Honda Innovation Delivers 10 Speeds, No Clutch Pedal

Honda 10-speed Automatic cutawayHonda’s new automatic transaxle revives the company’s dormant spirit of invention. During much of this past decade, it seemed as if Honda had taken a break from stretching technological boundaries. The arrival of a new 10-speed transaxle suggests that the engineers’ creativity nap has ended.

This new 10-speed automatic mates to a 280-hp 3.5-liter V-6. It made its first appearance nestled between the front wheels of the fifth-generation 2018 Odyssey minivan. Credit Honda with two significant firsts: This is both the first 10-speed automatic for any front-wheel-drive vehicle and Honda’s first use of planetary gearsets.

Until now, Honda automatic transmissions have fit into three categories: belt-and-pulley continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) manufactured in-house, planetary automatics purchased from suppliers (such as the nine-speed ZF design that will continue to be available on lower trim levels of the new Odyssey), and Honda-built automatics combining a torque converter with servo-shifted helical gears. That last arrangement, which anticipated today’s popular dual-clutch automatics, was highly developed to work well in scores of Honda models that were sold for decades.

The need for greater packaging efficiency is what drove Honda to its new planetary-gear 10-speed. According to Tom Sladek, a development leader for the Odyssey at Honda’s Ohio R&D office, the traditional helical-gear approach simply wouldn’t accommodate 10 forward gears in the available space. The new automatic was designed and developed by Honda R&D in Tochigi, Japan, and is being manufactured for the Odyssey by Honda in Tallapoosa, Georgia.

Using planetary gearsets also reduces friction, noted Sladek. The new transaxle is barely 15 inches long, 1.7 inches shorter than the six-speed it replaces. Four planetary gearsets, three hydraulic clutches, three brakes, and a slim torque converter are all in line with the engine’s crankshaft. Another space saver is a two-way clutch that replaces the one-way clutch and multiplate brake that previously shifted between forward and reverse.

Honda 10-speed annotated

A three-stage vibration damper built into the new torque converter helps make the V-6’s cylinder deactivation and stop-start operation barely noticeable. Sladek claims that shift times are 30 percent quicker thanks to the reduced friction, the low rotational inertia of the planetary gearsets, and more efficient hydraulic controls and actuators. Skip-ratio downshifts from 10th to sixth and from seventh to third gears improve response. The 10.1 ratio spread between first and 10th gears is 3 percent wider than the spread provided by ZF’s nine-speed. In top gear at 60 mph, engine rpm drops by 400 rpm versus the previous six-speed automatic.

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According to Sladek, the initial torque capacity is 275 lb-ft, with enough headroom built into the design to accommodate the expected spread from the new Odyssey throughout the Honda and Acura product lineups. While initial applications will be front-drive only, it’s safe to assume that a power takeoff can be added for all-wheel drive in the future.


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