When it comes to transmissions, Mercedes-Benz only trusts itself. That has advantages, but also disadvantages. Because there are companies that have a lot of expertise in gearbox production and, as a supplier, have specialized in manufacturing premium gearboxes for premium brands, among other things. When ZF came onto the market with the 8-speed machine a few years ago, many automobile manufacturers took advantage of it. Whether Audi, BMW or Jaguar - the eight-speed automatic converter from ZF is convincing. At Mercedes-Benz, however, you only had 7 gears. Regardless of whether it is rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, whether diesel, gasoline or hybrid drive, the 7-speed automatic machine is the all-purpose weapon at Daimler. But according to the old displacement motto, nothing beats the number of gears, unless - more gears.
It was time for the first 9 gear machine.
9 course menu with a star
E 350 CDI in the transmission check
The 9-stage automatic got its first series production in a car that a) is about to be replaced and b) was actually least dependent on a further spreading of gears. The E-Class with the potent diesel engine, christened E350 CDI for short, not only brings 252 hp to service, but also an exhilarating 620 Nm between 1.600 and 2.400 revolutions.
If you look at the maximum torque and its speed level, you can see with a smile why the 9 automatic gearbox was coupled with this engine. In order to take the lead, you don't actually need more than 2.400 revolutions in the E350 CDI with 9 automatic level control and you always stay in the maximum efficiency range of the diesel.
Power like a nuclear submarine
The greatest fascination for the E-Class with this drive train is when the power up into the top gears can only be reached by stroking the accelerator pedal. No maximum attack like in the pupa promenade stray. In this case, this E-Class would turn its gears like a fun fair boxer suspected of dope. No - you have said goodbye to this pupular speed game - or can - as soon as you get behind the wheel of the BLUETEC Has taken a seat. The diesel tumbles its way up the speed ladder like a marijuana-smoking tambourine player and nevertheless pushes the ride, painted in dolomite brown, forward with omnipotent force. Just. The preferred gait is dignified - easy - a little playful on the accelerator. If you are inattentive, you won't even notice how the new 9-speed automatic plucks through the gears. Like the arcade hero in the pinball game for the special free game on level 9, thing, thing, thing. The diesel can only be represented by a cautious movement on the rev counter. There is thrust - the 620 Nm push the gears on the four planetary gear sets through the aluminum housing of the gearbox. From level two, the gear change disappears beyond recognition in the waves of the applied torque. The E-Class pushes it like an Oscar-class submarine through the surging foam crowns of everyday traffic. The driver sits in the usual good seats - has to make a conscious effort to listen to the well-known taxi melody of the engine and is amazed at the cramped faces in the next lane. Here on board - integrated between the meanwhile slightly baroque displays and fittings, kept in the form of active seating - you get to know the term "surfing the torque wave" with a completely new endurance. From a speed of 100, gear step 9 can be read on the display. Meanwhile, the speed has dropped so far that old driving instructors would break into sweats - bleating out of the fear that the engine was turning much too low - would break out of them.
But don't worry. Transmission and engine control are well coordinated, they know what they can and may do. That is a good idea if the cruise control on 120 only rotates a hair's breadth above the idling speed.
Thrust is always there.
From idle speed and gear step 9 down to the lower gear steps and up to the upper speed regions? He can. He doesn't really have to. But when the driver's foot emphatically announces the simple desire for maximum pressure, the new 9-speed automatic jumps over several gear steps and promptly fulfills this request. Sorting several gears is surprisingly quick from the shift fork. Double torsion damper and a centrifugal pendulum in the converter meanwhile ensure decent shifting comfort. The technology is not new, but has been further refined. And that the guys at the transmission plant in Hedelfingen have done their job well, you can feel with every kilometer. Or to put it another way: you actually don't feel anything.
This new nine-speed automatic can still be recognized in the first two gears as a gearbox with fixed gear steps, after which the new automatic gearshift blurs its tracks and works efficiently and barely noticeable.
Thirst like a moped
There's a good reason for maximizing the gears. It is the constant striving for even more efficiency and thus also for lower consumption - especially in the fleet. Those who turn lower are more economical sooner.
Mercedes-Benz itself speaks of a NEDC mix consumption of 5.3 to 5.6 liters per 100 kilometers, depending on the tires and special equipment. For a sedan up to 250 km / h fast, for 620 Nm, for 252 HP, for space for 5 with luggage - an excellent value. On the standard consumption lap, the E-Class not only excelled in terms of extreme driving comfort, but also with a consumption of 5.8 liters per 100 kilometers. This is not the NEDC standard, but considering the circumstances - simply - very good.
In everyday life, however, 6.5 to 7.5 liters are more realistic. With 252 PS, even 8 liters are perfectly fine on fast motorway stages. Whereby the drive comfort of the E350 CDI prefers to enjoy cruise control 140. The engine grumbles quietly, the speed is somewhere below 1.500 revs and the interior exudes the calming baroque charm of Swabian cosiness.
The spread of a transmission indicates how far away the lowest and highest gear are in the transmission ratio of the transmission. Mercedes new nine-speed automatic has a spread of 1 between gear 9 and gear 9.15. The widely acclaimed ZF transmission with 8 stages [8HP] allows a total spread of 7.0. Like the HP8, the new Mercedes transmission can withstand up to 1.000 Nm input torque and also works in an all-wheel drive version. Furthermore, the 9-speed automatic transmission will also support the hybridization of future models by incorporating a disc electric motor. Start-stop is of course integrated. It looks like the HP8 has found its master.
With the 7-speed automatic, Mercedes has a deficit in the model range. The competitor's 8-speed ZF machines can do everything better than the outdated 7-speed transmission. It was time to remove this penalty. The kilometers driven in the E-Class with 9-speed automatic were darned fun and made an extremely good impression.
Yes - the Mercedes 9-speed gearbox can shift noticeably, especially in gears 1 and 2, but from level 3 at the latest, the shifting processes finally merge and what remains is an idea of useful - but seemingly endless torques.
There are now newly tuned engines at Mercedes and the E350 Diesel can go on the long tour with 258 PS. And the 9 multi-speed automatic transmission was approved for an E300 BlueTEC diesel with 231 PS. This is good news in that the E350 with just under 55.000 € is on the list, the only slightly more hesitant E300 with good 52.000 € and these 3.000 € are just a good start to help yourself with the opulent price list of special equipment and the constant smell of taxi from the E-Class.
Well done, Mercedes. Well done!