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Ford gets into the tens: new 10-speed automatic transmission revealed

Published: 11 May 2016

► Ford unveils first mass-market 10spd auto
► Available in new Ford F-150 with EcoBoost V6
► Claimed hikes in economy and performance

More is always better, right? That certainly seems to be the case when it comes to the number of ratios served up by your gearbox, particularly given the potential benefits when it comes to performance and efficiency.

That’s why the latest Ford F-150, with the 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6, is now offered with a ten-speed automatic. Ford claims it’s the first mass-produced consumer 10-speed automatic and, given that the only other option is currently found in the low-volume Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, we’re inclined to agree.

Chevrolet’s ten-speed transmission is a product of the same development programme, however – Ford and GM collaborated to design the new gearbox.

That’s a lot of gears. What are the advantages of this new transmission?

Ford’s new torque converter-based ten-speed automatic is claimed to offer improved economy and performance compared to previous six-speed option, in part thanks to three overdrive ratios and reduced weight. The company also states that it’s the first of its transmission to not feature cast-iron components, instead using ‘advanced materials’ and alloys, cutting weight.

‘The Ford truck team lives to serve our hardworking truck customers,’ said Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president of product development and chief technical officer. ‘The powertrain is the heart of every F-150, and together our all-new 3.5-liter EcoBoost and 10-speed transmission will give our customers better power, efficiency and confidence.’

Official performance and efficiency figures won’t be published until later in the year, however, so we’ll have to wait to find out how much of a difference the four extra ratios have made.

Remind me – why is the number of gears on the rise?

More gears give you more options. You can have super-short ratios for prompt acceleration off the line, yet retain lots of progressively taller ratios for economical super-low RPM cruising at higher speeds. Because you’ve lots of gears to play with, this can be done without having excessively big steps between each ratio – which harms acceleration and can labour the engine, decreasing its efficiency.

So, with more gears in play, the engineers don’t have to compromise with the ratio selections as much – meaning your car’s engine can be kept in its best operating range more easily, resulting in lower emissions and improved economy. If those gears can be changed quickly enough it’ll likely deliver a helpful performance boost, too, while the shifts will be smoother because the change in speeds throughout the transmission’s components will be reduced.

It also makes for an easy win on the marketing front, given how advanced it looks alongside the suddenly staid six- and seven-speed options. A win-win situation all round, perhaps, provided it doesn’t hunt excessively through its range of ratios. We’re not sure we’d want to rebuild one later down the line, either...

What’s next on the transmission front?

Ford’s not resting on its laurels and has already filed patents pertaining to an eleven-speed automatic. Volkswagen was also developing a ten-speed dual-clutch transmission but the project has reputedly been shelved recently, due to spiralling costs.

Read CAR magazine’s Ford reviews here

Ford ten-speed automatic

By Lewis Kingston

Formerly of this parish. Inveterate car buyer and seller; currently owner of a '68 Charger project car

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