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Paddle shifters allow you to select the right gear at the right time without worrying about a gear lever and a clutch. Here's everything you need to know!
Category: Car Buying Advice
Quite some time ago, manual gearboxes are the default choice for performance cars - even F1 cars were manual. Then, the F1 cars started to shift over to paddle shifters in the 1980s, with Ferrari spearheading the move.
This tech eventually trickled down to Ferrari's production cars, solidifying its position as a desirable feature for high-performance cars.
Why paddle shifters?
Since they were developed for Ferrari race cars, surely there's no use or need for them in our everyday cars right?
In race applications, paddle shifters benefit by reducing shift times and allowing race drivers to focus on driving without having to take their hands away from the wheel. On the road, paddle shifters allow a middle ground between a standard manual transmission and a generic automatic gearbox.
It combines the ease of operation of an automatic with the added control of manual transmissions to offer the best of both worlds. Paddle shifters are usually also located right behind the steering, allowing you to up and downshift without moving your hands away from the steering wheel - improving safety and driving experience.
How do they work?
It's really simple to use, you will find a paddle situated behind the left and the right side of the steering wheel. Pulling on the left paddle will send the signal for the gearbox to downshift, while pulling on the right will result in an upshift.
Paddle shifters are usually paired to sequential, semi-automatic, or double-clutch automatic transmissions, where typically, a pneumatic system with actuators changes the gears at the nudge of a paddle.
These days you can even find paddle shifters on cars equipped with CVT transmissions, though these only work to simulate the shifting motion - CVTs don't have actual gears to be shifted.
How should you be using them while driving?
If you are familiar with manual cars, you would know the benefits of selecting the correct gear - it allows the engine to be kept in the preferred rev range, producing the torque that is needed, depending on the section of road.
The same theory applies to paddle shifters. What it does is to facilitate the selection of gears, without the need to operate a gear lever and a clutch.
In spirited driving, or overtaking manoeuvres, you might find it helpful to downshift into a lower gear, and that is when having a set of paddle shifters will come in handy.
Cruising along at highway speed, opting for a higher gear can result in a smoother drive with improved fuel economy, along with lower engine revs and hence a quieter, more comfortable drive. Paddle shifters allow you to achieve all these without the difficulty and hassle usually associated with manual transmissions.
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