By on May 16, 2017

Shift By Wire shifters - Images: BMW, Toyota, Lincoln, Chrysler, GMC

Center-mounted in a vertical fashion, the shifter in the fifth-generation 2018 Honda Odyssey profiled yesterday by Chris Tonn requires drivers to push a rectangular button for park, pull back an indented button for reverse, push another rectangular button for neutral, or depress a square button for drive.

In the new, second-generation 2017 GMC Terrain, a low-slung horizon of shift buttons mandates pushes of a rectangle for park and a small square for neutral plus a slight pull for reverse or, farther to the right, drive.

Perhaps you’re familiar with the lengthy push-button shift mechanism in newer Lincolns, where buttons for ignition, park, reverse, neutral, drive, and sport are laid out vertically on the driver’s side of the centre stack.

Some automakers are trying out rotary knobs, or shifters with separate park buttons, or monostable shifters that have earned a bad name.

They’re here to stay. Blame technology. Hope for reliability. Don’t expect standardization.

The shift amongst automakers to shift-by-wire technology caused Honda concern about long-term reliability when shift-by-wire is linked to conventional shift formats.

2018 Honda Odyssey shifter - Image: Honda

“You can simulate a traditional gearshift in that situation as some other makers have,” Honda’s chief engineer for the 2018 Odyssey, Chad Harrison, told Automotive News.

But, says Honda product planning vice president Jay Joseph, “We were concerned that the complexity was going to cause problems down the road, maybe not for the first or second owner, but further down the road.”

Honda has made its shifter buttons unique in order for “blind-touch” functionality, unlike the uniform buttons Lincoln has chosen. And because of that blind-touch functionality, Honda decreases the likelihood that you’ll “hit a button, think you’re in drive, and back up,” Harrison says.

Honda product planner Jay Joseph, meanwhile, acknowledges that Honda’s layout requires “adaptation,” but claims the adaptation does not take long. Indeed, of all the issues facing these newfangled shifters, the degree to which unnecessary differentiation and familiarization are voiced as problems relates largely to motoring writers. Those of us who drive a different car each week are only just beginning to acclimate to our new surroundings when we once again begin to engage a new shifter design.

2018 Honda Odyssey one week; 2018 GMC Terrain the next. Throw a Jeep Grand Cherokee, Toyota Prius, Ram 1500, Lincoln MKC, and a BMW 3 Series into the mix and the lack of similarities can be jarring.

But this isn’t a problem faced by most actual owners. Owners of the new 2018 Honda Odyssey likely don’t have a seven-car driveway featuring the six other aforementioned vehicles. Theoretically, an owner adapts to the new shift format in a few days and is permanently acclimated.

On the other hand, should it really be necessary for automakers to publish How-To videos on YouTube teaching owners how to put their cars in drive?

Over time, Honda expects to see standardization across the industry.

But why haven’t we seen any standardization yet? Jay Joseph: “Because I don’t think anybody is convinced that they’ve seen the best solution yet.”

Indeed.

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

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102 Comments on “Blame Technology: Awful Shifters Will Continue Until They’re Made Great Again...”


  • avatar
    kvndoom

    I’m gonna drive stick until either my body won’t let me or I can’t find a single car I like with a manual transmission. None of this nonsense is helping to sway me at all.

    • 0 avatar
      ToniCipriani

      The only standardization we need is R-1-2-3-4-5(-6-7).

    • 0 avatar
      prisoners

      Exactly. Every time I think I want a new car (usually when reading the Sunday paper) the feeling goes away when I get in my 6 speed manual that I’ve had for 13 years and 210k miles.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        I was really close to looking at an Elantra Sport as a DD a coulpe of weeks ago, spurred by the article here. 200hp? Stick? Heated leather and HIDs? $20k OTD pricing? Sign me up!

        Then I drove my S2000 to work and sat on 295 inching forward in first for 30 minutes. I was reminded why I only take it to work one day a week (nice enough for top to be down and enough time on the way home to take back-roads).

    • 0 avatar
      prisoners

      Exactly. Every time I think I want a new car (usually when reading the Sunday paper) the feeling goes away when I get in my 6 speed manual that I’ve had for 13 years and 210k miles.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      Hasn’t that already happened?

      I couldn’t find a single car I could fit in with kids and a manual transmission except the Mazda 6.

