What Was the Final US-Market Car with a Four-Speed Transmission?

The first truly successful automatic transmission had four forward speeds and could be purchased in new 1940 Oldsmobiles. For decade after decade, though, most two-pedal cars sold here had either two or three speeds; only in the early 1980s did the overdrive-equipped four-speed automatic become commonplace on American roads. The four-speed automatic stayed with us until very, very recently… so what was the very last new vehicle to be so equipped in the United States?

Three-speed automatics came in the very cheapest Toyota Corolla/Chevrolet Prizm models until 2002. Four-speed manuals held on in the Toyota Tercel until 1996. You’d think that the very last four-speed automatic would have come bolted into a Toyota product, and such was almost—but not quite—the case.

The Yaris could be purchased new in the United States with a four-speed automatic all the way through the 2019 model year. Most buyers chose the far more modern six-speed slushbox, while a handful took the six-speed manual. However, in this case Toyota does not win the crown for keeping reliable old technology alive for the longest time. That award goes to an American manufacturer, 33 years after General Motors installed the very last three-on-the-tree column-shift manual transmissions in trucks.

The final four-speed machine sold new in the United States was (actually, is) the 2020 Dodge Journey. While you can still buy one of these crossovers new (while supplies last), the Journey got the official axe last summer.

Based on a Mitsubishi-developed platform (making it first cousin to the Mitsubishi Outlander), the Journey began its sales run in the 2009 model year. American buyers who upgraded to the optional V6 engine also got a six-speed automatic; Europeans purchasing the Fiat Freemont-badged Journey could get six-speed manuals if they so chose. For 2020, all Journeys have four cylinders and four forward speeds.

Another antiquated-but-still-useful bit of technology disappears, and 10-speed automatics enter the mainstream. Still, you can buy a five-speed manual in four 2021 vehicles (Chevrolet Spark, Mitsubishi Mirage, Nissan Versa, Subaru Impreza), so not all early-1980s automotive traditions have disappeared… yet.



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