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I bought my first Subaru (a new 2013 Outback CVT) at the end of Feb 2013. The issue of concern occurs when the outside temp is 45 deg F and colder. Regardless of whether or not the cold engine light is on, when the car is first started, it accelerates with "normal" (1200-1400) rpm to 25 mph, then the rpm increases to 1800 and goes to 2000 and stays there as I drive 35-40 mph for the next three miles. If I take my foot of the gas, the rpm drops to 1800 or 1600 but no lower; the slightest push on the accelerator sends the rpm back up to 2000 where it stays steady while I'm driving 35-40 mph. After 3 miles, the rpm will suddenly drop to the "normal" 1200 to 1400 rpm. If it is a cold day (less than 40 deg F), and if I restart the engine after it is no longer warm, then the issue can occur multiple times in one day. This happens every single time, given the cited temps.

Is this normal for Subarus? Subarus with CVT? My dealership is not especially interested in this issue, so I'd like to enlighten them with any info you have.

Thanks!
 

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13 Outback 2.5 Premium CVT
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I found the 2000 RPM thing is tied into the heater temp knob, turn the heater control knob down to 1/2 or just above that and the RPM will drop by about 400, once the car gets up to normal operating temp (not just the blue light off but fully warm) you can adjust the temperature control knob anywhere you want without it affecting the RPM.

Another thing is if you re warming the car up in the driveway when you start it the RPM will go way up just like the old choke model cars but you can trick it into dropping down by putting it in drive and when it drops put it back into Park and go back in the house and get your coffee or whatever
 

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This is normal the new cars today have enough smarts to hold RPM's higher till the engine and emissions gear are to running temp. It seems odd if your prior car was old enough that it lacked this ability once you were past the classic high idle cold setting etc.

By the way the largest waste of fuel today is warming up a car in the driveway. Beyond about 40 seconds to get fluids moving you should be driving the car down the street and simply taking it easy on the car till it reaches normal operating temps.
 

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By the way the largest waste of fuel today is warming up a car in the driveway. Beyond about 40 seconds to get fluids moving you should be driving the car down the street and simply taking it easy on the car till it reaches normal operating temps.
We have this thing around here called frost, 40 seconds may cut it in CA but not here unless you want to hang your head out the window like an old hound dog so you can see the neighbors garbage cans they leave in the middle of the road because everyone knows it is much more efficient to haul garbage out to the can one bag at a time then haul the can out once a week.
 

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We have this thing around here called frost, 40 seconds may cut it in CA but not here unless you want to hang your head out the window like an old hound dog so you can see the neighbors garbage cans they leave in the middle of the road because everyone knows it is much more efficient to haul garbage out to the can one bag at a time then haul the can out once a week.
Frost vs getting fluids moving are two different issues. We have that here too. I simply scrape the windows start the car and go. Though one must be prepared to stand out in the cold for a few minutes scraping. Or simply park the car in the garage.
 

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. . . Regardless of whether or not the cold engine light is on, when the car is first started, it accelerates with "normal" (1200-1400) rpm to 25 mph, then the rpm increases to 1800 and goes to 2000 and stays there as I drive 35-40 mph for the next three miles. If I take my foot of the gas, the rpm drops to 1800 or 1600 but no lower; the slightest push on the accelerator sends the rpm back up to 2000 where it stays steady while I'm driving 35-40 mph. After 3 miles, the rpm will suddenly drop to the "normal" 1200 to 1400 rpm. . .
We've had the same issue with out 2013 Outback. The strange thing is that I don't remember it happening last winter. Cobalt explains in his post how turning the "heater control knob" down can bring the RPM back to normal. I have also found this to be true using the the fan control after having driven a mile or so. Though it only works when I turn off the fan, then turn it on again.

I'd like to find an explanation about why this is happening and if it's normal.
 

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The only reason I can see the heater knob having an impact on the RPM is that the car will run the A/C compressor with "heat" selected, to help dry the air and prevent fogging on the inside of the windows.

As subiesailor noted, this is normal, after ~1 minute of running mine drops the RPM to ~1500. You can also get it to drop by "faking" putting the shifter to R then back to P, it'll drop the RPM to 1500.

I usually let the engine run ~30 seconds on cold start then put it in gear and go, but gently.
 

