QOTD: Is the Column Shifter the Best Shifter Design There Ever Was or Ever Will Be?
Setting aside the glorious wonders of the manual, DIY shifter, is it not becoming increasingly clear that the automatic transmission shifter reached its zenith with the traditional column shifter?
One thing is certain: the column shifter is quickly fading away. The electronic controls behind many shifters are more often linked to unnecessarily complicated shifters than a simple, intuitive, steering column-mounted unit. There are pushbutton affairs on the center stack in Lincolns, rising and falling console-mounted pushbutton arrangements in Hondas and Acuras, rotary dials in everything from the Ford Fusion and Ram 1500 to the Jaguar XJ, monostable shifters with no detents in vehicles of every sort, and a horizontally opposed array of buttons and switches in a GMC Terrain that GMC felt necessary to explain for three hours.
We’re not sure these alternative shifters have shoved society along the path toward enlightenment.
But when Ford’s North American product communications manager, Mike Levine, tweeted a picture of a 2018 Ford F-150 with a 10-speed automatic and a column shifter — merging the past and future — we naturally wondered whether column shifters deserve more involvement in the present.
Column mounted 10-speed transmission shifter. We are living in the future. pic.twitter.com/akwdYXefN5
— Mike Levine (@mrlevine) August 28, 2017
Column shifters free up space in the center console. They’re located where your hands are already tasked with vehicle operation. Their action is distinct — there are unique placements for PRNDM21. They provoke no questions. They require no lessons.
Okay, so they’re not all perfect. Mercedes-Benz, for example, takes many of the misguided principles from modern console-mounted shifters and applies them to a fiddly, rinky-dink, chintzy column shifter.
But the general knock against column shifters is simply the style, or rather, the lack of style. Column shifters look like something out of the distant past.
But the past was a simpler time, often a more elegant time, and a time in which some solutions were found that didn’t need updating. So, are column shifters the best automatic shifters?
[Image: General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]
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