Chrysler and Rotary Shift Knobs

March 8th, 2017 by

Aventura Chrysler Pacifica Shifter Rotary Knob


According to Consumer Reports, fancy gearshifts are confusing drivers. It’s safe to say that yes, the new rotary shift knob that popped up in the popular 2017 Chrysler Pacifica was a bit of a head turner, but not for a double-take. More like scratching one’s head as to … why? To figure that out, we need to take a step back.

The first kinds of gear shifts in automobiles were manual, meaning one had to manually change the transmission gears when accelerating, decelerating, parking, reverse, etc. After some time, people no longer wanted to navigate the labyrinth of gears, and changing between the various gear ratios was simplified with the creation of automatic transmissions. However, this brought up another problem.

Raise your hand if you remember cars with front bench seats. Yeah, those are gone. They used to be common when the gear shift was attached to the steering wheel or found on the dashboard. But when auto manufacturers moved the gear shift to in between the seats, the front bench seat was split into two bucket seats.

The gear shift has gone through many designs, and recently it has popped up as a rotary shift knob. As with everything, the concept in fact isn’t that new, and of course, people either love it or hate it. Rotary shift knobs popped up in Dodge and Ram vehicles, high-priced vehicles like the Jaguar XJL, and actually made its way into the ol’ Chrysler 200. Automobile Magazine considers it amongst the top ten of all time, but considers it the worst of 2015.

For those of us who grew up with, and more so started driving after the front bench seat split, we learned to drive with a gear shift around hip level. Take muscle memory and years of driving like this into account, and yeah, the rotary shift knob is as annoying as it is perplexing. And yet, look at the space it opens up.

In the Chrysler 200, the replacement of the gear shift with a rotary shift knob made way for two large cup holders that can slide back to reveal a hidden storage compartment. In the Chrysler Pacifica, the rotary shift knob is completely out of the way and on the dashboard near the a/c and radio. Some drivers find this troubling, because it takes some getting used to so one doesn’t accidentally change gears when turning up the volume on the radio. Others enjoy the cup holders, sliding drawers for tablets, storage compartments, and extra space.

What do you think of the rotary shift knob? Gear shift of the future or car accident waiting to happen?

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Posted in Chrysler