Land Rover announced the development of the world's first nine-speed...

Land Rover announced the development of the world's first nine-speed automatic transmission for a passenger car. Credit: Land Rover

Land Rover is making a major shift in transmission technology with its new nine-speed automatic, which the British automaker is demonstrating at the 2013 Geneva International Motor Show in March. Land Rover said the newly developed transmission, a first for passenger vehicles, will be available on the 2014 Range Rover Evoque.

Increasing the number of gears from six to nine will help reduce emissions and improve efficiency, Land Rover said in a statement. The automaker said the nine-speed transmission's smaller steps will also improve acceleration response, as well as shift quality and refinement.

"A higher top gear improves efficiency by lowering engine speed, which also improves comfort and reduces noise when cruising at highway speeds," Land Rover said.

The nine-speed -- developed with transmission-manufacturer ZF -- will also complement the all-terrain capabilities for which Land Rover is known, the automaker said. The lowest speed is geared lower than the existing six-speed's lowest and is designed for off-road use, towing and steep gradients.

While Land Rover will be the first to officially launch a nine-speed automatic, Chrysler also has plans to include one in several of its vehicles, including the 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said last month that a nine-speed also may be added to the Dodge Dart in hopes of making the compact sedan more palatable to American buyers, who reacted tepidly to both the manual transmission and dual-clutch automatic.

Just today, Chrysler announced that it would invest $374 million in its Indiana transmission plants in Kokomo and Tipton, in large part for the assembly of its nine-speed transmissions, adding as many as 1,250 new jobs; work is slated to begin between second-quarter 2013 and first-quarter 2014.

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