases, I believe) by the time I max out second, I’m going about as fast as I want anyway.

  3. papamarc Avatar
    papamarc

    Does anyone remember driving a PowerGlide equipped car of the 60’s? 2 speeds….

    1. 0A5599 Avatar
      0A5599

      I had a car that used to eat up the hitch pins that held the shifter linkages together. I’m not sure why I didn’t think to carry spares with me. Generally, they would fail on my way to class while I was short on time.
      If the 1-2 linkage failed, I would use 3-4 until the afternoon, when I had time to fix it. If it was 3-4 that failed, I would pull over to a nearby parking lot, stop the engine, and slide under the car to put the transmission in 4th gear. I had a one-speed for the rest of the commute!

      1. Sjalabais Avatar
        Sjalabais

        Read about a guy whose transmission jammed in a Volvo 240 in Northern Norway. He was in fifth,and he drove for eight hours in just that gear to get home. Took some planning not to stop, I guess..

        1. outback_ute Avatar
          outback_ute

          I had a clutch issue in my ute years ago and drove home using just 4th gear once it was rolling, including around 2m diameter roundabouts with about 400 rpm on the clock. Luckily there weren’t any traffic light intersections on my route then!

    2. CraigSu Avatar
      CraigSu

      My first car was a ’67 Chevelle. Its 2 speeds worked just fine for me then.

      1. Tanshanomi Avatar

        I had a ’72 with the 250 inline six and the 2-speed powerglide. Didn’t realize that was a crappy thing to have until much later.

    3. Fred Talmadge Avatar
      Fred Talmadge

      Ford-a-matic and the bands slipped. WHat a joyful car that was. I got a Chevy with the lovely “3 on the tree”

    4. Tanshanomi Avatar

      Honda’s “Hondamatic” bikes had a hydraulic torque converter joined to a two-speed manual gearbox. You could leave it in second gear (“Drive” initially) all the time, or shift into first (“Low”) for quicker takeoff from a standstill.
      https://2yrh403fk8vd1hz9ro2n46dd-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/2014-cm400a-hondamatic-classic-motorcycle-profile-2.jpg

      1. Sjalabais Avatar
        Sjalabais

        “…matic”-naming conventions seem to have gone out of style?

        1. 1JackofTrades Avatar
          1JackofTrades

          Well… Mercedes has the “4Matic”….

        2. Manic_King Avatar
          Manic_King

          Not sure if these are currently used:
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manumatic
          – Mazda: ActiveMatic, SportMatic (North America)
          – Honda: MultiMatic
          – Kia: Sportmatic
          – Hyundai: HIVEC H-Matic

          1. Sjalabais Avatar
            Sjalabais

            That’s amazing – I am really not familiar with most of these fantasmatic terms.

    5. ptschett Avatar
      ptschett

      I’ve driven my dad’s ’68 Olds Cutlass S convertible with the [not a PowerGlide!!] 2-speed Super Turbine 300. For what it is, it works fine.

  4. The Real Number_Six Avatar
    The Real Number_Six

    9 gears is one too many; just ask Chrysler.

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      A friend has a new Cherokee. In six months of driving he doesn’t think it’s ever used the top gear.

      1. Cool_Cadillac_Cat Avatar
        Cool_Cadillac_Cat

        The rental 200 we had in Hawaii managed to get into 8th one time, and there was a LOT of flat, straight road cruising at 55-60 MPH.
        Forget 9th. I figure 8th and 9th are “Texas” overdrives.

        1. Rover 1 Avatar
          Rover 1

          We have a 100km/h (62mph) open road speed limit. I doubt his Cherokee has gone above 7th.

        2. outback_ute Avatar
          outback_ute

          On the other hand I drove a VW Golf with the 7 speed DSG, and it would engage 7th gear at 11-1200 rpm at under 35 mph! This was with the twin-charged engine, 1.2L from memory?

  5. Tiberiuswise Avatar

    It’s funny because the question implies that automatic transmissions have gears. We all know that there’s nothing inside them but computers, black magic, and unicorn tears.

  6. Wayne Moyer Avatar
    Wayne Moyer

    So this is how I envision a CVT works. That each person is a fake gear in a CVT.

