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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm in the market for a new vehicle and am looking at the 2021 Forester, as I was looking at the specs I noticed that it has a CVT. This set off alarms in my head because a buddy of mine just had one go in his Nissan at 56000 miles. Doing some research showed the Nissan has known for years that there tranny is only good for around 60000, they know it but aren't willing to do anything to fix it. I also see that Subaru had it's own issues with the CVT but at least they extended the warranties of the effected vehicles. I'm just wondering if there have been any issues with Suburu's CVT in the latest models?
 

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2020 CBS Forester Sport
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172 Posts
I mean... What do you want to hear? Some people here will tell you there's no problems, but more will tell you they're problematic.

However, it's much more likely that you'll hear about problems than not, because if someone's cruising around in their Subaru with no issues whatsoever it's much less likely they will wind up here talking about how there's nothing wrong with it.
 

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2017 Foz 2.5i CVT
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One metric might be Consumer Reports used ratings. In the 2021 buying guide which rates 14-19 models, the Forester CVT is "much better than average" going back to 2015, and the 2014 ratings are "better than average" for both major and minor CVT problems. My wife drives our '17 Foz, and I have a 2018 Nissan Murano. Ratings for Murano CVT are good back to 2016 for major stuff but minor problems rating drops to good for 2016-17. And major problems has a worse than avg blip for 2015. I am guessing that minor problems are like TCU flashes and weird shifting where major stuff is getting into replacements.

The Murano is likely harder on its trans because of 90 more horsepower and a bit more weight. I have extended warranties (8 years on the Foz, 7 years on the Murano) and because I'm almost 70 years old, will think about moving cars out a bit more quickly than I used to. The CVT's in both our vehicles get great fuel mileage and perform well, both have awkward moments but so do geared transmissions.

We also have a 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan and it got a remanufactured transmission last year with 40k miles on it. Not a CVT. I have a lifetime warranty on the van.
 

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2020 Subaru Forester premium
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245 Posts
I mean... What do you want to hear? Some people here will tell you there's no problems, but more will tell you they're problematic.

However, it's much more likely that you'll hear about problems than not, because if someone's cruising around in their Subaru with no issues whatsoever it's much less likely they will wind up here talking about how there's nothing wrong with it.
Ive had no issues, that said I cant stand them its like there are 2 positions on a CVT apparently creep ahead rocket ahead very little in-between. I switch from my wifes Honda Pilot to the Subaru Forester a lot. while the Pilot is underpowered I dont have the same issues with it just simply taking off from a stop light to get it going...Pilot goes from a stop though the gears to say 45-65 nicely and easily. With the Forester however you leave the light/sign and have 1 of 2 options....hit the gas and then a bit later realize your going 35 in a 45+ because you used the same technique to accelerate as with a normal car..OR Flog it till you get it to speed and make it sound like you're running a race....seems like there is no way in a CVT to go from stop to a speed as you do "normally" in a car with a regular transmission.

So do i think they have issues with the CVT..no it works as it should...do i like CVT's// not very much
 

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2015 Forester2.5i Premium CVT
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CVTs generate ridiculous levels of irrational hatred amongst "car guys." This especially extends to "journalists," who are disproportionately influential. Manufacturers have even taken to programming their CVTs to include fake shifting so they will "feel" more "natural," bowing to this perceived dislike. As if there's anything "natural" about a transmission.

Subaru extended their CVT warranty, as far as I can tell, to help allay this rising tide of irrationality, not because there were actual issues beyond statistical norms. All transmissions of all types and from all manufacturers will exhibit occasional problems.

As YoGeorge points out, the best available source of statistical data for automotive reliability -- Consumer Reports -- has shown Foresters to exhibit very goord to excellent transmission reliability in the years since the CVT was introduced. Even in years where the car had other problems that dragged it down, those weren't transmission-related.

Even the "professional" reviewers, at some point, usually say, in effect, "I hate CVTs, but Subaru's is actually not bad."

