TechTalk Paddle Shifters in a family car

Published on May 29th, 2021 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez

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Are Paddle Shifters In Basic Vehicles Really Necessary

Some pay for paddle shifters and never use it.

When we were first introduced to paddle shifters it was installed in a European performance car that had an automatic gearbox. Then some years later in August 2007 we saw it introduced in the 2.0-liter Mitsubishi Lancer GT (version 10). Yes, we are talking about the street version Lancer, not the Mitsubishi EVO 10

This Lancer GT was priced at RM112k in Malaysia and came with a 6-speed Tiptronic gearbox with ‘chunky’ paddle shifters that gave buyers that ‘race driver feel’.

Paddle Shifters in a sedan

Three years later the Lancer GT was rebadged a Proton Inspira and the 2.0-liter version was also sold with paddle shifters for RM91,999 and more Malaysians were ‘racing’ around with this F1 derived technology.  

Just for your information. Ferrari was the first car manufacturer to introduce paddle shifters and they had adapted the technology from their F1 race cars and the very sought after Ferrari F355 was the first model to be fitted with it. 

Paddle Shifters in a pickup truck

As the years progressed, some other car manufacturers started providing them and they popularity increased with the arrival of the double clutch gearbox (DCT) which required rapid gear changes. 

The paddle shifter was a must have and then we started seeing them being installed in basic compact cars. This is when it got a little bit silly (in our humble opinion) as it was not an option, it became a selling feature and for many drivers of basic cars, they never used them. 

Imagine a 1.5-liter family car with a CVT gearbox having paddle shifters? As the years progressed we had many friends having cars with paddle shifters, never using this feature that they paid for, or even worse, some didn’t even know how to use them. 

So why are they included in basic cars? Well, paddle shifters were used in automatic transmission cars as a compromise that would give people the feeling of manually shifting gears in the car without having to use a clutch and grinding the gears. The paddle shift is placed on the steering column within easy reach to allow drivers to simply flick it to shift gears. 

Paddle Shifters in a luxury SUV

The only problem was that this technology is completely unnecessary with a small capacity, normal aspirated engine working with an automatic transmission that shifts gears all by itself. Why do we say this? Well, think about it for a minute.

When you use the paddle shift in a basic car, you need to click the paddle shifter at the right moment or the car’s ‘brain’ will just ignore this manual command from the driver as it wants to protect the cars engine and gearbox from damage. The ‘brain’ has been programmed to accept paddle shift commands within a set engine revolution range and not beyond that by even 1 percent (unless you happen to tune your engine or reprogram your engine management system). 

BHP_Euro5 Diesel_2021

With your gear in ‘D’ (Drive) you get the same driving performance by just hammering your accelerator whenever you need added zest. Clicking the paddle shifters does not lower your acceleration time, just increases your ego!

It is common knowledge that people who want to drive an automatic car do not really want to shift gears in their daily drive routine and for some others the car they are buying is not sold with a regular manual gearbox. Drivers who do want to shift gears themselves will find and buy a car with a manual gearbox or they will buy a performance car with paddle shifters that actually allows them to enjoy the given performance. Paddle shifters are not necessary in a basic car with a small capacity normal aspirated engine. 

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