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I have the same issue ( had 2010 3yrs no issue) bought my 2013 in Sept. first time temps dipped into low 40s average mileage dropped from 27-28 to 21-23. Went to dealer, Got BS about winter fuels, low tire pressure etc. Over next few months figured out when it was happening and watched RPM drop 400-600 RPMs when turn fan off when it start's running "weird" I've been back to dealer 3 more times, called SOA directly and no one will acknowledge the issue. One year later while my trip Average is 30-31MPG, if the RPM issue starts I see 23MPG. I controll it now by constantly turning the fan off to let the trans shift then turn the heat back on. VERY FRUSTRATING but very real and very reproducible. The nonsense about engine needs to rev higher to heat the exhaust for emissions reasons doen't hold water. If I turn the fan off the exhaust is still the same temp. It's unrelated to engine temp, either ambient temp or possibly trans oil temp in my opinion. The service manager was able to see it in his own demo but when I went back for update...he no longer works there. Hope there is some program update that fixes the issue. 17-19% MPG loss is not acceptable
 

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This comes from a good friend of mine who is also a Subaru mechanic. He whole high RPM issue is due to the Outback, like all Subarus with 4cyl engines, being a PZEV (partial zero emission vehicle). The car's computer(ECM) keeps the rpms high at 55 degrees or below to allow the engine and exhaust system to reach full operating temp faster than it would at more normal RPM, hence lowering the emissions the engine produces. It's that simple. The CVT simply holds a lower ratio until the engine warms up to full operating temp.
 

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If the high rpm really bothers you, simply use the manual shifting mode. Forgot to add that to my previous post. U will actually get better mileage if u just let the car do its own thing.
 

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It's not JUST the Outback, my 2006 Pontiac (with the 3.8 V-6) did the same thing in the winter. 2,000 RPM at startup in the cold, then stepping down to more reasonable levels as it warms.

Honestly, I never gave it a second thought. When it's cold out, I start the car then put my bag in the back seat then get in, get buckled and put my gloves on. By this time, all the fluids should be flowing so I put it in gear and go. I was more concerned with the weak-sounding crank but it hasn't failed me (yet) so I'm not worried.
 

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Mileage loss in cold weather

Noticed the same mileage loss in 2014 Outback 2.5 liter. living in Iowa we must warm car, however even after warming it can take 15-20 miles of driving in 0 -15 degree outside temp. before temp gauge comes to normal operating temp (just below 1/2 mark) same as summer driving. Until it reaches op temp RPMs will not drop under 2000-2100 on level ground. A loss of 19-20% in gas mileage. Mileage is the reason I traded my old 6cyl.Saturn Outlook for the Subaru.
Called dealer service yesterday to ask about this issue, said they would have service advisor return call, well that never happened, second time they have not returned a call on question. I can buy a car anywhere but service after the sale is the only reason for repeat business.
 

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Mine does it also.


The programming in the pcm/ecm is set up to do exactly what it is doing under cold weather conditions to get the emissions components hot quickly and to heat the transmission fluid up more quickly. It's doing exactly what it's supposed to do so either don't worry about it or, as noted, use manual mode.
 

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Here is tech info from Subaru on the subject, sent to me by local dealerships Service Advisor. In short if you live in cold climate, you choose comfort or gas mileage and no I do not use manual mode, not why I bought an auto trans, had that on last vehicle and never used it, never wanted to. Never been a fan of select shift option. Seems this Outback is the most cold blooded vehicle I have owned since a 1974 Mustang II, many moons ago. At least back then I could take steps to remedy situation with higher temp thermostat and other tweaks. No can do on Outback ,poorly designed too bad. Subaru's seem a better choice for a more temperate climate.
Starting with 2010 Legacy and Outback CVT and continuing with each subsequent new model release (2012 Impreza 2.0, 2014 Forester, etc…), FHI incorporated logic into the TCM for it to consider the driver’s request for heat as a factor in determining where to set the CVT turbine speed. The HVAC head unit supplies information through the CAN on the driver’s request for heat based upon a combination of blower fan operation and temperature (blend door) settings. The TCM logic then translates these into a High heat request, a Low heat request, or No heat request. Depending upon the level of the request, the TCM then instructs the CVT to change the drive ratio to create a net increase in turbine speed (engine rpm) so that additional heat is supplied to the passenger cabin. As a result you may hear comments or concerns from customers during periods of cold weather. This is particularly true during extreme or long lasting cold weather events. These may include comments ranging from customers noting that the engine rpms seems to be staying higher, to the CVT not entering its regular final drive ratio, to a concern that the CVT is hesitating (again not advancing to its regular final drive ratio). In each of these cases a detailed interview and review of the customer concern found that the symptom the customer observed was that the engine rpms were higher than the customer had seen previously (during warmer weather). The reason in each case was simply cold weather prompting an increased demand for cabin heat by the driver which resulted in the engine rpms being kept high to provide that heat. This was easily verified during similar cold conditions by turning the blower fan to the OFF position for several seconds while cruising at a steady speed in a fully warmed car and watching the resultant drop in rpms. If a customer reports a concern with higher rpm operation as a result of this logic and wants to reverse that effect, recommend that they reduce the temperature setting (or turn the blower fan to OFF) until it has the desired effect on engine rpm. Either of these actions will reduce or eliminate the input to the TCM that results the rpm increase. Otherwise simply explain that this is characteristic operation of the engine and transmission during cold weather resulting from the vehicle trying to meeting the driver’s request for more heat based upon the HVAC temperature and blower settings.
 

