In 2023, automakers are eager to talk about that hot-new electric motor or battery pack that will be going into the next-generation EVs. Toyota is also dead set on electrifying its lineup from top to bottom, but it believes the transition shouldn’t be rushed. In the meantime, it’s still working on new hardware intended for cars with internal combustion engines. It’s a sign the Japanese brand believes the ol’ ICE isn’t on its deathbed just yet.
After Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda referred to the upcoming Direct Automatic Transmission as being a game changer, Japanese racing driver Hiroaki Ishiura is also praising DAT. He tested a GR Yaris with the new slushbox and is confident it’s faster than a manual, so much so you won’t be losing any time while going through the gears on a race track.
2020 Toyota GR Yaris
Speaking for the official Toyota Times magazine, Hiroaki Ishiura added: “It locks in from the moment you set off, responding linearly to gas pedal input and allowing you to shave time off your laps without any loss. DAT senses when you’re braking fully and downshifts for you to prepare for the next acceleration. It anticipates the actions ahead, just as we normally do when driving.”
Toyota says it has been working on this new gearbox since the second half of 2020. Although it’s only been tested in motorsport so far, reports from Japan state the GR Yaris will get an eight-speed, torque-converter automatic in 2024. For now, the official word is that DAT is being developed to encourage more people to get into motorsport by making it easier to race after removing the clutch pedal.
Hiroaki Ishiura says a conventional automatic transmission “feels slippery” and provides “little sense of a direct connection” whereas DAT mimics the behavior of a driver that rows their own gears. The engineering team came up with the idea of a faster automatic after Akio Toyoda said he wanted “to spread the joy of driving” because not a lot of people know how to drive a manual.
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