    1. crank_case Avatar
      crank_case

      I’ve never done acid, but that video probably accurately recreates the feeling of one of Hunter S. Thompsons rougher days…

      1. Wayne Moyer Avatar
        Wayne Moyer

        Oh is that your first exposure to Too Many Cooks? That was run late one night without being on the schedule and kind of became a Youtube thing. If you made it to the end then I congratulate you. It kind of rewards you for it in weird ways.
        It’s a parody of the 80s and 90’s shows that way too many characters. Which is kind of how I feel about 8 speed, 9 speed, and CVT’s.

        1. crank_case Avatar
          crank_case

          Yep, first exposure, kinda skimmed though it but it but that needs a health warning… Irish late TV had its odd moments (The End and the legendary “No Disco), but was usually a bit more genteel that that headmelter.. I mean as a kid in the 80s, the occasionally chaotically run state broadcaster used to end up with gaps in its schedule which it would fill by showing the full length version of Kraftwerks Autobahn, which blew my tiny mind. This was as much of a trip, but a bad one.

          1. Wayne Moyer Avatar
            Wayne Moyer

            Oh ok that make sense. Look up Adult Swim on Cartoon Network sometime.

    2. JayP Avatar
      JayP

      Thanks – I’ve got that song in my head now.

  7. crank_case Avatar
    crank_case

    Depends what you’re driving, big ol saloon/SUV, especially with a turbodiesel with a paper thin power band, then eleventy squillion gears is great, especially if it’s a clever auto that you can let do its thing rather hitting paddles more often than a pinball player.
    Something small and light? (say on the GT86/Miata/Lotus end of the scale) Then it’s not so much the number of gears, but the weight of the box that becomes important, so that points towards less complexity, a 5-6 speed manual is ideal.
    On the other hand if you want to really save weight but have loads of power, then Christian Koenigsegg with the One:1 and Adrian Newey with his Aston Martin Redbull project would argue that a multiple speed “gearbox” in the conventional sense is just unnecessary weight.

  8. 0A5599 Avatar
    0A5599

    If it costs more than $5000 or can’t hold up to 800 lb-ft of torque, it has too many gears.

    1. Lokki Avatar
      Lokki

      My retirement date. My retirement date is beyond infinity…. That’s what’s beyond infinity…

      1. Sjalabais Avatar
        Sjalabais

        That right next to the Alfa logo…unrelated?

    2. Wayne Moyer Avatar
      Wayne Moyer

      A couple more Pixar sequels?

      1. Tanshanomi Avatar

        Cantor would probably argue that a CVT’s adjustability is not infinite. The belt most likely interacts with the cones in descrete modes at the molecular level. Thus, while the number of actual effective ratios would be astronomically high and effectively impossible to calculate accurately, it would not be correct to think the set of ratios could be legitimately interpolated to infinity.
        Which is why Cantor was widely thought of as a pedantic prick and never invited over for beers in the garage.

        1. crank_case Avatar
          crank_case

          Well except when they wanted to borrow his recovery truck..
          http://www.belltruckservices.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/A15-BTS.jpg

        2. anonymic Avatar
          anonymic

          Zeno would also have problems with CVT’s. You can’t actually achieve the design top gear because you can only go halfway to top gear, and then half of the remainder etc. I’m sure his head would explode over the concept of stopping a car with anti-lock brakes.

    3. Monkey10is Avatar
      Monkey10is

      Tuesday answer: All the gears, all of the time….
      http://i48.tinypic.com/2i2068l.jpg

      1. Tanshanomi Avatar

        On Tuesday, Mana GT is always the correct answer.

      1. Tanshanomi Avatar

        Hey, Professor, there’s something I’ve always wondered about DAF transmissions: is the input shaft to the CVTs a true differential, or just a right-angle bevel drive? It would seem to me there’d be little need for the two drive shafts to vary in relative speed, and perhaps would be disadvantageous.

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          My understanding is that it’s simply a bevel drive, which means that the vehicle can still be operated “normally” even with one belt missing. I’ll find out fairly soon, though, as that component is what broke on mine. Turning the input shaft now produces no further motion, just a disheartening grinding noise.

          1. anonymic Avatar
            anonymic

            That would make the most sense because the transmissions are behind the “diff” which, because of the transmissions’ functional properties in this case would take up the difference.

        2. nanoop Avatar
          nanoop

          First one, then the other. They added a differential at some point (DAF 55?), since the improved versions had less slip, so the system would end up with similar problems like a conventional drivetrain in narrow/slow turns.

          1. Tanshanomi Avatar

            Interesting!