      Which I didn’t buy because the GT is in Canada and not the US (Long story short I spent months of my life trying to import one only to get shot down by mazda’s stupid franchise laws, so as a middle finger to Mazda I bought something I hated more)

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        Chevy SS has a big back seat if you can still find one with a 6 speed.

      • 0 avatar
        Tele Vision

        I bought a 2007 CTS-V for those very reasons. All the Gen Is were manual six-speed transmission and all came loaded to the gills. The only options were colour/colour and sunroof yes/no, I think. 400HP and 395lb/ft. ( down from the donor Vette’s 400 due to a tighter engine bay ) for under CDN$15,000. I saw one locally three weeks ago going for CDN$12,500.

      • 0 avatar
        kokomokid

        Can’t you still get an Accord with a manual?

  • avatar
    GermanReliabilityMyth

    Jay Joseph: “Because I don’t think anybody is convinced that they’ve seen the best solution yet.”

    Umm…no. There’s no point in reinventing the wheel when round is good enough.

    http://www.jeepjeep.com/4sale/XJ/interior_shifter.jpg

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    The Chrysler twist-knob is the best solution of all automatic selectors, unless you have a thing for playing with numb gear shifts.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      oddly, I HATE it.

      You have to consciously look at it to control it, and thats stupid. you shouldn’t have to LOOK at a shifter to shift it.

      • 0 avatar

        You’ve never had to look at a classic shifter? Because I sure as hell have. How many times did old transmissions get put in D3 or N by accident?

      • 0 avatar
        MLS

        No need to look at it.

        The shifter positions are in the standard PRNDL sequence (or PRNDS in some applications), with firm detents between each. There’s also a stop between D and L/S, which requires the dial be depressed to continue.

        Get in vehicle, depress brake pedal, start engine, rotate dial clockwise to the stop, drive away. If backing out, rotate dial one click clockwise for reverse, then rotate all the way to the stop for drive. Couldn’t be simpler.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      I still think I’d want something with a lever in the console, if just so I have somewhere to rest my right hand,

  • avatar
    insalted42

    If we’re going to abandon the traditional-style shifter, can we at least get the intuitive-enough column-mounted selector used by Mercedes and Tesla?

    I’ve tried out most of the horrible iterations above, and none of them are as easy to figure out as the column-mounted units used by Benz and Tesla IMHO.

    • 0 avatar
      mmreeses

      i can imagine a meeting in which all the designers stared at drawings of shifters—-and design-types their head at column-shifters cuz they’re ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘boring.’

      even though columns are practical, ergonomically intuitive and free up space in the middle console.

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        Mercedes has by far the best electronic shifter in the business. Minimal learning curve from a mechanical setup.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          BMW Group had that monostatic column shifter layout first. It was in the E65 7-Series (2002-2008), and all Rolls-Royces since the 2003 Phantom. Mercedes-Benz did not start using it until—I believe—the new-for-2006 W164 M-Class.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Either way, it’s the best solution. It’s in a convenient place. It doesn’t get in the way. The center console is more useable. You cannot get park and reverse mixed up. Mercedes also defaults to park whenever the driver’s door is opened. Pretty foolproof.

    • 0 avatar
      kokomokid

      Wasn’t there something about the Mercedes shifter that probably caused the SUV-train wreck a few years ago in the northeast?

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    Damn that Honda screwed the dash on that one.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I could go with Dodge’s dial (as long as it has nice, strong, detents), or Honda’s or GMC’s distinctive buttons. If you want to save space/cost, those look like reasonable alternatives to the console-mounted PRNDL lever.

    But Lincoln’s row of identical buttons? Weird joysticks that are both unintuitive AND fail to save any space? (What does “B” mean on the Prius shifter?) Why?

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      The Prius shifter makes some sense. I think “B” is for “Brake”, as in “engine brake”. (Gee, punctuation is so much fun on phone non-keyboards.) When in “B” the cvt is adjusted to raise the engine revs. So if you lift off the throttle while in “B” you get extra engine braking. Which comprises mostly extra regeneration with a little inefficiency from flapping the pistons around faster.

      The Escape Hybrid has the same thing but the shifter position is marked “L”.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I was expecting to hate it but I honestly really like the Prius shifter, especially when it is console mounted like in the gen 2 prius and Prius V. Frees up console space. The powerful regen brakes make that “B” selection mostly an afterthought for some truly weird scenarios IMO. Flicking it between Drive and Reverse is easy and quickly becomes second nature. I have limited exposure to the Ram rotary dial, but found it reasonable. I’d love to try the Mercedes column shifter, I like the lithe and minimalist design of it, and I love me a column shifter.

