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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Flappy Paddle Head

Even as you are reading this sentence right now, without me having to even begin the topic, I am willing to bet that you already know where this post is going.

Fellow car enthusiasts, we are fans of innovation. We appreciate the importance of our engineers and their forward thinking, providing us with automobiles that are more accessible, more practical, and safer on the limit.

Computer chips kick in, calculating all sorts of algorithms, feeding off of sensory devices across every parameter of the car. This effectively narrows the gap between the amateur weekenders and the abilities of a professional race car driver. Yes, fat man, even you can look like a hero behind the wheel of the modern Ferrari 430.

One of the more recent devices that have been implemented onto modern race cars are the sequential gearbox. This technology has become a staple. Whether the discipline is Formula 1 or WRC, cars are fitted with this device that promises quicker shifting and efficient ergonomics. It has become so popular, in fact, that it has become a symbol of cutting edge performance.

But here lies the rub, ladies and gentleman. Car companies see this as an opportunity to please consumers that are conscious for performance. German motor companies are the largest offenders of all-- VW mates the sporting version of their bread and butter Golf to their trick DSG twin clutch transmission. [displeasure with what German motor companies do aside, I am a huge fan of the new GTI]

But let me explain the reason of my displeasure. The sequential, or flappy paddle gearboxes, are robbing our driving experience. The bond between a proper manual gearbox and a sports car is eternal. The tactile feel satisfies every sensory organ in our body-- the touch of the shifter, the weight of the clutch, the engines noise during a perfect rev match, the smell of gasoline, liking what you see as you grin and glance at yourself from the rear view mirror.

::glances at the review mirror:: "Danny Choy, you are one bad ass muthafuka."

The bottom line is that the relationship between man (or woman) and machine cannot be reproduced by any other sort of transmission. The arguably more efficient gearbox will win races, sure. But when you are buying yourself a car for pleasure, let me be the one to warn you against the hype.

Oh, won't bother with what I've said? So be it! Just don't blame me for calling you a "flappy paddle head" when you come crying back to me after you've realized your gearbox has betrayed you.

Automatic vs. Semi-Automatic vs. Manual pt. 1

Automatic vs. Semi-Automatic vs. Manual pt. 2

[credit to alernest, who provided YouTube with these select scenes from BBC show Top Gear and 5th Gear]

-Danny Choy-

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