By on July 17, 2017

2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S paddle shifter - Image: Mercedes-BenzMany new automatic transmissions are capable of shifting with a level of enthusiasm foreign to owners of cars that are only moderately old. Like, say, from 2009.

Many new automatic transmissions also shift faster and more intelligently and more consistently than you or I could ever hope to with a manual transmission.

And with manual transmissions dropping like flies, the quality of a these intelligent, consistent, rapid-fire automatic transmissions’ shifts should theoretically matter more than ever. Yet automakers are increasingly turning to paddle shifters as a means of giving control back to the driver. According to Edmunds, 186-percent more new vehicles feature paddle shifters in 2017 than in 2007.

Despite the fact that drivers don’t want the control.

According to General Motors, 62 percent of drivers used their paddle shifters less than two times per year, the New York Times says.

You eat kale more often than that. You buy your wife flowers more often than that. You listen to a complete Justin Bieber song more often than that. TTAC changes managing editors more often than… no, not quite.

Twice per year. Once every 183 days. Once every 9,500 miles, on average.

There was a time when the installation of flappy paddles in an automatic-equipped car was supposed to signify that not all sportiness was lost; that the driver still possessed a measure of allegiance to DIY driving.2018 Honda Odyssey paddle shifter - Image: © Timothy CainBut last week, in the 2018 Honda Odyssey Touring with which our family spent the week, there were paddle shifters. Sound silly?

I used them. You better believe I used them.

I’m clearly not normal, because I use paddle shifters in almost every vehicle so equipped. But it’s not because the road is twisty and I want to perfectly time the ZF eight-speed’s downshift. No, we’re approaching the end of a steep descent and I want some engine to help out the brakes. No big deal. Blip blip.

The New York Times, however, references one Cheryl Griffiths, the new owner of a Subaru Crosstrek in Queens, New York. Cheryl didn’t know “the truck” had paddle shifters. “I have no idea what those things are. I just drive the car,” she said.

Cheryl’s not like Fred Roberts, who felt it necessary to purchase a new car, a Mercedes-AMG E43, that had paddle shifters. “I find the paddles very functional if you know how to use them,” Fred says.

In some cases, the letdown is not in the performance of the paddle-induced downshift but rather in the quality of the paddle itself. On the one hand, you have the Ford Mustang’s separating plastic; on the other, an Aston Martin leather and metal bi-plane of glory.

Despite extra cost, Toyota will continue to install paddle shifters in the new Camry, America’s most popular car, because 35 percent of Camry owners “have or want paddle shifters,” Toyota’s product planning manager Ronnie Nomoto says. Something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, that.

Regardless, it’s highly unlikely that paddle shifters in the 200 vehicles now being sold with paddle shifters will be wielded for good or for bad. Note the absence of one word in Toyota’s statement: use. Have or want? Sure. But use? Not so much.

[Images: Mercedes-Benz and © Timothy Cain]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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88 Comments on “Survey Says: Drivers Almost Never Use Paddle Shifters, Yet Paddle Shifters Are Everywhere...”


  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    I dont care for them myself. I use my shifter in the CX9 about 75 percent of the time. its just fun for me. My wife hates it but its not her car. SHe also hates it when I shift her ES350.

  • avatar
    arach

    I love paddle shifters.

    On my Ferrari, you kind of have to use them since its an automated manual.

    On some cars like the Cadillacs, it feels like a joke… what use would give you?

    Fortunately on my Hyundai I again love them. I don’t shift “JUST” with the paddle shifters, but say I’m about to pass someone on a two lane highway- tap tap, I’m down to 4th gear ready for a pull instead of having to “wait” for the automatic transmission.

    I use it in this manner quite frequently, at least 2-3 times a month.

    Some people are so exited about the paddle shifters, but most cars don’t do a good job of doing them. You still “wait” for the auto tranny to react. I feel like the hyundai responds ultra fast, and really helps in those passing situations, or when I get frustrated that the car isn’t in the gear I want.

    Its very different than the ferrari which is more like a manual transmission that is controlled by the paddle shifters. Once again on the Ferrari, I leave it out of auto mode and use the paddle shifters 100% of the time.

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      What about the Ferrari? How do you use the paddle shifters on the Ferrari? Your shifter usage wasn’t clear with the Ferrari.

      • 0 avatar
        arach

        LOL- sorry. My point was that the paddle shifters on an automated manual are very different than the paddle shifters on an automatic transmission that has a “manual override”.

        99% of consumers don’t realize there is a difference. In attempting to draw the parallels it came off as me just saying the same thing over and over again.

    • 0 avatar
      bechsteinb

      I agree. I have paddles on my 2017 TLX and have used them in Sport+ mode for fun, but I more commonly use the downshift for passing or pushing harder up a hill, or around a corner. Maybe they’re not totally necessary, but I would miss not having them.