        • 0 avatar
          brandloyalty

          @gtemnykh, the low gear position on hybrids is very useful for mountain driving. I use mine frequently.

          And you get more energy regeneration using L or B because using the brake pedal partly applies the rear brakes. There is no regeneration from the rear brakes so all that energy is lost. Using L or B does not apply the brakes, of course.

          This is also why hybrids are increasingly set up to regen brake when you lift off the throttle even in drive. It increases mileage a bit and people seem to like it.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            “This is also why hybrids are increasingly set up to regen brake when you lift off the throttle even in drive. It increases mileage a bit and people seem to like it.”

            Ah this is why I assumed that the “B” mode was largely unnecessary. Makes sense then that it produces more aggressive regen braking in that mode.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            B mode on the Leaf brings on more aggressive regen mode. I like it because it feels a little more like a manual transmission with a little engine braking. It helps in heavy stop and go traffic and lets you do a little one pedal driving once you get the hang of it.

        • 0 avatar
          kokomokid

          The only reason to use “B” in a Prius, is when the battery gets full when going down long, steep grades, and you lose regen braking. I’ve needed it once, in 16 years, in a mountainous area in Tenn.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        “The Prius shifter makes some sense. I think “B” is for “Brake”, as in “engine brake”. (Gee, punctuation is so much fun on phone non-keyboards.) When in “B” the cvt is adjusted to raise the engine revs. So if you lift off the throttle while in “B” you get extra engine braking. Which comprises mostly extra regeneration with a little inefficiency from flapping the pistons around faster.”

        Nope. No regen in B. It’s just forcing high compression engine braking.

        Silly, but there you have it.

    • 0 avatar
      zamoti

      I got a loaner Lincoln MKZ for a while and at first I didn’t mind the shifter buttons–that is until I had to parallel park on a busy street. Those buttons are an exercise in frustration, especially when you want quickly switch gears. There is nothing fast about going from reverse to drive with those pushbuttons and having to stare at the dash to get the right one is an additional unwanted distraction. I’m pretty sure that the model I had as a loaner had the auto-park feature, but I didn’t think to familarize myself with it in the moment. Still don’t care much for those buttons. If I didn’t have to look and the change were faster, perhaps it wouldn’t be so frustrating.

    • 0 avatar
      bhtooefr

      The Prius shifter is actually not that bad once you get used to it – the general rule is, pull towards you, then push up/forwards (depending on how the shifter is mounted) for reverse, down/backwards for forward, and hold it towards you for neutral.

      As has been mentioned, B is for engine braking. (It doesn’t actually increase regen on the Toyota implementation of the shifter, it sends the power into increasing engine revs. On the Nissan Leaf, as mentioned, it does increase regen.) It’s called B because they were required by law somewhere to have a “low gear” to shift into when descending mountains, but it isn’t actually a low gear at all, it’s just different programming that tells the computer to spin the engine fast to burn off momentum. So, B instead of L. However, I’ve only found one situation where B was actually useful on the Prius, and that was US-40 in rural Pennsylvania (where I didn’t want to keep riding the brake pedal down mountains).

      Also, worth noting that Lexus seems to be standardizing on the Prius shifter in new products – the LC and new LS both have it. It is smaller than a conventional shifter, at least.

  • avatar
    jh26036

    I thought the older Odyssey/Pilot was just about perfect. It’s mostly tactile, it’s intuitive, it doesn’t take up really significant amount of space, and there’s a place for my hand to rest.

    The current BMW shifter is one I dislike the most, along with the Lincoln MKZ rental I had a couple years back. From engaging parking, drive, and reverse, I had to stare at it to make sure I hit the right button.

    • 0 avatar
      Wunsch

      The current BMW shifter absolutely baffled me the first time I went to test drive one, and still threw me off on subsequent test drives. But then I bought one, and put on 4000km in the first two weeks. Now it’s completely natural (and traditional automatic shifters require me to look at them and think about them, because they feel weird). BMW’s design is actually really easy to learn as muscle memory.

      I have two cars and switch back and forth, but the other car has a manual, so it’s no big deal. Switching between two automatics with different styles would probably be more annoying, but I’m sure one would get used to that too.

