10 Speed transmissions

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The Chev Camaro and Ford pick-up Raptor are using the current cutting edge of automotive technology: They represent the first application of automatic, 10 speed transmission technology in the industry.

A joint development by General Motors and Ford Motor Company, the new 10 speed combines an unprecedented range of performance and fuel efficiency in one gearbox. With the spread of ratios for Camaro and Raptor, this means that there is always a correct gear, no matter what is being asked of the car and its transmission. With the US government mandating increased fuel efficiency at the same time as consumers expecting increased performance, the 10 speed satisfies both goals.

“The 10-speed has a greater ratio spread, which enables fuel economy in the upper gears while providing more torque multiplication in the lower gears,” says Ford drivetrain engineer Seth Goslowski, who did extensive, extreme development on the Raptor.

Ford Raptor.
Ford Raptor.

Ford was the lead engineering team on the rear wheel drive 10 speed, while GM leads development on a joint, 9-speed, front wheel drive transmission.

The effect of an automotive 10 speed allows for better torque at low speeds, better cruising in high gear. For Raptor that translates to steep rock crawling where the big truck uses gears one-two. For the Camaro the closer low-end gear ratios enable it to better manage the 650 pound foot of torque in order to accelerate from zero to 100 k in 3.5 seconds, true supercar times.

Crucial to the joint program, dubbed 10 Speed Rear Drive (or 10R for short), was that the gearbox’s packaging would fit the same space as the base Camaro’s eight-speed transmission and the Ford F-150’s six-speed automatic.

Camaro Chief Engineer Al Oppenhimer says the 10-speed was the perfect fit for the low-volume, high-performance ZL1. Tested on some off the world’s most challenging race tracks, the Camaro shares GM’s most capable V-8 with the Corvette Z06.

The Camaro ZL1’s 100 millisecond upshifts easily puts it in supercar territory where vehicles like the dual-clutch, $200,000 Porsche Turbo gearboxes shift in 500 milliseconds.

Ford’s first application goes in Raptor, its highest-volume vehicle. In addition to the Raptor, Ford has announced that all F-150’s with the Ecoboost V-6 engines will get the 10R as well.

Combined with turbo technology, the 10R allows the Raptor to gain 16 percent fuel efficiency over the previous generation six speed auto gearbox.

The Ford/GM 10 speed technology is being rapidly followed by other automakers. Lexus is introducing a 10 speed in its LC 500 supercar due in May. Meanwhile, Honda has taken out a patent for an 11 speed box. And Volvo and Mercedes trucks have been running 12 speed automatics for a few years.

The auto industry has gone a long way since ‘three on the tree’ gave way to ‘four on the floor’.