      • 0 avatar
        arach

        That ability to downshift really makes auto transmissions “less painful”. I used to hate automatics that wouldn’t downshift when your trying to pass someone, putting you in a dangerous situation.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “On my Ferrari, you kind of have to use them since its an automated manual.”

      Does the car have an automatic mode where it shifts by itself?

      • 0 avatar
        arach

        Technically yes, but a lot of maseratis with the same design get the glazed clutches because they are used in auto mode. Its discussed frequently on the forums (and happened to a Maserati I bought used). Just like how many auto transmissions with paddles shifters “don’t shift right” in manual mode, many clutchless manuals (or automated manuals) “don’t shift right” in automatic mode. There’s no torque converter like there is in an auto, so when you feel a “smooth shift” what you are really feeling is a slow and painful clutch engagement that glazes the clutch. Even in an automatic mode you have to accelerate through the shifts.

  • avatar
    AVT

    I only use them in my MKT for towing. Usually when I’m entering or leaving Duluth, thhe hills require it. Unless you want to fry a tranny or your brakes.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    Survey Says: Drivers Almost Never Use Sunroofs, Yet Sunroofs Are Everywhere

    Survey Says: Drivers Almost Never Use Truck Beds, Yet Full-Sized Trucks Are Everywhere

    Survey Says: Drivers Almost Never Use Cargo Bays, Yet SUVs/CUVs Are Everywhere

    Survey Says: Drivers Almost Never Use 4WD, Yet 4WD Is Everywhere

    Survey Says: Drivers Almost Never Use Full Throttle, Yet Horsepower Sells

    • 0 avatar
      I_like_stuff

      I have a 4WD truck and use 4WD pretty much every day Nov-March and put something in the back at least once a week that I wouldn’t otherwise fit in any other vehicle other than a truck.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      I have an F350 with a sunroof, large bed, 4WD and 1000 lb-ft of torque.

      I pretty much use it to drive my dog to the vet so he doesn’t muddy my car.

      I’ve used 4WD maybe twice.
      My wife insisted the car needed a sunroof, but its never been used. I hate the sunroof, and really its more power than I need. I don’t even know why I got so mod-happy, but I was so excited when I bought it I went crazy. I don’t even need the factory power levels.

      After getting this for a while I realized I’d be better suited in like a Ford ranger, and I keep going back and forth if I should sell the truck or not, but I keep deciding its not worth the hassle to sell it.

      My next truck I think I’m just going to get a 2WD with LSD, Short bed, sunroof-free, and I’ll probably go with a small motor. It’ll do me just fine.

      Consumers are irrational… or maybe they overestimate the opportunity. Its amazing what people “need” but don’t really need.

      Consumerism… YAYYYYYY!

    • 0 avatar
      orenwolf

      I’m surprised by the disdain for sunroofs – I open mine to “vent” every time I drive in all but winter (or rain!), and open it fully on warm sunny days (which I suppose is horribly inefficient given the fact that I turn up the AC to compensate). Why the hate?

      I use “sport” mode on my Mazda6 when I have any reason to believe I might need to accelerate quickly or would be annoyed by too-frequent downshifting in congestion. Paddle shifters I use whenever I need to force the car to upshift for me (various overtaking situations). Granted, I use them a lot less than I did in my RX8, which I attribute to a better auto in the 6.

      • 0 avatar
        Ion

        Sunroofs rob headroom, leak, potentially add maintenance costs (especially if you don’t want them to leak), can be noisey, add weight, cost structural integrity, etc. I would never consider a pana roof due the noise issue alone.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          “Sunroofs rob headroom, leak, potentially add maintenance costs (especially if you don’t want them to leak), can be noisey, add weight, cost structural integrity, etc. I would never consider a pana roof due the noise issue alone.”

          Strangely, a lot of that is just hearsay that doesn’t hold true today.
          • They DON’T rob headroom… they move up and out, not down and in like they used to;
          • They DON’T leak… unless they’re very poorly maintained.
          • They MIGHT add maintenance costs… but only if they break down.
          • They are NOT noisy, unless you run with them open, at which point the noise at a more sedate speed (like 35mph on the Tail of the Dragon) is more a sense of open air goodness;
          • They do NOT add that much weight;
          • They do NOT cost structural integrity… they fit between the roof supports;
          • There is no “etc.”

          If there’s an issue, they let too much sun in when they’re open (Fiat 500 actually uses a perforated screen to help keep from blinding the driver.) I’ve now had two different vehicles, one with a moon roof (glass panel that would open) and now my Renegade (polymer panel or maybe fiberglass) that opens electrically and is fully removable. They are really nice when you’re driving for pleasure.

          • 0 avatar
            trs80

            Many sunroofs are not up and out, many are still down and in and rob a significant amount of headroom.

            I’m tall, sat in an A5 sport back at an auto show without a sunroof, no problem. But you can’t not get a sunroof in North America and I most decidedly do not fit when it has a sunroof. This is a common issue if you’re tall, sunroof’s take up space, even up and outs, less perhaps, but less headroom than a solid roof.