          2. mdharrell Avatar

            I’m sure mine will prove to be whatever is the most delicate, complicated, and expensive version to repair.

      2. CruisinTime Avatar
        CruisinTime

        Read about this at the Atomic Toasters

  9. Fred Talmadge Avatar
    Fred Talmadge

    Those 8 speed transmissions that hunt for gears drive me nuts.

    1. Tanshanomi Avatar

      Hunting for gears must be harder than bow hunting.
      http://tanshanomi.com/temp/bow-hunting.jpg

  10. nanoop Avatar
    nanoop

    Coulthard said that the most remarkable feature of the CVT is the engine braking. I didn’t hear that about the 8-gear boxes yet.
    Personally, it happens that I forget the sixth gear in rentals, so five for my kind of driving.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      In my experience the most remarkable feature of the CVT is not the engine braking but the transmission breaking.
      https://c6.staticflickr.com/9/8278/29015871365_d25b08df64.jpg

      1. nanoop Avatar
        nanoop

        Oh, that’s too common a sight, they all break all the time. Here, they*ll introduce CVT deposits soon, to make sure you (or someone) returns the car, and doesn’t just leave it wherever they failed.They have entire fjords filled with shredded CVTs…

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          You know, as far as that goes Puget Sound really is just a collection of fjords.

        2. Tanshanomi Avatar

          We have both Fjords and Djodges filled with shredded CVTs. Probably some Cjhevys, too,
          http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-d_PqARlYRx4/UQ1OvQDh6SI/AAAAAAAABw0/2BUNUFMa7Uo/s320/IMG_0751.JPG

          1. nanoop Avatar
            nanoop

            I got a deposit return of about USD400 for my Fjocus – not kidding.

      2. Sjalabais Avatar
        Sjalabais

        Now you’re just trying to embarrass that little yellow Volvo in front of its pals. I know you’re not an md in pedagogy, but that might come back to haunt you.

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          I prefer to view it as a warning and a lesson for those three Fords.
          Besides, I don’t have an M.D. in anything; those are just my initials. I’ve got a Ph.D., which means I don’t have to take responsibility for any potential consequences of my actions. I think. Or at least hope.

  11. Alff Avatar
    Alff

    I only need one, but it better be the right one.

  12. Monkey10is Avatar
    Monkey10is

    Er, let me see… That’s two, four, six, seven — then across to, er… ah! There’s eight. Now nine? Where’s nine?
    http://i62.tinypic.com/6ihac7.jpg

    1. nanoop Avatar
      nanoop

      Right in the middle, there*s N for nine?

      1. 0A5599 Avatar
        0A5599

        You misspelled nein.

    2. I_Borgward Avatar
      I_Borgward

      This version was an option on VW Transporters:
      .
      .

      1. Lokki Avatar
        Lokki

        Nah, that’s only how you remember the 60’s

    3. ptschett Avatar
      ptschett

      I’m pretty sure this was an inspiration for certain tractor makers that shall not be named, but which paint their machines green with yellow wheels and persisted far too long with silly transverse 2-cylinder engines…

      1. Guest Avatar
        Guest

        My dad was actually just telling me about funky shift patterns on some of the green and yellow tractors…

        http://www.mytractorforum.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=214733&d=1338070217
        (That’s supposed to be a picture. Just click the link to see it.)

        Tractor transmission wise, I’m a big fan of the one in our red and black and siver one.

        18 gears, one after another, making it nice and easy to find the one you need.

        http://www.tractordata.com/photos/F001/1191/1191-td3t1.jpg

        1. ptschett Avatar
          ptschett

          I always liked that version of the 18-speed. (My dad & grandpa had a 7140, 7250, 2x 7120’s & 2x 7220’s at varying points in time, usually one bigger & two smaller, but now just an MX220 and one of the 7220’s in that size of tractor.) The subsequent setup with the shift-by-magic-pixies thumbswitch in the throttle may do better by the numbers but it’s not as satisfying as pounding through the detents on the mechanical lever.*
          *phrasing

          1. Guest Avatar
            Guest

            Wow, that’s quite a few Magnums!

            Ours is a 7110 that my dad bought brand-new. It’s not our newest tractor, but it’s definitely my favourite to drive.

            I totally agree about the transmissions though. Our neighbour has decently new green and yellow one, and a push button system just doesn’t deliver the same kind of satisfaction.

  13. Tiberiuswise Avatar

    Half the number of cupholders plus seven. Wait, that’s not right.

