When it comes to performance cars, manuals have long held an edge over automatic transmissions, due to faster shifting of gears. However, dual clutch systems have brought the best of worlds with not only faster shifting, but by allowing for drivers to shift gears without using a clutch. Each clutch is assigned half the gears with the odd gears being assigned to one clutch and the evens to the other.
While dual clutch gearboxes were invented before World War II and have been in production cars since the 1980s, until recently they were only in high end performance cars by Porsche and others. In the past couple years, that has finally changed with German car maker Volkswagen bringing its Direct-Shift Gearbox, a dual clutch system, to market. The speedy shifter is in many of its vehicles and those of its subsidiary Audi.
Automatic transmissions on the market use costly torque converters. Most dual clutch systems use wet multi-plate clutches, including most of Volkswagen's offerings, different than traditional clutches.
Now Ford is stepping up to the dual clutch plate announcing that its dual clutch gearbox which debuted at the Detroit's North American International Auto Show 2009 in the Lincoln Concept C and the Volvo S60 Concept will be officially moving into its lineup.
The new gearbox, known as PowerShift, is supplied by Getrag. It was previously hinted at during launch events for the upcoming rerelease of the Ford Fiesta. Ford's first iteration of the new double clutch is a wet clutch system. The first vehicle to receive it will be the European Focus, available with a 2.0L diesel engine.
A dry twin-clutch is coming to the Fiesta, which will be lighter and more efficient. Both units will offer full automatic control or clutchless manual shifting.
The weight of the 6-speed PowerShift gearbox (wet) is 30 lbs less than the current 4-speed automatic gearbox found on the European Focus. The dry gearbox should be even lighter. The weight reductions on the Focus's gearbox alone will account to a 9 percent increase in fuel economy, according to Ford.
The new feature helps Ford fuel its gas saving initiatives. Unlike Chrysler and GM, Ford is currently forgoing the plug-in market in favor of more efficient hybrids and standard models. The new Ford Fusion is among the most efficient, with an EPA rated 41 MPG city, 36 MPG highway.