By on May 7, 2008

ford-6f-transmission.jpg

The AP (via NPR) reports that Ford plans to put six-speed automatic transmissions (AT) into 98 percent of its North American vehicles by 2012. Ford's seductively-named "6F35" transmission is the technological fruit of a $720m joint development effort between Ford and GM. Ford claims the new automatics– debuting in the ‘09 Escape and Mercury and Lincoln clones– offer four to six percent better fuel economy than their current four- and five-speed equivalents. Craig Renneker, Ford's chief engineer for the slushboxes, admits that "these technologies are all about fuel economy." No, wait! Ford VP Barb Samardzich is a bit more PR-savvy: "They also deliver improved acceleration and smoother shifting," she adds. Anyway, you can thank the 35mpg fleet average CAFÉ standards for the additional cog. "With today's high gas prices, the decision to deploy these across virtually
the entire Ford lineup comes at a good time."

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36 Comments on “Ford Moving to Six-Speed Automatics...”


  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    “you can thank the 35mpg fleet average CAFÉ standards for the additional cog.”

    Ford and GM must have had a good crystal ball, because this transmission was committed to by them at least four years ago, when gas was cheap.

  • avatar
    mxfive4

    So instead of a horsepower war are we going to see a gear war?

    6 speeds? isn’t MB up to 7 and somebody else pondering 8speeds?

    I think Hellhound should get back in the game with a 10 speed Jeep Commander Huffy edition.

  • avatar

    I have a 6sp in my Mazda 6 wagon… doesn’t do that much better in real life than the 5sp

  • avatar
    ash78

    I think Lexus already has an 8-speed auto, IIRC.

  • avatar
    MikeInCanada

    Ironically, somebody is getting a raise for thinking this one up “If 5 is good, 6 must be better…let’s add a gear..” when they should have been thinking of a game changing design.

    DSG was invented by Borg Warner – why the hell did it show up first in Europe and not North America?

    I bet they introduce this transmission into their biggest 4 door sleds and pickups first, then as sales continue to slide, conclude that this tranny was all a waste of time.

  • avatar

    On a recent GTA-Toronto, Ontario Auto show the Guest that night was a Transmission person who said that more gears only add to the complex of a Automatic Transmission ie in other words more trouble could lie ahead! and so it continues!

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    A transmission engineer recently said the new 5+ speed transmissions are time bombs. They are not tough enough to withstand the increased shifting, break down frequently, and are extremely costly to repair. Fuel mileage gains are insufficient to pay for the greatly increased out of warranty repairs.

  • avatar
    dwford

    It’s not just the tranny, though. The engine needs to be optimized as well. EX: the FWD Taurus V6/6spd gets 18/28, while the FWD Fusion V6/6spd only gets 18/26

  • avatar
    miked

    Anyone thinking of Spinal Tap?

    This one goes to 11.

  • avatar
    RMCN

    No one wants to buy a car with a 4 sp transmission unless it is a 65-69 vintage muscle car.

  • avatar
    philbailey

    The cost of repair or replacement just doubled.
    Not quite up to CVT cost, but close.

  • avatar

    Paul Niedermeyer: Ford and GM must have had a good crystal ball, because this transmission was committed to by them at least four years ago, when gas was cheap.

    Point taken. But I’m thinking the decision to put these in 98-percent of their vehicles is related to today’s gas prices.

    That said, I’m sure there were other reasons for planning the additional cog(s), back when the project began.

  • avatar
    RobertSD

    Just so no one is held in suspense, the 6-speed will also be the base transmission in the Fusion and Milan 4-cyl cars when they launch in early January. It’s not clear if this will replace the Aisin in the Fusion/Milan V6 (but it is probably likely if it gets the 3.0 PIP like the Escape).

  • avatar
    losgatosCa

    The future of transmissions, IMO, are dual clutch transmissions with 7 speeds. One clutch for even and one for odd. The ’08 BMW M3 will have a DCT as does Audi and VW. Lexus, in their IF, uses an eight speed DCT. No history on reliability obviously and probably doesn’t pertain to domestic 2.8.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    More gears= more shifting.
    Quite often it shfts imaturely cause the engine to lug at lower RPM, and more torque putting thru the tranny bad for both components.

    Gear hunting is not a fun thing when u’re drivng it especially some incline and some down hill. It never seems to make up her mind as 4th or 5th.

    Not withstanding the premature wear it can happen, whether it fell inside the Warranty period ( God forbid) or outside the W period.

