List: The Ten Coolest Shifters

By Brandon Turkus

February 02, 2012


Audi A8’s Airplane Throttle: While Chrysler is also fitting this style of shifter with its new eight-speed automatics, Audi’s A8 was the first. It’s a surprisingly intuitive design, and the modern look fits in very nicely with the overall style of the A8’s lavish cockpit.


BMW 7-Series Joystick: While Audi opts for the look of an airplane’s throttle, our inner child can’t help but favor BMW’s approach. With a park button on top, and a shift lock on the driver’s side, the overall shape and function reminds us of the joystick in an F-16 fighter jet. Also, like the Audi, it’s quite intuitive, and fits the modern theme of the cabin.


Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG: This one scores points for just looking awesome. The aluminum and leather leaver is stylishly perfect in the CLS’s cabin, although it isn’t the most intuitive setup in the world. Pushing forward for reverse, and the location of the park button doesn’t lend to functionality, but when it looks this good, who cares?


Chrysler Powerflite Push-button: Chrysler’s Powerflite transmissions used dash-mounted buttons to select from park, reverse, neutral, and drive. And while only Aston Martin use this setup today, it just shows how ahead of its time this setup was when Chrysler used it back in the 60s.


Jaguar Pop-up Dial: If we had to pick which setup would be the equivalent of the push-button in 40 years, Jaguar’s (and now Land Rover’s) pop-up dial would be it. This one scores major cool points, as we’ve observed a fair number of stunned reactions from passengers as the circular knob rises from the center console.


Ferrari's Gated Shifter: Seriously, did you think a gated shifter wouldn’t be on this list? Ferrari no longer offers a manual gearbox, but that hasn't stopped the brand from being associated with the machined metal that make up this unique shift setup. The snickety-snack that comes with a perfectly executed shift is one of the great sounds in the car world, but with Ferrari (and Lamborghini for that matter) phasing out gated shifters, Audi is the only brand left offering one. Its days may be numbered, but that hasn't stopped this shifter from being etched in the collective memory of auto enthusiasts around the world.


Volvo S60R Spaceball Shifter: Swedish quirkiness at its finest. We’re actually baffled as to how the Spaceball shifter works, but it is truly an awesome sight to behold. Sadly, Volvo no longer offers a manual gearbox on its new S60, so the odds of seeing this one again are low.


Dodge Challenger Pistol Grip: The pistol grip had its genesis during the muscle car wars of the 60s, where it appeared in all manner of vehicles. Besides looking really cool, it had a functional use during hard driving, as the grip made it easy to keep your hand on the shifter. Bonus points if the shifters were made of wood.


Ford Mustang’s Cueball: As iconic (if not more so) as the pistol grip, the cueball shifter isn’t exclusive to the Mustang, but it’s the only vehicle that offers one today. It looks good, is just the right size in the hand, and harkens back to a simpler time in automotive history.


Aston Martin DBR1 Dog Leg: A Dog Leg transmission features first gear to the left, and down (as opposed to the modern, left and up), as this makes it easier to go from second to third gear during a racing situation. So not only is this setup race proven, the DBR1 scores bonus points for its gated design, and seriously old-school looks. A classic.

Audi BMW Mercedes-Benz Chrysler Jaguar Ferrari's Volvo Dodge Ford Aston

Arguably the stylistic centerpiece of any cabin, the shifter has evolved a great deal from its humble, column-based origins. Now, there are seemingly as many variations on its function as there are cars on the road. We’ve selected ten of our favorites (five autos, and five manuals), and would love to hear which ones you agree with and which other shifters you think should be on the list. The automobile has been around for over 100 years, and there’s been no shortage of designs. Let us know what you think.