Dual-clutch semi-auto transmissions do their best to avoid the break in torque by swapping cogs almost instantly with one clutch disengaging as another engages, but Ford thinks it has found the answer in regular automatic transmissions with what it calls Torque Hole Filling (THF) technology.
The upcoming 2012 Ford Focus with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine will be equipped with the THF tech when buyers opt for the six-speed automatic transmission.
In theory, the technology could have arrived a lot sooner, but the engineering team needed to wait until other technology had hit the market first, such as drive-by-wire and electronic throttle control and ECUs with higher processing power. Automatic transmissions have come along in leaps and bounds over the last decade, offering amazing smoothness and better response than the slushboxes of yore. Even the automatic's previous downside, fuel efficiency, has now improved so much that many autos are now more efficient than their manual counterpart for most drivers.
By filling in the gaps in torque, Ford is moving the auto's game another step forward. Ford's tests have shown the THF technology to increase shift quality by up to two points on a ten point scale. This sort of improvement has been no mean feat either - Ford engineers have spent 6,000 man-hours of research over two years to prepare the technology.
Ford Research Technical Expert Chris Teslak says: "[THF technology] enables a consistently smooth shift feel with minimum calibration effort and no incremental hardware cost. More importantly, it’s a portable technology that can be applied across multiple powertrain/transmission powerpacks, giving us the ability to quickly deliver best-in-class shift quality across platforms.”
Many commentators expected dual-clutch transmissions to steadily take over both the manual and automatic transmissions over the coming years - but perhaps the good old-fashioned torque converter auto still has life left in it yet. And if you fancy a completely seamless transmission, you can always opt for the 2012 Ford Focus Electric...