Ford Announces PowerShift Dual-Clutch Six-Speed Gearbox for 2010 Fiesta

By Chris Haak

01.22.2009

Ford has announced that it will introduce a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox for its Fiesta subcompact in 2010 in North America.  The new gearbox, called PowerShift and supplied by Getrag, will be a key component of Ford’s strategy to increase the fuel economy of its products; the other part of that strategy, of course, is the twin-turbo, direct injection EcoBoost engines that will proliferate the lineup in coming years.

According to Ford, the PowerShift gearbox in the Fiesta weighs some 30 pounds less than the conventional four-speed automatic found in the US-market Focus, yet gets nine percent better fuel economy than does the Focus’ transaxle.  The gearbox will be Ford’s first offered in the US, although the European Focus offers a different wet clutch dual-clutch gearbox with its 2.0 liter diesel powerplant that is capable of handling the diesel’s greater torque loads.

Dual-clutch gearboxes are not yet widespread in their application, but are generally well-regarded as a high-tech solution to the compromise between the best parts of a manual transmission (no torque converter losses) and an automatic transmission (smooth operation and power delivery, convenience in traffic).  Many enthusiasts who swore off “automatic” transmissions over the past few decades have sampled dual-clutch gearboxes and have come away impressed; what’s not to like about better fuel economy, smoother and faster shifting, and better performance, after all?  Nissan thought so highly of dual-clutch gearboxes that the only choice in the GT-R sports car is one of them; Porsche has been making a lot of noise about its new PDK twin-clutch gearbox in its performance cars, and BMW has added one to the M3’s option list, among others.

Among non-premium, non-performance cars, however, Ford is setting itself up as a powertrain technology leader.  Having both the EcoBoost and PowerShift technology available on different vehicles throughout its lineup will absolutely differentiate Ford from its more pedestrian competition.  Right now, only Volkswagen offers anything similar in the price range – and nearly everyone who has sampled a VW DSG has come away impressed.  Chrysler could have been in a similar good spot had its joint venture to produce dual-clutch gearboxes not fallen through in 2008; the company now intends to move forward with conventional torque converter automatics instead.  GM has not announced any dual-clutch gearbox initiatives; imagine a ZR1 with its 638-horsepower supercharged V8 and a dual-clutch gearbox snapping off gear changes like a rifle bolt.  That thought – however unlikely at this point – nearly makes me salivate.

Ford’s press release follows after the jump.

PRESS RELEASE:

FORD TO INTRODUCE FUEL-EFFICIENT DUAL-CLUTCH POWERSHIFT TRANSMISSION IN NORTH AMERICA IN 2010

DETROIT, Jan. 21, 2009 – Ford Motor Company announced today it will introduce an advanced dual-clutch PowerShift six-speed transmission in North America in 2010 for the small-car segment.

PowerShift will deliver the fuel efficiency of a manual gearbox with the convenience and ease of a premium automatic transmission – making it a key enabling technology as Ford targets best-in-class or among-the-best fuel economy with every new vehicle it introduces in North America.

“PowerShift represents a true competitive advantage for Ford and is one of the many technologies that will help our global small-car platforms set a new world standard for efficiency and drive quality,” said Barb Samardzich, vice president, Global Powertrain Engineering, who announced PowerShift’s production timing at the 2009 Automotive News World Congress. “This advanced six-speed is an improvement over today’s automatic transmissions in terms of fuel economy, while providing customers an even more fun-to-drive experience.”

Overall, Ford has committed that almost 100 percent of its transmissions will be advanced six-speed gearboxes by 2013. Six-speed transmissions already have helped vehicles such as the 2010 Ford Fusion achieve best-in-class fuel economy, while at the same time allowing the Ford Flex and Ford Escape to achieve unsurpassed fuel economy in their respective segments.

Ford is leveraging six-speed transmissions, advanced internal combustion engines such as EcoBoost, hybrids, full electric vehicles, vehicle weight reduction and electric power-assisted steering to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions fleet-wide by 30 percent by 2020.

Automatic Comfort
Compared to traditional automatic four-speed transmissions, PowerShift can help reduce fuel consumption by up to 9 percent depending on the application.

PowerShift provides the full comfort of an automatic with a more sophisticated driving dynamic, thanks to uninterrupted torque from the dual-clutch technology, which consists essentially of two manual transmissions working in parallel, each with its own independent clutch unit. One clutch carries the uneven gears – 1, 3 and 5 – while the other the even gears – 2, 4 and 6. Subsequent gear changes are coordinated between both clutches as they engage and disengage for a seamless delivery of torque to the wheels.

In Europe, Ford currently offers a PowerShift transmission in the Ford Focus. This PowerShift uses a twin wet-clutch system to handle the higher torque levels of the 2.0-liter TDCI engine available in the Focus.

In North America, a dry-clutch derivative of Ford’s PowerShift transmission will be used for added efficiency and durability. A dry clutch transmits power and torque through manual transmission clutch facings, while most automatic transmissions utilize wet clutch plates submerged in oil. As a result, the dry-clutch PowerShift transmission does not require an oil pump or torque converter, providing superior mechanical efficiency.

“A dry clutch is a real sweet spot for lighter vehicle applications,” said Piero Aversa, manager, Ford Automatic Transmission Engineering. “PowerShift is more efficient, it saves weight, is more durable, more efficient and the unit is sealed for life, requiring no regular maintenance.”

PowerShift, unlike conventional automatic transmissions, does not need the heavier torque converter or planetary gears. In addition, the dry-clutch derivative eliminates the need for the weighty pumps, hydraulic fluids, cooling lines and external coolers that wet clutch transmissions require. As a result, the dry-clutch PowerShift transmission can weigh nearly 30 pounds less than, for example, the four-speed automatic transmission featured on today’s Ford Focus.

Differentiating PowerShift even further in terms of its customer appeal is its shift quality, launch feel and overall drive dynamic, which are all facilitated by an expert blend of Ford-exclusive electro-mechanical systems, software features, calibrations and controls. These unique driving features include:

• Neutral coast down – The clutches will disengage when the brakes are applied, improving coasting downshifts and clutch robustness as well as reducing parasitic losses for increased fuel economy.

• Precise clutch control in the form of a clutch slip to provide torsional damping of the engine vibration – This function improves noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) at low engine speeds and enables lower lugging limits for improved fuel economy.

• Low-speed driving or creep mode with integrated brake pressure – This function simulates the low-speed control drivers are accustomed to from an automatic transmission. The amount of rolling torque in Drive and Reverse is precisely controlled, gradually building 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, providing improved driver confidence, comfort, safety and clutch robustness.

Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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3 Comments

  1. @Chris
    “Chrysler could have been in a similar good spot had its joint venture to produce dual-clutch gearboxes not fallen through in 2008”

    The European Dodge Journey diesel is available with a dual-clutch gearbox – I wonder where that one is coming from. Volkswagen, probably, since that’s where they are getting the engine.

  2. Neat. Neat. Neat. The Ford Fiesta is going to be one of the most interesting small car releases in the near future. I hope they can get the interior to be good quality. As one of the car magazines said some years ago “how much extra can good plastic cost? $100. Fine. Charge me for it!”

  3. The already tasty-seeming Fiesta gets even better. I’m looking forward to trading my ’01 Focus Wagon in on a Fiesta hatch. My wife can’t/won’t drive a manual, so this may be the best of both worlds (esp. if it has a manual gear selection capability).

    Of course, if Ford makes another Focus wagon (cargo capacity of a mid-size SUV and 30 mpg to boot), I may have to change my plans.

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