It seems just a short while ago when the auto world was in awe of Lexus’ groundbreaking 8-speed automatic in their LS flagship sedan. Fast forward just a few years, and 8-speeds have become the industry standard, providing both fuel economy and performance for customers. The “gear wars” are slated to continue, however, after Mercedes-Benz announced this week that the European-spec 2014 E350 Bluetec will come standard with a 9-speed automatic unit.
Built by the famed transmission maker ZF, the newest transmission in the Mercedes lineup is called the 9G-Tronic, and it represents the first 9-speed auto available on the mass market. Although the 9-speed 2014 Jeep Cherokee and Range Rover Evoque are not far behind. Though the 9G-Tronic unit leaves the E350 Bluetec’s 0-60 time untouched at 6.6 seconds, it significantly affects fuel economy over the 7-speed unit–city numbers jump from 34.1 to 36.7 MPG, and highway numbers increase from 42.8 to 44.4 MPG thanks to the extra gear ratios.
Mercedes executives were very shy about the announcement of the new transmission. The development was officially denied until this past weekend, when the 9G-Tronic unit appeared on the Mercedes website as an E-class option for the German market. The modest announcement was most likely to keep unnecessary hype and press at bay.
The 9G-Tronic unit is currently available only on the European-spec E350 Bluetec with the 3.0-liter diesel, but not on any North American Mercedes products. However, with other 9-speed autos from other European makers (namely, Land Rover) soon on their way to the US, expect the 9G-Tronic unit to be available within the next year on much of the Mercedes-Benz lineup.
Take a look at the TFLcar.com video of this year’s debut of the 5 new 2014 E-class models.