The dual-clutch Ford Powershift transmission originally made an appearance in the blue-oval’s range in 2008, shortly after it had been made available to Volvo.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.
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.
Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi Manual vs Powershift
|Model||0-62mph (sec)||Combined EU MPG||CO2 g/km||Tax Band|
|Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi, Manual||9.3||51.3||144||F|
|Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi, Powershift||9.6||48.6||154||G|
Volkswagen Golf GTD Manual vs DSG
|Model||0-60mph (sec)||Combined EU MPG||CO2 g/km||Tax Band|
|Volkswagen Golf GTD, Manual||8.1||55.4||134||E|
|Volkswagen Golf GTI, DSG||8.1||52.3||142||F|
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 CO2 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