Friday, February 11, 2011

The Audi A8 Says, "Long Live the T-Shifter!"

When Hyundai launched the i30 small car on the Australian market, it marked the end of not only the Excel/Accent lineage down under but also the end of the automatic T-shifter. The Accent, a subcompact design available in either a four door sedan or five door hatchback body style, was the last car sold here to feature the venerable (if archaic) T-shaped automatic gear stick.

The T-shifter was born in the 1960s, as American automakers moved away from the steering column mounted automatic and towards a system that reduced complexity and design differentiation between its automatic and manual models. As the ‘80s moved into the ‘90s, automakers - for whatever reason - moved away from the T-shift and toward the semi-ubiquitous, upright “drumstick” shifter.

It seems that the T-shifter is back, at least for one car. The new Audi A8’s ergonomically friendly, chunky automatic gear shift has that distinct T-shaped that many of knew and loved from the pre-‘90s. Some bloggers believe that the automotive behemoth’s unique choice of shifter will influence other carmakers to return to the classic T. Personally, I’m not convinced. Feel free to leave your comments below if you disagree, or have some fond T-shifter memories to share.

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