It's neither a true automatic nor a true manual, but thanks to some clever engineering the twin-clutch gearbox manages to combine nearly all of the positive aspects of both while simultaneously eliminating the negatives. Twin-clutch gearboxes have traditionally found favour in high-performance applications, with their high efficiency, strength and lightning-quick shift times making them perfect for machines like the Bugatti Veyron, Nissan GT-R and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X.
However, the qualities that make a twin-clutch gearbox so good for performance cars also make perfect sense when applied to more mundane machinery, and Ford have announced that the 2008 Focus and C-MAX people carrier are now available with the quick-shifting 'box, dubbed the "Powershift".
It's essentially the same gearbox that Volvo recently announced would be available on their turbo-diesel models, which comes as no surprise considering Ford's ownership of the Swedish marque. Even the engines are the same, with Ford's Powershift being mated to the same 2-litre turbo-diesel inline four as the Volvo, which is available in either 100kW or 81kW flavour.
Given the pairing of the Powershift gearbox with Ford's turbodiesel motors the emphasis is clearly on fuel economy rather than performance, and it shows: The Focus is capable of an impressive 4.8l/100km when equipped with the Powershift (around 10 per cent less than a regular Focus), while the bigger and heavier C-MAX returns a highly commendable 4.9l/100km. The cut in fuel consumption is largely thanks to the Powershift's low weight and low mechanical drag, which means there's less mass for the engine to lug around and more power to do it with.
Will we see the Powershift become available in Australia soon? It's highly likely, but expect there to be a significant premium for the technology: The UK-spec Focus with the twin-clutch gearbox costs the equivalent of AUD $37,500.