PH Blog: eighth wonder

The PistonHeads gongs (chief sponsor: Birds Custard) have been awarded for 2012, and the staff are still nursing hangovers from the enormous ceremony hosted by Stuart and Garlick down the local boozer - but there is one more prize I want to award. Component of the year.

No, not that Eighth Wonder...
No, not that Eighth Wonder...
The beauty of doing so now, and in the blog format, is that none of the others can disagree with me.

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.

Script re-write required after revelation
Script re-write required after revelation
That Porsche can make it behave so smoothly in a Panamera, and BMW so aggressively in the M135i proves how remarkably flexible the unit is. Furthermore, it always seems to extract incredible efficiency wherever it is used.

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.


Comments (191) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Stick Legs 13 Feb 2014

    Housey said:
    I've got this box in my F10 530D and it is an incredibly impressive combination. It works better than any auto I've driven, it's not perfect but its changes in sport mode are incredibly quick and well spaced to get the most from the car and engine. You can left food brake too for the person that asked, it's doesn't sap the power so you can play with it that way if that's your thing.

    My F10 530d has this with paddles, so a degree of manual control is possible. Would not have a three pedal manual in the F10 after driving this.
    Not in a 911 or similar though, but in fast saloons and GT cars it is perfect.

  • Church of Noise 03 May 2013

    The other thing with CVTs is that the 'public' tends to be rather freaked out because of the way they keep the revs more or less 'stable'.
    Audi offered an A6 with a CVT a couple of years ago and they didn't sell well... at all...

  • Thebaggers 01 May 2013

    Old topic dug up, sorry. I will make a prediction that in the next few years we will see some really solid steps forward in cvt. It must be the best solution for ultimate performance and economy; if the power consumption needs can be addressed.

  • Church of Noise 09 Jan 2013

    Even though I've not been a fan of automatic gearboxes for about all my life, I ordered an F31 BMW 318d Touring with the 8 speed automatic in September and got it in November.

    As was mentioned before, it's an absolutely sublime gearbox and it can't be compared to the 'old school' slow and laggy automatics. This one changes gear quickly and smoothly, making my city and motorway trips a lot more comfortable (the purpose of these is to get somewhere rather than to have fun). If I want to have some fun, I can take out one of the MGBs and enjoy the mechanical gearshift and total lack of comfort!

    Bottom line: if you haven't tried one, do so and report here smile

  • Wills2 08 Jan 2013

    E38Ross said:
    Wills2 said:
    they don't put the 8 speed auto in the 335i.
    yes, in the new one they do. PH actually reviewed it!
    Silly me I was thinking of the e92, yes in the F30/31 they do.

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