If you are shopping for a new pickup truck or big SUV, there’s one thing you should demand if you want decent performance. What is it? You may be surprised by the answer.
First of all, it isn’t the engine. More horsepower and torque are important. Yet those numbers are often more promising on paper than they are in real life.
A driver behind the wheel of a full-size pickup truck always expects a serious response but is often disappointed. This is true, too, of mid-size pickup trucks and big three-row SUVs. Where is the power needed for these rides?
Furthermore, the most important technology isn’t the latest driver avoidance features, although you should demand those on your new truck. After all, a truck that can brake itself is a terrific asset to businesses or individuals.
It isn’t a touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, although you should be looking for that. There are plenty of tech toys, but this is the one thing that you shouldn’t compromise on.
Nor is it’s value specifically tied to its fuel-saving ability, although it will help with that.
The most important technological feature of a new truck isn’t any of these things. It’s the ultra-modern automatic transmission. Getting more gears, particularly ten, is truly important for every mile you drive, for every load you haul, and for every trailer you pull. In big cities, the truck will handle stop and go traffic better with more gears.
Technology Makes the Load Move
Recent leaps in technology have led some truck manufactu rers to offer more advanced automatic transmissions. The pinnacle is the ten-speed automatic offered on Ford trucks and some Ford SUVs. There are others who are offering an eight-speed or nine-speed automatic. Why is it important to demand two, three, or four more speeds on your automatic truck or big SUV?
It wasn’t so long ago that cars and trucks were saddled with five-speed manuals or four-speed automatics. If you have ever driven one of those, you may have experienced the lag that existed between the push of the accelerator and the response of the truck’s transmission. This could leave you too slow in the fast lane. It could make you vulnerable in busy intersections. There were so many ways that these transmissions were a disappointment.
With computerization to assist, most trucks today have six-speed automatics. While these are better than the old ones, there is little wiggle room for the transmission to adjust to its load. The range of gears on the low end is just two. On the high end, it is just two. In the middle, well, it’s two.
The sheer size and bulk of a pickup truck demands more precision. Trucks perform differently when they are empty than when they have a big payload. Likewise, they perform differently when they are pulling a trailer than when they aren’t. Having four extra gears, like a Ford Ranger or Ford F150 does, allows for the transmission to adjust to these variables.
For pickup truck drivers, having more speeds means that they have extra help at low speeds when they are trying to start up a hill or pull a trailer from a standstill. It means having extra help at higher speeds.
A ten-speed automatic transmission provides a better bridge between what old strictly mechanical transmissions could do and what a truck needs to do. Technology allows the transmission to adjust to how much weight it feels. The system takes velocity into account. It notes wheelspin and the force of gravity, pulling it down a hill or trying to make it up a hill.
This is especially important when paired with more horsepower and more torque. If the truck has high numbers, but it cannot harness that extra power properly, it isn’t going to perform as well as it could.
The extra gears will channel the extra push of a high-torque engine. Suddenly the truck can respond in seconds to what it might have taken minutes with five or six speeds. The transmission adjusts for the weight, it reacts to the demand for a push, and it responds by harnessing torque at slow speeds.
At medium speeds, it is harnessing velocity whenever possible to keep the truck moving at an even pace. When higher speeds are demanded, the transmission has room in its gear arc to reach for more power. This helps it utilize every bit of its high horsepower.
There is one caution here. Some transmissions with more than six-speeds have had their difficulty. A shopper should research 8- and 9-speed automatics by truck brand and make sure that more speeds actually equals better performance.
Real World Consequences Go Beyond the Obvious
Moving a load better has many rewards. It means you get where you are going with less hassle. There are fewer slow-downs when you meet obstacles such as challenging mountain roads or difficult terrain.
For businesses, this will benefit the bottom line in little ways every day. Contractors travel to and from sites with less downtime. The truck needs less fuel and yet can do more. The transmission allows the truck to move bigger loads with less stress.
For the individual owner, it means a better ownership experience. Performance is enhanced. What daily driver doesn’t love that? Towing and hauling are easier. That makes big chores and even bigger adventures less stressful. Fuel use is controlled, making less impact on the wallet.
Finally, a more precise transmission is safer. It keeps the vehicle moving in heavy traffic. There is less likelihood of stalling or slowing due to a heavy load or a steep incline. That’s a benefit that any business or individual can embrace.
If you are shopping for a new pickup truck, you will do well to focus on buying one with an eight-speed or ten-speed automatic transmission. Those extra gears aren’t just for show. It’s the truly modern way to drive. That’s technology for work, for play and for performance.
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