Why Do So Many Automakers Use the 8-Speed ZF Transmission?

What does the Aston Martin Vantage, Jeep Track Hawk, Toyota Supra, and pretty much every BMW have in common? They all use an eight-speed ZF 8HP automatic transmission. But wait, there’s more. In fact, there’s plenty of cars that are all different sizes and from different segments that use this same transmission, or at least some variation of it. But why do so many automakers choose to equip their cars with the ZF transmission?

The ubiquitous ZF 8HP automatic transmission

According to Car and Driver, ZF built a whopping 3.5 million 8HP transmissions in 2017. For those not in the know, the 8HP automatic transmission, produced by German manufacturer ZF, is one of the most ubiquitous transmissions on the automotive market. Known for its smooth and quick shifts, the ZF eight-speed transmission is quickly finding its way into many different cars, trucks, and SUVs and even replacing the more race-like dual-clutch transmission as the gears shifter of choice for sporty applications.

ZF 8HP Transmission
ZF 8HP Transmission | ZF

What makes the ZF eight-speed transmission so preferable?

When it comes to designing and manufacturing a car, automakers need to pay attention to the functionality and design of every part and, as you can imagine, selecting the proper transmission for the job is extremely important. Fortunately, the venerable ZF 8HP transmission is available in a longitudinal form for rear- and all-wheel-drive applications, which is why you’ll find it in a lot of different trucks and SUVs.

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Additionally, the ZF 8HP is versatile as it can handle between 162 and 770 lb-ft of torque and is compatible with a variety of rear or all-wheel-drive configurations, such as those fitted with a center differential or even those with a two-speed transfer case. Furthermore, the 8HP transmission can even accommodate an electric motor, as found in some BMW applications, in lieu of a torque converter, making it super flexible for hybrid applications as well. Case in point, the flexibility of this transmission means that there are lower development costs for automakers when they use it across different platforms.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk HPE1000
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk HPE1000 | Hennessey Performance

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Is the ZF transmission better than the dual-clutch transmission?

Back in 2003, the Volkswagen R32 made the dual-clutch transmission popular it has been widely used for race and exotic car applications ever since. And although it does shift very quickly, it’s not as smooth as the ZF 8HP transmission when it comes to daily driving duties. Once upon a time, many critics thought that the DCT would be the transmission of the future but now, almost 20 years later, it’s looking like the ZF 8HP transmission is the one to beat.

And that’s not too shocking, considering the ZF’s use of a torque converter makes for smoother engagement and has the ability to incorporate launch control programs. Couple that with the aforementioned versatility, along with a lighter weight and lower production cost, and we can see why many automakers from all over the globe are choosing to go with the ZF 8 HP transmission across most of their platforms.