      • 0 avatar
        SteveMar

        Ditto here. The shifter in my 228i took me about a day to master, but it’s been pretty much easy going since then. And our other car is a Jetta with a conventional automatic shifter. I know there are some less intuitive designs out there, but I think folks are making a big deal of something that the average driver can adapt to. And please, the answer to all issues isn’t just “go drive a manual” I like the, they’re nice, but in many models, they aren’t available or (perish the thought) more desirable than the available automatic. There — I said it! TTAC heresy.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Change for changes sake is rarely good.
    Operating a motor vehicle should be intuitive. Unfortunately as Clarkson has complained multiple times, it seems that too many controls are being designed by those who do not drive.

    Why should we have to take our eyes off the road to: a) change gears, b) change the radio/sound controls, c) change the HVAC settings? These are all operations that we are used to performing while driving. And now some of the controls are too small to a) operate with gloves on/arthritic fingers, b) too be read by tired, old(er) eyes.

    A pox on them!

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    The rotary seems like the best solution to a nonexistent problem if you have the compulsion to go that route, but the Terrain and Honda push button arrays are ridiculous.

    The monostable shifters are perplexing, because rather than replacing a console shifter to free space they’ve simply made them much worse. I still don’t understand the move away from linear gear selectors, especially well implemented ones like this one from a G37:

    https://tinyurl.com/kgc42jm

    It is compact, simple, intuitive, and has a solid tactile feel going through the detents should you be weird like me and derive satisfaction from that. How would a dial or push buttons or a monostable improve on this?

  • avatar
    KrohmDohm

    Am I missing something or wasn’t the PRNDL shifter already standard across almost all manufacturers for over 50 years? Didn’t a few cars have push button transmissions in the 50’s and 60’s? (Torqueflight, Teletouch) Isn’t there a reason the big three stopped making them?
    Mr. Joseph says we haven’t found the best solution yet. I believe we already did. Safey related controls should be standardized across all vehicles. What’s next, changing where the turn signal activator is located? (wait no one uses them anyway) Or mayber which side the gas pedal is on? I recently drove my mother’s BMW X5 and I hated the shifter. It’s the first time as an adult I had to be taught how to use a piece of technology by my mother.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      I believe that traditional mechanical shifters are disappearing for two main reasons. One is space inside the cabin, for both the shifter and the requisite mechanism that is hidden from sight. The other is cost of assembly. Mechanical shifters require the snaking of a cable from the console to the transmission. This is more labor-intensive that having an assembly line worker connect a wiring harness on two ends. No potential adjustment issues either.

      • 0 avatar
        RedRocket

        Cheaper only if you do not include the cost of manufacturing that harness correctly and the computer and display required to use the thing.

      • 0 avatar
        scent tree

        Traditional shifters also can’t be commanded to change position by software. OEMs want that ability because hybrid/electric/auto-start-stop cars can appear to be shut down with the motor off, but are still in drive and ready to move. It’s a lot easier to forget that a silent car is still in drive, so they’d rather just have a car that can shift itself into park when the driver leaves.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      The Ford GT and certain Ferrari models use buttons on the steering wheel to control the turn signals.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      The sixties pushbuttons disappeared because of a Federal vehicle spec for government purchases that insisted on a steering column mounted shifter. Chrysler, et. al. was free to continue with their pushbutton transmission, they’d just have to put up with being out of consideration for Federal vehicle purchases.

      I always felt the Chrysler pushbutton transmission were the best answer if you had an automatic and bench seat. Equally good except for aesthetics for buckets.

  • avatar
    brawnychicken333

    I don’t see the big deal. The new shifters are a bit awkward. Until you’ve put a few hundred, or thousand, miles on the vehicle. Like most things, they become second nature. This is probably a bigger deal for auto journalists )who drive different vehicles every week) than it is for consumers.

    The real design issue they should be working on is how to free up more dash and center console space? The big shit lever isn’t necessary at all. The rotary dial does this pretty well-the rest of them? Not so much. Column shifters are actually pretty practical-maybe they’ll make a comeback.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      I also think this is the new “hard plastic”: Something for the auto writers to bitch about so they can show what great writers they are.

