We’ve briefly sampled Ford’s new 10-speed automatic Mustang in the US already, but alongside a look at the firm’s new Fiesta ST, we’ve also now learnt the tech secrets that underpin the development of its new transmission.
This new gearbox has been developed in conjunction with Ford’s big rival, General Motors, and Ford is hoping that it’ll address criticism levelled at the old car’s sluggish six-speed auto (although it’s used in many more models than just the Mustang).
On paper, it’s an advanced piece of engineering with some innovations that give the Mustang much improved performance. First of which is what the Blue Oval’s automatic transmission specialist Ian Oldknow calls direct-acting electric solenoids.
These give greater control over the clutches on the 10-speed unit’s planetary gear sets, which put simply means the box can swap ratios faster but also more smoothly.
It’s allowed Ford to develop a direct downshifting function that means the auto box can behave like a dual-clutch in some respects – it doesn’t have to kick down through all the gears if you ask for a burst of acceleration, for example, so could in theory change straight from 10th to fourth for maximum performance as fast as possible.
This also works going up the gears, with the transmission able to ‘skip shift’ directly from, say, third to sixth.
Is 10 ratios too many? Ford doesn’t believe so, with Oldknow stating that smaller steps between gears means smoother and faster changes, while it also optimises performance. This is particularly the case for naturally aspirated engines such as the 5.0-litre V8 we tested, upped to 444bhp in this facelifted model, as it keeps the engine closer to optimum performance.
The motor’s extra power has been liberated by high-pressure direct port injection alongside low-pressure port injection and it feels big lunged. As rivals turn to turbos, this naturally aspirated unit is lovely, delivering a deep bellow that morphs into a bark higher up with even more revs available thanks to a limiter set even higher here.
Other developments include something called an integrated turbine clutch, which uses the housing as part of the clutch pack to save 1kg in weight and improve packaging, in turn giving more space for dampers in the transmission to improve refinement.
So how does it drive? Unfortunately, it doesn’t shift with the same speed or precision as the best in the business.
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