Reviewing automatic gear shifter ideas
Yeah, I'm praising modern, efficient automatics here. Ze Germans give you the unique opportunity to not care about driving in traffic jams, but then involvingly blast a canyon road enjoying the RWD/Audi's longitudinal-based Torsen Quattro AWD.
Automatic trannies provide the wonderful indulgence of not having to shift/row your own gears/arse about with cogs (UK translation). So the only times you're going to be using the shifter is when reversing or parking.
The space where the manual used to be could then be used as a huge storage bin, as Mercedes offers. Benz's shift stalk is a quality, high-tech-feeling piece of equipment not at all similar to front bench Murican cruisers. It feels sophisticated, effortless, and in the right place. I used it test driving an A-Class and loved it, and found the storage bin in place of the manual shifter very big and useful.
Not so with Audi's shifters that take the whole console like an old car. The S-car shifters seem to ape a manual one, which is both pretentious and silly because the amazing little grip you're getting from it is only useful when you're heroically shouting "Yay, I parked it", or shifting in manual mode thinking "that's practically a hell'n'toe!"
The regular shifter is no better, looking like a thoroughly modernised 90s American automatic lever. That's like making super overdesigned wind up window cranks with Audi quality - in principle, still looks backward as hell. And, of course, takes up all the valuable space.
BMW shifters look fresher, and I used to hate their dildo-look, but they're growing on me. Upon closer examination they're closer in principle to the Mercedes way, take little space, and have a modern, electronicky feel about them. The fact they don't jump anywhere, that they're more like a little remote telling the trans what to do, in a familiar place.
In fact the BMW style is more convincing still when considering the way the car is designed to be driven when not involved in any ultimate driving machine thrills - your right hand firmly on the armrest, fiddling about with iDrive at the stoplight, with shifts at your fingertips should you need to do anything. Benz counters this with an auto brake function and just leaving the car in D like forevs, only reaching for the stalk when needed.
However, despite dildoness, BMW wins, because Mercedes stereos still have that disgusting little keypad thing (thankfully dying out in the S, and C class).
To sum up - Audi shifters suck, Mercedes use the space best, BMW offer something in between.