Ford Powershift versus Volkswagen DSG

The dual-clutch Ford Powershift transmission originally made an appearance in the blue-oval’s range in 2008, shortly after it had been made available to Volvo. It is currently available as a six-speed system on a handful of models in the Ford range, such as the 2.0-litre diesel Focus and Mondeo.

Volkswagen’s DSG system has been around now since 2004 and is already on its second iteration. It is available in six or seven-speed formats, depending on the engine it is connected to, and is available throughout the range of VAG cars including Skodas, Seats, Volkswagens and Audis.

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Using the same technology that has proven so successful with Volkswagen’s DSG transmission the Powershift has two clutches, one covering the ‘odd’ gears and the other taking care of the ‘even’. This means that gearchanges are executed quickly and smoothly with very little interruption to the torque flow.

The Ford Powershift system certainly an improvement over a traditional automatic gearbox. Gear changes are faster than the auto with very little penalty in smoothness, and that means you get better acceleration times and improved fuel economy. But how does it compare when stacked up against Volkswagen’s system? Let’s look at a Focus and Golf, both in 2.0-litre diesel guise.

Model0-62mph (sec)Combined EU MPGCO2 g/kmTax Band
Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi, Manual9.351.3144F
Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi, Powershift9.648.6154G
Model0-60mph (sec)Combined EU MPGCO2 g/kmTax Band
Volkswagen Golf GTD, Manual8.155.4134E
Volkswagen Golf GTI, DSG8.152.3142F

Can you spot the problem here? On both cars the automatic shift comes at a penalty in both economy and C02 figures but the Focus receives an additional penalty in the 0-62mph sprint while the DSG-equipped Golf manages to keep the same time as its manual counterpart. While an additional 0.3 seconds is not severe on the Focus, it hints at a more relaxed change between each gears and for petrolheads and hot hatch fans that’s the sort of thing that can make or break a deal.

One thing you should notice is that the increase in C02 emissions pushes both cars into the next road tax band. The Focus is already penalised with a slightly higher emitting engine and starts in band F for the manual, slipping into band G for the Powershift version. This is an increase of £35 per year as well as an additional £35 on the first year ‘showroom’ tax. The Golf GTD starts in band E and DSG pushes it into band F, making it £15 per year more expensive to tax and adding £15 to the first year rate.

In terms of price Ford have a slight advantage with Powershift costing £1,255 (inclusive of VAT) as an option whereas DSG costs more at £1,310*. Not a massive difference, although you may find that Ford dealers are a little more flexible on the list price than their Volkswagen counterparts, but much of that will depend on your haggling skills.

As mentioned above Volkswagen are already onto their second version of the DSG gearbox, and have produced over a million units to date. They are planning to add DSG as an option to most cars in their range, even the little Polo, and are even starting to push it out as standard fitment in some models in the VAG range. The Skoda Fabia vRS, Seat Ibiza Cupra and Volswagen Polo GTI all come with the seven-speed DSG as standard with no manual option.

Although Volkswagen are busy pushing their seven-speed DSG it’s worth pointing out that this is a dry-clutch system (the six-speed is a wet-clutch) that struggles to cope with high levels of torque. This makes it unsuitable for diesel engines and is only available on petrol models. Ford have done a much better job by designing a dry-clutch six-speeder that can cope with a much broader torque range. Advantage to Ford – dry clutch systems are smaller, lighter, easier to service, more reliable and cheaper than wet-clutch systems.

For hot hatch drivers the DSG gearbox on the Golf is great – flappy paddles behind the wheel mean it’s easy to use and give the driver a greater sense of involvement in the driving experience, even if it fails to give that connected feeling you get with a good manual shift. Ford, on the other hand, don’t even offer paddles as an option, claiming that their buyers don’t want them – er, is that right? If you were buying a Focus ST with a dual-clutch system, wouldn’t you want flappy paddles? Not that you would buy an ST with Powershift, because of course it would end up slower than the manual.

So which is better? It really is very close to call. Volkswagen still have the advantage in terms of performance, but Ford’s system is almost as good and is slightly cheaper. The biggest drawback for Ford is that they are only offering Powershift on their top-end engines, pushing it out of the budget of a lot of buyers, while Volkswagen are busy sticking DSG as an option under the bonnet of almost everything they sell.

I suspect that Ford are going to miss out if they don’t start rolling Powershift further into the range. More buyers are opting for the convenience of an automated transmission, and if they’re after a small car that means they will be tempted towards the Polo, Ibiza, Fabia and A1, a move that could threaten Ford’s dominance of the small and medium car market.

* Prices are June 2011, tax rates are for year 2011/12


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Author: Chris Auty

Voted the Breakthrough Blogger of 2013 by SEAT and the Guild of Motoring Writers , Chris has lived and breathed cars since he was old enough to say 'faster'. With a penchant for hot hatches and an allergy to public transport, he would much prefer to drive a bad car than never drive at all. Fortunately his family has learned to put up with this obsession and the internet has provided a channel for his ramblings.

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13 Comments

  1. I’ve driven several cars with the DSG, the last over 70,000 miles.
    The system work great and smooth.
    Paddle and the S mode is a must! Completely incomprehensible that Ford has left this out.
    Paldler on the steering wheel provides easy control when driving in mountainous roads. S mode provides a nice bust when you are behind a car that you want to run past. These features are not only for sporty driving!
    DSG feels and is faster than manual. You can find many examples of YouTupe.
    Powershift (what a Name!) is only a poor imitation of DSG.

  2. I’ve been driving a mk5 Golf GTI DSG for 4years now. It’s almost perfect, my one gripe is that you have to give it just the right amount of gas when making a quick ‘getaway’ for instance out of a side-turning to stop it having a delay.
    Regarding fuel economy I would say that the DSG is more economical simply because it’s so much easier to drive in a higher gear and I also find I’m easier on the brakes as I use engine breaking a lot more (it’s so easy!!).
    However, I’m not looking forward to the cost of the DSG oil change soon.

    You can’t compare DSG to manual without knowing the gears are the same ratios.

    I’ve just ordered a 2011 Ford Galaxy 2.0 163PS Power-shift. I just hope it’s up to the same standard!! I think the lack of a sport mode is an omission, even in the Galaxy. In the Golf I find it makes overtaking much safer.

  3. That’s one of my main gripes with DSG, it’s difficult to get a smooth getaway. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t hop, skip and jump like a learner on acid but the jerkiness is always there when pulling away from a standstill. Not tried the 7-speed box though, apparently the 1st gear is very short to help with that. Enjoy the Galaxy!

  4. Dear guys, I suspect this article keeping a little more part of DSG. I had been analised very close all the aspects of DSG working( on a PAssat CC) and drived the new Mondeo 2.0 TDCI 163 HP. After all I,ve decided for Mondeo. But this an other story. Let’s focus (shall I say “mondeo” ?) of the gears. To me looks so very the same, taking in a consideration that from the beginnig I’ve pushed hard on pedal the Mondeo in order to try that lag that many guys says that Powershift has it. I can tell you that the gear overpowered me with acceleration from the first second fraction of pushing the pedal and I’ve didn’t feel nothing but a very fast speed increasing( from 60 to 120 km/h). Nothing about feel the gear changing, nothing about lag, or some another fault. For me looks the same and the difference wil be made by the engines. In one way you will feel the 140HP PAssat with DSG and in all different way you’ll feel the 203 HP ecoboost from Mondeo ! Believe me: the 163 HP diesel Mondeo was better that 140 diesel Passat in order to compare the gears( in term of feelings, of course).
    In aprox 2 weeks my Mondeo (as I sayd : 203 HP titanium Powershift) will come and I will come back with impresions because I see ( on every review and comparision sites ) nobody compares side to side same gears level with same engines power because , I must say again, that feeling is comming also from the engine
    Alex.

  5. 1.5weeks in with the Galaxy 163PS powershift. By far my biggest problem with it is that the issue I have with the Golf GTI DSG when pulling out of a side-turning is 10x worse in the Galaxy – why? Because the TDCI unit seems to have less low-down grunt which is where the Powershift tends to keep you 90% of the time.
    In my last Turbo-diesel car (1.9TD Pug 306) you’d just give it more revs and let go of the clutch to get away quicker practically on the turbo. No option in the galaxy, Sport mode and tip-tronic are no better. Not managed to do it with left-foot on the brake yet either.
    One plus point, around town it manages some pretty amazing MPG, I’ve noticed that you’re virtually always driving just above tick-over!

