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Cressida nut
91 Pickup (Hilux)2wd
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4,582 Posts
It's called marketing (aka cheating the numbers). Changing the gear ratios like that is the main way automatics have "advanced" to become more efficient than manuals. Look at the new Miata: same MPGs, autos geared 10% taller in the top gears. Yes the larger number of gears helps but that's also more parts to move, more lube required, more engineering and programming.

As for engine wear, very little wear happens from low load-medium RPM operation. A few cold starts will put far more wear on an engine than many hours operation at 2200 rpm instead of 2000 rpm on the highway.
 
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