PH BLOG: EIGHTH WONDER
Harris on why ZF's eight-speed gearbox is a game changer
So, component of the year is: The ZF 8HP transmission. (Allows the applause to die down.)
If memory serves, this automatic transmission first appeared in the new Audi A8 - the one that looks like an A4, and an A6. Or was it the new 7 Series? Offering eight forward gears and weighing around 90kg this flagship product from ZF looked like it would perform the usual role: appear in the flagship German saloons and maybe percolate down into the fancier powertrains of the 5 Series class. This it did. And it was always absolutely excellent.
Then it appeared in the Panamera Diesel because PDK wouldn't work with the oil burner. It was miles more pleasant than PDK. This was a surprise.
And now this year it has appeared in a BMW 1 Series. In the M135i the ZF is so quick and intuitive I had to re-record a section of film because I had assumed it was a dual-clutch system. It will upshift in 200 milliseconds and then drop into BMW's Eco-Pro mode for some fuel saving. It's the first gearbox that appears to have the same breadth of aspirations, in terms of performance and economy, as the average car enthusiast's brain.
A few years ago, in the midst of the double-clutch boom - when everything fast was moving in that direction - I asked someone from a German car manufacturer if he thought all cars would soon be using such transmissions. He grinned. "Just wait till you see the next generation of automatic." He was right.