By Andrew Ganz
Monday, Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 11:45 am
 
More gears, more fun, right? As eight-speed automatic transmissions are becoming increasingly common in mainstream cars like the Dodge Charger and Ram pickups, it's worth remembering that there are still more than a few vehicles that boast half that many gears.

Is this a bad thing? Well, it's not necessarily good, but it does sometimes help keep the price of certain vehicles down. This is appealing to the kind of buyer concerned with only the bottom line when it comes time to signing at the dealership and it's also something fleet buyers don't mind. Nearly all of the vehicles on our list below are popular with rental car fleets, although the Leftlane staff hasn't seen too many Scions with Enterprise stickers on their tailgates.

We usually use this space to illustrate high-tech features, but this time we thought we'd go in the opposite direction. What follows are a baker's dozen of vehicles that you might not realize are down a cog or two or four... or more.

13 cars you might not know still have four-speed automatic transmissions
Chrysler 200 LX
Chrysler was rightly proud of the way it transformed the awful Sebring into the, well, perfectly average 200 a little over a year ago. But while most 200 trim levels include six forward gears (a dual clutch unit was said to be in the pipeline, but it hasn't materialized), the base 200 LX has a four-speed. Interestingly, the fuel economy dent compared to other 200s, which use the same 2.4-liter four-cylinder, isn't as big as you might expect: The four-speed is rated at 21/30 mpg, while the six-cog is rated at 20/31 mpg.

Dodge Avenger SE
Dodge's Avenger shares its platform, its powertrains and most of its switchgear with the 200, so it should come as no surprise that the base model also utilizes a four-speed automatic. That said, the Avenger SE is a full $2,500 less than the cheapest Avenger SXT (which adds a heck of a lot of equipment in addition to the two extra gears), which is a big difference if you're operating a fleet of commercial vehicles.

Jeep Liberty
As Jeep's last true SUV to boast a rigid rear axle (the Wrangler really defies classification, if you ask us), the Liberty is something of a throwback in many ways. Just four gears send power to its middling 3.7-liter V6, and while the cheap DaimlerChrysler-era interior and odd packaging aren't that appealing, the Liberty does boast a certain ruggedness - and an available gigantic cloth sunroof.

Lincoln Town Car
But, you say, the Town Car is no longer made! Although Ford shuttered its St. Thomas, Ontario, assembly plant about six months ago, taking with it the venerable body-on-frame Panther platform that also underpinned the Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis, Town Cars are still on dealer lots. If you're so inclined, you could probably negotiate a heck of a deal on the world's last traditional luxury sedan. Frankly, we have a soft spot for the Town Car, so we offer you our approval.

Mazda2
Cheap cars are usually the last to get high tech goodies, so that might explain why Mazda's least-expensive car is on this list. Designed primarily for Europe and Asia, where drivers typically shift cars themselves, the '2's automatic is sort of a gimmie for the North American market. Most of Europe gets only one low-volume Mazda2 automatic, while Mazda's home market gets an optional Skyactiv CVT that sips gas.

Mitsubishi Eclipse
Just like the Town Car, the Mitsubishi Eclipse is past its sell-by date. But Mitsubishi still lists it on its website and our independent research revealed that there are still plenty of these not-very-sporty coupes and convertibles sitting around on dealer lots. The Eclipse was a phenomenal all-wheel-drive, turbocharged pocket rocket during its first decade, but it packed on the pounds and became a bloated pig by the end of its production run.

Mitsubishi Galant
Worth a million points in any car-spotting game, the Mitsubishi Galant is almost invisible in North America. Much like the Eclipse, this Illinois-built sedan was was a polished compact/midsize sedan, but it grew up to become our definition of a rental car. Production will end soon, so if you're looking for the last Japanese midsize sedan with a four-speed automatic, you'd better find your local Mitsubishi showroom.

Scion xB
Toyota's smallest cars are all available with four-speed automatics, including the boxy Scion xB. You can't even get a stick shift in this quirky and not particularly appealing box-the-tC-came-in. We loved the concept when the first xB hit the road in late 2003, but the second generation was ugly in a bad way and not even remotely interesting to drive. Apparently Toyota feels the same way.

Scion xD
Just barely more popular with Scion buyers than the diminutive new iQ, the xD is more mainstream than its xB brother, which ultimately makes it less desirable to the brand's quirky buyer base. Unlike the xB, the xD can be found with a five-speed manual transmission, but that stick shift doesn't necessarily make this slightly curvier box on wheels much more fun.

Subaru Forester
The plucky Forester has been a hit for Subaru since it was redesigned for 2009, but that was before Subaru's sales really took off. As a result, the Forester makes due with a low-tech five-speed manual or optional ($1,200!) four-speed automatic, even if you pop for the zippy turbocharged Forester XT. Considering a loaded Forester XT Touring tops out at nearly $32,000, this is an oversight we think needs addressing.

Toyota Corolla
Oh, the Toyota Corolla. Consistently one of the best-selling cars in the United States, it is among the least-sophisticated vehicles currently available, all the way down to its four-speed slushbox (a five-speed stick is standard for Corolla buyers with no understanding of "sportiness"). We desperately hope that Toyota takes the time to make the next Corolla a much more premium-feeling vehicle like its rivals from Chevrolet, Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda... the list goes on.

Toyota Tacoma
Toyota's Tacoma is one of the world's toughest vehicles, and it's arguably the best non-full-size pickup on the market, but buyers looking for a fancy powertrain should skip the base 2.7-liter four-cylinder. One of the largest four-cylinder engines offered in recent history, this 159-pony mill is mated to either a five-speed manual or, you guessed it, a four-speed automatic. The optional V6 ups both gearboxes by one cog.

Toyota Yaris
Toyota really had a chance to take on the class leaders when it redesigned its Yaris for 2012, but a look at the spec sheet isn't very promising. Most Yarises (Yarii?) will likely leave the factory with a four-speed automatic that hardly makes the most of the 106 horsepower on tap. Similarly fresh subcompact rivals from just about everywhere offer two more gears to their automatics.