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Is the 4sp auto tranny used in the 2003 - 2006 Elements any more robust than the 5sp used from 2007 forward? Would it be reasonable to think that the 4sp would be better for heavy duty use, towing etc.?

Why don't the later models have a higher mpg rating because of the higher gearing?
 

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I haven't really read of any durability issues with either tranny.

As far as towing goes, the 4 speed has some rather large ratio gaps between gears. If you're towing at near capacity, this will certainly cause the engine to work harder and likely generate more heat in the transmission.

My e is a 5spd, my wife's crv is a 4spd. I don't tow with either, but we do live at 7000 feet elevation. We drive from 4500 ft to 7000ft every day. The 4spd takes quite a bit more time to get back into the lively rpm range after it shifts gears. I'm sure this would be much noticeable when towing a heavy trailer.
 

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Generally speaking more gears is more gooder when towing, that's why big rigs have 18+ gears. It means you stay in your peak torque when going from gear to gear and puts less strain on the engine and transmission.

So is the 4spd more durable than the 5spd? This is Honda we're talking about so I suspect they're both pretty good. If you're planning on doing a lot of towing you might want to consider a manual gearbox since it's less complex and doesn't have a stupid torque converter to suck up the power coming out of your engine. You will go through clutches faster if you tow with a manual but they're easy enough to replace and certainly cheaper than if you burned out your automatic from frequent towing.
 

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I've had both a 03 4sp at and now a 07 5sp at and the 5sp definately has more power going uphill and merging on the freeway.
In terms of gas mileage, I have tracked both Es tank by tank and there is no difference in actual mpgs between the 4sp and the 5sp. If i remember correctly, in 2006 the epa changed their formula for figuring out the estimated mpgs so that is why the 07+ comes in with lower numbers.
 
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