    • 0 avatar
      Whatnext

      Damn my VW didn’t come with a Big Shit lever, I feel cheated ;)

    • 0 avatar
      ejwu

      In some high mileage cars the shifter stops are so worn out it’s impossible to tell which gear you’re in without looking at the gear indicator in the dashboard. People seems to drive them without troubles.
      I’ve driven several modern car with these new shifters. It has never been a problem for me. It only take minutes to get used to them. I think journalists exaggerated the problem.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    The only “traditional” shifter that makes me laugh is the stubby little gear shifts that stick out of the dash of most minivans in our current landscape. It makes it look like one of those toy steering wheels that a kid gets to play with in their carseat.

    If you want to free up space in the console the solution has existed for many years.

    COLUMN SHIFT!

    • 0 avatar
      CaddyDaddy

      Give me a column shift or give me death. I want the ability to easily execute a Rockford Style “J” turn with clutch pack and universal joint destroying ease.

      Seriously, the wasted space of the floor mounted shifter, dial etc is a joke. I need a place to put my Big Gulp, chew spit cup, sunflower seed waste, cigar ashes and my iPhone for easy texting while driving in traffic.

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      Yep.

      One of the Ram forums I am on people are making the argument that the rotary knob prevents the 6th passenger from banging his knee on the column shifter. I sat in the space and looked and figured you gotta be 6’4″ to have that be a likely possibility. If you have a 6’4″ person sitting between the driver and passenger in a pickup, knee room is lease of your worries.

      Two of the three cars I have are column shifted. In fact the one in the Ford is so intuitive I barely have to move my hands off the steering wheel to put it from drive to park, and getting into drive is no harder.

      But no, the manufacturer wants us to use any method as long as it requires us to take our eyes off the direction of travel. :/

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      So much this – and I’m also tired of the huge consoles that snake through the middle of the front seats. Give me some floor space… with a split bench ;) (thinking of my Roadmaster and/or Grand Marquis)

    • 0 avatar
      Garrett

      Yes!!!!

      Column shifters and bench seats need to return.

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        I like a front bench seat as much as the next guy, but I fear with safety/airbag regulations we’re not going to see them outside of pickups anytime soon.

  • avatar
    arach

    All you need is D and R. How hard is it to select “D” and “R”?

    Neutral is important once every 100k miles, which is why it could easily be a different button in a different location, like near the trunk release or gas cap release or something. It doesn’t need to be on the “shifter”.

    Why do we have “Park” now. I know that sounds silly, but why not “auto” park if its NOT in neutral and you turn off the car? does it need to be in park any other time? most cars built after 2016 have brake hold, which is the “modern” equivalent of the old “park”. but if you REALLY need a park then do “D”, “P” and “R”. It could be a simple toggle switch, click forward, leave in middle, or click in R…. kind of like on a golf cart.

  • avatar

    I like that in the new F150 XL you can get a console with a Column shifter. Now you can have the space where the console shifter would be as extra storage space. I never understood all the space you lose with a console mounted shifter. It makes no sense.

    • 0 avatar
      Mandalorian

      Because console shifter= sporty. Forget about storage space, just imagine the wind blowing through your hair as you put the Altima into reverse.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        I personally just prefer the ergonomics of reaching slightly over to move a console lever rather than up behind the steering wheel for a column shift. Makes less sense in a pickup, I agree. But some pickup column levers I’ve used (mid/late 2000s Silverados come to mind) were really clunky, easily shooting past the intended gear selection. That kind of soured me on that format.

  • avatar
    redliner

    I know I’m in the minority, but I really​ like all these different styles of mode selectors. (More accurate than calling them “gear selectors,” especially as we move to electric cars)

    It seems like everything on modern cars is standardised to the point of boredom. Give me weird design, funky buttons and clever layout. The French know how to do this well.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    Nobody has yet convinced me that there is anything wrong with some type of a PRNDL layout using a lever or stalk that travels through that layout. Why that could not be accommodated in an electronic version remains baffling.

    The monostable shifters are bad, but I am unconvinced that buttons or a knob is much better. I have not had experience with the latter two, but the monostable beer taps I have used are miserable things. What lind of shift mechanism is available will definitely influence what I chose for my next new vehicle.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    “Hey Siri: 40 mile per hour . . . Engage!”

  • avatar
    newenthusiast

    Column shifter. Done.

    They don’t have to be the huge things of the past. Just up or down in the established PRNDL order that have been used for the last….50-60 years?