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So, you're ready to avoid buying from a car company because they programmed the engine to warm up faster so the cabin warms faster? The logic of some people. BTW, the sooner the engine is to temp, the sooner it can become more efficient. The engine is most efficient at operating temperature.

I still don't understand how this can be classified as a "problem". It's a characteristic of modern vehicles, some run an elevated engine speed longer than others but many others do it. They all do it because of emissions regulations, among other things (as described by the Subaru info above).
 

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You got it, I bought the Outback based on fuel economy, period. A 20% loss in the cold Iowa winters is not what I bargained for. I wanted a more fuel efficient small SUV, AWD.
Yes it is true that all Subaru's are designed this way per explanation given by Service Advisor in last post. I have two other (non-Subaru's) that warm up normally and drive fine at normal RPMs in winter. Like I said the only problem is the engineering Subaru uses to warm the car. Fooled me once, not the next time. Forgot to add that I drove this Outback non stop one day last week for 45 minutes and it never reached operating temp. Yes I had Outback at dealer yesterday and the explanation in my last post was their remedy.
 

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RandyMac,

Thanks for sharing the corporate info for the dealers about the issue and how to handle it with customers. Very interesting technology at work here. They have programmed the engine so that it will be responsive to the user's desire for heat.

That being the case, how come it takes the car so much longer to warm up than my old 2004 Outback, which warmed up very fast? I now make lots of runs where the car does not warm up fully, where with my old Outback, it would be fully warm and then some on these same runs. Fan on the 2015 is super noisy as well; I am always turning it down to quiet it down.

By the way, this is considered, I believe, a midsize vehicle, not a 'small SUV' as you called it. Had I wanted a small SUV, I would now be driving a different vehicle, such as the Forester.
 

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AS per the technical letter from Subaru the changes were made in year 2010 Legacy and Outback with CVT and then every model forward from there. My bad I guess the Outback is just a bit smaller than the Saturn Outlook V6 AWD I traded for. I guess they figured higher RPM's over possible higher temp thermostat for coolant, makes no sense to me, burn more fuel instead of using higher temp thermostat. Just sayin.
 

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A cold car while driving in winter conditions is a valid comfort concern, especially if the driver is making short trips that aren't long enough to warm the slowly heating engine. I remember riding to a ski resort in a friends Toyota Tercel in the 70's. Instant heat in that little car due to a standard electric heater. My concern is that Subaru engines revs too high when cold and wear the piston rings resulting in oil consumption, fouled O-2 sensors, spark plugs and catalytic converter. A high price to pay for comfort I'd say.
 

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A cold car while driving in winter conditions is a valid comfort concern, especially if the driver is making short trips that aren't long enough to warm the slowly heating engine. I remember riding to a ski resort in a friends Toyota Tercel in the 70's. Instant heat in that little car due to a standard electric heater. My concern is that Subaru engines revs too high when cold and wear the piston rings resulting in oil consumption, fouled O-2 sensors, spark plugs and catalytic converter. A high price to pay for comfort I'd say.
Actually, on a cold engine, spinning the engine a bit faster with light load is FARRRR better than putting more load at lower RPM. Add in the CVT which would self-destruct if the belt were to slip and it makes even MORE sense to increase RPMs a bit until the lubricant is warmed. (Re-read the notes from the factory and they mention "CVT turbine speed' several times.)

I have driven manual xmission over million miles in my lifetime and NEVER use the top gear until the engine is fully warmed up. I know the higher RPMs is better for the engine during warmup. (I also do not try to pull heat from the engine until it is at temp.)

I find it interesting that many folks are 'second guessing' the engineers who DESIGNED the machine with 100s of sensors connected to monitor every conceivable variable.

Lets not forget to meet PZEV requirements, emissions during warmup is a critical measurement. According to the government, emissions is more critical than MPG!!

Just drive and be happy.
 
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