I feel kinda good that the tires may have solved your kicking problem. Tranny service is a good idea anytime -- sure can't hurt. As for sluggish performance, you realize these are only 2.4s and not V6s. My 2.0 really needs the lower gears when I'm in the mountains. I'm not usually first away from a light anyway. I came from a Pontiac 3.8 to the Patriot 2.4 and indeed there was a difference. The Pontiac engine was half-again bigger than the Patriot engine.OK, update: changed the rear tires to match the front + put in new sparkplugs. Coils were fine. The "kicking" is gone. There is a light whine still going on now and then and also the audible click when it goes into R from D but only after a long drive and I'm parking. Now I'm thinking the kicking I thought was unwanted gear changes might have been misfires or something. Still got what feels like sluggish performance. Thinking next I might get a fluid/filter on the transmission. Wondering if it's all a combo of neglect on the parts and they all need a "tune-up" so to speak. Will give it this week and see if the kicking comes back before deciding what to do next.