    ‘Old fashioned” doesn’t always mean obsolete. It can also mean “best soution”.

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      At some point in the past automotive designers sat in the cars they were developing and said, “guys, how can we design this so it’s easy for our muscle memory to learn quickly and minimize mistakes when the driver is tired/distracted?”

      Then marketing morons took over.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      I’m with you on the column shifter, but it gets a bit more hairy when you have a 9-speed automatic – what gear is selected when you pick ‘L’? Or do you make the ‘L’ position ‘M’ for ‘manual’ in which you can then use steering-wheel-mounted paddle switches to select up or down in the gear range?

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        How about a column shifter that moves in 4 fixed directions? Up to move left along a PRND quadrant, down to move right on that quadrant, and forward-reverse to manually select gears?

        I’m not against any electronic interface I just want some logic.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          I like a manual style pattern, because if it’s straight, it’s more prone to accidental shifting. A pattern where you move left, then up for example, makes it less error prone.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          This is an interesting idea; the current +/- rocker switch on the column shift handle is an awkward way to manually select gears. A forward-reverse movement when in D would be an improvement.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Indeed, some of those descriptions sound like they were designed by the people who designed the Windows operating system; far more complex than necessary even if they perform the task for which they’re designed.

    However, the problem is simplicity, not functionality. They need to be made easy to use but not NECESSARILY ‘blind’. I, personally, can think of two different but obvious ways to offer the functionality that doesn’t require the kind of confusion that textured buttons, oddball levers and other styles impose on the driver.
    • A row of physical buttons listing the drive mode where PRND are obvious by which one is lighted AND its physical position as depressed or raised would be simple enough even for “blind” operation while safety can be added by an electronic lockout preventing any shift while the vehicle is in motion (except for Neutral) and automatically setting the parking brake when Park is pressed.
    • A rotary dial that requires a physical press of the dial to enter Reverse as well as a lockout so Reverse can’t be selected while the vehicle is in forward motion would also allow some level of ‘blind’ operation while being very simple and intuitive.

    In either case, parking accidents such as we’ve already read about would be almost eliminated and far simpler than trying to recognize a given button shape while trying to maneuver. Remember, it needs to be simple and intuitive, which is why the old PRNDL is so familiar to us even now.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The lock out for Reverse is present on many modern vehicles even though you can tell the computer you desire Reverse the computer won’t actually attempt to engage it if you are moving at any real speed. Ditto for park on the vehicles where the shifter is purely electronic.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Just noting it because even with an old-style, mechanical column shifter, it was possible to cross Neutral into reverse while still rolling. It takes a tough transmission and a tougher engine to stand up to the sudden reversal of rotation.

        Yes, I did it. Once. With an old PowerGlide transmission when I was trying to hit Neutral. The distributor points had welded and if I let the engine fall below a certain speed it would stall, forcing me to separate the points manually until I could replace them. I overshot and ran the old 6-cylinder engine (inline) backwards under power for about a half mile before I could find a place to pull over and re-gap the points again. That was a tough old engine though… After fixing the distributor I got another two years out of the car before I traded it.

        • 0 avatar
          BigOldChryslers

          When you shift an automatic transmission into reverse while moving forwards, the engine does not start rotating backwards. It’s the torque converter that’s taking most of the abuse when you do that. The input shaft is turning in one direction and the output shaft is turning in the opposite direction.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            The torque converter may take the shock, but if you’re traveling forward in reverse with full throttle control, which way is the engine turning, hmmm?

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      The pattern shifters like the Prius and Leaf are the best. You can do it totally blind and know exactly what gear it’s in. Best of all, the Leaf’s pattern matches the non-paddle shifted manuals we have. Putting the Leaf in reverse is the same motion as my son’s iA. 1st gear matches between the two cars as well.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Going from my wife’s x5 to my older 3er with a manual is noteworthy. In the 3, I don’t have to look at the shift light because I know where I am by feel. I’m not guessing if I’m in N, R or D. I don’t have to watch the rear view camera because it’s clear where the car is. I don’t have to guess if I’m in park or not because I’ve pulled the e-brake lever.

    4 years differentiate the X5 and the 3, but they feel like 15 years apart and made by 2 different companies.

    Guess which one has had fewer bumper ‘bumps’. Hint: It’s the one without parking sensors and a backup camera.

