Rebecca Bernard

What Exactly Is A PowerShift Transmission?

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Ford PowerShift Dual-Clutch Automatic Transmission

When I was shopping for my certified pre-owned car, I knew the Ford Focus and Fiesta would probably be a big part of my search. While researching the vehicles and their features, many articles referenced the vehicles’ “PowerShift” automatic transmission and the additional fuel economy it offers. Ford is famous for the names of its technologies (I’m looking at you, EcoBoost), but what is so special about this transmission that it warrants a different name?

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Ford PowerShift

The short story is that the PowerShift transmission is billed as an automatic transmission, but it really is a dual-clutch manual transmission in disguise. Lifting up the hood, shoppers and owners will notice that there is no way to check the transmission fluid, because this dry manual transmission does not require fluid flushes like a traditional automatic. If you don’t know how to drive a manual transmission, don’t worry, because the gears are shifted by the car’s computer without any extra work from the driver. Beyond the Focus and Fiesta, the PowerShift system is popular in several European Ford models that are not sold in the United States.

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When the PowerShift transmission was first introduced in the United States, it made some waves. While European drivers are familiar with the feel of a manual transmission, since those systems are more popular across the ocean, American customers were thrown for a loop. Ford has admitted that the fledgling system had a few issues in the earlier years (since fixed by software and parts updates), and PowerShift was redesigned for the 2015 model year to improve its performance. A lot of the customer complaints also seemed to come from drivers not understanding what PowerShift is and misinterpreting how it behaves.

2015 Ford Focus

Anyone who has been behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta or Ford Focus knows about the difference I’m talking about, because drivers can feel the car shifting gears as it cruises down the road. It’s generally fairly gentle, but it is noticeable (especially when shifting from first to second gear). On my Ford Focus, it also took some miles for the vehicle’s computer to learn how I drive, and the ride has gotten smoother as my car anticipates my acceleration and braking styles.

While a car equipped with PowerShift will never move as smoothly as a traditional hydraulic automatic transmission, the standard in the United States, I encourage shoppers to test drive a vehicle equipped with the technology. It might be different, but it saves money on fuel in the long run and it makes the driving experience more dynamic.

Source: Automotive News

  • Rebecca BernardEditor

    A Dayton native, Rebecca got her start blogging at the curiously named Harlac's Tongue while studying abroad in the UK. She loves tooling around town with her Ford Focus named Jerome to the song they're playing on the radio. On any given weekend, you can find her with her camera at area festivals, concerts, and car shows, shopping at flea markets, or taking an adventure on the open road. See more articles by Rebecca.

  • oporcaria .

    I love my Ford Fiesta PowerShift. It runs smooth, quiet, efficiently and very fuel economic.

  • James Matheson

    It runs great until it breaks down. (5 times in 57k miles) It is not cool to loose gear 6 – 200 miles from home. I was also stuck in gear 1 when it was 100 degrees outside. The clutch overheats and fails period.

  • nick long

    Do all Ford Fiesta’s with auto transmissions have the DCT? Or do any have normal automatics?

    • Népissinguois

      Yes, all Fiestas and Focuses sold in North America since 2011-12 only offer the DCT “automatic” transmission. Both models also come with regular manual transmissions.

  • Népissinguois

    I bought a 2011 Fiesta and the dual clutch transmission problems described in the article and in the comments did occur at city driving speeds, in summer when the air conditioning was on, but mostly when turning left after a full stop. These problems grew worse over the years, until I traded it in at a loss for the dealer for a 2016 model which was reported to have an “improved” DCT.

    Well lo and behold, I can report that after two years with the new Fiesta, I have rarely had the problems experienced with the 2011 model. The shuddering only happens in hot summer weather with the air conditioning on, and it is barely noticeable. So, I would say that Ford did do something about their PowerShift transmission, but probably too little too late.