            And they do leak. If’s why they have drainage channels. If you keep the car long enough the gaskets will degrade and leak even more. My ’87 Grand National was an effing sieve and replacing the gasket was a major pain in ass.

          • 0 avatar
            JDG1980

            Almost every car with an optional sunroof has two different headroom figures listed in the specs: one with the sunroof, and one without. The sunroof almost always robs at least an inch of headroom.

          • 0 avatar
            RetroGrouch

            “Strangely, a lot of that is just hearsay that doesn’t hold true today.
            • They DON’T rob headroom… they move up and out, not down and in like they used to;”

            …says the 5 foot 9 inch internet commenter. Do you think the sunroof moves back and forth on a TARDIS like warp in the fabric of the space-time continuum? Ever take a look at what is above the fabric of that headliner? Have you ever drilled out spot welds and pried sunroof cassettes away from their vicelike adhesive bonds to free up a couple more inches of headroom for your brain bucket?

            “• They DON’T leak… unless they’re very poorly maintained.”

            …says the internet commenter who leases a new car every 27-1/2 months. Try buying something in the 10 to 25 year old range with 120k to 300k miles.

            “• They MIGHT add maintenance costs… but only if they break down.”

            See my comment above.

            Thanks to the unwashed masses who feel the car owning “experience” should terminate at the end of the 6 year/100k mile CPO warranty, auto manufacturers do not give a hairy badger about how their products perform after you are done with them.

            – retrogrouchy anti-sunroof mafia

          • 0 avatar
            arach

            As a 6’9″er, I have to say on most cars they rob headroom. for example, I can’t even drive a Maxima with a sunroof. Literally cannot fit. No problem with a normal maxima!

            every one I’ve ever owned has also leaked. 2nd gen CTS: Leaked, F350: Leaked, 3000GT: Leaked, Jeep Patriot: Leaked BRAND NEW and they could never fix it despite 4 trips to the dealer under warranty. pontiac G8 – Leaked.

            Now I’ll list the ones that haven’t leaked:
            Hyundai Sonata. (which I’ve only had for 9 months)

            The CTS was also awful because it had a perforated screen that wasn’t good enough to block the light. Since I’m tall, I sit far away from the steering wheel, so bright sun pierces the perforated screen blinding me while I try to drive.

            And they cost like $1200+ on many cars now days. over a Grand! take a $20k car, and you add 5% to the price for a sunroof! There’s a lot of things you can buy with that kind of money, like a motorcycle, or 150 lunches at Mcdonalds,.

            But yes, they have some perks. You can let some air out, or let some air in, and see the rain sprinkling above your head.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “As a 6’9″er, I have to say on most cars they rob headroom. for example, I can’t even drive a Maxima with a sunroof. Literally cannot fit. No problem with a normal maxima!”

            I have only one question for you, arach: Does that Maxima sunroof pop up and over the roof of the car, or does it do a pop-under? That would make a huge difference.

            As far as leaks, not one of the cars in which I had a sun/moon roof leaked, though I had a number of leaky windshields due to not having enough sealant between the glass and the frame.

        • 0 avatar

          I can’t fit in most cars with a sunroof due to lack of headroom, and I’m a little over 5’10” (with a relatively long torso).

    • 0 avatar
      zip89123

      I can do without the sunroof, but the rest I’d use, often.

      • 0 avatar
        CobraJet

        I recently purchase a new Buick Lacrosse. I bought the Premium version because my wife wanted the cooled (ventilated)seats. She also wanted the sunroof, which most of the ones in stock at my dealer were equipped with. I refused because I simply don’t like it and wouldn’t find much use for it. My dealer had to search in 4 states to find one without a sunroof, then have it shipped in. My dislike has nothing to do with headroom, although that is a factor. My reason is maintenance. I keep a car at least 10 years and with that age, seals break down and leaks occur. This car is not usually garaged at home.

        As for the paddle shifter, I find it more difficult to use than a normal shift lever. First you must place the shift lever in “M” then work the paddle. I only use this feature when descending steep grades. By the way, this is nothing new. My 69 Mustang is an automatic which Ford advertised as “Select Shift”. The claim was you could leave it in drive or shift it yourself. If you manually shift, it immediately shifts without any hesitation.

    • 0 avatar
      carlisimo

      Yeah, I only have a sunroof because it came with the package that gave me other stuff I wanted. I don’t use it. I’ve had a convertible before and loved it, but a sunroof gives you all the radiant heat, sun in your eyes, and noise without any of the good things of driving top-down. I really don’t see the point.

  • avatar
    notwhoithink

    Yeah, my Fusion has them and my former Jetta TDI didn’t. I use them from time to time in the Fusion when I want to feel sporty, but the shifting is so slooooooow and clunky with that automatic transmission that I quickly get annoyed. While the Jetta didn’t have paddles, it did have a DSG with a +/- on the shift lever. I would manually shift that TDI quite frequently while de-stressing on a nice ride down twisty rural roads, and it was actually fun to drive. I really wish it had the paddles. If my Fusion had a DSG (and no, not the Ford PowerShift) then I’d be more likely to use it more often.

