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