    Few days ago a guy with his hood open on a GM Malibu ( i am not very sure) he was very un-impressed as it has no dip stick for his trans, so it could ran dry unbeknownst to him and $2000 more from his wallet. I have seen many cars with tranny oil disappearing when I checked.

  • avatar
    phil

    @losgatosCa

    the new lexus IF uses an 8 speed “direct shift” automatic; i am almost certain it is not a dual clutch borg warner type tranny.

    the 7 speed auto in my E63 works well and the car gets about 24mpg when cruising at 75 mph (1900 rpm) in 7th gear. i had a 6 speed Camaro SS that did even better, and i believe that the manual corvettes get high 20’s when cruising. so the additional cogs can really help.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    What about just using an infinite speed auto, a CV transmission. If your primary concern is gas mileage, that’s the way to go.

  • avatar
    losgatosCa

    @ Phil. I stand corrected, sir. You are absolutely correct. I drove an iF and the transmission was blazing quick and smooth. Very impressed. As for the rest……..

  • avatar
    P71_CrownVic

    Great job Ford. Rather than make more efficient engines, just throw another gear in the tranny.

    Why does Ford always take shortcuts?

  • avatar
    50merc

    Shoot, put an overdrive unit behind a five-speed. Presto, a ten-speed!

  • avatar
    jthorner

    “Anyway, you can thank the 35mpg fleet average CAFÉ standards for the additional cog.”

    I’m with Paul. That project started long before their were real prospects of CAFÉ going up. It was more a case of playing catch up with the German and Japanese companies. Honda, for example, went five speed across the board when Ford and GM were stuck with ancient 4-speed designs. Now GM and Ford are back in the hunt technologically.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    ” What about just using an infinite speed auto, a CV transmission. If your primary concern is gas mileage, that’s the way to go.”

    Not so. For anything bigger than a Civic the power losses internal to the CV are large due to the forces required to keep the pulleys at the right, variable distance. The Ford Five Hundred came with a CV transmission originally and the CV version got WORSE fuel economy than the optional traditional autobox did.

    “Rather than make more efficient engines, just throw another gear in the tranny.”

    That isn’t true or fair. Engines, transmissions, vehicle weight, aerodynamics, etc. all play a role in fuel economy. Ford is pushing on a new lineup of smaller turbocharged, direct injection engines they call eco-boost.

  • avatar

    It’s not just the tranny, though. The engine needs to be optimized as well. EX: the FWD Taurus V6/6spd gets 18/28, while the FWD Fusion V6/6spd only gets 18/26

    This is very true. The 3.0 Duratec is underpowered and inefficient, the 3.5 or 3.7 Duratec should be standard issue in all Ford vehicles with either the 4.0 or 3.0 V6s, including the Explorer, F-150, Fusion, and Mustang, IMHO. It just needs to be optimized for more torque rather than more horsepower for truck applications. I’ve heard (I think) that that’s what Ford’s going for. 19 mpg Ford Explorer? I think that’s a possibility (if highly unlikely, 17 or 18 mpg is more realistic).

    Great job Ford. Rather than make more efficient engines, just throw another gear in the tranny.

    Why does Ford always take shortcuts?

    Ford already has a good deal of fuel-efficient yet powerful engines, including the 3.5, the 3.7 and the upcoming EcoBoost series. It just needs to use them in more of its vehicles, and as Mulally works to get rid of unneccessary individual components in Ford vehicles, these engines will almost certainly replace just about all of the old inefficient ones.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Shoot, put an overdrive unit behind a five-speed. Presto, a ten-speed!…

    Gear Vendors overdrive/underdrive unit does exactly that. It installs after the tranny on RWD cars and offers a great variety of ratios. It is also built to handle output in excess of 800hp or some outlandish number IIRC.

    I’m with Paul. That project started long before their were real prospects of CAFÉ going up. It was more a case of playing catch up with the German and Japanese companies. Honda, for example, went five speed across the board when Ford and GM were stuck with ancient 4-speed designs. Now GM and Ford are back in the hunt technologically.…

    Didn’t Ford have a five speed in the Explorer for quite a number of years?

  • avatar
    prndlol

    So now it’s 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Overdrive, OD1 and OD2, right? Fun!

  • avatar
    Acd

    This is a good idea–why aren’t they available now?

  • avatar
    RobertSD

    This is a good idea–why aren’t they available now?