  6. I own a Ford S-max 2.0 TDCi 163hp Powershift and tend to agree with Joel… especially after I’ve tried a VW Golf 1.6 TDI DSG rental car.

    I see two problems:
    1. On both DSG and Powershift (more on the latter) the drive mode shifts very early and mostly keeps you in the 1K-1.5K RPM range. This makes it rather slow to speed up once you’ve slowed down, e.g. coming into a roundabout without stopping completely. Solution: use sport mode in town.
    2. On Powershift only, it takes a second to start feeling some real acceleration if you are still and move your feet quickly from brake to accelerator. The powershift is not particularly fast in “clutching” … solution I found (though it’s annoying) is to release the brake a bit earlier and accelerate only once I feel the car starts moving (in so called creep mode)

  7. A bit of feedback.
    I emailed Ford Customer service and they quickly called me back. They then arranged for the car to go to my local Ford service centre.
    Long-story short they applied a software update which has made the car feel _MUCH_ quicker. I would say that in [D] it’s more like [S] was previously. It now does feel like it has 163bhp and is much less lethargic.
    That’s to say a bit like the golf it now seems to change behaviour if you’re using full accelerator (changing a bit later in this case). Of course this is just how it feels.

    Unfortunately from stand-still like Luca says it is still slow to release the clutch. My problem is that I live on a busy road and have to pull out right to the road in order to see the traffic – I have no room for ‘creep’ !

  8. A friend had a DSG in a Golf GTi blow up at less than 40,000kms but out of warranty. Not sure if it was the 6-speed wet clutch or the dry clutch 7-speed.

    I’ve heard of quite a few others of unknown mileage fail.

    The Ford Powershift is built by Getrag.

  9. And that’s another of my worries about DSG systems. The more complex they are, the more thnigs there are to go wrong.

  10. Hi, I don’t experience that Powershift diesel changes up too early in automatic drive (D). The opposite. It revs up well above 2000 rpm before it changes up, speedwise it changes from 1 to 2 at around 20 kmph and from 2 to 3 at around 40 kmph. Meanwhile the diesel sound starts to become quite unpleasant. Revving up a diesel to 2300-2500 in 1st before change-up at 20 kmph only… well… In manual mode I usually change at maximum 2000 rpm without problem, the torque is just fine and enough. The sport mode I avoid, it revs it up like hell, which is not enjoyable at all with diesel… Today would rather buy 1.8 TSI DSG-7, consumptionwise it can be held under 8 litres per 100km, and soundwise much better. Although it’s not a sport car either.

  11. I have had a 140 passat 6 speed dsg for 3 years covering over 100,000 miles and absolutely love it, although i do agree about the lag when trying to pull away quickly. I have recently bought a 2.0 mondeo tdci 140 with the powershift and am having trouble liking the ford auto box compared to the dsg. The ford is great if driving on 40mph+ roads but on 30mph roads 1-3 is fine but then i find i have to change gear manually, which sort of defeats the object of having an auto!!

  12. About 10 years ago I had a right leg injury and had to learn to drive an automatic with my left leg. My right leg subsequently healed and I continued driving with left leg brake and right leg accelerator. This I have since been told is the correct way to drive an auto and it works brilliantly with full control. I have found no problems with torque converter or DSG and my current mondeo 163 with powershift and 60000 miles on the clock has been superb. Try it!

  13. I have a 2010 Mondeo 163 Powershift, it’s the first automatic car I’ve owned, though I’ve driven a fair few. Personally I don’t get the feeling of lag when setting off, the car creeps as soon as you start to let the brakes off, and you can feel it trying to move as soon as it’s in gear, just like a torque converter auto. This combined with fast, smooth changes has really impressed me.
    I drive a truck for a living, with an automated (single, dry) clutch gearbox and it’s horrendous, particularly when reversing slowly, so I was very interested to try the car. Five minutes behind the wheel and I’d fallen in love with the Powershift box!

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