Only 1 Full-Size Pickup Truck Is Still Relying on an 8-Speed Automatic Transmission

If it’s been a couple of years since you bought a new truck, you might be surprised to learn that the 10-speed automatic transmission is quickly becoming the industry standard. But one automaker is still relying on older eight-speed transmissions for every one of its pickup trucks: Ram.

What kind of transmission is in a Dodge Ram?

Every Ram 1500 and Ram 1500 Classic comes with a Torqueflite-branded, ZF-built eight-speed automatic. Gasoline-powered heavy-duty Rams also come with an eight-speed, but Ram pairs its Cummins-built diesel engine with an in-house six-speed and its high output Cummins with an Aisin-built six-speed.

Render of a Ram pickup truck with its powertrain and automatic transmission visible.
2020 Ram Heavy Duty 3500 Cummins powertrain | Stellantis

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Ram upgraded its half-ton truck, the Ram 1500, to an eight-speed transmission back in 2013. It kept this transmission through the truck’s 2019 fifth-generation redesign.

If you order a Ram 1500 with the base 3.6-liter V6, it comes with the 850RE eight-speed transmission. If you upgrade to the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 or the 3.0-liter turbocharged EcoDiesel V6, you also get the 8HP75 eight-speed transmission.

Both of these “Torqueflite” eight-speed transmissions are built under license by the ZF manufacturing group in Kokomo, Indiana. The 8HP eight-speed family by ZF is one of the most popular eight-speed transmissions in the world.

What trucks have a 10-speed transmission?

GM and Ford jointly engineered a 10-speed automatic transmission that’s standard in every new F-150 and every GMC Sierra/Chevy Silverado without the base 4-cylinder engine. The Toyota Tundra has an Aisin 10-speed transmission. The Nissan Titan has a nine-speed automatic. Ram is the only truck still relying on an eight-speed.

A Ford F-150 10-speed automatic transmission on display in a museum.
10-speed transmission F-150 transmission | Ford

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The 10-speed automatic transmission is quickly taking over the full-size pickup truck segment. Ford and GM jointly developed the 10R80/10L80 10-speed automatic for their light-duty pickup trucks back in 2017. This transmission’s first application was in the Ford F-150 Raptor, and it proved it can handle plenty of torque.

Ford/GM’s ten-speed proved so effective and efficient that when Toyota redesigned its Tundra for 2022, it went straight from a six-speed automatic to a 10-speed. Incidentally, Toyota seems to have set the Ford F-150’s powertrain as a benchmark: the automaker also built an engine very similar to Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost, a twin-turbocharged 3.44-liter V6.

Why do trucks have 10-speed transmissions?

More gears make trucks more efficient, even while towing. Multiple automakers are finding that ten gears make for an excellent pickup truck transmission.

Render of a Cummins engine and six-speed manual transmission.
Cummins Diesel engine with transmission | Ram

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One benefit of a 10-speed automatic in a pickup truck is keeping the engine in its ideal “power band” for efficiency. According to Car and Driver, the ZF eight-speed makes a truck engine’s RPMs drop 25-percent during an average shift. Ford’s 10-speed only makes the F-150’s RPMs drop 20 percent during an average shift.

Another benefit of a 10-speed automatic is efficient towing on the highway. The Ford/GM 10-speed has three overdrive gears: eighth, ninth, and tenth. Unloaded, the truck stays in tenth gear on the highway, but in tow/haul mode, ninth works as a relatively efficient top gear.

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