The F10/F12/F16 family of trucks (third generation, introduced in 1987) was used to introduce a number of very advanced high-tech features. The most important of these was perhaps the use of electronically-controlled fuel-injection for the engines, giving major benefits such as cleaner emissions and optimum-efficiency cruise-speed control.
In order to make life easier for the driver automatic transmissions were introduced in the early 1990s, of two very different configurations. For extreme transport tasks the ´Powertronic' transmission (also used for heavy-duty off-road-vehicles produced by Volvo Construction Equipment) made manual gear changing unnecessary in demanding off-road operations and for special tasks such as fire fighting, where speed and safe driving is of utmost importance.
The Powertronic was (and is) designed by Volvo and produced in the Volvo Köping transmission plant and, thanks to its torque-converter design, offers traction during automatic gear-change operations, no matter how short they may be, creating maximum off-road-traction even under extremely muddy conditions.
The electronic 'Geartronic' transmission, on the other hand, was not a completely new generation of gearboxes but an electronic version of proven range-change gearboxes with integrated computer-assisted gear-change. This trend setting transmission option soon became a popular choice in operations such as long-distance transport or heavy regional distribution transport.
In contrast to the Powertronic, the Geartronic was not of the torque-converter type, so power from the engine to the wheels was interrupted during automatic gear-changing operations, making the Powertronic unsuitable for some transport tasks such as construction site transport and timber trucks.
Automatic - but with manual control
Both the Powertronic and the Geartronic had two important novelties compared with 'old-fashioned' traditional automatic gearboxes: they preserved modest fuel consumption and also allowed the driver to manually override the system, because an automatic gearbox can never compare with the skill of an experienced truck driver.