    • 0 avatar
      gasser

      Having learned to drive in the 1960s, I strongly prefer a column mounted shifter. That being said, I rented a Ford fusion hybrid about a month ago and I didn’t mind the rotary shifter on the console. At least it follows the same PRNDL pattern.

    • 0 avatar
      Master Baiter

      “In the 3, I don’t have to look at the shift light because I know where I am by feel.”

      I have an X5 with an electronic shifter. I don’t have to look at anything. Push the side button and pull back; the car is in drive. Pretty simple if you ask me.
      .
      .

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Just put it in H…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iiq3A4Y4644

    This may not be a source of consternation for those of you who don’t rent cars often, but this makes me glad I don’t have to travel for work much anymore.

    The whole idea was to standardize the shift quadrants for cars sold to the government. Even before that, manufacturers could “roll their own” even with column shifts.

    Personally, I like the idea of the rotary knob. It was cool when Jaguar debuted it, but let it show up on a plebian Chrysler product and it’s a bad idea. I still like the manumatic style shifters that have PRND and S with a slot to move the stick back and forth.

    The Prius shifter is incomprehensible to me, but I don’t think I will ever rent one anyway. I will probably play hell getting used to all these new shifters coming out.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      If you’re used to a manual, the Prius shifter isn’t a problem. We have manuals and non-manuals in the house. The patterns match so it’s easy to move between the two. Left and up for reverse on the 6 speed manual in the iA, and left and up for the non-manuals. One of the manuals is paddle shifted, but it’s so different it isn’t a problem.

  • avatar
    gasser

    The next time you are appreciating the fabulous design and novelty of your new shifter, just remember if you ever give it to the valet car parker, you’re in for a big time trouble.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Which is worse, giving your electronic shifted car to the valet, or a 6-speed manual.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        @MCS – true.

        I’d rather give the keys to a new Terrain to a valet than a 6-speed manual Mazda 6 Touring.

      • 0 avatar
        ptschett

        Valet? Heck… dealership service-department car fetcher.
        Late in my 2010 Challenger’s tenure with me, I brought it to the dealer to have them check out the random clutch issue I was having. They had it for 2 days but couldn’t reproduce the issue, of course.
        When I went in to pick up my car, the service writer gave the keys to a young person and sent them out to the back lot to bring the car forward. When the kid came back I gathered that they didn’t feel comfortable driving a 3-pedal car.

        Considering the problem that I was having I concluded that I had the right make/model/trim level of car, but had picked the wrong transmission type and rectified it by trading for a 2015 automatic, which has been a net improvement over the manual so far…

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    If we can manage to get stick shifts into gear on a hill at red lights I think we can figure out some goofy shifter designs, it wont cost a clutch and $800 labor either.

  • avatar
    AVT

    In my experience, only two types of shifters have proven usable in the dark, no light, illumination or anything (like when a battery goes completely dead, theirs no light at all because your deep in the woods at night, and you have to walk it aways to get it jumped). A 6 speed manual and column mounted shifters. I can operate a 2010 Acura tl shawd 6 speed or a 2001 chevy lumina in these conditions. I include manuals because a large portion of people, especially outside of the USA can operate them. Console shifters because they tend not to be discriminate to age, experience, or level of car knowledge. Personally, I like having a physical shifter that I have to move as it gives somewhere to rest my hand or at least keep it engaged instead of constantly adjusting my radio, hvac, or looking at a cell. I would be curious to see if their is a statistically significant link between shifter types and engaging in forms of distracted driving.

  • avatar
    zip89123

    I like the Ford/Lincoln rotary dial, especially the safety aspect of automatically shifting to park if a door opens while stopped in the D (drive) mode.

  • avatar
    DM335

    I suppose shifters were never fully standardized, but moving a mechanical level through PRNDL, whether on a column or on a floor shifter, was certainly easier. My regular vehicle is a Mercedes, with a column lever that is fairly easy to use without looking. My wife’s Pacifica with a rotary knob can’t readily be shifted without looking at it carefully. Our BMW’s electric shifter seems clumsy at best. I typically find myself turning on the wipers when I shift as if I was in the Mercedes. My vote would be for the Mercedes shifter.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    How do you rock your car out of the snow with these shifters???

