When you get into a car with an automatic transmission, you expect pretty simple and easy operation. I mean, you click on your seat belt, start the vehicle, then slide the lever into the desired gear. That’s easy! Well, some automakers have decided to change how your vehicle gets into gear and it gets real funky sometimes.
Now, there have been different ways to get a car into gear for about as long as the car itself has been around. There was a time when a push-button automatic transmission was a luxurious option. Old Chrysler push-button automatics were still mechanical as the buttons moved corresponding cables, getting your car into gear. Even large commercial vehicles have push-button transmissions. The top photo of this COTD is the ZF push-button five-speed automatic that’s in my 2002 RTS-06 transit bus. Every time I hit those buttons I have this fear that the required communications won’t reach their destinations and thus, my bus won’t go into or out of gear. Those buttons aren’t actually connected to the transmission!
Anyway, today we asked you about an annoying feature in a car you love. Normally, I don’t nominate answers to questions for COTD, but this was too good from Bizness Comma Nunya:
Push button shifters, all of them, are bad. Rotary knobs are a little better, but still not great.
I can’t believe I’m one of these people now, and only because I own a Hyundai with its push button shifter… but just give me the damn lever back please. I don’t give a shit that it’s shift by wire and the lever is a glorified switch anyway, it works, everyone knows it, and it’s intuative without looking at it for k-turns/parking, etc…
Toyota knew their core audience on the all-hybrid sienna to not fix what’s not broken and they did a regular shifter lever.
Extra points for any car maker brining back column shifters, which are superior to console shifters for automatics.
I’ve hit park a few times on the Hyundai and it didn’t register because I didn’t push hard enough and almost caused a small incident… that has happened exactly zero times when slamming a lever in park…
This managed to get a response from resident goth, Adrian!
There’s a lot to be said for established heuristics in car design, and they are often overlooked in favour of a solution looking for a problem. My RR Sport was a late facelift and had the pop up rotary gear selector, and while the theatre of it was fun it was surprisingly unintuitive. I often selected the wrong gear or none at all. Interestingly JLR have ditched it now in favour of a more traditional style selector.
Sometimes, I test out shifters by putting my wife, a non-car journalist, into one of these vehicles and letting her take a spin. When I put her in a Volkswagen ID.4 (above), she stared at the shift dial as if it were a piece of alien tech. In the grand scheme of things, these shifters probably aren’t the biggest deal, but they often aren’t intuitive. Getting your car into gear shouldn’t take research!
Have a great evening, everyone.