Opinion Desk: Ford Should Replace 5-Speed With 6-Speed Manual On New Focus

The standard five-speed manual transmission found on the new Ford Focus (S and SE trims) isn’t bad. It’s a smooth shifter and gives Ford’s global compact car the ability to attain nearly 40 miles per gallon on the highway. But it needs to be replaced with a six speed. Here’s why.

When driving at (legal) 70-75 miles per hour, the 2.0-liter Duratec engine runs at approximately 3,500 RPMs — a high RPM range that significantly increases NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) levels to the point that it becomes uncomfortable. In other words, the engine revs and roars at the high RPM range to deliver the driver-requested speed of 70 miles per hour. Adding another forward gear, one that’s rather tall in its ratio (and thus could be considered an overdrive gear), would significantly decrease the engine’s RPMs at higher speeds. What’s more, Ford’s upcoming three-cylinder EcoBoost 1.0 liter will most likely need to rev a bit more to attain the same power output as the larger Duratec, so a six speed stick will help it just as well.

In fact, I think it’s possible that a sixth gear would allow the 2.0 liter unit to run at a comfortable 2,500 RPMs at 70 miles per hour — a healthy decrease of 1,000 RPMs would do wonders to reduce NVH while improving fuel economy. On top of that, adding another gear would increase the power available in the lower gears, further optimizing the 2.0 liter four-banger.

Now, it’s important to point out that we’re talking about the two base trim levels of the Focus here — the S and SE. They’re much less expensive than the upmarket SEL and Titanium trim levels, both of which come standard with the PowerShift dual-clutch automatic gearbox. So why should Ford bother with the base? The answer comes in one word: competition.

The Chevy Cruze — the Focus’ most fervent competitor that has so far outsold The Blue Oval’s entry — offers a six-speed stick standard across its four trim levels. Why can’t Ford do the same?

Motrolix Founder with a passion for global automotive business strategy.


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