    The other major reason that I don’t bother with the paddles on the Fusion very often is that they are mounted to the wheel instead of the column, so shifting while cornering gets annoying as the paddle that you’re looking for inevitably is now on the opposite side of the wheel, or some other position depending on the degree to which you have turned the wheel.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      “The other major reason that I don’t bother with the paddles on the Fusion very often is that they are mounted to the wheel instead of the column, so shifting while cornering gets annoying as the paddle that you’re looking for inevitably is now on the opposite side of the wheel, or some other position depending on the degree to which you have turned the wheel.”

      Either you misspoke or you need to take HPDE.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      I use my DSG manual control mostly for engine braking while going downhill, there’s some twisty downhill roads on my commute and being able to tell it to stay in 3rd gear-which yields just the right speed is very useful. On rare occasion I’ll manually shift for fun but because of how closely spaced the gears are and how peaky the torque curve is it’s pretty obvious that the DSG does a better job of actually maximizing acceleration.

  • avatar
    jmo

    What’s the marginal cost of the paddles? $25 at most? If it influences 10% of buyers then it’s worth keeping them if the cost is so low.

  • avatar
    Slocum

    I use them for hill descents, but not to simulate manual shifting.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      If I put my Taurus in Sport mode, it’ll do that for me. I knows I’m on a sizable decent. If I touch the brakes, it’ll drop 2-3 gears.

      I’ll even drop a couple of gears when I brake into a corner (in sport mode), giving me more power to pull out of the corner.

      Does it do these things as well as a manual? Nope, but it’s pretty cool that it does it at all, especially on an old man car.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I use the paddles in my G all the time. Transmission is reluctant to downshift, but is too aggressive in sport mode. Paddles give me the control I want while still enabling my wife to drive the car. My only gripe is the transmission doesn’t shift fast enough.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      “My only gripe is the transmission doesn’t shift fast enough.”

      This is why I don’t use them too. The slowness defeats the purpose of me doing any action. If I flick the paddle that means I want to shift NOW, not when the tranny decides it agrees with my previous input. Imagine if steering worked that way! (on some cars it sure feels like) Plus on cars that have use the transmission selector to shift the shift action is backwards 99% of the time. The correct setup is – (downshift) is forward, while + (upshift) is back!

      My wife’s Q60 has that wrong and it drives me nuts, so I just leave it in Sport. Personally I like Infiniti aggressive downshifts because many vehicles I’ve rented you can’t even tell its in sport mode because the change to the mapping are so small.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      I’m sure that varies by manufacturer also. I don’t really notice any lag, but they are especially crisp when I move the shifter to sport mode and then use the paddles.

  • avatar
    mikey

    When I first bought the Mustang, I read the owners manual. I went for a quick little cruise, and played with the paddle shifters, just to see how it worked..I did the same thing with the “mode” button…Ive never used either one since.

    If I wanted to control shifting, I would of bought a stick.

  • avatar
    vagvoba

    Finally we have some proof!

    Paddle shifters are pointless in most cars. Not because they are useless, but because people don’t use them.
    Most people want a car that can be driven with as little effort as possible. Adding two extra levers that just confuse aunt Jane is indeed pointless. She just want to get to Walmart safely while listening to books on tape.

    As to why people want them despite not using them? For the same reason why they buy the Crosstrek instead of the cheaper Impreza. They think more stuff is better, whatever the stuff is.

  • avatar
    jasonw

    Acura doesn’t provide a manual select option other than “S” in their shift gate so I’m stuck with paddles. Thought I would hate them at first but now I find them very convenient for a quick double-tap engine brake or passing.

    I think it’s fair to say that most manual modes often go untouched when it comes to everyday drivers.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    With the new breed of unconventional shifters, you need some way to execute manual downshifts for downhill engine braking. Paddle shifters are as good as any.

    There’s no need for them in daily driving (unless you commute over Teton Pass), but when you’re headed down a big hill, it’s essential to have some way to control shifting manually (or, in an EV or hybrid, apply max regen) so you can stay off the friction brakes and keep them cool.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    In automatics I like to use the shifter for winter driving. Second gear starts if it’s slippery or downshifting to slow without always hitting the brakes.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I find them singularly useless, since 99% of automatics treat manual shift requests as whispered suggestions at best. I actually have a Cadillac XTS for my rental du jour which has them. Slightly less useful than teats on a bull.

    I have to say, the XTS is the nicest Chevy I have ever driven.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      I’m going to sound crazy saying this, But I was test driving an XTS-V Sport and the Paddle shifters still took too long to respond. Drove me nuts.