    Ford has six speeds in a number of its products, including the Taurus/Sable, Fusion/Milan/MKZ, Edge/MKX, Expedition/Navigator, Explorer and upcoming MKS and Flex.

    All of them use Ford or Ford/GM JV developed transmissions except the Fusion/Milan. This new unit is intended to replace those units and update the units on the base 4-cyl.

    This new unit debuts on the Escape/Mariner/Tribute when they start building on June 23rd. It will appear shortly after on the Fusion/Milan 4-cyl and 6-cyl engines when they start building in late-November.

    This is very true. The 3.0 Duratec is underpowered and inefficient, the 3.5 or 3.7 Duratec should be standard issue in all Ford vehicles with either the 4.0 or 3.0 V6s, including the Explorer, F-150, Fusion, and Mustang, IMHO.

    The 3.0 PIP will go a long way to leveling the playing field against its bigger 3.5 brother and get better mileage in the Escape (and it might show in the Fusion). So, for those applications, it is perfectly acceptable in its improved form.

    In the others, the Mustang is getting the 3.7 when it’s updated next year and the F-150 supposedly gets it for the 2010 model year. The Explorer is a very interesting question mark… Again, it’s not like Ford doesn’t get the fact that their more efficient and superior engines need to proliferate – it just takes time to proliferate effectively given all the other constraints on resources, most important being man-hours and money.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    I think this is a good move, and this development actually puts ahead of some of its competitors. Honda Accord still comes with 5-speed automatic regardless of engine choice. Pretty much any other car company offers only 4 or 5-speed automatic with the 4-cylinder engines. Ford may be the first company to offer a midsized car with a 4-cylinder engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission (2010 Fusion). Yes, this does sound boring to some of you, but this could be a good thing for fuel economy and also for driving dynamics. I have never seen 4-cylinder car with a 4-speed automatic that doesn’t feel like a complete slug on highway speeds.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    By the way, will this transmission have a manual gear selection option? This could help when driving on hilly roads.

  • avatar

    jthorner: I’m with Paul. That project started long before their were real prospects of CAFÉ going up. It was more a case of playing catch up with the German and Japanese companies…

    Fair enough. (Text amended.)

    :-)

  • avatar
    blautens

    RMCN :

    No one wants to buy a car with a 4 sp transmission unless it is a 65-69 vintage muscle car.

    A built 4 speed (auto) would actually be an upgrade on that type of car.

  • avatar
    raast

    A GM & Ford joint venture, and more speeds!

    Alltheweb search results for
    “ford transmission defects”
    702,000 Results
    Alltheweb search results for
    “gm transmission defects”
    456,000 Results

    Results for the consumer?
    Priceless!

  • avatar
    RobertSD

    I get 439,000 for Toyota, and they have far less history than either Ford or GM. 489,000 for Honda! If we’re going to talk truth here, let’s hear the whole truth.

    The Ford/GM JV tranny has yet to suffer a recall and certainly is not as bad as Toyota’s 6-speed effort that destroyed their vaunted quality image in the eyes of CR.

  • avatar
    raast

    Alltheweb searches…
    Well I was being very general.
    I didn’t get into C3 & C5 etc “slips into reverse without warning” or 4l60e issues, but I sure could. And the incentive between the joint venture of two competitors is … survival? Sure hope the commonality of all the parts schemes work out. Martian Lander metric vs imperial anyone?

  • avatar
    offroadinfrontier

    I agree with the CVT/DSG approach.

    Throw CVTs on the itsy-bitsy engines that really need to stay at peak power (IE my xA).

    Put the DSG on everything else.

    I love the efficiency of a manual transmission – the same engine and transmission combo can realistically give great acceleration or good gas mileage when configured properly. Throw in self-shifting with dual clutches, and I’m sold..

    What are the weight differences betw. the CVTs and DSGs? I love the idea of CVTs keeping the engine at optimal power while requiring no shifting (honestly I loved the CVT versa’s powertrain, all things considered). The idea of a manual with that many gears being self-shifted is awesome – my only question is how long the clutches last.

    With 2 clutches and super-efficient shifts, I’d imagine them lasting at LEAST 2x as long as a normal manual, and it isn’t hard to come across a Nissan or Honda with 100K+ miles and stock clutch.. while on the other hand, CVTs have about 5 years of modern “history”…

  • avatar
    cudlecub

    Regardless of how many gears it has, it would still be a ford.

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