I'm talking here about the Selespeed gearbox of the 159/Brera range. I can't say how much of it is true for the Selespeed version of the 156/147 range.
I'm aware, that most of the forum users here never had the change to get a 159 or Brera with Selespeed and even outside the UK it's now hardly available from new any longer, but maybe some international member, who buys a used one, can derive some benefit from it.
(I took me nearly a year to understand some details of the sport mode, so it's not as easy as you might think - well ok, there's also the possibility that I'm just stupid.
If you're looking for an automatic with the option for manual gear changes for sporty moments, Selespeed is probably NOT
If you intend to change gears manually as long as your relevant arm isn't in plaster, but you can't or don't want to heel-and-toe, or/and you want to use your left leg to brace yourself on twisty roads instead of operating the clutch pedal, Selespeed is for you.
A few remarks, if your Selespeed is new (getting more and more unlikely, but ....):
If you think the gear changes are too slow: They will improve. (I know, that's said about many things, but it's really true in this case.)
In the beginning it happened sometimes, that the gearbox didn't want to change from neutral to first gear or neutral to reverse. I had to try again and sometimes even pull the stick (change up) to get the gearbox to change to 1st gear. It's not a big deal, but quite embarrassing if you're the first at the traffic lights.
This little problem also got a lot better and now only happens very very rarely.
The most important and best-known fact is of course:
You have to lift the throttle when you change gear! I tiny bit is enough, but if you don't, it feels awful and the gear change takes a lot longer. If you change without lifting the engine decelerates well BEFORE the clutch is disengaged which means - for a moment you nod forward, which feels like in your first driving lesson. For me that's intolerable, which is also the reason, why I think the automatic mode is useless (because there's obviously no chance to lift the throttle, if the gearbox decides when to change gear).
I can't understand, why the software couldn't be programmed to do that properly. The only reason I can think of, is, that the gearbox wants to train you to lift, because it is essential for the finer points of using the sport mode (but more of that later). But still that's no excuse, why it shouldn't be smooth in automatic mode.
There's not much to say about that. As long as you lift the throttle, the gear changes should always be smooth, but although they're probably not slower than your average change with a manual gearbox, you will sooner or later want them to be a bit more brisker.
Now it's getting interesting. It's not simply all the same but faster. If you try it first time you might be surprised that sometimes the gear changes are as "slow" as in "normal mode", sometimes fast and smooth, and sometimes (too) fast and even violent.
You can regulate all this with the throttle (so no need to go ever back to "normal mode"):
- If you drive relaxed (pressing the throttle softly and changing-up at low revs), the gear change will be very smooth and "slow" as normal.
- For a fast gear change there are two steps:
1. Before you lift the throttle, you have to rev a bit higher and/or press the throttle relatively hard, to tell the gearbox, that you want a fast gear change. (Nothing strange about that, happens by itself and is nothing you really have to think about).
2. That's now the point, which took me quite long to understand: After you lifted the throttle and flicked the paddle, it matters how fast you step back onto the throttle! If you wait for a tiny moment, before you step onto the throttle, the gear change will be fast, but still smooth. If step back on the throttle very fast the gear changes will also be faster (up to the point to being uncomfortable).
(I'm in the fast-but-smooth camp, but if you wanna wring the last hundreds of seconds out of it and bury the throttle in the carpet and change without lifting, maybe it's so fast, that the "nodding" as mentioned above is not a problem. I haven't tried that, because I'm to sympathetic with my car.)
Tips and tricks:
The only disadvantage of Selespeed in my eyes is, that it takes quite long for the clutch to engage fully if you move off slowly (If you move off normal or fast, the clutch action is perfect and better than I ever could do it myself.)
That slipping of the clutch lets you look a bit stupid, because you have to use more revs than you would normaly need (especially when the engine is cold).
For example that's a little problem, when I drive out of my underground car park in the morning. The engine is cold and I can't drive too fast onto the ramp, because there might be the danger to hit the ramp with the nose of the car. So it happens that I drive up the ramp with a still slipping cluch, which is annoying.
One way around this, is to set off way back from the ramp, then accelerate relatively hard, lift the throttle to decelerate to a save speed just before the ramp and as soon as I'm on it back on the throttle.
In the beginning I was worried by a clacking sound from around the gearstick - always shortly after moving off. I'm pretty sure that's the locking mechanism which prevents you from changing between R/Neutral/1 when the car is standing and your not pressing the brake (and is released once you're moving). As long as I know what it is, that sound doesn't bother me.