Every month or so since my break-in period ended, in between just relaxing behind the wheel of this car, I’ve also tried to learn something new about how to drive this thing smartly, and not just drive it. I admit never having a rear-wheel drive car in my life before this one, so even taking those favorite 20 mph curves on my local avenue required me to re-adapt a little. For those of you who’ve never spent more than a week at a time in FWD cars, your brain literally coordinates wheel and throttle inputs differently in a RWD than in a FWD when smoothing out a curve---even my passenger could “feel” a difference in the motion when I drove her once, and she knows how much I love curvy local streets.
Mine car is only the 25T, not the brute V6.
One month I couldn’t stop being impressed by how instantaneous the steering input is over any past car I’ve had. I’ve tried to develop a kind of “aggressive” roll of the steering wheel when I round a street corner, so I can let momentum silently carry the car into the first half of the turn, then get it to growl a bit audibly throttling up from 2nd gear just as I begin to straightening the wheel. The 25T frame is a very lightweight, so (as you may be disappointed to hear) that engine hardly has a reason to growl during 95% of its movements, not like 35Ts or XFs. Unless you suddenly have a road obstacle in front of you, or muscle-car competition beside you, a 25T mostly stays as quiet as a real-life jaguar in the forest. I find myself itching to hear more of the engine as days go by.
Another month I practiced with the “driving style” screen on the ICT. Has anyone else tried it? You start your trip with a 100 or 99 grade, and you try to retain that score through an entire trip, while the car’s program is “looking for a reason” to tear down your score.
'You tapped the accelerator too hard'---'you applied too much brake'—you should have coasted longer on that last block'---the analyzer is so prickish that it’s nearly impossible to finish a trip with a grade of 100.
Recently I read some Pro-car discussing modern Turbocharger engines. How to maintain them to get an extra-long life. Why your turbo will “lag” if you’re a novice quickly to accelerate. Many experts repeatedly mention that a turbo owner should have a few gear-shifting routines.
Wait—what? …Gear shifting routine? I should shift gears?
…So this month I’ve been getting used to the shift paddles. Paddles? Yeah, umm, okay.
I’ll do that, right after I admit to myself that manual-control of a transmission is entirely foreign to me---for 20 years I’ve been an auto-everything driver.
My first week trying them, I remember revving ridiculously high on 3 separate occasions. The pedestrians on the sidewalk were staring at me like the car was about to blow up. I wasn’t revved near the redline, but I did do those revs by MISTAKE, and I was scared that I was injuring the engine. I know the 25T is a marvel, but I never knew this car could get that amped up. Holy---!
Over time I tried a crude rhythm:
Stop at the traffic light, left-paddle to D1, wait for the light, start to throttle, right-paddle to D2, and before the needle approaches 1500 RPM HOLD the right-paddle to get full automatic control to come back on.
Stop at the next red light, and repeat.
The second week I drove in ‘Sport’ gear using the paddles. (First week I stayed in ‘D’ gear, with ECO mode). I wanted to study the Sport’s shift-points, and try to match them manually.
Manual shifting in ‘Sport’ gear gets extra stylish on the XE instrument cluster. One huge NUMBER framed in this art-deco circular motif, appears dead center on your instrument display. It’s slightly nostalgic-cool, and it only gets displayed this way when you’re in Sport gear, and you tap a paddle. (In standard D gear, your paddle input is shown small and humble way down the bottom of the instrument cluster….yawn, boring.)
After the second week, my rhythm was: Wait at the traffic light, while in ‘2’ gear—start to drive until you reach 1500 RPM, then right-paddle to ‘3’—drive until you pass 1500 RPM, then HOLD the right-paddle to give the car back to auto control. I still didn’t have the confidence to do any higher RPM than that---still babying the transmission like a fraidy-cat.
But in the second week I DID learn how to never again experience turbo-lag.
If I’m already moving down the road or expressway, no matter what mode I’m in, simply increase throttle and down-shift one or two times with the left paddle. The car races forward instantly without relying on turbo in the beginning---smooth, so smooth I can’t feel where ‘turbo” actually kicks in. This way I can control the “leap” as much as I want, AND I produce a crowd-intimidating growl that you I seldom get with turbo alone. YES, please! Makes other drivers behave themselves and let a professional-sounding exhaust take the lane here. One tap on the down-paddle gets the job done expertly---TWO taps of the down-paddle during acceleration on the expressway just sounds overbearing and attention-getting to me.
So will I ever need to do a kickdown? I’ve never tried that technique in this car—some experts are saying kickdown is an outdated method of the past.
NOW, I’m finally understanding what a growl means in sports car driving. It’s not just showing off:
Yes, that deep-toned exhaust separates your car from the home-made jobs and muffler-mods that neighborhood folks try to grab attention with. But the intensity of the growl cues you into deciding to shift, so your eyes don’t need to be glued on the RPM gauge all the time.
The fools I hear on the street roaring at high RPM when they’re travelling a mere 15 miles an hour,.. are jerks----that’s my conclusion about them now. If you’re a proficient driver, you use just the right amount of gear-shifting at just the right points to produce a cool Barry White growl that gets you noticed—you don’t deliberately make those loud, clownish RPM drones doing 20 mph down an anonymous one-way street.
Now that I realize growling can be carefully choreographed like music, by the third week I’ve been practicing using the paddles on the whole stop-n-go commute home.
Downshift twice as I nearly reach the next red light, and the car will THRUM twice, lightly not loudly, before stopping.
In gear ‘1’, wait for the light---start driving until I reach 2000 RPM, up-shift to ‘2’--- then to ‘3’---at 2000 RPM up-shift and cruise along in ‘4’ or ‘5’ gear gear until the next light.
I think I can understand a little of why some drivers PREFER driving manually even in the stop-n-start city. It’s the feeling of working a “machine”.
Playing around with paddles, my mileage is about 26 mpg. In effect I’m only doing what the car would do on auto if I stop interfering with it, and I’m nowhere as smooth at it as the auto-shift anyway.
…But doing it manually gets much more regular growling from the 25T… like it’s speaking to me all through the drive, signing in response to the decision I make. Wow, growling the car doesn’t have to sound corny and unwanted like the clumsy drivers we hear doing it. It can actually be like a groove of music. I’ve only heard this one driver of a blackcherry-colored Mazeratti Ghibli growl his car to sound just right coming around a corner. I heard his Maz on the street twice—and I want to get good enough to change gears like he does.
No chauvinist joke, I can see why a woman in the co-driver seat, if you growled the car this expertly during the drive, can smile at the end of the drive like she’s been feeling a relaxing massage.
Like someone said on another forum, shifting is like learning how to dance---you only start liking it AFTER you’ve learned how to do it without mistakes. I have to keep practicing this for a few more months. This is fun. This is really fun.
Anyone else try practicing the paddles?