By on February 16, 2018

2017 Ram Power Wagon column shifter

We have a particular fondness for the unintrusive, non-gimmicky column shifter here at TTAC. They’re satisfying to shift, pleasingly retro, and free up space between the front seats for any number of things, including a seat. Column shifters also keep your eyes pointed straight ahead, instead of having them wandering around the console or bottom of the center stack, searching for that newfangled dial shifter or push-button array.

Sadly, the column shifters in more than 228,000 Ram trucks are an invitation to danger. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has announced a recall of so-equipped models in the hopes of preventing rollaway accidents. (Read More…)

By on August 31, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Suburban interior column shifter - Image: ChevroletSetting 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. (Read More…)

By on November 13, 2015

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I was driving around the other day, and I got passed by a mid-2000s Mercedes M-Class. If your brain doesn’t immediately pull up an image of this particular M-Class, I’m not sure how to describe it to you. Just think of a dull SUV with a Mercedes badge on the front.

I remember when this particular M-Class came out, back in 2006, because it was panned for including a column shifter. A lot of automotive journalists — and, frankly, vehicle owners — laughed at the idea that a modern luxury brand would use a column shifter, the mark of the full-size pickup in the 1980s.

“And now Mercedes is using one?” they would say. “Mercedes?! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!”

Then the journalists laughed and laughed, while Mercedes was simultaneously developing autonomous cars that would one day render these journalists useless.

(Read More…)

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