Hyundai Motor India recently announced that it will introduce a new gearbox option on the Venue subcompact SUV with the 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine. The new gearbox option is called the intelligent manual transmission or the iMT. The iMT is a one of its kind gearbox offered in the subcompact SUV segment. The Toyota Fortuner diesel has an intelligent manual transmission option. Kia will offer the iMT on the Sonet too, which will be launched in India this year. But what exactly is the intelligent manual transmission and how does it work? Here is a lowdown.
What is an iMT?
So, the iMT eliminates the need of a clutch pedal. To put it simply, imagine you are driving a car with a manual gearbox. Usually when you change gears, you press the clutch pedal, take your foot off the accelerator and shift the gear with the help of the gear knob. In a car with iMT technology, there is no clutch pedal. So, your left foot is basically resting while driving. When you do feel the need to change gears, just slot the gear knob into the desired position and shift up or down like you normally would. The gear knob will have the traditional H-pattern which is seen on almost all manual cars. Plus, there will be just two pedals in the footwell, the accelerator and the brake pedal. While it may feel disconcerting at first, it will be a welcome change when you are driving a car on traffic laden roads, in a bumper to bumper traffic situation. It is just a matter of getting used to.
How does it work?
Now, let us understand the technology behind this! Simply put, in an intelligent manual transmission, there is a clutch that exists but it is operated electronically with the help of a myriad variety of sensors and not by a clutch pedal that needs to be pressed every time one wants to change gears. In a car with iMT, there is an 'intention sensor' on the gear lever, which gets activated when the gears are shifted. The intention sensor on the gear lever sends a signal to the transmission control unit or TCU when the gears are changed. Then, the TCU sends a signal to the hydraulic clutch actuator to engage or disengage the clutch plate when the gear if shifted up or down. Here, the work of the actuator is to build up hydraulic pressure and transfer the same via a concentric slave cylinder (CCS) which in turn engages/disengages the clutch plate.
Are iMT and AMT the same thing?
No! They aren't one and the same thing! In an AMT or automated manual transmission, you do not have to operate either the clutch nor do you shift gears manually. There is an actuator unit that does the job for you. It is basically driving an automatic car. But, in a car with intelligent manual transmission, one still needs to shift gears manually, with the help of a gear knob. So, in a sense, you still control the revs like you would in a manual car, but without the action of pressing the clutch.
Which cars in India have iMT?
Like we mentioned earlier in the story, Hyundai will be the first manufacturer to offer this technology on a subcompact SUV in India, the Venue. But it was Venue's sister SUV, the upcoming Kia Sonet subcompact SUV that was supposed to debut this technology at its launch. Guess Hyundai beat Kia to it! So yes! The Kia Sonet will have an iMT variant too. Internationally, the Kia Rio has this technology as well. It was developed especially for mild-hybrid cars. The Toyota Fortuner with the diesel engine option has an iMT variant as well.
Globally, Kia, Hyundai and Toyota offer intelligent manual transmission on their cars. Saab, the now defunct Swedish car manufacturer offered a similar technology, called the 'Sensonic' on its turbo models back in the 90s. So, the iMT technology isn't really new, so to say!
Any Benefits of iMT technology?
Well, we haven't tested a car with iMT technology and we are definitely looking forward to drive one so we are yet to test the benefits offered, if any by iMT technology. The biggest benefit could be that driving in traffic will become easier. Plus, you will still get the feel of a manual car when you shift gears. Then, iMT technology is said to offer better fuel efficiency too, because of electronically controlled clutch operations. Sure, it will take some time getting used to, but will be a more comfortable driving experience.