Traditionally there are two transmission types – manual and automatic. But today we can also find double-clutch, semi-automatic, CVT or piloted ones. And then there’s the shift from the usual stick to paddles or even buttons.
The times when the transmission lever – be it manual or automatic – was found only next to the driver or behind the wheel are long gone. For example, the 2015 Lincoln MKC crossover only uses a set of buttons, placed (a little out of reach) on the instrument panel. The Chrysler 200 sedan, the Ram 1500 pickup or Jaguar and Land Rover models have adopted a rotary dial. The refined Jaguar sedans or Land Rover SUVs even have a gimmick: the dial is raised out of the center console when the driver pushes the button used to start the engine.
Other models, from the Porsche Panamera Turbo to the very small Minis have opted for a dual setup for the transmission – gears can be changed from conveniently placed behind the wheel paddles.
These changes are all part of a new philosophy, which takes simplicity in design and engineering to a whole new level. Of course, some ideas are not necessarily new – as MKC’s idea with buttons was seen way back in the 1960s – including on the first Dodge Dart.
The mechanical changes – we have automatic gearboxes with eight and nine speeds or even – in the case of some Porsche models – a manual transmission with seven speeds; are dictated by the need to improve two aspects – performance and fuel economy. In some cases, they even go hand in hand, like for example when using the Porsche PDK – essentially a dual-clutch electronically shifted manual gearbox.