Dear Car Talk:
My wife discovered that she can easily downshift and upshift our four-cylinder 2014 Subaru Outback (with continuously variable transmission) using the paddles on the steering column. Ever since this discovery, she uses the paddles to slow down for stop signs and stoplights and when descending short hills.
It seems to me that the brakes should be used in these circumstances and downshifting reserved for long downhill grades. I am tired of hearing the engine rev as she downshifts before every stop.
Is it a good idea to use the downshift this way, or should she use the brakes instead? — Terry
Don’t be a party pooper, Terry. She’s having fun. And she’s not doing any harm. As long as she hasn’t started wearing a racing helmet yet, I think you’ll be OK.
If your Outback had a manual transmission, you could argue that she’s putting extra wear and tear on the clutch, and that brake pads are cheaper than clutches. I’d still probably tell you to leave her alone, in the interests of domestic bliss, but at least you’d have a theoretical case to make.
But with an automatic transmission (or a continuously variable automatic transmission like you have), there is no clutch. In fact, your car doesn’t even have any gears. A set of belts slides up and down a cone-shaped device to increase and decrease the gear ratios “variably” as needed. The paddles on the steering wheel just “mimic” gears by causing the transmission computer to jump to preset gear ratios. So the primary reason the paddles exist is so you can have fun and pretend you’re shifting gears. And that’s what your wife is doing.
I understand that the sound of the engine can be a little annoying, Terry. But rest assured, no harm is being done. I’m guessing she’s just a little bored with your 2014 Outback and is trying to spice things up a bit. So if you want her to stop, try making more scintillating conversation when you’re in the car with her.
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(c) 2021 by Ray Magliozzi
and Doug Berman
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