What’s the Difference Between 5-Speed & 6-Speed Transmission?

Nowadays, many of the latest car models are being made with 6 gears (known as 6-speed transmission) as opposed to 5 (5-speed transmission). But what does this mean and how will it impact your driving?

Read our guide to learn the difference between 5-speed and 6-speed transmissions.

Underdrive to Overdrive

First of all, let us briefly explain how gearboxes work. The gearbox passes drive power to the wheels of your car, allowing it to move efficiently in all driving conditions depending on your speed. The higher the gear you are in, the more power is inputted and the faster the rotation of the physical gear in the gearbox, meaning the more drive being passed on to your wheels.

So, what is each gear best for? To understand how gear numbers work, it is important to understand what is meant by gear ratio. This is the ratio between the input gears (engine power) and the output gears (rotation that drives the wheels). The lower the ratio, the better the acceleration, the higher the ratio, the higher the top speed.

Gears 1-3 in a car have a low gear ratio, which is known as underdrive. This means they provide the best acceleration and traction. Gear 4 usually operates in a 1:1 ratio, having equal acceleration and speed capability. Gears 5 and 6, then, have a high gear ratio, also known as overdrive. This means they can achieve a higher top speed with lower revs per minute (RPM).

What is 6 Speed Transmission?

As the name suggests, a 6 speed has 6 forward gears and one reverse gear (often with a reverse lockout). The first 3 gears are normally underdrive gears and multiply torque from the engine (more on this later).

4th gear is normally a 1:1 ratio, i.e. if the engine is doing 6,000rpm, the tailshaft will also be doing 6,000 rpm. 5th gear and 6th gear are normally overdrive gears, these gears reduce the rpm that the driveshaft spins at.

For example, if 5th speed is a 0.25 overdrive, changing from 4th gear to 5th gear will drop engine rpm for 3,000 revs to 2,250rpm.

A brief overview of the benefits of a 6 speed manual transmission, include advantages like a massive increase in acceleration, more power when you need it regardless of road speed, quieter and more relaxed highway cruising, reduced engine wear and vastly improved fuel economy.

6-Speed Manual Transmissions

The transmission has six forward gears and one reverse gear. All the gears on the main shaft, except the reverse, have synchromesh engagement.

Traditionally, six-speed manual units have been reserved for high-performance cars. These transmissions feature closer gear ratios than a five-speed manual unit, allowing the driver to stay within the engine’s ideal rpm range.

Also, the sixth forward gear allows highway cruising without making the engine work so hard. The Mazda RX-8 is one of many such cars that use a six-speed manual. In more recent times, even some mainstream cars such as the 2011 Ford Fusion have offered six-speed manual units.

6-Speed Automatic Transmissions

A 6-speed automatic transmission is a car transmission equipped with 6 forward gear ratios (although there are many more actual, physical “gears” inside the transmission). Unlike manual transmissions, automatic transmissions can automatically shift gears based on the analysis of factors such as load, speed, and throttle position.

The function of this type of transmission is to change the gear ratio of the engine rpm and the torque of the wheels like other gearboxes. The first 3 gears are operated as driving gears and are multiplied by the torque from your car engine. 5th and 6th gears like overdrive and they are mostly used when driving on the highway.

The role of these gears is to reduce engine rpm when the moving shaft rotates. With the corresponding 6-speed, the ECU will have more options to help the best balance between engine torque and wheel resistance.

Thereby, helping drivers to easily perform manipulations like parking, reversing, and steering. Because it’s an automatic transmission, you don’t need to change gears, your car will do it for you, all you need to do is to drive your car.

What is 5 Speed Transmission?

The fixed and free gears can be mounted on either the input or output shaft or both. For example, a five-speed transmission might have the first-to-second selectors on the countershaft, but the third-to-fourth selector and the fifth selector on the main shaft.

This means that when the vehicle is stopped and idling in neutral with the clutch engaged and the input shaft spinning, the third-, fourth-, and fifth-gear pairs do not rotate.

The manual transmission is synchronized in all forward gears for smooth operation. It has a lockout so you cannot shift directly from Fifth to Reverse. When shifting up or down, make sure you push the clutch pedal down all the way, shift to the next gear, and let the pedal up gradually.

5-Speed Manual Transmission

Up until the late 1970s, most transmissions had three or four forward gear ratios, although five-speed manual transmissions were occasionally used in sports cars such as the 1966 Ferrari 166 Inter and the 1953 Alfa Romeo 1900 Super Sprint. Five-speed transmissions became widespread during the 1980s, as did the use of synchromesh on all forward gears.

5-speed automatic transmission

A 5-speed shiftable automatic transmission provides the ease of use offered by an automatic transmission coupled with the sportiness and increased fuel economy offered by a manual transmission.

What is the difference between a 5-speed and 6-speed manual transmission?

6-speed & 5- Speed Manual Transmission

Now that we’ve explored how gears and gear ratios work, how does this mean gears 5 and 6 differ? Essentially, there’s not a huge difference in when you would use either of them, since they are both overdrive gears, but having a car with 6 speeds will offer some improvement on your driving performance and fuel economy.

The main difference between a five speed and six speed transmission is how they handle overdrive. On the highway where it’s reasonable to drive at speeds around 65 miles per hour, overdrive gears help save fuel. The engine doesn’t need to work as hard to maintain speed. That extra sixth gear is even more efficient.

Because higher gears mean you can travel at faster speeds with a lower RPM, having a 6th speed allows your car to run at a high speed with an even lower RPM than that of the 5th gear. This will offer better cruise driving whilst saving your fuel, making the car both more efficient and boosting its fuel economy – especially if you often travel on motorways or routes where the national speed limit is in place.

This also allows you to have a more comfortable drive, since the car is using less power to reach the same speed and higher in 6th gear compared to 5th gear and the engine is not having to work as hard the faster that you go, resulting in smoother and quieter cruising, as well as reducing the rate of engine wear.

Ultimately, it isn’t a particularly compromising factor if your new car uses a 5-speed transmission instead of 6-speed transmission. But, if you are lucky enough to have upgraded to 6 gears, then know that your drive will be that bit more comfortable and economical than before.


What Does A 6-Speed Transmission Mean?

If a vehicle has a six-speed transmission, it means it has six forward gears. A six-speed typically means a manual transmission that has six gears, but both automatic and manual vehicles can have six-speed transmissions.

What Is The Advantage Of A 6-Speed Transmission?

A brief overview of the benefits of a 6-speed manual transmission, includes advantages like a massive increase in acceleration, more power when you need it regardless of road speed, quieter and more relaxed highway cruising, reduced engine wear, and vastly improved fuel economy.

Is A 6-Speed Transmission Better Than A 4 Speed?

The 6-speed typically will have tighter gears(quicker time through the gears) and the other has longer gears. More gears, however, allow for a higher top speed when heated properly, and possibly better gas mileage in the right application. But keep in mind that more gears mean more weight.

What Does 5-Speed Transmission Mean?

The transmission has five fully synchronized forward speeds. The gear shift pattern is provided on the transmission lever knob. The backup lights turn on when shifted into the reverse gear.

Is A 5-Speed Automatic Transmission Good?

The 5-speed automatic reliably keeps the action going in every driving condition. It provides smooth takeoffs and shifts. And with a 5th gear for highway driving, you can have quiet and efficient performance at highway speeds.

Is A 5 Speed Or 6-Speed Better?

The main difference between a five-speed and six-speed transmission is how they handle overdrive. On the highway where it’s reasonable to drive at speeds around 65 miles per hour, overdrive gears help save fuel. The engine doesn’t need to work as hard to maintain speed. That extra sixth gear is even more efficient.