In mid-2018 there were none and in 2019 there'll be three to choose from.

It’s always amazed us that working-4x4 ute and light truck makers have stuck with manual transmissions, when all earthmoving gear and most heavy all wheel drive trucks have automatic transmissions. Thankfully, that scene is changing and there will be three self-shifting light 4x4 trucks available in 2019. 


The immediate choice is Isuzu’s market-leading Isuzu NPS300 4x4 that has just been released with the company’s automated manual transmission (AMT). 

Another factory-fitted AMT 4x4 light truck will come from Iveco, in the form of the 2019 Daily 4x4. There’s no official release date for this van and cab/chassis range as yet, but we reckon the Australian Iveco organisation is champing at the bit for the upgraded model, with its optional eight-speed self-shifter.

AMT models normally attract a RRP increase in the $3000-$4000 band.

The third entrant into the self-shifting 4x4 light truck market is Hino’s 817 4x4, but there’s no factory-auto-fitment for this truck as yet. However, there is an Allison after-market automatic transmission kit available from Penske and I was lucky enough to test drive the prototype vehicle.

First up, some background into 4x4 light truck two-pedal drivelines.


Why AMT and not full automatic

Isuzu and Iveco have adopted automated manual transmissions for their 4x4 light trucks for two main reasons: lower cost than a torque-converter transmission and reduced torque loading in the driveline.

Torque loading is a significant issue with 4x4s, because the transfer case low range ratio multiplies transmission torque by up to 3:1 in most cases.That’s a lot of torque loading going into propeller shafts, differentials and half shafts.

In the case of a torque converter automatic transmission, such as the Allison (left), there’s additional torque multiplication by the fluid coupling’s stator – typically 2.5:1 – and the transfer case may not have the torque capacity to handle that additional torque loading.

Most automated manual transmissions don’t have that torque multiplication. In the case of Isuzu’s NPS300 AMT that does have a fluid coupling there’s no stator in the coupling, so there’s no torque increase.

The Hino 817 4x4 is a different beast from its competitors, in that it employs the large transfer case from the company’s GT, 13-tonnes GVM truck, so there’s ample torque capacity in the transfer case to handle more than double the 817’s engine torque peak of 464Nm. Hence, it can accept a torque-converter fully-automatic transmission.


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