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BMW's Lighted Gear Lever Is a Great Little Quirk

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author photo by Doug DeMuro October 2018

Here's a cool feature you may not have known about: In BMW models, the gear pattern lights up on the top of the shift lever. As a connoisseur of weird and unusual automotive quirks, I absolutely love this, and I think it's one of the best examples of attention to detail in the entire car industry.

If you drive an automatic transmission, you might not find this especially interesting -- largely because automakers already have to light up the gears at the base of an automatic transmission lever so you can see what gear you're shifting into at night. But in manual cars, the gear pattern is usually on the top of the shift knob, rather than at the base of the shifter -- and that top is never illuminated.

Except in BMWs.

Generally speaking, lighting up this portion of the gear lever is unnecessary, because most manual drivers know the gear pattern without having to look at it -- so it's not important to see it at night. It's also expensive to do, since it requires running wiring and lighting to the gear lever, which is a piece that's normally cheap and simple. You also have to ensure that the gear pattern is clearly visible during the day, though it's backlit at night.

And, indeed, BMW does all that. I'm not sure if this feature is on every single BMW with a manual transmission, or just some of them. But I know I've seen it before, and I absolutely love it: an unnecessary quirk that's probably expensive -- but very cool. For that reason, I figured it was worth sharing with you.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
BMW's Lighted Gear Lever Is a Great Little Quirk - Autotrader