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From Raceways to Driveways, Paddle Shifters Go Mainstream

paddle shifters Falconer

It’s always intriguing for car buffs when an automotive feature or technology exclusive to race cars starts making its way to production cars created for the masses. For example, large aerodynamic spoilers that first appeared on race cars have now been incorporated into street legal autos for years. One innovation that is much less conspicuous is the paddle shifter. If you enjoy driving or the latest auto tech, however, you might want to try them out. What are paddle shifters? Let us explain.

Race car makers are always looking for the next technological advancement so that they can gain an edge over their competitors. While transmissions are regularly upgraded, there are few substantial modifications. For a long time, it was either an automatic or manual transmission. No in-between and no other options. Then race car makers were able to create a semi-automatic transmission. This allowed the driver to use either an automatic gearshift transmission or a manual clutch based transmission in the same automobile.

Since the automatic gear shifter used the main, center console knob, car manufacturers had to think of another spot to put the manual shifters. What better place than behind the steering wheel? This led to the idea of paddle shifters.

When in manual mode, you can use two levers that are usually mounted right behind the steering wheel to control the upshifts and downshifts of the gearbox. This is accomplished by simply pulling them towards you or pushing them away from you.

Semi-automatic transmissions allow drivers to move easily in automatic, yet also give them the option to have a much more engaging driving experience using manual paddle shifters in the same car.

This has now become a marvelous luxury for some drivers. One of the first production cars outfitted with paddle shifters was the Ferrari F355. Paddle shifters took some time to work their way into more models but sports car drivers quickly saw it as a meaningful improvement, prompting automakers such as Porsche, Lamborghini, and Mercedes-Benz to offer paddle shifters in their sports cars.

For quite a while, many paddle shifter devotees thought that supercars were going to be the only vehicles getting paddle shifters. They were wrong, however. Look at the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry-few would put these in the category of sports car. Both 2017 models can be equipped with paddle shifters. And even SUVs such as the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE 63, and Audi SQ5 now provide a variant that includes paddle shifters.

Paddle shifters obviously aren’t meant for every driver, but you’d be surprised at how many vehicles can be decked out with them.

Next time you’re looking into a new car, check and see if it or a similar model is equipped with paddle shifters. You could try them out and experience driving in a whole new way! To experience incomparable automotive service, repair, and diagnostics, call I-86 Truck & Auto Repair at 716-665-2501 to schedule an appointment.