      So I bought Hyundai 2.0T. In sport mode, they shift INSTANTLY. it really blows my mind. I don’t feel like that car even has a torque converter. First automatic I didn’t hate, and I’m NOT an import guy.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    When I drive the elderents in their Outback, I use them to force a “simulated” CVT up shift to help make the awful engine drone die down.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      I never understood the point of paddle shifters on a car with a CVT. Did some digging, and while hte CVT has an “infinite” combination of variable ratios available, engaging the paddle shifters allows you to select from a number of pre-determined “static” ratios. These would be useful on hill descents or if you were towing or something else like that, but are otherwise the most useless of all paddle shifters.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Our 2012 Altima has these preset ratios, engaged with the +/- function on the console shift lever. The lowest ratio could be lower for better engine braking on steep hills, but otherwise they work well for controlling downhill speed and holding the engine in the meatier part of the powerband when going up passes.

        Surprisingly, for such an econobox the shift response very quick and crisp.

  • avatar
    Fred

    On my TSX Sportwagon I never used them in flat Texas. Now that I have a 2000 foot climb up to the house from town, I’ve tried to use them to keep the auto from shifting up and down, and I like to take a couple of hairpins in 2nd that auto is slow to select. I still let the auto try and frankly it does a pretty good job with it.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    They are never used because ‘Cheryl Griffiths’ is responsible for 99% of vehicle miles driven. Cheryl Griffiths has no clue about the most basic fundamentals of a motor vehicle. Cheryl doesn’t know what a transmission does. Cheryl doesn’t anticipate road and traffic conditions and think about how to properly operate the car based on this. Therefore Cheryl puts her car in ‘D’ and coasts down a residential hill at 2x the speed limit with the engine idling at 1500 rpm. If the excess speed becomes bothersome or frightening, Cheryl rides her brakes until they overheat. She may even try to exit her vehicle without putting the lever in ‘P’, but often doesn’t because the angry chimes remind her not to do so.

    But she damn well knows how to use a variety of apps on her phone. Cheryl has priorities.

    It’s no mystery as to why paddle shifters aren’t utilized. I’m guessing the tiptronic-style +/- mode and 3-2-1 lever positions are similarly ignored.

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      It is the rare woman that knows what a shifter is on any conveyance. I see women all the time get off their bike when going uphill because they don’t really understand how to shift their 21 speed mountain bike to get into an easier gear. I’ve never met a woman that actually enjoys a manual transmission car, or has knowledge/interest in using the gearbox for engine braking or to pop down a gear or two for faster passing. Yes I know there are women that know how to shift, but they are very rare in my observation, which means that if you have an automatic gearbox most of them are going to have zero interest in over-riding it with paddle shifters, especially since it might distract them from the important text they are trying to type.

      • 0 avatar
        scott25

        I’ve never met a woman who doesn’t drive a manual vehicle, other than my girlfriend. The girls who drive manuals usually don’t know much or care about cars. My girlfriend loves cars, especially older ones.

      • 0 avatar
        arach

        My wife won’t drive a car with an automatic transmission. Her cars have to be sticks.

        Sucks for me (Do you know how hard it was to track down a Manual Transmission Porsche Cayenne?) But its great for me too (Do you know how hard it was to track down a Wife who loves Cars and only drives Manual transmission cars?)

  • avatar
    pdieten

    My Sonata has sport shifting. I use it for engine braking. Didn’t notice any responsiveness issues – when I pull that stick back it downshifts.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      Sonata is the most responsive one I’ve ever found.

      Odd for a non-sporty car from a non-sporty brand where they probably have a lower than average usage of the sport shifting…

      Chevy.. TAKE NOTES!

  • avatar
    WheelMcCoy

    I thought those durn things replaced the volume knob! Car drove awful when I had the radio on.

    Kidding aside, I use them on my wife’s TSX Wagon half the time for the same reasons most commenters cited. Interestingly, while my wife can drive stick, she won’t touch the paddles. I think spatially, a manual tells you where you are by feel, or with a quick glance. With paddles, it’s which one upshifts? Downshifts? What gear am I in now?

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      “What gear am I in now?”

      This is something I don’t like about paddle shifters. With a manual, you knew where you were by your hand position. With paddles, you either need to remember or read the dash. Blech.

      • 0 avatar
        usernamealreadyregistered

        Olden days: manual transmission, economy car with zero sound deadening, no tachometer and quiet semi-rural area. Shift by sound, determine present gear by hand position, and only 5 forward gears.

        Now: shift paddles, significant sound deadening, tachometer, and big city noise outside the car. I can’t hear the engine well enough to shift by sound, can’t determine present gear by hand position, and I have 8 forward gears and prefer to watch the road instead of staring at the tach. I use the paddles about 1% as much as I expected when I bought the car. It’s mostly brake preservation in hilly areas.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Lack of tach is something I would want to fix. However, if your car is new enough to have paddles, then the instrument panel should be able to let you change the display, at least enough to show you a tach and/or a selected-gear display (my Renegade shows D when in drive but the actual gear number when I switch to +/- mode.)