    1. Tanshanomi Avatar

      I was always taught that it was seven minus half the number of cupholders, but that’s for a six-volt system. I’m not sure how to convert that to 12V.

      1. nanoop Avatar
        nanoop

        2x#ch-2d6?

        1. Monkey10is Avatar
          Monkey10is

          That dice roll got me a negative number. I guess that means I’m ditched?

          1. nanoop Avatar
            nanoop

            Yes, that’s a CVT. (A trick in the rulebook, since nobody offered oo cupholders – yet)

          2. Tanshanomi Avatar

            Salesman: “Let me help you find the right model for you. What are you looking for in a new car?”
            “An infinite number of cupholders.”
            Salesman:
            https://media.giphy.com/media/SEp6Zq6ZkzUNW/giphy.gif

          3. Tiberiuswise Avatar

            You only need one cupholder. As long as it can handle a child size soda.
            https://media.giphy.com/media/5HTvtd1IkoOmA/giphy.gif

          4. anonymic Avatar
            anonymic

            I…. I kind of, I kind of love you a little bit for this.

    2. ptschett Avatar
      ptschett

      I thought it was twice the number of girls as there are cups …dangit, that’s wrong too.

      1. Tiberiuswise Avatar

        Twice the number of girls is ALWAYS right!
        In my case that’s often still zero.

    1. fede Avatar
      fede

      wow… truly amazing

  14. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    The high final drive and strangely chosen ratios of the manual in my Rover give it the feeling of a 12 speed gearbox with only five working gears.

  15. SlowJoeCrow Avatar
    SlowJoeCrow

    It somewhat depends on application. I have a copy of Performance Car from 1987 with an article advocating more gear rations because the more ratios available, the better the chances of having the engine running at optimum revs. The author sited the amazingly complex gearbox used on the Tiger tank and also advocated computer controlled shifting to avoid having to keep track of all those ratios.
    While the gear ratio arms race in automatics may create some sub-optimal implementations they concept is not wrong. There is a reason why 18 wheelers have complex transmission setups with 10-20 speeds, and touring bicycles have 30 speeds (although not all are usable)

    1. Sjalabais Avatar
      Sjalabais

      This is the answer I was looking for, sort of. For what’s the point with an 11-speed? Gas savings? Higher reliability vs a CVT? Certainly not weight savings? I’d love a sixth gear in my Honda to get the revs down even at 90 kph, but if I look at fuel consumption, there’s really no reason to complain anyway. The efficiency of things-as-they-are seems just fine.

      1. anonymic Avatar
        anonymic

        Fuel economy, reliability and power handling capacity vs. CVT.
        Quoted from myself in another comment, because I’m lazy:
        “The goal of CVT transmissions is to reduce fuel consumption by keeping the engine at maximum torque output for as long as possible before the transmission runs out of ratios then RPMs rise. This transmission is designed with the same goals in mind…”

        1. Sjalabais Avatar
          Sjalabais

          Wouldn’t that just be a matter of getting used to six gears? I had a ’71 Volvo 145 with its hand brake on the left, between door and seat. Getting used to the normal position in bw both front seats took a while after having sold the Volvo, but it eventually worked. Also, when my wife bought the first slushbox for us to own ever, I did a fair share of emergency braking coming into road crossings etc when I tried to push in the clutch that wasn’t there with my left foot…embarrassing, but unlearned now.
          The Honda is a 2002 Honda Stream. I guess you can always get more efficiency out of an engine by adding more gears. My point was more that the marginal improvement for every gear added must be reduced significantly after a while, where you’d really need to weigh it against the aded complexity and service need, as well as longevity. I feel even my short fifth gear is “efficient” enough, as I don’t see this car using so much less fuel with more gears either.

          1. anonymic Avatar
            anonymic

            Yes and no? Sure, you have to come to terms with the thing, but it’s not quite as straight forward as it being just slightly different like your hand brake location. Well, it is but it isn’t? We’re just tacking another gear on the end, that’s not so hard to get used to, you can always just row another gear over. But keeping mental track of where you are in the process while getting cues from your ears that don’t seem to line up with where you think you are is harder.
            Besides economy, the emissions system efficiency also plays into it. Besides getting peak economy at peak torque, I’m sure there’s something at peak torque that makes it desirable for emissions as well. Perhaps manifold pressures are ideal or the engine is less stressed in some way, or exhaust gasses are hotter.

