Chrysler's original pushbutton transmission vs new rotary shifter

Chrysler is known for their automotive innovations and their effect on the industry - from the placement of transmission shifts in the order of Park-Reverse-Neutral-Drive-Low, to the contributions to fuel efficient engine models, there's plenty we can focus on.

Today, however, we're going to be covering the difference between the old pushbutton transmission and the new rotary shifters.

Chrysler's original pushbutton transmission vs new rotary shifter

What's the main differences?

So, what is different? First of all, let's cover the basics - when it comes down to shifting gears in automatic transmission vehicles we can, generally, narrow it down to the act of selecting the specific mode you want to use - from Park, to Low, and so on and so forth.

Now, let's step back a bit and remind ourselves that there were attempts to move away from the form and function of the standard shifter in the past - with only small levels of success along the way. Included on this list, we like to point out Ford's teletouch feature - which, rather than using a shifter, instead asked drivers to depress buttons for the mode they wanted to use.

Likewise, Chrysler experimented in the '50s and '60s with pushbutton transmissions - these operated by using direct mechanical links in favour of electric actuators and was present on Chrysler New Yorker, Imperial, and similar Mopar vehicles. It was, in part, a practical novelty intended for the luxury level vehicles, allowing drivers to select 2nd gear or 1st gear individually. Long-term market experimentation and feedback found that drivers at the time to be less receptive to it and move back to the iconic look of the gear shifter.

1962 Dodge Dart pushbutton transmission

With shift-lock buttons, drivers are able to make decisions on what mode they want without much effort on their part - in fact, if you're driving a vehicle that doesn't have the flash and functionality of one of those more industrious models you'll likely find that you're only going to be selecting a mode twice during a given trip - when you start and then when you stop.

Double-clutch and shift-by-wire automatics has led to a variety of interesting design investments on modern vehicles - often transforming the area between driver and passenger into a block of cup holders, USB ports, and make-shift armrests.

Check out the Chrysler 200 for a twist on the classic design - reflecting the naming convention of the technology, the shifter has taken on a rotary system. Now, this may seem like a strange step back, especially if the word rotary brings up memories of old phones, but the truth is these dials make sense.

Chrysler's new rotary shifter

Why does it matter?

Back in the day when technology was less practical than it is today there may have been some need to utilize (more like occupy) a huge quantity of space next to the driver for the shifter. But, really, this hasn't been a reality for vehicles for a long, long time - and what it comes down to, instead, is all cosmetic.

Why do you need a huge area taken up by technology that can take up a substantially smaller one - allowing for more ergonomic features, practical accessories, or fancier interior design?

The answer is rather simply - you don't need the bulkiness of the traditional shifters - and Chrysler is doing a great job of creating more interesting if not also more practical options.