  • avatar
    energetik9

    My current car is a manual, but my previous was automatic with paddle shifters and I used them all the time. Both for spirited driving, but also for hill decent or coming up on a stop. My wife’s BMW has the paddle shifters also. She never uses them, but I use them almost every time I drive her car.

    I had a fellow owner tell me he never used them because they were basically confusing. I wonder if some people don’t use them because they never practice and never develop a familiarity with how they work.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Use the left paddle for downshifts to keep speed down in urban areas going downhill without using brakes. Second nature now. Mine will skipshift three gears at once with three quick flips. Once a lower gear is selected moving the shift lever to manual holds it, if necessary. After that put it back to D, because that works better for acceleration slow or fast. Missed the paddle on my last rental car when frantic finger flapping produced no downshift because – no paddle. Doh. That’s second nature coming into play.

  • avatar

    I remember the A/T on my Mazda 3, flick it to the left on down hill and before you even click up or down, you are already down one gear as if the car knows what you want to do.
    On my Accord Sport, I had paddle shifters, I used them on every single drive mainly to slow down the car and use the brakes a little less.
    Now I’m driving an Accord EX so no shifters, I really miss them, in the beginning, I even clicked the steering wheel in the EX by mistake just to discover it’s not there.
    I think it comes down to where you are coming from, I spent the first 10 years of my driving experience on a manual transmission, then, another 4 years on a motorcycle, I assume that if you drive A/T all your life, paddle shifters will not appeal to you as driver.

  • avatar
    zip89123

    Of course they’re everywhere, because your whiny press comrades kept insisting they were needed in years past. Now the whine is about soft touch materials & ventilated seats, closely followed by more nannies many of us do not want.

    But since you’re listening, I want SXM in base models, no mandatory sunroof in loaded models, electro chromatic inside & outside mirror availability in all vehicles, and optional mechanical limited slip differentials.

  • avatar

    I use them the majority of the time when I’m driving a car that has them. I prefer to accelerate at full throttle and regulate my acceleration by where I shift in the powerband. Gradual acceleration? I’ll shift at 2500rpm, for instance, with my foot to the floor. This is theoretically the way to achieve the best fuel economy, as well, as pumping losses are eliminated. I’ll also downshift preemptively if I’m preparing to pass so that I don’t need to wait for the downshift. Of course, I’ll downshift as I’m approaching a corner, as well, so that I’m in the lower gear that I need to accelerate out and can smoothly transition to acceleration without waiting for the downshift and having the car’s balance upset in the corner by the torque changes of the downshift.. These are the main advantage of choosing your own gears, as I see it.

    Can we discuss for a second 3 HUGE GRIPES I have with these systems pseudo-manumatic systems?

    1) Logic: – is on the left paddle and + is on the right paddle. Everyone basically has this figured out now (after some early fumbles by Porsche and BMW putting +/- on both sides). Now for the console shifter… – is forward (away from you) and + backward (toward you). If it’s the other way, it’s WRONG. These features are derived from racecars. Well, as you’re accelerating, it’s natural to pull back (towards you) for an upshift. That way, you’re not pushing the weight of your arm against the acceleration of the car, but rather with it. Likewise, downshifts are made under braking, and should be pushing forward. This should be an industry standard!

    2) If the system doesn’t allow me to go full throttle at 2000 rpm without automatically downshifting itself, it should not have paddles or any manual mode at all! Either give the driver control, or don’t. The only compromise I accept (and appreciate) is that which some cars have (Audi, BMW, surely others), where the gas pedal can go WOT without overriding the driver’s gear selection. But, if they press harder, the pedal will depress an additional switch which calls up a “max acceleration” request. I can see this being handy in an emergency acceleration situation.

    3) Has anyone seen that the C7 Corvette and new Camaro with MANUAL transmissions still have PADDLES?! BOTH paddles simply activate or deactivate the auto-rev-match “feature”. The fact that this is done with steering wheel-mounted paddles absolutely infuriates me and leaves me wondering what in the hell they were smoking and who is responsible for such an atrocity.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      “theoretically the way to achieve the best fuel economy”

      Please explain that one to us.

      • 0 avatar
        claytori

        It simple. He is wrong. I have spent some time researching this, and the sweet spot for efficiency is between half and three-quarters throttle opening between 2000 and 2500 rpm for most “naturally aspirated” gasoline fueled engines. When you go WOT, the ECM goes open-loop and feeds an extra rich fuel mixture to the engine, so efficiency suffers (fuel consumption as lb/hp-hr). I haven’t as good a feel for turbocharged engines. But I am pretty sure the same would be true for WOT.

        BTW. Someone came to my desk today and asked why he was getting engine knock in his Corolla. I asked how often he uses WOT. Naturally this was “never”. I told him to do a search for “Italian Tune-Up”. Nothing like excess fuel for cleaning out crap from the combustion chamber.

        I use the paddles sometimes in slow traffic to minimize brake use, open the sunroof, and use WOT briefly at least twice a day. I use the Sport (AKA “Silly” button) mode frequently because it appears the normal mode on my Saab 9-5 starts up in 2nd gear. Blech. Much nicer to drive and there appears to be no real world fuel consumption penalty.

        • 0 avatar

          Is it “theoretically” wrong, as I claimed, or “practically” wrong, as I did not? I based the “theoretical” on the elimination of pumping losses. That is, the energy spent on simply turning the engine against the restriction of a partially open throttle body. At WOT, this is reduced to a minimum. Granted, the electronics may enrichen the fuel mix and override the benefit. But, maybe I just like using WOT. Anything wrong with that? ;)

      • 0 avatar

        Given same overall rate of acceleration, achieving it by shifting at 4000 rpm (which might require 50% throttle), or achieving it by using 100% throttle (which may mean shifting at 2500 rpm), doing so with WOT and the lower rpms would result in better fuel economy as the engine wastes less energy on overcoming pumping losses (the effort to turn the engine, which is increased by the restriction of a partially-open throttle body). This is not considering the engine tuning that may counteract this, as claytori mentions. Just a theoretical comparison.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      #3 is very simple, they just want the same steering wheel/paddle assembly used in automatic and manual cars for simplicity. Since the paddles aren’t really connected to anything except wires they can get away with just changing the words on them and plugging in a different wire from the harness. Not saying I like it, in fact this ranks up there with the blank buttons as obvious examples of standardization saving a few pennies at the expense of aesthetics but that is why they do it.

    • 0 avatar
      JREwing

      RE: Going full throttle without downshifting in manual mode

      My dad’s 2013 Silverado’s manual mode is infuriating in that regard. It obediently downshifts, but at anything over light throttle manual upshifts are basically impossible, and heavier throttle provokes downshifts anyway. And of course, you can’t bounce it off the rev-limiter – it auto-upshifts. What’s the point of a “manual” mode that’s not truly manual?

      There’s many occasions heavier throttle in a higher gear is helpful. For example, in slippery conditions, you may need a bit of extra oomph to crest a hill or build momentum. Popping a downshift in those conditions screws that all up.

  • avatar
    Ermel

    I’d love to have paddles in my 1992 Citroen BX GTi automatique — both for downshifting into 3rd for overtaking (but that’s no problem with the center shifter either), and for upshifting into 4th after accellerating to city speed, which the GTi auto needlessly insists should be done in 3rd (and that can’t be overcome except by going slightly too fast until it shifts up, then slowing back down, which is just stupid).

    Probably I’ll exchange the gearbox with one from the non-GTi auto; that one shifts up earlier.

  • avatar
    roverv8i

    There are several different comments on this and I would like to sum up my thoughts on a few.

    1. Do people know how to use them? More to the point, do they even understand shifting? A friend of mine’s wife was asking about the shifter on her Jetta. I explained it was for shifting gears when you might want or need to. I get a blank stare back. She does not know how to drive a manual and has no comprehension why you might want or need to shift, engine braking, gear holding, etc.

    2. Implementation matters. On my TSX you can only downshift with the paddles. The shifter has drive and sport. If you don’t touch the paddles in sport then it is still fully automatic but locks out 4th and 5th (overdrive). When you do use the paddles it lets you do most anything you like other than downshift when you are going to fast for the gear or upshift when it is way to slow and it returns to 1st when you stop. So, I think it does a pretty good job of letting you be in control. The 2012 Camry I drive on occasion only has a stick and it is basically useless for anything other than engine braking duty. It does not do what you want a lot of times and it will indicate you upshifted even though it actually did not. The TSX will flash the indicator at you to let you know it’s not doing it and then go back to the gear indication it is in. You can’t even tell for sure which gear you are in sometimes in the Camry.

    3. My friend that does drive a manual says he never uses the paddles in his Accord. He was driving my TSX at the time. I assume the Accord works as mine does. I showed him how you don’t have to shift into sport to use them. You can use them in drive for a quick downshift, holding a gear for a bit or for engine braking. When the computer senses that it does not think you need the gear anymore it will resume automatic control. He had never even thought to try this whereas I just gave it a try soon after getting the car. Some people seem to think something might be going to explode if they try it without knowing what it does :)

    4. When I drove a Jeep GC as a rental I found that the paddles confused me a bit. You could use them without shifting into manual mode but then it seemed to stay in manual mode unless I moved the shifter to manual and back. Maybe I was just missing something. Also, because there was 8 gears it seemed almost not worth it as you had to downshift maybe 3 if not four times for any real effect. As some have said, some of the modern boxes do a great job of shifting so it does not alway add much to the experience. My wife just got a 2016 A6. I have driven it long enough to get that when set to sport it stays out of the top 3 gears until you get up to interstate speeds. So, the paddles seem much more useful in that respect. The GC may have this too and I just did not discover it.

