Friday, June 6, 2014

Car Control

Here's the thing,

So I've expressed before my compulsive need for manual cars. It would be very hard for me to own or drive an automatic transmission car every day. Worse yet, it seems these majestic creatures are starting to go the way of the dinosaur. Of course, every couple of years a manual-only car makes a splash, but then the maker folds to increased pressure and makes an automatic version. Think the Fiat 500 Abarth. And next up will be the Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost, I'm sure.

So what's the problem? Dual clutch flappy paddle boxes are faster, get the same or better gas mileage, and offer you the option of putting the car in Drive when not in the mood to change your own gears. Right? Well the argument that every enthusiast uses still stands: manuals offer a better connection with the car, and better control over the way it behaves. Will there ever be a way to change the set-up to better cater to the enthusiast crowd and bring over some of the three-pedal faithful?

I have one idea. Let's put the paddles in charge of everything. Many high-end models do this, but I've yet to see an affordable car where everything can be controlled by paddle. On many exotics that operate by flappy paddle, at any time the driver can pull both paddles to enter Neutral, and use them again to enter Reverse if so desired. In the affordable models today with paddle-shifted transmissions, they are simply extensions of the old Auto-Stick set up. Some companies call it Shifttronic, some call it Click-Shift, but basically all it does is let you think you have a bit more control than using the plus and minus clicks on the console shifter. A good bit of those will even upshift automatically once you get close to redline as well. Not much control over the car, huh?

So I propose this option. Start offering sportier models without a traditional P-R-N-D-S shifter. There should be buttons, and only 3 of them. P would park the car and engage the brakes. D would be for drive, and function much the same way as today's modern take would, also offering a. Then of course, offer an M button, for full manual control over the car. Offer the enthusiast a way to really take over and control the car the way we can with a traditional standard setup. As I said, offer these on the sportier models as not to confuse those that wouldn't be ready for this kind of change.

Without changing something, enthusiasts will be left out in the cold. Automatics will continue to grow, and we will be shoved towards the back of the class. If manufacturers are going to start taking away our ability to heel-toe and rev-match our own shifts, at least leave the pleasure of controlling the car's gears somehow in our hands. After all, it may even shift the minds of a few die-hards.

And that, that's the thing.
- Shawn

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