I just had to go and make this one.
I just got one too many "Subaru is great but the CVT isn't" comments and have a bone to pick with these folk.
Most of the comments and posts here boil down to 3 things:
1. Bad Off Road
3. Doesn't feel good
1. "Bad Off Road" Is easy to disprove.
Go anywhere on the internet (or even my corner of it) and watch a CVT Subaru go off road.
Then compare it to the older 4/5EAT's.
The CVT in my experience is more capable because of the VDC systems that they get. I haven't seen a lot of people pushing the older VDC cars except maybe @scalman
2. "Unreliable." This one is a little harder to disprove but still pretty easy.
Go anywhere on the internet and look at the failure rate of the CVTs (Subaru has used 2, the 580 and the 690) and compare them to the failure rate of the older 4/5EATs.
I used the NHTSA website and found on average more reported issues with the older transmissions than with the CVTs. This isn't completely fair as there are more Gen 5's made than there are 1, 2, and 3's combined. But it is a good starting point.
I even had my reservations about the CVT in my XV that I owned for a short time. But after owning 3 of them and having no issues I don't think it's fair to call them unreliable.
Yes, the CVT has had issues. Yes, you can find reports of them needing replacement at 50k miles. But you can do that with 5EAT's too.
The 4EAT is only bulletproof if you choose to ignore the center diff binding, the parking pawl, slipping, hard shifting, duty solenoids failing, and the entirety of the SVX.
None of the transmissions Subaru use (4EAT, 5EAT, TR580, TR690) are bulletproof and it shouldn't be described as such. They're all good systems though.
3. "Feels bad, man" This one is going to be nearly impossible to disprove.
I can't offer much data here beyond my own thoughts:
All the automotive journalists tend to hate them and as such the CVT gets a bad rap.
Some people don't like the droning/motorboat feeling so Subaru added fake shifts in so now some people don't like the fake shifts. They can't win.
They get blamed for the car being slow and in my experience the CVT is slower than the 5EAT off the line (0-30) but 30-90 it can match a 5EAT.
So in my mind if it's speed your after you shouldn't buy a CVT... Or an Automatic... Or an Outback... Or a Subaru if I'm honest. The fast ones aren't fast.
Not unless you think matching a stock minivan or stock Honda Accord is fast.
Do your own research. Think for yourself. Question authority. I'm just a guy wearing a raccoon for a hat.
But based on my own research it seems the CVT is unfairly hated on this forum and many other corners of the internet and hopefully this post helps change that.