Zetec 5-door 2.0 TDCi PowerShift
may have noticed the sharper
designs of Fords latest
models but overlooked the latest
technology under the smarter
bodies. For example, Fords
PowerShift automatic transmission
option if you want an auto box
with really slick and seamless
gearchanges, then check out a
Focus fitted with Fords
clutch automatic transmission...
FORD'S RECENT PRODUCT AND TECHNOLOGY OFFENSIVE has been rather like
waiting for a bus: nothing much for ages, then we get loads arriving in quick
The relatively recent launch of the much smarter and better built Mondeo started
the process, and this was followed by the much improved new Ford Focus. The
Ford 'march of technology' continues unabated with new offerings such as lower-emission
ECOnetic models, revised lower-emission petrol and diesel engines, Flexifuel
bio-ethanol 1.8-litre engine option, CNG (compressed natural gas) and LPG (liquefied
petroleum gas) engines, Easyfuel capless refuelling system, their new PowerShift
seamless automatic transmission as reviewed here and shortly we
will be seeing the all new Fiesta and Ka ranges plus the potent Focus RS.
In a tough market place Ford in the UK at least has managed to increase its
share of a falling new car market and to improve the ownership desirability
of the brand by building better looking, better built cars with advanced technologies,
whilst still retaining their competitive pricing.
Their latest offering is the new PowerShift six-speed, twin-clutch, automatic
transmission. This is now available in the Focus and C-Max ranges used in conjunction
with their 2.0-litre Duratorq TDCi common rail turbodiesel engine, tuned to
deliver either 108 or 134bhp power outputs. Ford also continues to offer their
conventional four-speed automatic torque-converter gearboxes for other models
across the Focus range.
For the high-mileage business car users the seamless, fast-acting and non-power
sapping new automatic transmission makes driving less tiring, potentially more
fuel-efficient and, just as importantly, more enjoyable. This is the first application
by Ford of a twin-clutch auto transmission and it is an option available with
limited model choice for now. But this technology will be used in more
current and future model ranges as engine efficiency and easy driving functions
become more and more important.
The quick response, fuel saving or performance enhancing twin-clutch automatic
transmissions are not new. In fact I remember first driving this type of twin-clutch
auto gearbox (called DSG by the Volkswagen group) five years ago in an Audi
TT, and many other cars now have similar systems.
The beauty of the twin-clutch system is that, unlike conventional torque-converter
automatic gearboxes, there are no power losses between gear ratios and that
in turn means no wasted fuel or energy. They are electronically controlled
not by hydraulic pressure so they are faster in operation and can be
electronically matched to the engine's power and torque outputs to optimise
gearchange points and performance.
In some cases although not with the Focus engines fitted with
twin-clutch gearboxes actually return better fuel economy and lower CO2 levels
than their comparative manual transmission models, and the acceleration performance
is better as well.
A Ford PowerShift auto gearbox costs an extra £1,200 over a standard manual
transmission and, as already mentioned, is currently only available for the
108 and 134bhp 2.0-litre TDCi diesel engines. Ford's conventional (Durashift)
auto-box for other engine sizes costs an extra £1,000
The PowerShift option is available for Zetec, Zetec S and Titanium trim levels
and the Focus 3-door, 5-door, 4-door Saloon and Estate all have PowerShift models
with prices ranging from £18,195 to £21,195. The likely best selling PowerShift
model the Focus Zetec 5-door 2.0 TDCi 134bhp costs £19,595 on
The six-speed, double-clutch PowerShift unit provides the efficiency of a manual
and the full comfort of an automatic. The Ford system does not, however, have
the usual steering wheel paddle-shifts associated with twin-clutch systems,
just the conventional auto-shift gear lever with a sequential manual gearchange
For petrolheads and technology enthusiasts the following is a brief explanation
of how twin-clutch auto-boxes work. The Ford PowerShift transmission, which
was developed by Getrag Ford Transmissions GmbH as a 50:50 Ford/GETRAG joint
venture, consists essentially of two layshaft transmission units working in
parallel, each with its own wet clutch. Thanks to the layout of the intermediate
shafts one carrying the 'uneven' gears 1, 3 and 5, and the other the
even gears 2, 4 and 6 subsequent gear changes can be prepared by pre-selecting
the next gear while in motion and at full power. The change then takes place
through the opposed activation of both clutches. The clutch operations are electronically
co-ordinated so that no interruption to the torque delivery occurs the
result is fast, slick and smooth changes every time.
In contrast to a conventional automatic transmission, the basic technical configuration
of the Ford PowerShift transmission offers numerous advantages. It does not
require any complex sub-systems such as torque-converters, planetary gear sets,
multiple wet clutches and multiple bands all of which significantly reduce
gearbox efficiency due to increased inertia and drag torque effects.
The Ford PowerShift transmission, with its high torque capacity and the ability
for it to be used with a wide choice of gear ratios, makes it the ideal partner
for modern high-performance diesel and petrol engines.
The official fuel economy data of the 108 and 134bhp TDCi derivatives with Ford
PowerShift show how efficient a modern automatic transmission can be. Regardless
of power rating or body style, all new Focus models equipped with this state-of-the-art
transmission are homologated to a combined fuel economy of 48.6mpg with an average
CO2 emission of 154g/km.
There you have it the full technical explanation of why twin-clutch auto
transmissions are the way forward when integrated with the engine's performance.
It's all right on paper but does it really work in real life?
My experience of the Ford system (and others) is positive, although you pay
extra and so it really is high-mileage company car drivers who will benefit
most. That said, the extra cost of the Ford PowerShift system does increase
company car tax (by 3%), and the official fuel economy of 48.6mpg falls a little
short of the 51.3mpg achieved with the same engine mated to a standard manual
gearbox. The manual Focus model with the same engine is in Band C for CO2 (at
147g/km, costing £120 a year); the PowerShift model (154g/km CO2) is in Band
D and its VED rate is £145 annually. For the record, manual transmission Focus
models with the same version engine are marginally faster as well.
So it costs more for better driving refinement and on that financial basis,
whilst PowerShift is nice to have, in today's cost-conscious world, and by incurring
higher taxes, it is likely to be a minority option. Be aware, though, of the
official versus real-world fuel consumption: my test Focus PowerShift 134bhp
model returned an average 46.3mpg but on a long motorway journey at the legal
maximum speed the car's computer showed an impressive 55.2mpg. Only stop/start
driving and in-town motoring reduced that to the final 46.3mpg average.
Another major plus point to add to the good fuel economy potential for an automatic
model is the really nice, slick and seamless gearchanges made even better by
the ideal mating with the excellent 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine. So, if it's
a 'slick operator' you're after and you're willing to spend the extra money,
focus your attention on Ford's PowerShift! David Miles
Ford Focus Zetec 5-door 2.0 TDCi PowerShift | £19,595
Maximum speed: 124mph | 0-62mph: 9.9 seconds
Overall test MPG: 46.3mpg | Power: 134bhp | Torque: 236-251lb