    Anyway, I’m waiting for the blank dash accompanied by the iPhone app. “There’s your shifter.” And in the boardroom, “Look boss! We eliminated THREE DOLLARS PER CAR of hardware!!!!! Whooo hoooooooo!!” followed by steak and scotch dinners.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Well, I’ll admit it’s been a while since I’ve needed to rock a car out of snow (or mud.) However, for me it has always been easy, even with an automatic transmission. You see, until ‘hill hold’, the torque converter simply idled when you let go the gas and let the car roll back a few inches, so I would gently pulse the throttle (GENTLY!) and create a rhythmic back and forth motion that would soon roll me either forwards or backwards out of the pocket. Manual transmission was done identically, though using the clutch to let it roll.

      For me, hill hold could be more of an annoyance if it doesn’t allow me to rock the car on somewhat level ground.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    With new cars having power to spare I think the flappy-paddle option is the way to go. Select ‘D’ before you move off then engage with your vehicle for the rest of your journey. This keeps both hands on the steering wheel and both eyes on the road. In fact, I’d make the Plain Jane ‘Drive’ option noticeably sluggish as compared to the ‘Manual’ option – simply to get drivers to drive correctly.

    $0.02

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Who needs a floppy paddle when you only need to pull (push) the shifter to the side and use push/pull for shifting?

      • 0 avatar
        Tele Vision

        Should you drive with one wrist draped over the top of the steering wheel your idea is ideal. I’m trying to fight disengagement in driving: not promote it. The manual is dead, RIP. Ever seen a picture of a Formula One car’s steering wheel? That’s what we need: All controls to hand so that driving – which is what you’re actually doing in your two-ton behemoth that will go clean through a convenience store at a legal speed – takes priority over stereo settings and even gear shifts. Two hands on and two eyes up.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          The manual isn’t quite dead, yet, and the steering wheel is already seriously cluttered with buttons on front and back, along with two control stalks that have nothing to do with shifting gears. The floppy paddles tend to be a confusion rather than an aid. I’ve driven two different cars with the shift lever +/_ capability while several of my previous automatic cars allowed manual shifting of a sort through the console shifter, including a ’73 and ’75 Oldsmobile Cutlass. In the last 20 years I’ve owned three separate manual transmission vehicles, two purchased brand new by myself and one inherited from my step-father, who died at the age of 96 and bought the truck exactly 20 years ago, brand new.

          Yes, I do agree that automatics are proving more efficient than manuals and my 2016 Jeep Renegade proves it to me every time I take it out because it not only shows me my average economy but also shows me my running economy as a moving bar on the same display. Hint, highest gear possible to keep engine revs around 1500rpm at cruise. I exceeded 34mpg on a 150-mile trip just this last weekend in a car rated for only 30mpg.

          In other words, paddle shifters, as such, are more a gimmick than fully functional except when you’re playing around with a sporting model compared to a cruising model and you don’t care about your economy.

  • avatar
    ptschett

    I have two of these – the bottom-left dial-a-gear in my Ram 1500, the top-right T-handle in my Challenger R/T.
    Both are good designs.
    The main shift pattern on both is a simple PRND. Typical usage: start the vehicle, one click back or rightward to reverse out of a spot, shift all the way back / over into D, drive till you get where you’re going.
    Both have two means of recourse in the rare instances that the ZF transmission has chosen the wrong gear. In the Ram, there’s a tow/haul mode button and a set of gear range selection buttons on the steering wheel to set a maximum permitted gear; the Challenger has flappy paddles on the wheel and a manumatic gate to the side of D that works something like a motorcycle’s sequential shifter.

    (Disclaimer: I spent quite a lot of my summers, about 20 years ago, operating 4WD farm tractors that had a fully-electronic-controlled powershift transmission which was a decade-old design at the time, so I’m glad to see the automobile manufacturers finally embracing and adapting to technology that I’ve been used to since the ’90’s and which has existed since the ’80’s…)

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    I don’t have a problem with rotary dial or push-button gear selectors AS LONG AS THERE IS A SEPARATE DETENT OR BUTTON FOR EACH OPTION!

    A separate PRND321 is absolutely necessary. Forcing the user to push up or down multiple times to select a gear like they are navigating a television menu is a Bad Idea™.

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    I always liked the Jaguar J gate. P,R,N,D in a row, if I want to manually select gears, I slide the lever to the left and push it forward. Impossible to overshoot into N if I’m going from a lower gear to D.

    Similarly, to go from P to D, nudge the lever to the left a bit, and pull back until it stops. Easy to do without looking at the lever.

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