Volkswagen has developed a new state-of-the-art manual gearbox known as the MQ281, and the company claims that it helps save up to five grammes of CO2 per kilometre depending on the engine-gearbox combination. The new Passat will be the first to be fitted with the gearbox, followed by almost all vehicle classes within the Volkswagen Group.

The company said no one really took much notice of manual gearboxes until now, and added that only slight modifications were sufficient to improve efficiency and fuel consumption of the good old stick shifter. Despite widespread claims of its imminent doom, manual gearboxes have a significant share of the global gearbox market due to high installation rate.

This is especially trendy for SUVs with large-diameter wheels, Volkswagen said in a statement. Company head of manual gearbox and four-wheel drive development, Helmut Göbbels said: “With the MQ281, we have developed a highly efficient manual gearbox that reliably meets these demands – and is soon to be introduced into a number of vehicle classes in the volume segment.”

On the technical side of things, the MQ281 has a torque spectrum of 200 Nm to 340 Nm, which means it completely or partially supersedes the current Volkswagen gearbox designs with the internal designations MQ250 and MQ350 respectively.


The older MQ250 and MQ350 manual gearboxes will soon be replaced by the MQ281 unit

It is based on a 2.5 shaft concept and boasts a high gear spread (maximum of 7.89). On the one hand, this guarantees good off-road driving performance, even for heavy vehicles with large wheels. It also facilitates ‘downspeeding’, which helps save fuel when driving in high gears with low engine speed.

Further developments of the manual gearbox will primarily be focused on improving efficiency. “Here we employed virtual development methods. This enabled us to design a completely new oil conduction system. Using a variety of oil conduction measures, we are able to achieve a uniform and optimum lubrication of gear wheels and bearings, reducing the amount of lifetime oil required to just 1.5 litres,” Göbbels added.

Additionally, a set of friction-reducing bearings with low contact seals have been installed, and the materials used for the gearbox housing has also been optimised. The latter was developed using a virtual development tool, and functionally it helps reduce undesirable noise and vibration from intruding the cabin, thus improving driving comfort. The MQ281 is developed in-house and production is currently underway in the factories in Barcelona and Córdoba, Argentina.