Among automotive enthusiasts, no one seems to hold a neutral opinion when it comes to continuously variable transmissions. CVTs are either praised for their ability to boost fuel economy or chided for their occasionally poor driving dynamics. Nissan is among the masters of these un-shifting gearboxes in the US, and it uses them in many vehicles in its lineup. However, for the 2015 model year, several models are getting a software update to make their CVTs a bit more like a conventional automatic.

To give drivers the option of feeling gearshifts while on the road, Nissan is adding its D-Step Shift Logic feature to the CVTs in multiple vehicles. Steve Powers, Nissan's senior manager of powertrain performance, told Autoblog the system forces the transmission to "hold a ratio and then shift" to simulate the way that a traditional automatic would. It's simply a change in software, but the company "can't do it to older CVTs," he said, because it would require changes to transmission logic, as well. According to Automotive News, the upgrade is coming to the 2015 Versa, Versa Note (pictured above), Sentra, V6-equipped Altima, Pathfinder and Quest. "We're rolling it out to all programs," said Powers.

Interestingly, buyer perception appears to be pushing the upgrade. John Curl, a Nissan North America regional product manager, told Automotive News that the decision to add the tech partially comes because some owners are bothered that the CVTs aren't changing gears. According to Powers, D-Step "avoids the rubber band feel," that many drivers didn't like. The different sensation of these transmissions seems like something consumers would notice during the test drive, or that the salesperson would inform them about. The same issue cropped up last year when the company was facing customer satisfaction problems among new buyers customers' unfamiliarity with the gearboxes.


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  • 75 Comments
      Willy
      • 5 Months Ago
      A shifting CVT sounds oxymoronic. True it does feel weird minus the gears shifting and stable rpm while accelerating, but something just to get used to. Might as well stick to a regular auto tranny. Although from a friend that works at Nissan, it dies hes replacing CVT every month or so. Always wondered if torquey engine and heavy the problem? My sis 1st Mini been okay after 160+ k miles.
        foxtrot685
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Willy
        There are and we're many problems with the xtronic unit but they've gotten better. At one point nissan was telling customers that the cvt fluid is lifetime fluid that never needs to be replaced (false), that the fluid only needs to be replaced every 100,000 miles (false), customers neglected the service intervals for it, nissan used wrong fluid for its drain and fill services, some of the units in V6 cars didn't have fluid coolers and their unit was designed to use the coolers, some were poorly built from jatco, the list goes on and on for years!
          futurecars
          • 5 Months Ago
          @foxtrot685
          was it nissan or the dealers? because I know nissan was recommending regular change of transmission fluid at 60, 000 miles not 100, 000 miles, in 2010 it went to 480 Kilo or 30,000 miles but some people go beyond that, but the dealers have a different tune as it seems some did not know that for example the rogue fluid have to be change at 48,000 KM and part of the problem too was people neglect service intervals and jatco also made some defective (not really their fault) from defect parts from an other suplier.
          futurecars
          • 5 Months Ago
          @foxtrot685
          I do not own a rogue but the older 2010 model rogue manual says 48 KM the CVT fluid must change or the computer will tell you if it need to or not when it goes to the dealer.
      v6sonoma
      • 5 Months Ago
      A stupid "fix" for a stupid problem. Ugh.
      AlwaysOn
      • 5 Months Ago
      Why not give drivers a choice like Subaru's CVT shift logic? Artificial 8 speed in Sport Sharp mode and an option for regular CVT no-shift rubber band.
        foxtrot685
        • 5 Months Ago
        @AlwaysOn
        Yes, subaru has the best option for this. And what I like about it is that it's CONSISTENT!! so long as you are in those modes it will behave like a traditional auto. Toyota and honda cvts only act like a traditional auto during certain times and it makes the drive experience inconsistent and jerky
          futurecars
          • 5 Months Ago
          @foxtrot685
          Subaru and nissan uses and share the same technology but are build differently, the WRX and the juke nismo use the same tech and have the same synco rev matching, but I I think subaru does a better inspection of their units than jatco, because one of nissan failure was a simple loose clamp causing the CVT to lose pressure inside, that why the altima and the pathfinder had that shudder and hesitate acceleration.
      ihatemacs9
      • 5 Months Ago
      ...or just educate the consumer about CVT, like you did with the maxima lipstick commercial a few years back, instead of dumbing down the technology.
      Logan X Hebda
      • 5 Months Ago
      I can only imagine Nissan is doing this in response to customers raising questions about the normal CVT operation. Like everyones saying whats the point of having a CVT if you have it shift?
      evilspoons
      • 5 Months Ago
      Nissan - making new technologies worse because their customers don't understand them.
      BillyM67
      • 5 Months Ago
      "but the company "can't do it to older CVTs," he said, because it would require changes to transmission logic, as well." BS, the "transmisiion logic" is part of the software. What he means is, they won't do it to older CVTs, because then no one would buy the new models if they made the older ones better.
        Card13
        • 5 Months Ago
        @BillyM67
        Who would upgrade to a new car just to get a CVT upgrade? It's simply not worth it for Nissan dealerships to completely reprogram the transmissions of existing vehicles, there's no corporate conspiracy.
      Paulo Santos
      • 5 Months Ago
      Simulate a CVT gear is ridiculous, stupid and illogical. Are distorting the true characteristic of this type of transmission that are the infinite relations. If it is to be gears a conventional automatic transmission is better! Before, the CVT was a marvel of softness and comfort (and IS!). Now, it sucks leaving the car "boring". I love my CVT Sentra and I´ll say it again: IT IS RIDICULOUS!!!
      James
      • 5 Months Ago
      I like how the CVT normally works: it pins the engine at peak torque. If you know how the CVT works, it's awesome and a really neat sensation. I avoid putting it in "Sport" mode because it defeats the purpose of having a CVT. I say they just unapologetically make the CVT operate like a CVT is supposed to, and that is to put the engine at it's most efficient RPM for the demand placed on the engine. These fake gearing tricks are detrimental and phony. Marketting-campaign the crap out of why CVTs are superior, and then people will be proud that their engine is being used more efficiently by the transmission! I remember in the mid earlier noughties how excited enthusiasts were about the forthcoming CVTs. If a company can make a CVT that can actually withstand torque and respond quickly, I think they are clearly the ultimate in performance transmissions. No break in acceleration due to shifting, optimal performance.
      XLR8
      • 5 Months Ago
      The main benefit of CVT is that it maintains the rpm at desired level, switching or balancing between performance and fuel economy. Locking the ratio just to make it sound like other transmission is giving up all the main benefit of CVT and still having handicaps of CVT at the same time. Why not just leave the transmission logic as it is and shove in a set of "virtual tacho" with "virtual rev sound" that gives just the feeling of switching gears? These dumb people don't care in what rpm they drive or why their CVTs behave in such manner, do they?
      paulwilson05
      • 5 Months Ago
      So they're going to retard the CVT to be like a conventional automatic? Won't that remove performance gains?
      John
      • 5 Months Ago
      I really get a good laugh about CVT being cutting edge yada yada or the complaints about how they drive. Folks I was very use to them WAY back in 1972. Yes that right in 1972 I became very familer in how they felt and drove. WAY back then they were on SNOWMOBILES! And yes they were very very smooth unless of course you modified the spring rates that held the sheaves apart for a higher engagement rpm for drag racing.
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