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Brucey
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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
2. Unreliable
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 you're 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.


Final thoughts:

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.
 

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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 could win with more people if they made the fake shifts an optional software selection. Personally I really like the cvt on my 2013 which does not have the shifts.
 

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I like my CVT on my 14. I read all the hate and I remember hearing the haters opinions when they first came out. I think they are as reliable as most any trans in any other vehicle out there. There is always a failure rate to any mechanical machine and I feel like Subaru did a nice job extending warranties and replacing problematic ones. I know Chevy's that had the 4l60E in the full size trucks failed like clockwork at 150-170k miles.
 

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When I got my first OB (13) part of the decision was that it was quicker than others I tried -- with the base engine. But it's deceptive as the CVT doesn't give the tactile feedback of the engine revving up and shifting, just drones at constant RPM as the car catches up. I'd often check the speedometer to verify yes, it really is accelerating. ;-) And downshifts take longer as the engine winds up as the transmission slides down, so I needed to learn to get into the throttle sooner on corners.
But it's a tough car that gets my tools to the job site. It does what I got it for. When I got a new one, it was only to get eyesight. Other than that, I got the same car and the old one had no problems. If I wanted to pull a big trailer or rip off 12-sec quarter miles I would have bought something different.
 

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@Brucey Thanks for this thread. I completely disagree with the CVT bashing that happens all the time. I have a 17 Outback. It was not purchased for speed or rock crawling. It was purchased for comfort, reliability, good on road handling and above average off road capabilities. It has delivered on all fronts for me. I am only 30k miles in, but no issues so far. My wife's 15 Forester is also trouble free at 60k miles.

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I don't like automatic transmissions in general.

Driving a car with MT forces the driver to be more involved with driving, and discourages antisocial behavior like composing text messages in traffic.

Instead of developing complicated and expensive to repair systems with unknown long-term reliability to make up for driver inattention, but actually encourage even more driver inattention, how about making changes that require the driver to pay more attention to what he's supposed to be doing: driving. I nominate abolishing automatic transmissions as the first step.

Bah! Humbug! And get off my lawn!!
 

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[ame] . . . 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.

I agree. My previous three cars had 8-speed ZF transmissions, which mated so well with their engines. So, I was prepared to be a bit disappointed with the CVT in my 2018 3.6. Not so. Yes, it’s a somewhat different feel, but works very well in an Outback I think, which is what it is. I like it.




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Personally I love CVT's. The whole concept is cool, as it's supposed to help with is fuel economy, and performance. Keeping the engine in the proper RMP's for the best horsepower or economy.

I had test drove a friends earlier OB with the CVT and loved it, nice and smooth. I just recently bought a '19 OB. One thing I didn't notice while test driving was the fake shift points. It was only a couple of days after taking delivery did I really notice the darn things. Sorry but I just assumed that they left things they way they were (my fault).

I have written Subaru, and suggested that it would be nice to have be able to have the choice of a smooth CVT, or with the fake shift points. Either by a setting in the head unit, or a trip to the service center and have a tech toggle a config in the TCU. They wrote that they would send it up the product development group.

For those who would like to have the option to get rid of the shift points while in Drive, write a nice, polite letter, suggesting that it would be a great option to toggle it off somehow. Who knows... if enough people write in, it just might happen.
 

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I have two Outbacks at the moment; one a 2010 3.6R with the 5EAT and the other a 2019 3.6R with the HTCVT.

I find that I don't even notice the differences between driving the two most of the time except in one respect. When backing up and shifting from Reverse to Drive:
  • The 5EAT engages within about 1/4 to 1/2 second
  • The HTCVT takes from 1.25 to 3 seconds to engage depending on temperature.
It is taking quite some time for me to get accustomed to that shift delay. In all other ways, the HTCVT seems as good or better than the older 5EAT.


John
 

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When I'm not driving my Outback I'm usually driving a manual, so the CVT does feel a bit rubber bandish to me. I've driven my dad's CX-5 quite a bit and it has a true 6 speed auto, and it feels noticeably better than my Outback. It just has sharper acceleration and really crisp shifts. However mild it may be, the rubber band feel is there in the Subaru, whether you notice it or not.

As for reliability, my personal opinion is that Subaru probably makes one of, if not the best CVT out there, so I'm not very concerned about it. I changed the fluid at 60k miles and I will change it again probably around 100k miles. If it was a Nissan I might be a little more worried.

The other issue I have with the CVT is it is kinda noisy. I'm used to it and it doesn't bother me, but it does make more noise than a conventional auto.
 

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I think Subaru caused its own complaint list with the fake shift points. It wasn't a matter of the CVT "feeling bad" so much as it "feels different". To remedy this they added the fake shift points to make the CVT act more like a regular automatic transmission. The problem is the CVT is a terrible 6-speed automatic. And the CVT with the fake shift points is no longer a true continuously variable transmission.

C'mon Subaru, you went with the CVT for a reason. Don't give me prime rib and then put ketchup on it.
 

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Since we're talking about CVT. I've noticed over the last month that a few times a week when I start the car and go to drive, the drivetrain sputters or seems to hesitate to get any power going. It seems to fix itself with 15 seconds or go, but is this "normal". I wasn't having this issue during the winter months and it seems to be happening more often. Going to mention it when I make an appointment for the DTE adjust, but curious what y'all had experienced.
 

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I don't like automatic transmissions in general.

Driving a car with MT forces the driver to be more involved with driving, and discourages antisocial behavior like composing text messages in traffic.

Instead of developing complicated and expensive to repair systems with unknown long-term reliability to make up for driver inattention, but actually encourage even more driver inattention, how about making changes that require the driver to pay more attention to what he's supposed to be doing: driving. I nominate abolishing automatic transmissions as the first step.

Bah! Humbug! And get off my lawn!!
7spd Manual Ford Bronco? Could be interesting
 
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