Ford Motor Co. announced that it will be joining the ranks of automakers offering dual-clutch transmissions. The new six-speed automated manual transmission has been dubbed PowerShift, and will debut in North America in 2010 for the small-car segment, which means Ford Focus and the upcoming Fiesta. In a world populated with DCTs, SSTs, PDKs, and DSGs, we're just happy that we don't have to learn another acronym.
Ford is marketing the PowerShift as a fuel-saver, which means you won't be seeing this transmission under the hood of the Shelby GT500 anytime soon. The automaker cites the fuel efficiency of a manual gearbox without the fuss of actually shifting as the key selling point. Ford has also committed that most, if not all, of its transmissions will be advanced six-speed units by 2013.
The PowerShift works in essentially the same way as the rest of the double-clutch gang. Even and odd gears work in parallel with a dedicated clutch to each set. The next gear is preselected and engaged by the vehicles computer. When the time for the shift comes, one clutch engages while the other disengages for an almost seamless transition. We've seen it before and it usually works beautifully.
In Europe, Ford currently offers a wet-clutch version of the PowerShift transmission in the 2.0-liter TDCI Ford Focus to handle the higher torque levels of the diesel engine. In North America, a dry-clutch derivative of Ford's PowerShift transmission will be used for a 30 percent weight savings over its current four-speed slushbox and added efficiency and durability--thanks to the fact that a dry-clutch unit does not require an oil pump or torque converter, providing superior mechanical efficiency.
Ford also seems to have addressed a few of our qualms with previous dual-clutch gearboxes by factoring the braking system into the transmission's functions. For example, low-speed driving mode with integrated brake pressure simulates the low-speed creep drivers are accustomed to from an automatic transmission by gradually building the amount of rolling torque in drive and reverse as brake pressure is released. Hill mode or launch assist prevents a vehicle from rolling back on a grade by maintaining brake pressure until the engine delivers enough torque to move the vehicle up the hill. Neutral coast down disengages the clutches when the brakes are applied improving coasting downshifts and reducing parasitic losses for increased fuel economy.
When you think about it, EcoBoost, Sync, and soon PowerShift puts Ford in a position of being the most tech-savvy American automaker. Perhaps it's time for Ford to bring back the cheesy, "Have you driven a Ford lately?" jingle.