25 October 2011

The paddle shift gearbox debacle

Technically brilliant but does it take away the sensation from driving a car?

FORMULA 1 drivers past and present love the paddle-shift gearboxes. But for normal everyday folk like me, will it have that appeal?

Forgive me for sounding like Karl Pilkington on the subject. I don’t take think they make sense on normal, everyday road cars having them. We’ve all heard and read the reports of them being too jerky and not working properly. Particularly when driving them on the public roads, away from the race circuit.

Without doubt, the paddle shifts are great for getting cars quick off the mark. That’s why F1 drivers highly rate them. They’re technically brilliant and that’s something I am not going to dispute about. That's why supercars have them to go through the gears quickly and efficiently. Also not having leg ache from heavy clutches, as supercars are renowned for that - especially older ones. The left foot can just be used for the braking; as paddle shift gearboxes don't require using your other foot for clutch control.

But why do I not warm to the paddle-shift gearboxes? I personally think it takes away the joy of driving to some extent. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but changing gear in a car is part of the fun when driving it. Especially when putting in the effort. By shifting your arms to go up or down a gear, thus giving a mechanical connection to the machine you drive. Where man and machine are in perfect harmony.

With the paddle shifts, there’s not much effort required when going up or down a gear. It’s just with a flick of a finger and doesn’t look enjoyable at all. Maybe I'm wrong, because I would probably have a giggle flicking through the gears in a Ferrari - whenever I get the chance to drive one. By listening to the glorious engine rev its nuts off would add to joy of using a paddle shift gearbox.

At the end of the day, I have yet to drive some cars with a sequential paddle-shift gearbox. This is so I can make my mind up on them. Still, I would rather drive one with paddles than an automatic any day of the week.

For the pure joy of driving, you can't beat a proper manual.

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