"I'm not saying/asking which one is better, simply, why would you choose Selespeed over a regular manual; what makes it such a different driving experience? (besides the obvious)."
I chose the selespeed because I heard about it and thought I would take it for a test drive, after about half an hour I fell in love with it. Organised for a full day drive to confirm my thoughts. Why did I fall in love with it?.... hard to tell, I do a lot of city driving so its easier than driving a manual, its a bit gimicky and like all males that appeals to me, its just more "fun".
"And why would one choose it considering its history of problems that have been raised on this forum. Further, why do you think most motoring writers have criticised it?"
I didn't consider reliability... if you spend your life worrying about that you will give yourself a heart attack, and lifes too short for that. I drove it, I wanted it, I got it! Besides, its under warranty, so while a failure would be annoying it wont cost you anything.
I think most motoring writers have criticised it because they get in thinking it will be "better" than a manual. They think they can drive it like they drive a manual and the system will make them better drivers, and it doesn't happen. Initially its probably harder to get the most of out of the car, because you dont fully know how to use the selespeed to is best. You must adapt to it, and once you've done that I think you can get more out of the car, within certain limitations.