Stick shift vs two-pedal paddle shift

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Now, I consider myself a real car enthusiast and a keen everyday driver, so surely I must be well-placed to comment – and for my money it has to be two pedals and two paddles.

However, while flicking through one of the UK’s many enthusiasts’ motoring magazines recently, I once again read that a so-called ‘car purist’ – and I’m pretty sure I must be one of those folk they are referring to since I choose to purchase their publication – won’t enjoy a paddle shift arrangement (in this case, said motoring mag was referring to the latest RenaultSport Clio Cup that, heaven forbid, is only available without a third pedal). Indeed, this ‘expert’ automotive journalist says that the likes of me (and you) will not, and should not, purchase a car such as the RenaultSport Clio Cup because it does without a wand sticking up between the front seats. The argument, according to our ill-informed friend, appears to be based on the assumption that proper drivers like to control every aspect and facet of the vehicle they are driving – and this includes disengaging the clutch plates themselves.

Well, in short, dear reader, nothing could be further from the truth, and I suspect that every single Formula 1 driver since the late 1980s, when paddle shift technology was first introduced, would disagree too (and is a Formula 1 driver not a ‘purist’?) The fact is, one can cover ground far more quickly – and safely – if both hands remain on the steering wheel at all times. Now, this might sound like something of an obvious statement, but it’s true on all levels, and Formula 1 is a prime example of this. Plus, it’s also a fact that the lack of the far-left pedal frees one’s left foot to operate the brake pedal, therefore building in yet another level of safety. And as we all know, when it comes to safety, it’s difficult to argue against such technical and engineering measures. I also gather that enthusiasts’ media (and not just specifically the motoring title I referred to earlier) consider that using one’s left foot to brake is a pursuit thing to do, thus enabling very effective trial-braking, a quicker transition from retardation to power, or even operating both the accelerator and brake pedal at the same time to help balance the car if or when grip is lost (a human-operated ESP, if you will).

But here’s the thing – and this really is the crux of the argument: while these silly, ill-educated motoring enthusiasts’ publications continue to state that people – passionate car drivers and buyers, like you and me – prefer three-pedal transmission technology (I refuse to refer to it as a manual gearbox simply because a double-clutch automatic arrangement can also be operated manually), they hugely limit technological and engineering progress on many, many levels, rob truly keen drivers of another element of vehicle control, and indeed arguably hamper the all-important safety efforts of car manufacturers, suppliers and the automotive industry as a whole.

As a passionate car person, I really do feel that it’s high time that such nonsense were ignored and drivers around the world – not just in the UK – are given what they need without being force fed such rhetoric by the motoring press. After all, I’m old enough to remember folk thinking that proper drivers didn’t wear a seatbelt!

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