Me, I like it, and my 7-year old CVT has been flawless, and contributes to both smooth driving and excellent fuel economy. It also adds a lot to the excellent performance of the Adaptive Cruise Control, which never has to shift gears. Even a normally smooth conventional AT can seem rough when shifted by a cruise control.
 

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2021 White Forester, Base Trim Level (CVT)
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I was looking because I had a 2017 that had the bucking issue and was never able to get it fixed. That was a known issue with some of them. I have not seen any complaints about that in the latest ones.
 

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2013/14 2.5i-L CVT
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This set off alarms in my head because a buddy of mine just had one go in his Nissan at 56000 miles
Subaru's CVT is a completely different animal to Nissan's Jatco CVTs.

The Jatco is a push belt design made up of 399 metal elements held together by 2 'ring packs' of 12 thin metal bands on each side of the belt. If one of those bands breaks the elements end up throughout the transmission:

Subaru's own Lineartronic CVT is a pulled chain design:

The most common points of failure for the Lineartronic are solenoids and to a lesser extent the torque converter, but the numbers appear to be small if posts here are any guide.
 

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2017 Foz 2.5i CVT
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We have 2 CVT vehicles--a '17 Foz that was my car for a year (my first CVT) and then went to my wife, and an '18 Nissan Murano. I have no problem driving either, don't overshoot speeds unless I want to, and in fact, punching the throttle on the Murano is really kind of fun--kind of a really long passing gear or jetski or something. (I had a couple GM Powerglide vehicles in the old days which were 2 speed automatics.) I like learning to drive different cars smoothly and enjoy what each particular car feels like.

I might also note that a brand new 8, 9, or 10 speed automatic transmission design does not give me the warm fuzzies with regard to its potential reliability over the next 10 years. Nissan has had more problems with its bigger CVT vehicles like the Pathfinder (3 rows and a big tow capacity) and for 2022 is moving to a multi-speed transmission (somewhere between 8 and 10 speeds) so there is at least one example of a CVT being replaced by a regular automatic. But their Forester-class Rogue is a CVT only.
 

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2019 Forester Sport Lineartronic® CVT
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I've learned to really like Subaru's CVT, it keeps that engine in a happy place. Full throttle from a dead stop, it keeps the tach up, no loafing or lugging, and while you don't feel exciting nudges from gear to gear, that speedometer is climbing. In back roads driving, the thing slows when I let off, and there's padel shifters if I want to "gear down" . My other vehicles have 3 or 4 speed automatics, some with modifications for snappier shifting and I have a 5 speed manual GT, but I do like that CVT and what does for that little 4 cylinder ... I had an older one with a 5 speed, this one will run rings around it.

I looked up some road tests, saw where CD tested a '19 Sport.
Zero to 60 mph: 8.5 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 23.7 sec
Zero to 110 mph: 31.8 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 16.6 sec @ 86 mph
Top speed (drag limited): 127 mph

There's faster cars, but then I have had state police cars that would not keep up with the Sport. I've spent a lot of time learning about Subaru's version, not all CVTs are created equal. I don't "dog" it, but I'm more than content with it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I want to thank everyone for your responses. I did look at CS and a site called "Car Problems" that list issues with pretty much every vehicle made. They've had their issues but not with the CVT. It appears that the biggest issue is cracked windshields on the newer models.
 

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2005 2.5X 4EAT 2017 2.5i Prem CVT
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Subaru's CVT is a completely different animal to Nissan's Jatco CVTs.
And to think Jatco built the almost indestructible 4EAT and 5EAT that Subaru used for years.

I'll always give credit to Nissan's version of Eyesight for saving my life. But when it came time to buy you couldn't have given me a Rogue (with ProPilot) for free. Not with their awful CVT.
 

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2005 Forester XT Auto
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..hit the gas and then a bit later realize your going 35 in a 45+ because you used the same technique to accelerate as with a normal car..OR Flog it till you get it to speed and make it sound like you're running a race...
Funny you should mention this, as my 05XT with the old 4EAT feels similar in D sometimes. Get caught in the wrong gear, and it's a dog. Really need to move? Floor it to ensure a downshift, any passengers think you are a maniac as it tears off. Using "3" aka "sport mode" fares better though. Manual shifting is risky as it responds too slowly to avoid hitting the limiter without precise anticipation.

I'm not a big CVT fan either, but to be fair have not driven enough to fairly judge. Surprised to hear though of a similar issue I deal with on my old Foz.
 

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Sahuarita, AZ 2018 Forester Limited
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What I like about the CVT, besides its fuel economy is...I drive the mountains a lot and Subaru's CVT never hunts gears like a traditional transmission does. The CVT is able to maintain the RPM sweet spot.
 

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2021 Forester Base Automatic
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I've been a Stick shift Manual guy for most of my life. The CVT is the only auto trans I've ever liked, I hope I never have to own another car with an old fashioned geared auto transmission again. A regular auto might be better for a Race car but for driving in traffic, comfort, and ease of driving a good CVT can't be beat.
 

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I tow a small boat (total trailer weight a little under 2000lbs.) with my 2009 Forester w/4EAT. Could that be done with a 2021 w/CVT?
 

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2015 Forester 2.5i CVT
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I have a 2015 Forester CVT. I have 110k miles without an issue for reliability. It is a fun vehicle to drive.

You will need to learn to relax and let the transmission do it’s job. A lot of new drivers to CVT’s will try to keep pressing the accelerator. If you do this the trans will keep trying to adjust. Press the accelerator to your desired RPM and let the transmission jet you forward! Average acceleration for me is between 1500 & 2000 RPM. It accelerates faster than most other drivers. Put your foot down, most of the way at least, and it definitely has power. Just be patient when you first put your foot into the accelerator and let the CVT do it’s job.
 

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Could that be done with a 2021 w/CVT?
I've been towing an about 1,000 kg/2,200 lb boat for 11 years 8 years without issue, however, my Forester came with a separate transmission cooler which I believe isn't the case for North America. My manual states 95 RON/91 AKI is the minimum gas rating when towing and 'S' mode should be activated. I only fill with 95 RON petrol if I'm traveling a long distance. For nearby towing I don't bother and haven't noticed an issue. I also had the CVT fluid changed at 60,000 km/37,000 miles.

I regard CVTs as the best towing transmission as power delivery is never interrupted as happens during manual and conventional automatic gear changes.

Edit: can't count - fixed years
 

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2017 2.5i Premium
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I'm in the market for a new vehicle and am looking at the 2021 Forester, as I was looking at the specs I noticed that it has a CVT. This set off alarms in my head because a buddy of mine just had one go in his Nissan at 56000 miles. Doing some research showed the Nissan has known for years that there tranny is only good for around 60000, they know it but aren't willing to do anything to fix it. I also see that Subaru had it's own issues with the CVT but at least they extended the warranties of the effected vehicles. I'm just wondering if there have been any issues with Suburu's CVT in the latest models?
I have a 2017 Forester with 36000 miles and the CVT failed as I was driving. It was repaired under warranty at the dealer.
 

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2015 Forester
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I had a valve body go out at 94+k. Dealer replaced under warrantee and provided my wife a loaner to use while being repaired. Lots of lights. Checked it out on here and every indication was the valve body. Called the dealer and they said it would be about a week, but was OK to keep driving as long as the check engine light wasn't on.
I also have a 2009 Silverado extended cab with a 190hp V6. Epitome of underpowered. The Forester does better than it does in hills.
As far as driving, the only complaint I have with the CVT (2015) is it is unpredictable from a stop. It can be a bit sluggish, really smooth, or really take off. That said, once moving it is very smooth if driven correctly. One of the first things both of us noticed is it's easy to speed with it. I think it's because there are not shifts and the engine runs at a constant speed so you don't get any tactile or audible feedback like you do with a shift transmission. It is also a bit counter intuitive, as once you are going and want to speed up, such as passing, you will gain speed faster with an easy push on the pedal rather than a hard push. Just ease down and you can pick up 10 mph very quickly with no apparent shifts or huge revs.
The only frustration I have with it is they don't seem to have the proper gear ratios (between the trans and diffs) for the current speed limits to get better mileage. Optimal seems to be around 60.
 
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