All-new Ford Ranger Hits A Six

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  • Ranger is the first one-tonne pickup to boast a new six-speed automatic transmission in a segment where six-speed gearboxes are still rare
  • The six-speed automatic transmission comes with intelligent software functions such as the Driver Recognition feature that tailors its response to individual driving styles
  • Delivering smooth and quick shifts along with outstanding fuel economy, the new six-speed gearboxes are available on selected diesel models

MELBOURNE, Australia, 11 Feb., 2011 – The all-new Ford Ranger scores a clear winner in its fuel-efficient six-speed automatic transmission that not only shifts quickly and smoothly but is also smart enough to adapt to individual driving styles and gradients without the driver even realising it.

The gearbox studies how you accelerate, brake and corner, and tailors its gear shifts to match your expectations. If you’re a sporty driver, it’ll hold on to the gears longer and use more of the engine revs. Or if you drive in a fuel-efficient manner, the transmission will upshift earlier to deliver the desired fuel economy.

This Driver Recognition aspect is one of the clever software features built into the six-speed automatic transmission. Ranger is the first one-tonne pickup to sport a six-speed automatic transmission, taking the lead in a segment where six-speed gearboxes remain uncommon.

The six-speed transmissions, both manual and automatic, are available on selected models with the 2.2-litre or 3.2-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel engines. With a larger spread of ratios, the six-speed transmission offers real-world benefits by allowing the customer more flexibility to be in the right gear for fuel efficiency, power and performance.

Imagine driving along at 100 km/h while laden, you can shift from 6th to 5th gear and it’s only a 10- to 15-percent change in engine revs. But with a four-speed gear box, that might be a 25-percent change in engine revs so it’ll feel like it’s revving too high in 3rd gear yet not delivering enough grunt in 4th gear.

“The low first gear greatly improves launch feel while the smaller steps between 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th also ensure less ‘busyness’ within the transmission as it determines the right gear,” said Tim Postgate, transmission calibration supervisor.

“The end result of the transmission being in the right gear at the right time leads to an improvement in vehicle performance and a reduction in fuel consumption.”

‘Learning’ your driving style
Ranger’s automatic gearbox provides drivers various modes as well as total manual control through sequential manual shifting. In Normal mode, the calibration focuses on comfort and fuel economy. For sportier driving, a quick flick of the shifter changes the transmission into Performance mode with later shift points, particularly suited to twisty, hilly terrain. The driver can also manually select gears through a forward (downshift) or rearward (upshift) movement.

The Driver Recognition software “learns” the driver’s style using a points system. The feature recognises various performance-based actions, such as rapid acceleration, enthusiastic cornering and flooring the accelerator pedal. This sporty driving “earns” points, and the more points earned, the more responsive the transmission becomes.

For example when accelerating at half-pedal in Drive mode, the upshift may occur at 2000 rpm, but in Performance mode or after some enthusiastic driving, the shift may occur at 3000 rpm instead. Downshifts become more easily accessed and more engine braking is available.

“The aim of the software is to match the customer’s expectation of the gearing with his or her driving style,” explained Postgate. “A relaxed driving style will deliver significant benefits in terms of refinement and fuel economy, while enthusiastic drivers will be rewarded with sharper responses and a more defined sporty feel.”

Recognising gradients
Ranger’s six-speed automatic transmission can also deduce whether the pickup is going uphill or downhill – and how steep it is – by assessing the engine torque. Engineers calibrated the baseline by determining the amount of torque required in each gear to maintain steady speeds on a level road. So if the vehicle requires less torque from the baseline, it means it’s going downhill and vice versa.

The gradient counter runs in the background and constantly gauges the grade, with a flat road being zero percent. The transmission uses this information to adjust the shift points to suit the level of gradient. For example when going uphill, this will prevent the transmission from changing up a gear too early as there won’t be enough torque in the next gear, hence minimising gear hunting.

When going downhill, the transmission will automatically downshift to provide additional engine braking when it senses the driver is applying the brakes. This helps the driver to be in better control.

“With the six-speed automatic gearbox, driving uphill or downhill will be as simple as driving on flat roads,” said Postgate.

Other than recognising gradients, the transmission is also programmed to hold on to the gear when going around a corner at high speed as any gear shift at that point may unsettle the vehicle.

And when driving in 4WD low range, Ranger has a different pedal map and a different shift schedule so that the driver can control the vehicle better when negotiating challenging terrain such as steep, muddy or sandy offroad tracks.

“The sheer capacity of the transmission to allow for real-time calculation of a variety of parameters has enabled us to further refine the shift strategy to cover a whole range of driving scenarios,” said Postgate.

“All the intelligent built-in features result in a transmission that is not only involved and intuitive but can also adapt its functionality to suit every situation as demanded by the driver.”