Subaru CVT Myths and Misconceptions

When the first cars were produced, there was 3 pedals, and learning how to drive wasn’t a given. There was a clunky clutch with grinding gears, and the car was driven by the driver. Now, the most common type of transmission is automatic, and drivers have peace of mind knowing the car will shift and maintain speed all on its own. Car transmissions vary depending on the manufacturing make, model, and year and depending on the driver’s preference and purpose, different transmissions serve different needs.

One transmission that has noticeably increased in availability for today’s cars is the Continuously Variable Transmission, or CVT. CVTs were first introduced over a century ago by Milton Reeves and were originally used in sawmills.

Continuously Variable Transmissions were first mass produced into cars in the late 1950s when they were put into the Dutch DAF 600.

DAF 600

This type of transmission wasn’t prominent until the late 1980s, when Ford, Fiat, and Subaru introduced CVTs into their vehicles. They are now used in Subaru models as well as many hybrid vehicles, as no other transmission type can offer the same amount of MPGs.

CVTs work with a system of belts and pulleys to produce an infinite range of ratios. The car’s computer decides how to adjust the pulleys to create the optimal ratio for the driving situation. This offers a lightweight, compact transmission that is not only smooth, but delivers improved fuel economy. The fuel efficiency is better because CVTs are better at controlling the engine speed range. This type of transmission is much simpler than your traditional automatic transmission. If someone is looking for a car that offers a traditional driving experience, this may not be for them. The CVT offers a smooth ride with no shifting, so the driver won’t feel the car changing gears as they increase or decrease speed.

Now despite the smooth driving experience and better gas mileage, some folks are still on the fence about Continuously Variable Transmissions. A lot of these points are just misconceptions and myths, so let’s dive into some common misunderstandings about CVTs.

CVT’s are harder and more expensive to maintain

  • Early editions of CVTs weren’t the most reliable, and since the technology was new it was harder to fix. As CVTs have become more widely available, it has been easier to schedule maintenance and cheaper to fix. If the transmission is serviced every 30,000 miles and handled with care, the car should last if you need it to. This doesn’t count oil changes and other car maintenance! Just the transmission. For instance, there are Toyota Prius’ that have over 300,000 miles! While some brands have better CVT technology than others, this transmission class is racing to the forefront of the automotive industry.

“CVT’s take away from my driving experience”

  • Now this may be true to some aspect, but some brands such as Subaru offer CVT in some of their more popular models, such as the Impreza and WRX. These vehicles feature a high torque Lineartronic CVT, while providing the driver paddle shifters for a more traditional driving experience. So, while most versions of CVT-equipped vehicles offer a monotonous yet smooth ride, Subaru has kept true drivers in mind when building their CVT powertrain.

At the end of the day, it is up to the driver to determine what kind of transmission is best for them. If someone is looking for more power or a traditional driving experience, then a CVT may not be for them. However, if they are looking for better gas mileage and a smoother driving experience, CVT’s may be their best bet. If the owner stays up to date on maintenance, CVT vehicles can have a long, flourishing life that spans 100s of thousands of happy (s)miles. Luckily, Subaru offers both manual and CVT transmissions on some models, so rest assured, there is a great Subaru for you!


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