          2. outback_ute Avatar
            outback_ute

            Also from a drivability point of view Japanese manufacturers won’t gear their cars (and trucks) so you have to change down any time the road is not flat (when fully loaded), at the expense of revving a bit higher

        2. wunno sev Avatar
          wunno sev

          ugh i experience this daily. i typically drive a car with a six-speed, but my other car has a five-speed, and when i’m in fifth i always have that nagging feeling that i should change up.

          1. anonymic Avatar
            anonymic

            I had a 91 Civic with a 4spd and stopped in to test drive the Dodge Dart Turbo when it was new. Talk about looking like an idiot.
            The other half drives a 5spd 5cyl Rabbit, so we go through this as well.

  16. JayP Avatar
    JayP

    Feels like I’m shifting more with the 6 speed. Car makes more power which makes me want longer gears with a 5 speed. I had to relearn a shift points.
    But it’s also aggravated by 3.73 gears in the 6 speed vs 3.55 in the 5 speed. Acceleration is bangbangbang – exceeding speed limit.

    1. anonymic Avatar
      anonymic

      I’ve had my 6spd since February and I’m just now feeling comfortable with it. Torque curves probably have more to do with the performance difference than the final drive. I put an engine from a 5spd car into a 4spd car and that bugger wouldn’t get out of it’s own way, despite having more than 20HP more than the old one. The reason was the base model engine had a torque curve that went up steep and sat pretty level over the RPM range, while the more powerful engine had a much more gradual rise and a defined peak. Had I put the 5spd in with it, the car would have been a handful, but instead it dogged on every shift which led to me running it nearly to red-line when anything had to happen fast. This ties in pretty well with my comment above about torque and fuel economy.

  17. ptschett Avatar
    ptschett

    8’s been great in the new Challenger. It makes me wish the Dakota had 2 more ratios (the 545RFE has 5 nominal speeds, but 6 ratios; 2-prime was judged to be too close to 2 for use in the usual sequence, but useful as a passing kickdown gear.)
    As for sticks, 5 is nice and 6 is plenty IMO. If I was staying in city limits I could go weeks without shifting to 6th in my old Challenger.

  18. anonymic Avatar
    anonymic

    The goal of CVT transmissions is to reduce fuel consumption by keeping the engine at maximum torque output for as long as possible before the transmission runs out of ratios then RPMs rise. This transmission is designed with the same goals in mind, but as the number of gears goes up, their size eventually must come down for a given form factor — usually determined by length for FWD cars. Hondas aren’t exactly known for outrageous amounts of torque in their smaller engines, but survival rates will likely suffer behind larger engines. Honda’s history with automatic transmissions and the fact that it has hydraulic circuits leads me to believe that they will ultimately be the Achilles heel of the transmission.

  19. MattC Avatar
    MattC

    I really think that 6 speed auto is the sweet spot for your typical sedan/CUV/SUV that is doing your daily commute. (I am happy that the new Ridgeline has 6 speed rather than the all too common zf9 speed) That being said, I have heard (not personally driven)that the ZF 8speed is an impressive transmission. I do feel that the ZF 9 speed (mush maligned in current FCA models) seems to suffer from poor programming rather that exploding into bits from poor components.

  20. Eric Rucker Avatar

    As far as automated transmissions, give me a good power split device.
    All of the flexibility of a CVT, none of the wear items, and you also get a hybrid system for free.
    Granted, for the Lexus GS 450h/LS 600h, Toyota has a 2-speed planetary reduction box on the end of a PSD, and for the LC 500h, they have a 4-speed planetary reduction box…

  21. Jignesh Prajapati Avatar

    Valtra T234 is with systematic..

  22. rionma Avatar
    rionma

    I totally agree about the transmissions though. Our neighbour has decently new green and yellow one, and a push button system just doesn’t deliver the same kind of satisfaction. https://tecnotrucchi.com/ilgeniodellostreaming/

  23. kecavav Avatar
    kecavav

    awesome blog post .thanks for sharing. https://mastercard-events.com/activate-citibank-credit-card/

  24. icity login Avatar

    Well, it is but it isn’t? We’re just tacking another gear on the end, that’s not so hard to get used to, you can always just row another gear over. https://azpayslips.co.uk/icity-login/

  25. derrick rose Avatar

    The measurements you decide to follow say a great deal regarding the sort of organization you’re building. Indeed, they can decide it.

%d bloggers like this: