By on March 21, 2012

Ladies and gentlemen… As Katt Williams once said, “this country is in turmoil.”

If you haven’t read Brendan McAleer’s CX-5 review yet, go read it! I will wait right here while you do.

Pretty good, huh? I have to admit that when I read it, I was coasting along, just kind of enjoying B-Mac’s trenchant turns of phrase, and then…

Occasionally, however, a bit of a firm prod on the accelerator is required to provoke a downshift. And the manual-shift mode is BMW-backwards

Did he say backwards? I immediately sat down, opened up my ultra-modern text editor known as “emacs”, and composed the following measured response:


Unfortuantely for me, however, when I was typing I accidentally banged my head into the keyboard hard enough to force me to pause and consider the situation for a moment. Yes, the “push forward to downshift” configuration is correct for any kind of fast driving, particularly fast back-road driving in a street car where loose inertia-reel seatbelts can occasionally make it difficult to stand your whip on its nose at corner entry and pull back on a shifter. Every sequential-shift race car in the world uses push-to-downshift. Even motorcycles are push-to-downshift, and that works correctly as well because acceleration and deceleration change the way your weight rests on your feet while riding.

Let’s take a moment, however, to consider the times when drivers in “normal” situations will call for a downshift from their automatic (or double-clutch) transmissions. Typically it isn’t during deceleration; it’s during a situation where the driver wants to accelerate more. Let’s say you’re on a two-lane road and you are getting ready to pass a slower vehicle. You know you’re going to need the lower gear, so you select it ahead of time. In that situation, the “pull-to-downshift” motion makes the most sense. Veteran auto-transmission drivers who are used to pulling a shift lever back to engage one of the manually-selectable lower gears in an older vehicle are also comfortable with this motion. The oft-cited “man in the street” expects to pull back to downshift.

Some day, in the far-flung future, merely touching a car will enable it to read your DNA and know your established preference for such things. In the meantime, we need to settle this issue once and for all. Push, or pull, to downshift? What say you, B&B? No wimping-out and talking about paddle shifters, either!

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124 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: Your Shifting Paradigm?...”

  • avatar

    As a man who routinely gate-shifts his automatic ’99 E320, I’m gonna go with pulling back to downshift. Also, I refuse to invert my X-Box controls for Halo Reach or Medal of Honor.

    • 0 avatar

      My only automatic tranmissioned car out of more than a dozen was a C32 AMG. Pulling to the left to drop two gears or to the right to go up wasn’t hard to get used too.

      All the tap-shift stuff is for marketing the computer is faster on up shifts and you still need to make a selection to down shift to the proper gear while braking.

      • 0 avatar


        My SRT8300cSupercharged has one of those tap shifters, but, it’s so stupid because you tap left or right which means it’s easy to nudge it if you sit the wrong way or if your girlfriend is laying over it. I always end up in the wrong drive mode. I need a lockout for it. I NEVER use it.

  • avatar

    As completely unresponsive as floor mounted -/+ shifters are, I’m not so sure it matters. W/a well programmed + geared auto, only shift mechanism necessary is the gas pedal.

    In the example you listed… I am sure stomping the pedal would yield a faster response than bothering with the jokes manufacturers call “manumatic mode”. In my experience anyway…

  • avatar

    Well, it depends on what gear I’m in. If I’m in 3rd, I’ll pull back. Fourth, I’ll push forward.

    Oh wait…

    *Backs out of thread slowly*

    • 0 avatar

      I have this exact problem in my wife’s TSX; if I want 3rd, I push forward, no matter what gear I was in. If I want 4th, I pull back. At least the brake pedal is small enough that I don’t panic brake every time I go for the non-existant clutch pedal.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah I have the same kind of shifting pattern. 1st, down, up-right, down, up-right, down… What the hell is that PNRD on that shifter in the picture? My car doesn’t have that… is it German?

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t worry about it. Those funny two-pedals-on-the-floor cars are bought by one of three groups: 1. Handicapped individuals. 2. Poseurs. 3. Wimps. Group #1 has my sympathy and support.

    • 0 avatar

      When I have the misfortune of driving an automatic car, I violently stomp the brake pedal a few times thinking it’s a clutch. I have to make a cognitive effort to tuck my left leg toward the seat so I stop doing it.

      • 0 avatar

        The only car I’ve brake-stomped in recent memory, now that I’m daily-driving a manual car, was a Mercury Sable. Most other cars in which I spend time have narrow enough brake pedals (thanks to an optional manual gearbox) that I’ll kick the dead pedal once or twice, maybe, before figuring it out.

    • 0 avatar

      Multicam beat me to it. Depends on the gear!

  • avatar

    I don’t care; I really, really don’t care which one gets picked, as long as it gets standardized so that they’re all the same.

    I could deal with LDNRP just as easily as PRNDL, but what I don’t want to deal with is having to memorize a different set of controls for a different car.

    (Sidenote: British motorcycles used to have the shifter “backwards”, where you push to upshift, and MotoGP bikes still do, for increased ground clearance while upshifting during corner exit)

    • 0 avatar

      “Even motorcycles are push-to-downshift”

      After reading Mr. Baruth’s post I too felt the need to point out his incorrectedness. The only think that matters in motorcycling is how racers do it, therefore down to upshift is correct, and all other bikes are wrong. Incidentally the first place I experienced the “backwards” (i.e. correct) shift pattern was on a rented Chinese 125 in Kathmandu.

  • avatar

    Does anybody other than possibly 1% of the owners utilize the manu-matic shift gates after the first week of ownership? I’m thinking it’s a novelty to the majority of the people and they tire of it quickly. It’s more of a marketing check box than anything else.

    • 0 avatar

      To play speed racer? Yeah, stupid gimmick.

      But grade engine braking isn’t a novelty. Ungated PRNDD3D2 worked OK for that with four speeds. With 6, and soon 8-9, having them all in a line is no longer practical.

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      For a little over three years I owned a Jetta TDI with the DSG. For the first month or so I would occasionally toy with the manual shift, but this was usually when showing the car to a friend. After that I never shifted manually. The purpose of the TDI is to maximize fuel economy and the DSG was programed for optimum economy. My own manual shifting was not likely to yield better gas mileage than the DSG’s computer.

    • 0 avatar

      I use it for snow driving as well as for a little manual shifting fun periodically. When in the slipper stuff, the computer just isn’t going to be as smart as a wise driver

    • 0 avatar

      I admit that I do in my DC-based SAAB 9-5. The manual mode remaps the throttle to be more “DC traffic-friendly” and I can leave it in 2nd gear for the grind. Plus, I get — on average — 5-7% better fuel economy in manual mode owing to the torque converter locking up earlier.

    • 0 avatar

      Totally agreed. Only preofessional auto journalists ever bother with the shift lever. When I need to pass somebody I floor the gas pedal. It downshifts for me. What’s the problem?

    • 0 avatar

      I could also see it being slightly useful to downshift when you’re planning to pass a car, rather than stabbing the gas as soon as a spot frees up and hoping the transmission reacts promptly.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, most are so laggy you’re probably better off just mashing the pedal for downshifts. I do regularly use my OD disable button on the shifter because of hilly area driving though so I’d imagine that if I had a manumatic I’d probably still use it for that (assuming the programming holds the gears properly).

    • 0 avatar

      @mikedt – “Does anybody other than possibly 1% of the owners utilize the manu-matic shift gates after the first week of ownership?”

      Agreed. And those who are curious enough to try it are also smart enough to figure out the direction of the shifts.

      Given that BMW and Mazda cater to enthusiasts, they have the shifting paradigm correct for their intended audience… that is drivers who are at least acquainted with a manual. In my mental model, I start counting from 1 (unlike the likes of Goldman Sachs). So push to shift down, pull to shift up. Don’t complicate the model by counting from 3rd gear.

      Ok, what’s TTAC’s next question? Should the steering wheel be on the right or left side? And should we be driving on the right or left side of the road? :)

  • avatar

    Me think that it is what you are used to, my Audi pushes back for lower gears and forward to advance, seems logical and intuitive, but I agree, I think shifting for all cars with manu-matic mode should be standardized.

    Speaking of which, cars getting more intense these days, many more functions should be standardized in all vehicles. Nothing worse than driving one rental car a week, then going back to your own and oops, I reached for the wrong button

  • avatar

    I’m old-skool enough to think that the shift lever for an automatic belongs on the steering column – having it on the console is pretty much a pretension of “sportiness”.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree

      I especially hate when SUVs don’t have the shifter on the column. It is taking up valuable space that could be used by a bench seat.

    • 0 avatar

      The only automatic in the current fleet is a column-shifted 1st gen Tundra, with a bench seat. I manually select gears all the time due to living in the mountains with steep grades and snow. Even with five speeds, they are not all selectable with the shifter. OD on-off is a button on the end of the lever and “L” is a button on the dash, hard to see and hard to reach.

  • avatar

    Does it really matter if you’re accelerating or ‘decelerating’ when manually shifting your automatic? I’d imagine it’s really not difficult to push the shift lever in either situation, and it’s the convention that matters the most. As a motorcycle rider, the push forward to downshift seems the most familiar and that would be my preference.

  • avatar

    First of all, it’s not a ‘shifter’. It’s a pair of momentary electonic switchs that recieve input data, transmit that data to the car’s computer, which then vets the data and either approves it or denies it based on other performance metrics of the car, and then, if approved, transmits that data to an elecronic solenoid (the shifter) which then changes the gears in the tranmission.

    The point I’m trying to make it that it doesn’t freaking matter. If you don’t like it, swap the switch wires, or go into the computer through the interface and reprogram it. I imagine that for cars that are built for people who think they like driving but still buy an automatic transmission in a car like a Porsche or BMW, then those makers would add a setting toggle in the car set-up menu to customize the shift protocols.

    The rest of us will just buy a stick, which naturally gets shifted both ways for up or down, and has worked flawlessly in competitive environments for nigh on a century, regardless of auto journos esposing ergonomics, kinematics, pediatrics, or other biggy type words.

    • 0 avatar

      ++ for the practical information about the workings of the “shifter”. The manufacturers should just let this be programmable by the driver. Tie it to the key-less entry just like the seats, the mirrors and the radio.

      — For the bullshit about automatics. Manual vs. Automatic is a choice, and no one really cares what yours is or why.

  • avatar

    Manual transmissions have different patterns, too. You get used to them and there’s no problem. This only seems like a problem for reviewers that doesn’t drive the same car day to day.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 to this. It’s not that friggin’ hard people.

      If I’m choosing though, I want pull back for upshifts/push forward for downshifts. It makes the most driving sense to me so I like it that way, plus I’m used to that from my old ’03 Mazda 6.

      I have no idea how often people use them in general, but I used the one in my Mazda constantly, especially driving in the snow in winter. Being able to start from 2nd gear and control deceleration without needing to use the brakes was invaluable and made winter driving much better. I also used it fairly often in summer for fun driving.

    • 0 avatar
      The Road Worrier

      Heck yes. I remember driving by a sweet Porsche 928 on a used lot and with some time on my hands I thought I’d give it a whirl. I had a very restrained go at it, enjoying its more direct feel over my luxobarge 850i 6M. At the last light before returning, I depressed the clutch and put the shifter to the upper left. It’s a VERY GOOD THING I let the clutch out slowly with low throttle when the light greened or I would have had to buy the thing, now with a ruined bumper and higher insurance rates to boot!

    • 0 avatar

      Manual transmissions all start with first on the left and top gear on the right. You may have reverse in a different spot but rowing the gears is the same in all of them other than the first and last gear. Out 911 has first as back and far left but once you are going it is the same motions as the Cobra.

      As for the manumatic it should be forward to downshift and backwards to upshift. Sequential transmissions in race cars are this way.

      • 0 avatar
        The Road Worrier

        My goof obviously was to forget that reverse was where I customarily put the shifter in first. Could have been muy costly. thankfully I recovered right quick and didn’t rear end the Crown Marquis behind me. If I had been intent on checking throttle tip in, first gear take off etc I’d be riding a bike today.

  • avatar
    Brendan McAleer

    Actually, this is what the future holds…

    *pushes button on steering wheel*

    “Select third gear.”

    *beep* SORRY?

    “Select. Third. Gear.”

    RADIO. AM. 1340.

    “What? That’s not… I don’t even- SELECT. THIRD. GEAR.”




    “Wait. I shut off the traction control? AWESOME!”

  • avatar

    +1 for using an editor that doesn’t suck.
    -1 for picking emacs over Vim ;-)

  • avatar

    Push to downshift and pull back to upshift. I don’t even have to think about it. Not sure how it’s considered “backwards.” Maybe its a misspent youth of riding dirt bikes.

  • avatar

    Pulling down is the usual upshift motion. You pull down to go from 1-2, from 3-4 and from 5-6. You push away from the driver to do the opposite. Disregarding the more complex motion of away-over-away, it’s natural to pull towards you to upshift, and push away to downshift. And any carmaker not doing it the same way Mazda is doing it is stupid, and needs to learn physics, ergonomics, and how manual transmissions work.

  • avatar

    Think your body moves forward when braking? Think again. Your feet move forward, but this actually pushes the rest of your body backwards into the seat. Pulling a downshift is therefore more natural than pushing it.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    My Mazda slushbox has just 4 forward speeds, the shift gate is useful for icy/slushy starts in 2nd but not worth the hassle for regular driving.

  • avatar

    The Texan in me fails to see the dilemma. Pulling back to decelerate makes all the sense in the world when you’ve grown up riding a horse and reining it in to stop. Whooooaaaa.

  • avatar

    But what the heck are we supposed to do with the ones that use left and right motions to shift?

    With most self-shifting transmissions these days programmed to maximize fuel economy, meaning early upshifts and delayed downshifts, shifting manually helps me have the right gear at the right time. The car doesn’t see that you are just about to reach that nice corner up ahead for which second gear would be fun the whole way through.

    Especially applicable to slow shifting trannies. I can ask for a particular gear with enough lead time to have it at my disposal as soon as I really need it.

    Also helps avoid gear hunting in stop and go traffic.

  • avatar

    Completely agree with Jack. The most commonly required use of auto-manual is to call on additional thrust. Which for me means passing on the highway. The “pull down” to downshift feels most natural, I couldn’t even imagine it the other way.

    • 0 avatar

      I disagree with Jack (first time ever). I had an X5 and only used the manual for downshifts to assist hill descents. If I urgently needed a lower gear for oomph, the process of pushing the lever sideways to engage manual then trying to remember whether it’s forward or backward for the downshift took so long the chance would be gone. Better to mash the pedal.

  • avatar

    This article makes me want to avoid wanna-be manuals altogether.. Put a stick in it already!!! “Use this mode and press this button for that.. use this mode for regular driving; if you wish to…” spare me.. shift it manual or die. :)

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Yeah. My fiance and I test drove a 2009 Vibe (back when they were still brand new) while her car was in the shop. It had the silly shiftable automatic. That thing wouldn’t hold a gear even half way to redline before it would automatically upshift (as indicated by the handy little #s on the dash so you didn’t forget which gear you were in.) If you can’t hold a gear for a decent RPM range, what’s the freaking point?

  • avatar

    I used to dislike the Chrysler AutoStick slap shifter, but I suppose it could be worse. Right to downshift and left to upshift would be nightmarish, because it would yet another pattern to get used to.

    I prefer push forward to downshift, pull back to upshift. Gran Turismo 4-style. I don’t like getting into cars that swap schemes compared to what I’m used to, so most of the time I just put it into D.

  • avatar

    Uh, slap shifters are forward to upshift. *peels out with one wheel*

  • avatar

    cripes, this is irrelevant to me. I don’t drive a slushbox, and those few times I have rented them, I just feel silly playing with there little shifty toy, which under some circumstances, ignores me.

  • avatar

    occasionally when I drive the gf’s DSG VW, I do use manual mode. And it is pull -> up, push ->down. it feels natural that way. the dsg, less so. My brain knows it is an actual manual transmission, but I never quite get in sync with it. i always shift too early or too late, get annoyed, and put it back in auto. but that turbo motor does need a non-slushbox trans. that car would be so lame with a normal automatic.

    i know these sequential automated manuals and normal automagics that attempt to mimic them with useless +/- are the future, but I hate the future. I will continue to buy older cars with manual transmissions and analog throttle interfaces when I want to own something I enjoy driving.

    non-sequitur internet comment that is all about me? yes!

  • avatar
    Rental Man

    I somehow liked the side to side Chryslers. In the rental car business you drive multiple different cars every day. You find what feels natural. I love driving stick yet the automatic Mazda tranny that is arranged correctly has me upshifting when I want to downshift. And I own that Mazda 6. Natural to me is pulling the shift lever towards me when I want more control and downshift. All natural.

  • avatar

    I prefer the push forward to down shift, pull to upshift. But, I rarely do this. In an auto, it is usually in D. I will do it if the roads are icy, but that is it.

  • avatar

    Jack – what would Porsche do? Seriously, I don’t get your problem here. Yeah I drive a 3 Series and have had a string of them since the 90’s. However I also have a a 71 Alfa Spider and *news flash!* when I down shift from fourth to third I push the shifter -forward- and from third to second I have to pull it -back- and even make a funny little jog to one side on the way. Somehow, I don’t really understand how, but somehow, I manage to remember.

    Are you missing a lot of shifts these days? There may be other, deeper, reasons related to your alcohol intake, et al…

  • avatar

    Pull back = shift up in my book. Oddly the throttle in my boat is the opposite, but mimics the accelerator: down = more gas/faster.

    The main experience I have with a manumatic was with Dodge’s AutoStick in a rental once. The only advantage I found was slowing down for red lights/stop signs, then I could engine brake. The system automatically upshifted so it was basically worthless. I wish my truck had a manumatic because while towing there are plenty of times in which I really need to hold a certain gear.

    However the real question is with paddle shifters: up = right, down = left… at least that’s the way my DF Pro Wheel with GT5 works, but you can’t remap the controls if you want to ;)

  • avatar

    It definitely needs to be standardized. I rent cars often for work, and each time it’s brand new surprise. Ooops, I just upshifted to 4th before getting into that turn, fantastic.

    So, standardize it please!

    And which direction to select? Push forward to downshift, pull back to upshift.

    Why?…and there has never been a more apt time to use this internet meme…BECAUSE RACECAR!

  • avatar

    I tend to think down for downshift, since conventional motorcycle shifters push down for downshift and up for upshift. Also common manual transmission downshifts are a pull back on the lever motion (3-2 and 5-4).
    Just to confuse things, racing motorcycles often use an inverted shift pattern (down to upshift, up to downshift) so that upshifts are more forceful and downshifts move the lever away from the track surface for extra clearance when rolling into a corner.

  • avatar

    Another vote for pull-back=upshift. It’s just the way I learned it in the arcade, and I’m sticking with it!

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    My W203 automatic has a left-to-downshift, right-to-upshift action. And yes, I use it. And yes, I like it. It seems the most logical and intuitive arrangement as a right to upshift, left to downshift conforms to the actions of a pure manual shifter.

    But in the grand scheme of things, JB…who friggin’ cares? If one professes to be a driver, then one professes to be able to adapt to whatever vehicle one find’s oneself in, no? I can’t imagine any self-defined “skilled” driver who gets in any whip and whining, “oh,no…this is gonna suck…the shift pattern is all mucked up and kitty-whompus.” Any self-respecting driver I know is gonna say, “WTF? The shift patterns different? Well, I’m gonna drive the sh*t out of this sucker anyway, shift pattern be damned.”

    Stock down, JB. You’re better than this….

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    And by the way, J.B. …. how’s come no V. McB. references in any of your pieces for like the last 5 weeks? You two on the outs… Yes, I know…None of my damned business. But she’s just so ….entertaining.

  • avatar

    If you want to shift, get a manual transmission.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      Amen, brother! you took the words out of my mouth, as long as your car has enough torque, you don’t need to be “shifting” slush boxes, it’s dumb, my previous car, an underpowered 86 Camry, had to be moved a lower gear at times where acceleration was really needed (merging into a freeway) subsequent cars have not had to do so!

  • avatar

    gaawwwd EMACS? What … do you LISP? What is wrong with you? Go learn to use vi.

  • avatar

    The real answer is that you both push and pull. You pull when you’re going into 2nd and 4th, and you push when you’re going into 3rd and 1st. Occasionally you will do a push and a pull, or a pull and a push when you’re skipping a gear like from 4th to 2nd.

  • avatar

    Should the downshift paddle be on the left of the wheel or the right?

  • avatar

    I find this hard to put into words, but I have a completely different kind of mental association when shifting an automatic as opposed to a sequential like on a motorcycle. A motorcycle has that tactile feel to it, so my brain directly associates push/pull with what I want the engine to be doing. It’s a mechanical association.

    Shifting an auto, however, is logical like a video game.. I am actively thinking “1-2-3-4-5-4-3-4-5” etc. Maybe it’s because I know there’s computer interfacing between, but its a much more abstract assocation. So pushing away to upshift, i.e. moving the shifter “upwards” when you’re looking at it from the driver’s seat, makes more sense intuitively for me. Mine was a BMW, and I didn’t use it often enough to re-train my thought patterns, so the few times I did use the manual shift function, I kept trying to do it backwards, and it really took away from it.

    I’ve wondered before why that association is different. I suspect it could just be a different in responsiveness, since manumatics tend to have a very noticable and significant delay. I’ve driven an SMG-equipped Audi before, and even though it’s computer controlled, its a helluva lot more tactile in its feel. I don’t remember the way the Audi was configured, but I would likely find “pull to upshift” to be preferable on that car. Conventional manually-shiftable automatics? I agree there should be a standard, but.. I don’t know if it really matters much, to be honest. I never actively used it.

  • avatar

    The numbers on a phone are completely backwards from the 10-key on a keyboard and I can type on both pretty quickly.

    • 0 avatar

      Funny you mention that… I frequently find myself dialing wrong numbers at work. My phone is to the right of my computer, and I have to remind myself that I’m not typing on a numerical keypad. Somehow punching the numbs with my thumb, the mental map is opposite, but when I want to read the number on the computer screen (say, in a directory or email) while I punch it in, my three middle fingers want to punch it adding machine style.

  • avatar

    Is it a coincidence that Allen Edmonds now places ads on TTAC and Baruth was just shilling for them? Sure hope one of the crack journalizts at AB doesn’t investigate…

  • avatar

    Pull to downshift, since I only use this function for slowing down, and slowing down means retreating from going forward.

  • avatar

    Push to downshift is logical when you do the downshifting under braking and hanging from the seatbelt.

    I find it slighlty annoying when people say it’s the “wrong way”. Fine by me if you prefer it the wrong way but please don’t call push to downshift “backwards”.

  • avatar

    Jack; I think Acura has this thing licked. PRNDS, no console shifting at all. S is as good at being L as L was, and it’s much better at being S.


    Paddles in D give you the shifts you ask for, but resume automatic operation after some time (and perhaps conditionals, not certain). Paddles in S give you the shifts you ask for, and leave you in manual mode.

    If only this strong control schema were attached to good transmissions.

    Here’s to hoping that the PRNDS + Paddles paradigm survives into the Earth Dreams DCT E-SH-AWD TL. (say that 5 times fast with a skull full of gin).

    I’m still lusting after a 6MT SH-AWD TL sometime in the future, but I can appreciate a good control scheme when I meet one.

    (For the record, BMW and Mazda have it correctly. the “pull down for more power” people shouldn’t bother with the manual gate, they should just floor it. kickdown works just fine). A+ bait btw, kudos.

    Also, rage comic inclusion made my morning much, much funnier.

  • avatar

    I don’t think anyone’s mentioned that BMW appears to have switched from up-to-upshift to down-to-upshift after 2001:

    I’ve driven my roommate’s 335i and my girlfriend’s Mazda3, both of which have down-to-upshift manumatics. They happen to be the only ones I’ve ever found appealing to use (the Altima and Elantra’s boxes are particularly unpleasant), more because they hold the selected gear all the way to the top of the rev range than because of the shifting direction.

    BMW and Mazda might be backwards compared to the rest of the industry, but it’s interesting that the two mainstream brands that market themselves on driver involvement use this configuration.

  • avatar
    jonny b

    Didn’t any of you play Pole Position in the arcade (god I’m old)? Up for LOW, down for HIGH. Who’s going to argue with Atari?

  • avatar

    Dude, whichever way you shift, what really matters is that vi whips emacs eight days a week.

  • avatar

    I can’t believe how many misguided people think vi and its clones are better than Emacs. Emacs runs on anything from a DECSYSTEM-20 to a smartphone; vi runs on Unix and its clones. Emacs doesn’t make you switch modes between inserting text and editing text. Any kind of file you want to edit, Emacs probably has a mode for it, and you can configure it the way you want it. If you’re the sort of person who drives a manual and wants to understand and improve your tools, you probably use Emacs. Vi had a purpose back when 8 megs of memory was a lot, but now there’s no reason not to have a good editor instead.

  • avatar

    SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) standards state that forward motion of the control or motion away to the side from the vehicle operator is to cause increase in speed, rearward or toward the operator is to reduce speed.

    I just looked this up because I wasn’t certain I remembered it correctly.

    • 0 avatar

      So RHD manual trans vehicles should have the shift gates reversed?

      That standard struggles with a few controls – eg even brake pedals, should we have to pull on the brake pedal? It is an interesting topic though, I remember reading years ago a theory that it would be more natural for the body to use the feet to steer, being analogous to balance & walking/running.

  • avatar

    I have the sport stick in my 03 Mazda Protege5 and use it ALL THE TIME as I drove a manual for 20 years in daily drivers.

    It’s really a great thing, not always the best but a good compromise none the less.

    However, I wished mine had more than 4 cogs in it though. That said, it’s push to downshift, pull to up shift, about the same as with a conventional stick with 1st gear is top left.

    That said, I thought, at first it was backwards but maybe not?

    Anyway, I can let it hang to about 4K rpm before I blip into the next gear and can shift it at will, though on occasion, it’s a little to respond to my input, but not that slow, just a pregnant pause before actually making the shift and it doesn’t do it all the time.

    That said, my mileage in town and through rush hour sucks as I let it rev up higher than usual before shifting. But it DOES get me into the motor’s major torque curve and I can feel it pile on as the revs increase and the car DOES feel MUCH more sporty and I can in rush hour leave it in 2nd and just blip the throttle as necessary. I did that in my old truck that preceded the Mazda and it was a 5spd manual.

    It’s taken me about 2 months to get totally used to it all but it’s all second nature to me now.

  • avatar

    Just put the thing in “D” and let the computer make your shifting decisions for you. That’s what you bought a laz-o-matic transmission for isn’t it? I get sooooo tired of the “boy-racer” types on the Acura TSX forums who are convinced their “Sequential Sportshift” automatic is “just like driving a manual transmission” Give me a f’in break.

    • 0 avatar

      I think you are missing the point of sport sticks.

      I tried using it in D but my gearbox upshifts so soon that I’ll be in 3rd gear shortly within rolling from a dead stop, I know as when I do finally bump the lever into sport shift, the shift light tells me I’m either in 2nd or 3rd gear.

      I want to hold my shifting to 3-4Krpm if at all possible before I shift it, that’s it purpose in life, even if it only does the shifts sequentially.

      It’s not a replacement for a true manual, but when I had to buy, I didn’t have time to hunt over hither and yon and most of the cars I found were autos. The only manual was a 2008 Mazda 5 at that, and it was too much car for me in many respects, size being one of them (and the price).

      • 0 avatar

        So my question is….why do you care that the trans is in 3rd gear “within rolling from a dead stop”, and why arbitrarily “hold” the shifts until 4000 RPM??? What’s the purpose besides making more noise and burning more fuel? I stand by my opinion that user “shiftable” automatics are mostly gimmacks for poseurs (along with the automatic gear selector “handles” that go out of their way to “look” like manual shift levers….they strike me as decidedly “poseur-ish”).

        I just had to call around a bit to find my Nissan Frontier with a M/T in the color I wanted…it was only 20 minutes away. I’ll admit it took longer to get my Acura TSX M/T in my color, but that’s because I was buying it from the dealer I work for and wanted to buy one “off the truck”.

      • 0 avatar


        You simply don’t get it, do you?

        That’s how I drive my manuals, it’s using the torque band that’s what, so I can do it here with my automatic. Buying anything newer means most of the cars will have automatics, or at least a good chunk of them will and I didn’t have time to hunt all over the state for what might be an elusive stick shift when buying used.

        Also, for an automatic, it’s a nice compromise as it allows me to have control of my transmission, rather than have the stoopid computer do it for me. Plus, it’s a fun way to drive a slow car fast as that’s how you DO drive a slow car, by winding it out for each shift and maximizing the rev band for passing etc. Yeah, I could stomp on it and rely on the kickdown, but why when I have another option?

        So to each their own.

        I’m no poseur here, I prefer a manual and my next car may WELL have one but it IS nice when in rush hour traffic not to have to manipulate the clutch when crawling along at 5mph when the car bucks at that speed in 1st gear and yet at certain speeds, I can leave it in 2nd say, and be able to utilize the slightly higher rpm for maximum control of my speed, much like a manual, but in this case, it’s my sport stick automatic.

        As for rolling off from 3rd gear. The car is already rolling when I slide the lever into the manual gate and that’s often the gear the transmission is in when I go manual so I’m not starting off that high up.

        I always start in 1st gear, snow would be 2nd most likely but I always start off in 1st gear otherwise, shift at about 2500-3K for 2nd gear, closer to 4Krpm for 3rd and will drop into 4th when at highway speeds.

      • 0 avatar

        You’re right on two points: “I don’t get it” and “to each their own”

  • avatar

    I prefer the arrangement in the Ford Falcon I had a few years ago – still have the full PRND32L (it was a 4sp auto, maybe on multi-speed transmissions 3 lower positions would still work adequately) so you can just pull back a notch to get a lower gear, move the lever over to get sport mode, and then have push forwards to downshift, pull back to upshift as per the inertial forces. In most cases just changing to sport mode would drop a gear and give some engine braking which was normally the reason for touching the selector, for overtaking a quick prod on the throttle would see it quickly drop 2 gears and go.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    My 528e has a torquey 128 HP. 4speed Getrag auto 4Hp22 The fastest way to make it go is to put the handle in 2. It will run to 70, then up into 3. at 5k rpm it is going 105. The converter locks at 40. That is how I abuse the trans to give the car an Italian tuneup. Down shifting, unless you are on a steep grade is just plain dumb.

