QOTD: Taking Matters Into Your Own Hands?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd taking matters into your own hands

It’s late 1995, and your author is blundering through his first year of high school. Gangly, awkward… frankly, the whole thing is best left unremembered. Beyond those school walls, however, world events were coming to a head. O.J. apparently didn’t do it, Quebec almost became a country, the Unabomber’s manifesto made it to print, and in two assembly plants in Ontario and Delaware, big things were taking place between the front seats.

There, Chrysler Corp was busy outfitting two variants of its 1996 model-year LH cars — the Dodge Intrepid ES and Eagle Vision TSi, to be exact — with a new type of transmission. Called Autostick, it allowed the driver of Chrysler’s sportiest cab-forward sedans to make the most of their four forward gears.

This innovation was of great interest to yours truly, as up until then boring automatic transmissions all featured individual gears on the selector, and selecting anything other than “D” was something you only did when climbing Mt. Washington. In the top-flight 3.5-liter Dodge and Eagle sedans, though, one could toggle the shift lever side to side when placed in the rearmost position, ascending or descending through the gears.

Autostick quickly proliferated through the upper echelons of the Chrysler stable, becoming a signature feature. As the decade ended and a new century dawned, manual shift modes began appearing everywhere, usually in a forward/back orientation in a separate gate to the left of the Drive position, surrounded by a brushed metal trim plate. They made for a sexier and more premium-looking console, and indeed at the time these were usually the domain of higher-end makes.

Transmissions also added cogs as the years passed, boosting the feature’s limited sporting potential. Sadly, traditional slushboxes made the feature more useful in theory than in practice, and it wasn’t until CVTs and DCTs began popping up that a driver could accomplish their manual shift action without a frustrating lag that compelled them to never try such a thing again. In a CVT-equipped vehicle, using manual mode is often the only way to wring out any fun, and usually just for building revs going into a corner. In a dual-clutch vehicle, flappy paddles are your friend.

Manual shift modes are now ubiquitous with the automatic transmissions found in most of today’s new vehicles. The last time I piloted my mom’s Jeep Patriot, the little CUV’s Autostick got a workout (boredom, you see). Chances are, the vehicle you’re driving now offers some form of manual shift mode, which leads to today’s question: do you ever use the feature?

Like, ever?

Does the feature birthed a quarter century ago in a pair of front-drive domestic sedans get put to use even on scarce occasions, or is it merely a bygone selling point that hold no value or utility for you, the driver?

[Image: Chrysler Corp.]

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  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Sep 02, 2020

    The nicest part of those LH models wasn't the shifting, but the longitudinal placement of the engine in a FWD car. They expected to make those full size cars AWD, but never did. In the meantime, the engines were much easier to work on, and the next best thing about the 3.5 engine was the torque curve that made the manual shift option largely unnecessary.

  • HotPotato HotPotato on Sep 03, 2020

    I have an autosticky gate on my Volvo XC60. I use it going down steep, narrow mountain roads. For the first couple miles, anyway. After that, the transmission's grade logic figures it out, and if you pop it over into D it downshifts automatically whenever you start to pick up excess speed. I suppose it would be useful to get a quicker downshift on heavy acceleration, but with a 6-speed that's imperceptible in daily operation, I honestly wouldn't know how many cogs to drop. Just mash the pedal and go.

  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Ed That has to be a joke.