Paddle Shifters: Should They Stay Or Should They Move?

It's a simple question: should paddles stay or should they move?

2y ago


It's a simple question that everybody in motoring journalism has a passionate preference for: should flappy paddles be fixed to the steering column, or should they move with the wheel?

The popular opinion amongst the automotive establishment who partake in a bit of enthusiastic driving on a regular basis is that paddles should stay put, and the only moving they should do is when you pull them to select another gear.

The argument that static paddles are best is a compelling one. On the face of it, it's not like you can ever mistake the up and down paddles if they don't move anywhere – unless that is, you're yet to master the art of distinguishing your left from your right (in which case, I don't fancy your chances of being elected). But if you need to grab another gear when the wheel is turned, then unless the paddles stretch for half of the wheel's area, they're not going to be within your reach.

That isn't a problem if you're driving a car equipped with paddles that move with the wheel. That way, wherever your hands are – or "should" be – the paddles will be there too. But, if you move the wheel through your hands when cornering – which if you're having fun, you will – then the paddle you need won't be where you left it.

In McLarens, there's another dynamic to contend with, as both paddles operate as one solid unit that move on a rocker system. This means that when you pull one towards you, the other moves away from you – meaning that you can change up or down by pushing the wrong paddle away from you!

This is an argument that could go on forever. Well, at least until 2040 when the government makes internal combustion illegal. To help decide which is best, I've left a poll below. Personally however, I think there's only one objective conclusion to this argument: replace the paddle shifters – regardless of whether they stay or move – with a stick and 3 pedals. Job done, everybody's happy!

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Written by: Angelo Uccello

Twitter: @AngeloUccello

Tribe: Speed Machines

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Comments (3)

  • I think BMW had it right many years ago: pull paddle for up-shifts, push paddle for a down-shift. Paddles can move with the steering wheel and will thus always be close to your hands, but you will never make a mistake again.

    But I agree that for driving with "pace" three pedals is best ;-)

      2 years ago
  • I think they should stay fixed on the steering column. It doesn't matter when you're driving around in a city centre because you are not driving in anger and you'll have plenty of time to use the paddles. It does matter when you're drifting for example. Paddles that move with the steering wheel can't be used then because you won't find them thanks to the aggressive steering input needed with drifting. Only if the steering rack is fast then it doesn't matter which configuration you have, because you won't have to turn the wheel that much.

      2 years ago
  • Depends totally on the application: what are you going to use the feature for? Wheels with quick ratio boxes make the wheel mounted paddle useful on cars that will never see lock-to-lock in normal operation unless heading for the ditch, and fixed mounted to the column for the ones that do.

    I’d rather see a wheel with a touch trim on the back and front surfaces that extend all the way around. With all the gadgets using programmable pressure and velocity sensitive contacts it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out.

      5 days ago