Reader Question: Paddle Shifters?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Damon asks: Do you think paddle shifters are a gimmick to make people feel as though they’re still in control of their car’s shifts?

My reply: It depends!

Electronic control over shifts doesn’t have to be gimmicky. The problem is, many of the systems found in new cars are – probably because of warranty reasons. What that means is the computer will prevent downshifts (or force upshifts) to avoid over-speeding the engine (or over-loading the transmission) which of course never happens with a manual that you actually shift yourself. You decide when to shift up – or down.

But, an automatic can also be set up for full manual control of gear changes. The transmission in my Trans-Am is set up for that. If I want to hold first gear, it holds first gear – and so on.

Electronically controlled shifters also have the upside of being very fast and very accurate. That said, I still prefer manually shifting gears because I simply enjoy doing it.

. . .

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  1. All autos should come with a manual control option be it paddles or sequential bump up/down style. Theres nothing more annoying than being in traffic thats moving the speed of a gear change and feeling the transmission hunt up and down endlessly. Also, maintaining speed up or down a hill. Going uphill happily until the auto decides to upshift and there goes all your torque and you start to slow until you’re forced to gas it to force a downshift. Going downhill the damn auto upshifts and forces you to use the brakes when the engine could do all the braking and save wear n tear.

  2. I have paddle shifters in my Focus. I did an experiment in which I revved the lower gears high; the car shifted automatically when it got close to red line. As long as I don’t get close to red line, I can shift myself Of course, if I’m crusing along and punch it, it’ll drop two or three gears without having to do anything; of course, you have to remember to upshift after that… 🙂

    I also find myself using the paddles in heavy traffic. I get annoyed when the tranny ushifts for me, because it’s harder to match the speed of the traffic. Using the paddles, I can keep it in 2nd or 3rd and use the gas to control my speed in heavy traffic.

    Anyway, I like paddle shifters because I have the best of both worlds. Though I like an old school manual, it’s sometimes hard to work the clutch with my arthritic knees. With the paddles, I can change gears when I want to, and let the car do it when I don’t… 🙂


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