• Jul 19, 2007

CVT transmissions definitely aren't new, but high gas prices have thrust the once unreliable continuously variable trannies back into the powertrain equation. Chrysler uses the CVT in a few of its products, Mitsubishi added the tranny to the new Lancer, and Nissan has begun using the CVT in the Altima and Sentra, among others. According to a Japanese business rag, Subaru is planning to add the gearless transmission into every model they make by 2010. The first Subie to mate a boxer engine to the CVT is rumored to be the updated 2009 Legacy, and a 2.0L diesel with a CVT may follow shortly there after. While the CVT will be available with every model, we're assuming (and hoping) that manual transmissions will be offered as well.

CVTs are usually a bit quicker off the line than automatics, but in our experience fuel economy savings are a mix bag. While the Sentra's MPG improved with the CVT, in the 2006 Ford Five Hundred, the FWD CVT version got two less MPG on the highway than the auto-equipped SEL model. As far as the driving experience goes, CVTs take a little getting used to since the transmissions keep the engine in the optimal rev range at all times and the transmission feels like it's slipping, but most drivers may never notice the difference.

[Source: Winding Road]



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  • 28 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      I've never been so disappointed with a new technology than with CVTs. Give me a 5+ speed automatic and a sports car with a MT any day. Every time I drive my dad's Murano (I'm almost 30, not 15) I want to push it off a cliff. A friend had to get the CVT replaced in his Murano -- try $6500.00.

      If you want a CVT, just put your car in second and drive down the highway for two hours. You'll get the same effect. Good luck with that Subaru, I was just starting to consider you for my next car.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Unfortunately, no one posted the actual press release. The CVT change is just limited to auto transmissions. In otherwords, you can still keep coveting that Manual Subaru.

        "FHI to Suspend AT Development and Expand CVTs to All Models

        Fuji Heavy Industries has decided to suspend further development of automatic transmissions. The company will concentrate its development resources on CVT technology for horizontally opposed engines."

      • 7 Years Ago
      I'd think the best use for a CVT is a car that does tons of highway miles. Instead of the 3500 rpm my outback does at around 70+ , this thing would be humming along closer to 2000-2500.

      Aside from that, I'm just hoping they'll throw a 6 speed manual in with the diesel if/when they bring it in a few years.
      • 7 Years Ago
      this isn't Subaru's 'first time at the rodeo' with a CVT. it was available in the Justy in the late 80s-early 90s.

      I drove one then, and didn't like it. I've driven several newer vehicles with the CVT (Murano, Caliber,500), and they don't seem any different. it reminds me of a badly slipping automatic transmission.

      AZMike
      • 7 Years Ago
      There's a reason the new Mini ditched the CVT for an automatic, and it's not because the folks at BMW are stupid.
      • 7 Years Ago
      CVT sucks. I drove a Nissan Versa and it took 12+ seconds to go from 0-60. The Dodge Caliber I drover had a CVT and it was even SLOWER than that. I had the distinct feeling of belts slipping when I drove it. If you enjoy a high-revving car that goes nowhere, then buy a CVT.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Ok, again. Those cars would be just as slow--if not slower--with a conventional automatic, and they'd get worse fuel economy.

        The problem people have with CVTs is the "no gears" thing. It sounds odd if you're used to the rev/drop-rev/drop-rev/drop of a conventional transmission while shifting, but it doesn't actually affect performance. In fact, it's likely faster with a CVT as you're not losing shift time or waiting for a brain-dead transmission to shift.

        The other nice part about CVTs is that, unlike an automatic, they're actually pretty simple. No mess of gears, sensors and electronics, just two simple belts.

        A nice touch on Subaru's part would be to allow the driver to adjust the CVT's ratio directly, either with paddles, or with a "slider" shift gate. Move the lever down to increase the drive ratio, move it up to lower it.
        • 7 Years Ago
        psarhjinian @:

        Nooooo, psarhginian...the problem we have with them is that they're unreliable, unresponsive, and basically suck.

        Period.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Subaru should be developing a DSG transmission, not a stupid CVT. That's my 2c.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Three letters. DSG.

      CVT = lame. Ever driven one? You just keep waiting for it to shift. Wait until it breaks. Yeah, I want my transmission based on a belt.
      Conventional auto = more lame.

      Manual = fantastic if you don't live in a city or don't have to drive into work. I drove one for 18 years and now I had to have a bionic calf implanted.
      DSG = best of both worlds.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I agree that a DSG is a neat thing and adds a lot of convenience and performance to driving without taking much away, but it's also a horribly complex mechanism that offers all sorts of opportunity for things to go wrong, especially if the maintenance is lacking. Volkswagen has made a point of how maintenance-senstive the DSG is. CVTs are actually very, very simple by comparison.

        A traditional auto can also be a complex thing to fix if it goes awry, too. I suspect DSGs will displace automatics in premium vehicles; CVTs (being very simple, economical and well-suited to low-torque implementations) will supplant automatics and manuals in economy cars.

        Manuals will probably stick around, but only in specific performance models and absolute bare-bones economy cars, and even then it'll be until CVTs are made in larger quantities and economies of scale are realized.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I have a 1958 Buick with a variable pitch Dynaflow tranny. No gears, no shifting. Don't ask me how it works compared to modern CVT's. I'm not an engineer and don't pretend to know of such things, but if someone does, feel free to wax eloquent.
      • 7 Years Ago
      NOOOOO!!!
      • 7 Years Ago
      An earlier post said

      "The other nice part about CVTs is that, unlike an automatic, they're actually pretty simple. No mess of gears, sensors and electronics, just two simple belts."

      That perhaps explains the move to CVT's by automakers. Perhaps they are lighter and cheaper to build.

      If they are indeed simpler then why can the Murano CVT not be repaired when it suffers a simple failure but must be replaced at a cost of $5000 - $6500?
      • 7 Years Ago
      2010? hurry up slowbaru!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Subaru: Yesterdays technology, today!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Am getting AWD high clearance vehicle for next car. Looked at all of them appropriate for road trips for 2. CRV appealed but learned it is on Civic platform and clearance less the 7". Looked at almost everything out there and choice has come down to Outback or Murano. Grave doubts about CVT longenvity and repair cost (based on anecdotal evidence) has me leaning towards the Outback. Now I feel forced to purchase Subaru before 2010 model year or buy used. Between proprietary computer modules and unproven hardware such as CVT cars are becoming more or less 5-7 year disposable items. Cars I've enjoyed included 50's VW, 70's MBZ and BMW, 240 volvo and 5.0 Mustang. All enjoyable and easily maintainable cars. Most cars designed and produced the last 5-7 years are a joy to drive, safe and low on maintainance but when a new engine, transmission or electronic component requires replacement (likely in the 10-20 year scenario) repair, if possible, may well be more expensive than replacement.
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