    5. This comes to the final point that since there are at least some excellent transmissions out there now. The paddles are mostly just to downshift on grades, etc. but even then are only really useful if implemented correctly. In some vehicles they are redundant as you can shift with the stick too. Personally, I like them older setups where there is only 5 or six gears so they can be fun. On newer ones there are just to many gears and so I only really need the stick for the occasional engine braking.

    • 0 avatar

      The current Camry will upshift on your command if you go WOT from a stop. But, if you’re rolling and you apply WOT, you can call an upshift, but it will keep revving to redline before shifting. Talk about maddening!!!

      The GC will return to automatic mode if you hold the “+” paddle for a second.

  • avatar
    ImAbeFroman

    I used them all the time on my DSG Golf GTI. Even went so far as to purchase some very nice carbon fiber replacement paddles. After the transmission started having issues I used the paddles less….but they are friggin awesome!
    https://www.facebook.com/dblapex/photos/a.637637112923411.1073741826.467720019915122/637637122923410/?type=3

  • avatar

    Paddle shifters are like sunroofs. The sunroof is to make you think convertible, as the paddle shifter is “manual trans”. Both are useless.

    I’ve used a manual shift once on an automatic…crossing the Great Plains, and the transmission would occasionally go from 5 to 4, where it could pull 5 on the flat, flat land. Once stuck in 5, the cruise would just open the throttle a bit more.

    Beyond that, useless…

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    A truth about cars is that the more people are car enthusiasts, the less aware they are of the degree to which they are manipulated by the marketing done by car companies.

    In the same category as paddle shifters on automatics, are tachometers on automatics.

  • avatar
    RHD

    I’ll take a manual transmission or nothing, thank you very much. An automatic of any type takes all the enjoyment out of driving. Sort of like oatmeal without any sugar or cinnamon.

  • avatar
    seanx37

    I used them today, for the very first time. I am driving my Dad’s CTS this week(my car got hit, and he is out of town). It was fun for about 10 minutes.

    I have no idea why they are installed on a Cadillac. A CTS V, sure. But a regular car? Makes no sense.

  • avatar
    Reino

    Driving up and down the grades in Colorado, I can immediately tell by brake lights and rate of uphill acceleration who is using their paddles (or shift lever) and who is not. Most people indeed are not.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      My Sonata will actually show brake lights if it slows down, even if brakes are’t applied… it totally drives me nuts at night when i see the light go on.

  • avatar
    Erikstrawn

    I drove a rental car with paddle shifters – I forget what car. The paddle shifters didn’t shift anything, at least not for a few seconds. For a while I thought the paddles didn’t work and the car was just shifting when it wanted to. There was no timely response to it. I think they’re just there as a sales gimmick.

  • avatar
    turf3

    Bunch of foolishness.

    As someone pointed out, it’s to try to emulate either Formula One racers or a manual transmission for marketing.

    First of all, 99% of people who harp on engine braking and downshift at every curve or corner to use it, are trying to prove their sports car credentials, while forgetting the relative cost of a transmission overhaul or clutch replacement vs. the cost of replacing brake pads. The technical term for these people is “idiots”.

    The one place where engine braking has a valid place in non-racing driving is in descending long steep grades. In 1978 I had no trouble moving the column shifter of a 1974 Chevy station from “D” to “L” and utilizing engine braking. Paddle shifters are just additional complex silliness to achieve the same thing. Furthermore, I really question, with modern disk brakes (four wheel on most cars) whether brake fade is really much of an issue in real reality. That said, once the brakes fade, you may be in trouble, so moving your column shifter from “D” to “L” is still a good idea on that two mile long grade. Going around your suburban streets to the store? Totally ridiculous.

    As for sunroofs, why should I be forced to accept a hole in the roof of my car? I’m sorry, but sooner or later a hole in the roof with rubber gaskets is going to leak. I suppose if you pre-emptively replace the seals every few years, you can prevent this, but a plain steel roof needs none of that. Yet most manufacturers now, force you to buy a sunroof in all but the lowest trim levels.

  • avatar
    Higheriq

    My issue with paddle shifters is that they aren’t any fun because they’re essentially fake manuals.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    I use them only for fast downshifts before passing. The problem with them is, that’s all I want them to do and then revert to auto. However once in control I gotta move the lever over and back to force it back to auto. Not a big deal except doing it while passing.

  • avatar
    VajazzleMcDildertits

    Very few automatic anythings are at the ratio or gear I really need them to be in at any point in time. The LC500 was probably the only exception so far. When I’m alone, which is 70% of my driving, I paddle shift the F. I know what gear I want to be in – the cars never do.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I’ve had them in a couple cars and tried using them, but when the car constantly overrides the manual mode and shunts the transmission back into fully automatic it gets to be more of a hassle. Also, audible queues about when to shift have neen virtually non-existent.

    The most recent setup I have experience with is in a 17 300S. The car shunts back into auto at the drop of a hat. Why bother?


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