  • avatar

    I agree with you, Jack.

    My Subaru has a very good manumatic, with both paddle shifters and the floor-mount shifter as well, duplicating functions. I use the left paddle for downshifting all the time, then flipping the lever into the fore-aft slot to hold the gear I’ve just downshifted to.

    Then the disappointment sets in. Upshift is toward dash, downshift is tap to back of car. Totally ass-backward as you say. After 4 years, I still get it wrong, because it’s just not intuitive. Too many years watching WRC, I guess. I hardly ever upshift manually because of this confusion, and it shifts better up in D, frankly, picking better shift points that you can easily modulate just with throttle position and feathering. I can make my car sound and act like a stick on upshifts just by playing on the gas pedal.

    For all those who think only real men drive stick, let me assure you that Subaru manuals are dreadful. No way I’d drive one for 10 years, herky-jerking down the road in purgatory, having spent 35 years driving only manuals, priding myself on great shifting until I met the Subaru manual, and realized I had met my match, and not wishing to have to think every single darn shift just to get it smooth. Life’s too short for that kind of annoyance.

    • 0 avatar

      When I met my Subaru manual (Bugeye WRX), it certainly was a challenge. There is MUCH less room for error because the wheels (AWD) won’t slip if you make a mistake, and the turbo certainly changes the “feel” of the engine speed as the clutch engages. However, a perfect start feels like you are being launched out of a slingshot! And, perfect downshifts are nothing less than thrilling. Life’s too short to not enjoy the mastering of a Subaru manual transmission.

      • 0 avatar

        My wife’s daily driver is a 2010 Outback with the six-speed. As manuals go, it’s not exactly joyful but it’s not terrible either. It’s certainly better than a CVT.

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve driven vehicles with what reviewers called horrid manuals. So far, I haven’t found a manual bad enough to want to stare at a PRND indicator every day like a Grandma-rquis! Thinking I’d be happy with a slushbox is a mistake I made once, just like buying a GM vehicle, trying to keep up with a cadre of Crew Chiefs at a bar, marrying a girl with a crazy mom, and eating Greek food from a Mexican food stand. You live, you learn!

  • avatar

    Left to downshift, Right to upshift. No, it’s not a Sprinter.

  • avatar

    I think they should make the “manumatic” shifters pull up to upshift, push down to downshift. Think of the looks you’d get from truckers in the lane next to you as your “j_cking off” your shifter…’d make the “boy racer” types happy.

    hmmmmm….maybe I should patent that….

  • avatar

    For some perspective, a brief history of my driving experience with automatics…

    “Hooray! My first car! My very first car! Oh, I get to pick it out? Sure, gotta have an automatic though. I mean, I may have been operating manual transmissions on my grandfather’s tractors every summer since I was 10 but surely ‘driving stick’ on a proper road car must be more complicated than that.”

    “What are all these numbers on the gear-indicator? For hill-climbing? I don’t think I’ll try using those since I’m assuming that since I have to hold the brake down to shift out of park then I must do the same to shift into/out-of these numbered ‘hill-climb’ settings as well… and will continue to assume that and at the same time wonder why there are so many ‘hill-climb’ settings until I see Tanner Foust operate the transmission in an F-150 Velociraptor on the US version of Top Gear.”

    And the big one, after 20 years driving experience.

    “Shift DOWN to Accelerate? I thought you were supposed to shift UP to go faster, what kind of crazy talk is this?”


    Then I started watching Top Gear (US and UK versions) which entertained me enough to make me want to actually give a damn about cars for the first time, including finding this lovely site here..

    …and I must say I am disappointed that my new Kia Soul’s manumatic shifts forward=up and backward=down. ;)

  • avatar

    1,$ s/emacs/ vi/g

  • avatar

    If an AT shifter has a manual mode, I agree with Jack on how it should work.

    What is more desirable to me is an AT selector pattern that is branched more like a manual instead of linear, i.e., instead of PRNDL, from N push right & pull down for R or pull left & pull down for D.

  • avatar

    I owned a Fit for a short while with the manually selectable automatic (flappy paddles, so no need for this discussion). I didn’t use the paddles all the time… Certainly not for daily driving in city traffic. They were fun on Big Sur and in the Santa Cruz mountains, and invaluable on the highway – put it to full manual mode, and I beer had unexpected gear changed on hills, or had to wait for the transmission to kickdown when passing.

    As to the up/down debate, I’m going to side with the forward-up shift crowd. While 6 speed manuals are more common now, the 5 speed manual has been the standard for what, the past 30 years? The most common downshift to pass is pulling it down from 5 to 4, passing, and then shifting back to 5. For me, that feels more natural. For canyon carving, you’d likely spend more time going 3-4-3-4, so I can see where the inverted else tip makes sense.

    It only took me a few weeks before my 6 speed manual felt natural though, with 6th/OD where R “should” be, and reverse over in the “Alaska” quadrant of the shift pattern. You’ll get used to any car, which is part of the reason that I take most of these reviews with a grain of salt – any car feels normal and natural after a little while, an you build a new mental baseline for what “normal” should be. This is never more apparent than how foreign your own car can feel after spending a month driving a rental car on a business trip and settling back in your own ride. “Wow, was this steering always do tight? Was the roof this low before? This signal stalk feels so smooth! This seat feels former than before!”

  • avatar

    I’ve always thought it should be forward to downshift and back to upshift. I first learned this sort of motion playing flight sims on my computer, and that’s how airplanes fly (pull back on these stick to go up, push forward to go down). When I started getting into first person shooters on my Xbox and Playstation, I always have played with the controllers inverted because I’d been trained since elementary school (I got into flight sims at an early age) in the aviation configuration. That racing car and motorcycle sequential shifts are configured the same way only reinforces to me that its the better way. I always get thrown off if I rent a car with a sequential shifter and it goes the other way.

  • avatar

    speaking for myself only, forward for downshift and back for upshift. Doing it the other way around always requires a conscious effort, despite the fact that basically every car I drive with a selectable auto does it the “wrong” way.

    The people that don’t care will adjust to whatever is given them, they really don’t know enough to even notice. Those of us that do care tend to want it the “right” way, so why not cater to us instead? Let’s be really real, you know the test drivers in house are all in the down = forward camp.

  • avatar

    My Back-asswards Motor Werks is a conundrum wrapped in an enigma. Many of the controls are so frustratingly counter-intuitive that the car proves the point that thinking inside the box is under-rated.

    Wipers in a modern car should be easy, right? Nope. Down is one wipe, up is low, but the little button on the end is auto. Cruise stalk up or down to go faster or slower, right? Nope. Either move will cancel. iDrive is a game of Snakes and Ladders – five clicks, four twirls and a couple of shoves followed by one wrong move and you’re back to square one (don’t touch the menu button – it’s the meanest snake). Ever see a five series turn a corner and flash it’s indicators left then right then left again? Pity the poor driver who is just trying to cancel the indicators. To zoom the map out just spin the wheel left. Or maybe it’s right. Doesn’t matter which way cause you’ll never remember which way does what and you’ll have to spin it the other way anyway. And there’s a bunch more like this.

    So the thing is an ergonomic mess of Germanic proportions. Except for the transmission. Maybe the blind squirrels found a nut but I suspect the engineers genuinely figured it out because the transmission works perfectly.

    Want Sport mode? Pull the lever closer (not further away) – right where you want it to be. Then drive the car as hard as you like with your eyes down the road and your hands mostly on the wheel, changing gears when you need to. The car abides.

    When pedaling hard (for example, the DC Beltway late on a Tuesday evening) you want the next lower gear *exactly* when you want it and that’s invariably at the same time that a lot of other exciting stuff is going on. (Like, oh I dunno, a minivan defiantly entrenched in the left lane and a closing gap next to it with some trucks and orange cones and stuff). A half second to late is a small problem but a half second too early can be a disaster (well, in a manual box anyway – the auto’s computer won’t allow a bad shift – but once you’ve compression locked the rears or over-revved an engine then you kinda remember how important this is to get right). Downshifts are much more time-sensitive events than upshifts and pushing on the lever makes shifting more consistent and faster (by faster I mean less time with your hand off the wheel).

    Upshifts are more relaxed and don’t have the adrenaline or split-second timing of a downshift. You have time to reach down, wrap your mitt around the lever, look in the rear-view mirror at the rapidly receding scenery and then pull one more full-throttle upshift before the next “third gear chicane aka minivan in the left lane I’m gonna grin like a loon again” event.

    (Warning: The author does not condone the practice of driving a minivan in the left lane. Always drive responsibly.)

    • 0 avatar

      I spent a month in DC earlier this year.

      One one-thousand
      Two one-thousand

      That’s the reactino time between pushing the pedal to the firewall and having a 2011 Ford Fusion SEL with a 4-banger respond by downshifting. It made the beltway and the southeast freeway extra ‘enjoyable.’

      I’d have stabbed a blind nun for a paddle to kick it down ahead of time. Even shifting the lever from D to L was useless – it would wait several seconds, until IT was ready, and downshift at an unpredictable moment. Add in the slushy, wallowy handling, and I was NOT enjoying myself.

      The worst was taking a right exit onto another freeway, with somewhat slick condition, while trying to accelerate up to speed. I kept giving it more and more gas, with little effect, when a sudden, unpredicted downshift threw the front end into a nice sliding understeer. It made me think that Ford transmissions might be the reason for VSA/ESC.

      I avoid driving automatics whenever I can, especially in heavy traffic. When traffic stops, you end up having the car strain against the brakes like you’ve let the clutch halfway out. If you shift it down to N, it takes it several seconds after shifting to D before it will move forward. My blood pressure could have inflated a donut spare.

      Unfortunately, the modern rental car business generally leaves no choice but slush-boxes.

      • 0 avatar

        I haven’t had that problem with automatics at stops. I shift in and out of Neutral at stops all the time in the four banger Fusion. I do wait for the car to shift slightly before adding gas though.

        Ford console shifters are quirky with the button depress to get into and out of Neutral. Other autos I just slap in or out of the Neutral gate.

        The V6 and V6 AWD models will give you the awkward +/- shift button on the lever. The earlier model years had a discrete M shift gate.

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