As of 2010, Ford will begin using its dual-clutch PowerShift six-speed transmission in all small car models in North American markets. The new unit is expected to become the standard 'box of choice for Ford small car buyers. Getting technology of this type into its economy models is a smart move by Ford; competition is incredibly fierce in this segment.
The twin dry-clutch box will offer a nine percent improvement in fuel economy while also reducing shift times. If you've used one, you will also be aware that a dual-clutch box markedly adds to enjoyment at the wheel over a standard auto.
Barb Samardzich, vice-president of Ford Global Powertrain Engineering, summed it up nicely:
"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."
A twin wet-clutch version of the same transmission is currently employed in the European 2.0-litre TDCI Ford Focus. The dry setup differs in that it uses manual transmission clutch facings instead of clutch plates submerged in oil. The benefit being that the gearbox will happily run without the assistance of an oil pump or torque converter.
Ford will be building the new transmissions as sealed units, making them almost maintenance free. Additional features include clutch disengagement, to improve downshifts when braking, and hill mode, which keeps the car from rolling undesirably.
There's no word yet on whether we'll see this box locally. Given the competitive nature of the small to medium car segment, we're hazarding a guess that Ford Oz will be keen to get this cog-swapper performing local duties as soon as possible.