2014 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe: Shiftable Automatic Best Practices
August 8, 2014
In the automotive realm, there are few topics that elicit such fierce response as the rationale and orientation of a manual-shift automatic transmission. Push/Pull, Left/Right, Up/Down. If the SAE has a document on the topic, I haven't seen it. A "Best Practices" policy would be a good thing, don't you think? I will freely stoke the fire here by saying that while there are plenty of shift-able automatics out there, only a handful, like the one in our long-term 2014 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe test car, that get it right.
Besides keeping the now-familiar P-R-N-D top-to-bottom order on the console shifter, the Sport mode is not in line with D, but is accessed by nudging the shifter TOWARD the driver and into its own gate. Best Practice. Furthermore, manual-shift mode is nested within Sport and the orientation of the downshift/upshift actuator is Push Forward = Downshift and Pull Rearward = Upshift. Best practice. Why? Because that's what race cars do. Why? Because it follows the inertia of the driver. Imagine being hard on the brakes for a corner and need to crack off a couple downshifts. Your body is leaning forward against the belts and your inclination is to PUSH the lever also forward. Ditto for hard acceleration when your body presses rearward into the seat and you PULL the shifter for an upshift. For the record (and just off the top of my head) Jaguar, BMW, and Mazda get this right.
As for the shift paddles, the ones in the F-Type operate in Drive, as well as Sport and Manual modes. Holding for a second or two the Upshift paddle in manual mode reverts to automatic mode. Best Practice. The Jaguar has steering wheel-mounted shift paddles. Best practice? I can see the advantages these wheel-mounted shifters that rotate with the wheel as well as column-mounted shifters that don't. Assuming you keep your hands at (9 and 3, rotating means they'll always be at your fingertips. That is unless, of course, you have to rotate the steering wheel more than about 120-degrees and need to remove your hands. At this point the shifter function becomes reversed. Fixed-to-the-column shifters (like in a Ferrari) are usually much larger and remain in place while the steering wheel rotates so there's no chance they'll be reversed. I lean toward this as a Best Practice.
The Jaguar's shift paddles only operate with a fingertip PULL. There is no thumb-tip PUSH. Best Practice. Believe it or not, both Porsche (with the button shift, not the paddles) and Chevrolet (the Corvette C6 automatic) got this wrong. Finally, pulling the left paddle initiates a downshift and right an upshift. Best Practice because any other way is just wrong.
Okay, let us have it. Did Jaguar get it right?
Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor