Honda, currently, adamantly sticks to a tried-and-true five-speed automatic transmission in many of its most popular models. The current Accord gets five cogs, since it’s been in production since 2008 and five speeds was the norm then. But the 2012 CR-V still sticks with it in a world of six-speeds and CVTs, which is like showing up to a gunfight with a Ferguson rifle.
Well, that could all be in the past. If the rumors are true, Honda could surge ahead of the competition in 2014 with a nine-speed automatic, besting the nearest competition by at least three gears. And here’s the kicker: by using this transmission, Honda would buck its longstanding tradition of building everything in-house. Instead, the transmissions would be built by ZF of Germany, which famously builds transmissions for BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and practically the rest of the industry.
This above competition, incidentally, doesn’t include Chrysler. The next Jeep Liberty is already slated to receive this transmission, and Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has been talking it up since 2010. Likewise, such a transmission would bring almost all of Honda’s and Acura’s crossovers into the 21st century. Designed for transverse, front- or all-wheel drive applications—perfect for the CR-V and Acura crossovers—the ZF unit can handle V-6s as well as four-cylinder engines, which nicely covers the entirety of Honda’s lineup. ZF says the transmission can handle up to 354 ft-lbs of torque, and since Acura’s biggest 3.7-liter V-6 produces 270 ft-lbs, cars like the TL and the MDX are well within the transmission’s limits.
That’s not to say that Acura products are slow. Honda is understandably mum on the details, but the rumor is that the next TL will be getting the fancy new tranny in 2013. Could a nine-speed automatic make it into, say, the next NSX? That’d be like showing up to a gunfight with the BFG 9000.