Mike Beversluis

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

in which I admit my limitations to myself

I have only bought manual transmission cars, yet when I read about how to shift a semi-truck, I'm pretty sure I'd want an automatic after about 3 city blocks.

Also, reviewing semi-truck tractors is kinda genius. The money quote paragraphs belongs, as you'd suspect, to the transmission:

There are no synchros, which means every shift requires a double-clutch maneuver: clutch in, shift to neutral, clutch out, wait for revs to drop on upshifts or add 200 rpm on downshifts, clutch in, select gear, clutch out. Simple, right? Mess that up, and you’ll be anxiously hunting for a gear that correctly matches the road speed with engine speed, all while the road speed quickly drops off. Haphazard shifter wiggling commences, and the gears make their displeasure heard. Put simply, the transmission hates you and wants you to fail. And I did, several times.

Negotiating the 18-speed shift pattern is a confusing, mind-numbing, who-the-heck-thought-this-made-sense-to-begin-with nightmare. The shift gates are laid out in a dogleg pattern, with low (think of it as gear zero) to the left and down. To the right lie one through four in an H-pattern. From here, the shift pattern follows more of a modified double-helix arrangement. Positions five through eight are the same as one through four but accessed by flicking a switch on the front of the shift knob that chooses among the ranges. Those keeping score at home might notice that that’s only nine speeds. To account for the rest of the ratios, zero through eight are further “split” into low and high, selected by another switch on the left of the shift knob. As a result, there’s a low version of low (or zero) gear found in the lower range. And there are four reverse ratios. No kidding. A diagram on the center console attempts to simplify all of this; we’ve included it in the gallery to confuse you further.

Hunter Thompson couldn't have said it better. I'm going to wait to see what makes Consumer Report's Best Buy, tho...



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