Can Driver Shift Control Affect Performance, Economy – WSJ.com

22 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Can Driver Shift Control Affect Performance, Economy – WSJ.com
Pontiac Vibe

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The Pontiac Vibe has Driver Shift Control that lets the driver override the automatic transmission and shift gear. See a photo review of the Vibe. David Patton

A: In most cases I think ignoring the manual shift-control feature is the surest way to get the best fuel economy and overall performance from your Vibe. Modern cars have electronically controlled transmissions that are typically set up to maximize fuel economy by keeping engine speeds low. Sometimes shifting manually can result in peppier acceleration.

Years ago automatic transmissions that could easily be shifted manually turned up mostly in sports cars and other performance-oriented vehicles. Today even minivans and the dowdiest sedans have them. As much as I enjoy shifting gears with a traditional manual transmission, doing so with an automatic has never seemed worth the trouble.

I think the beauty of an automatic transmission lies in not having to shift at all.

Q: We are moving to a mountain home where my beloved BMW will become my fair weather car. I now need a high clearance, fun 4×4 for snow days. I have been consider the four-door Jeep Wrangler.

Your advice?

— Mary H. Barrowman,

Woodland Park, Colo.

A: I love driving the Wrangler despite shortcomings in its design and handling — and its perceived lack of practicality. There’s something wonderfully honest about it. The Wrangler reminds me of the way trucks were — before auto makers started adding comforts like leather seats and people started calling them SUVs.

Another slightly more practical four-wheel drive that’s a blast to drive and could fill your need for a snow-day vehicle is the Nissan Xterra. Of course there are many other vehicles that would work, but I think these two are the most fun. If you like the way your BMW bmw.xe -0.08% Bayerische Motoren Werke AG Germany: Xetra € 84.73 -0.07 -0.08% Nov.

28, 2013 5:35 pm Volume. 605,633 P/E Ratio 10.64 Market Cap €54.53 Billion Dividend Yield 2.95% Rev. per Employee €721,448 11/21/13 German Luxury Auto Makers Conf. 11/20/13 Rivals Out to Break Germany#39;s.

11/20/13 Tesla Faces New Competition Fr. More quote details and news bmw.xe in Your Value Your Change Short position engages you as a driver, you may appreciate the pure, somewhat raw driving experience these two trucks provide.

Q: Both of our Dodge Dakota pickup trucks have seen better days. We are shopping for a new truck of similar size (with a club cab) that must have four-wheel drive and a manual transmission. Does any company (besides Dodge) offer a mid- to large-size four-wheel drive, manual-transmission pickup with a club or stretch cab?

I am not averse to buying a used pickup. What a pity that no one loves driving a stick-shift pickup. It’s great on the farm.

— Maeve Morgan,

Kiel, Wis.

A: I agree that the scarcity of pickups available with manual transmissions and four-wheel drive is a bit sad. But at least there are some left. Both the Toyota tm +0.22% Toyota Motor Corp. ADS U.S. NYSE $ 125.21 +0.28 +0.22% Nov.

27, 2013 4:03 pm Volume (Delayed 15m). 246,201 P/E Ratio 13.46 Market Cap $213.42 Billion Dividend Yield N/A Rev. per Employee $762,411 More quote details and news tm in Your Value Your Change Short position Tacoma and Nissan nsany +0.38% Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. ADS U.S.

OTCBB $ 18.28 +0.07 +0.38% Nov. 27, 2013 3:58 pm Volume (Delayed 15m). 386,282 AFTER HOURS $ 18.32 +0.04 +0.24% Nov.

27, 2013 5:45 pm Volume (Delayed 15m): P/E Ratio 10.17 Market Cap $41.04 Billion Dividend Yield N/A Rev. per Employee $634,719 More quote details and news nsany in Your Value Your Change Short position Frontier are available in four-wheel drive versions with extended cabs and stick shifts.

Pontiac Vibe

Q: My wife wants a car that is cute, reliable and economical and likes the Volkswagen New Beetle. I have convinced her that they have a bad reputation for reliability, however I have been wondering if the Beetle is worth the chance if we buy an extended warranty. What do you think?

Also, what other options do you suggest that meet her requirements of cute, reliable and economical?

— John Griffin,

Orlando, Fla.

A: The New Beetle has been around for a decade and has aged well. Its styling still stands out and it’s reasonably fun to drive. After so many years on the market I think the car has had most of its bugs worked out, so you probably could safely avoid the cost of an extended warranty. Other cars that share the cute, reliable and economical description include the Volkswagen vow.xe -0.29% Volkswagen AG Germany: Xetra € 189.45 -0.55 -0.29% Nov. 28, 2013 5:35 pm Volume.

42,740 P/E Ratio 10.89 Market Cap €89.41 Billion Dividend Yield 1.85% Rev. per Employee €353,101 10/22/13 EU Court Dismisses Case vs. Ge. 10/15/13 Guns in the Parking Lot: A Del. 09/18/13 VW Signals UAW Talks to Take T. More quote details and news vow.xe in Your Value Your Change Short position GTI, Mini Cooper, Honda hmc -0.21% Honda Motor Co.

Ltd. ADS U.S. NYSE $ 42.02 -0.09 -0.21% Nov. 27, 2013 4:05 pm Volume (Delayed 15m). 197,190 AFTER HOURS $ 42.02 0.00 0.00% Nov. 27, 2013 4:05 pm Volume (Delayed 15m): P/E Ratio 17.97 Market Cap $76.46 Billion Dividend Yield N/A Rev. per Employee $614,394 More quote details and news hmc in Your Value Your Change Short position Fit and Toyota Yaris (the two-door model.)

Have a question about cars? Write to mecar@wsj.com .

ABOUT JONATHAN WELSH

Jonathan Welsh is a reporter with Personal Journal. He joined the Journal’s spot news department in 1994. Before that he was reporter and photographer at a weekly newspaper in Montclair, N.J.

He lives in Montclair with his wife, Alexa, and sons, Samuel and Benjamin.

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