Mercedes-Benz has quietly added a new nine-speed automatic to its E-Class range, and the option is likely to arrive in Australia next year. The transmission, labelled a 9G-TRONIC, is selectable on the configurator of the automaker’s German website and so far is only available with E350 BlueTEC trim, where it replaces a previous seven-speed 7G-TRONIC.
“We currently don't take the E350 Bluetec but are looking at taking it,” Mercedes-Benz Australia spokesman David McCarthy says. “Basically we tried to trim the E-Class range, but there is still some demand for the E350 so potentially we'll bring it here.
“In terms of the nine-speed flowing through to the rest of the E-Class range, we expect it will happen next year, but the E350 Bluetec is the first application. We also expect the nine-speed to be offered on the new S-Class range, so in a nutshell we could see it here next year but don't have any more accurate timing at the moment.”
McCarthy says the arrival of new technology on models that sit below the flagship S-Class -- traditionally the tech leader for Mercedes (and the rest of the industry) -- has been rare but not unknown.
“Some of our safety technology was launched first on the B-Class,” he says. “Sure, in the past everything appeared first on the S-Class and then filtered down, but these days the technology is often being developed over more than one vehicle. And the reality is that you are competing in every segment, so you are considering which other cars to put it in.”
Land Rover was the first to announce a nine-speed automatic for one of its cars, a ZF unit designed for transverse applications. However, the Mercedes transmission is designed for longitudinal applications and has been developed in-house.
The extra gears are said to yield significant improvements in fuel economy and CO2 emissions. Advantages over dual-clutch units include lighter weight, better reliability, less complexity and cheaper manufacturing and repair costs.
In the E350 BlueTEC diesel sedan, which rates at 185 kilowatts, the nine-speed automatic helps the car achieve 0-100km/h acceleration in just 6.6 seconds and fuel economy of 7.7L/100km in the city cycle, up from 8.3L/100km with the previous seven-speeder. The highway figure remains unchanged at 5.6L/100km.
The 9G-TRONIC will eventually feature on other Mercedes models, though its availability will be announced at a later date. Numerous other automakers are looking to additional gear ratios to eke out further savings in fuel consumption. The aforementioned ZF ‘box will soon be added to some Chrysler products and Ford and General Motors have announced plans to develop new nine- and ten-speed automatic transmissions together.