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]