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I constantly read negatives re CVT trans. How many have actually driven a car with one? Being a mature, enthusiast driver, CAMS licence holder, I was put off buying a Forester XT by so called "expert" road testers. Crap, I can't detect any droning or other negatives. In Sports + & manual 8 speed - see you Europe. Testers don't live long term with the cars. Long term Mercedes owner, sits very nicely with my C series.
 

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2001 Forester
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Having driven a wide range of vehicles with CVT transmission: 250cc scooters, 400cc scooters. Rental Nissan, Hyundai, etc...I like the CVT transmission on the scooters. They are great simple transmission to maintain in the scooter world. 20,000 miles-30,000 miles between belt changes.

However given what I have experienced and seen in the media regarding the power limitations, owner problems with CVT in a car.....I would not buy any new vehicle that has CVT.

My 2014 MB ML 350 Bluetec has a slush box (90,000 miles), 2001 Forester (220,000 miles) has the good and reliable 4EAT, 2013 Nissan Leaf (50,000 miles) with no transmission, 2010 BMW R1200RT(100,000 miles) with a 6 speed clutch. None have any transmission problems.
 

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2018 Forester Manual
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348 Posts
I've driven a few Subaru CVTs and they're quite nice to drive. Toyota and Honda to. Nissan's CVTs always act weird.

I'm not an engineer, but Subaru's CVT seems to be pretty good. There have been failures, as with anything, but it seems like most of the time it's not a catastrophic failure like with the Nissan units. My theory - again, not an engineer, is that it's a lubrication failure. Thee Nissan CVTs share the fluid between the differential and CVT and the filtration just can't keep up. The break in from the gearset from new just ruins everything else. A lot of the people that get 200+K out of a Nissan CVT change the fluid frequently. Subaru has a separate gear oil supply and that's why we don't see those specific failures.

With that said, when I bought my 2018 I made sure to get a manual because I didn't want a CVT. Looking back, I should have got the CVT. I would have added a cooler and done a drain/fill every 10K and drove it until the car rusted out in 10 years.
 

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2014 2.5i Limited CVT
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I've had a CVT since late 2013 when I bought my 2014 Forester 2.5 Limited. Haven't had any issues at all.

The CVT in the other makes are mostly crap. Nissan uses that crappy JATCO (JATO?) unit that is horrendous. The Jeep CVT (of the same general generation) was one of the ones that when you pressed on the gas, the engine just ran way up and stayed there until you leveled out at your speed. It was yeckh...

Most reviewers detest the CVT because it's - 1 - not a manual and - 2 - not some multi-gear techno wonder from the Germans or a dual clutch "automated manual" that lets them play like a manual.

As for most people - the biggest gripe most had was that it was smooth - too smooth. They were coming from a traditional automatic (with 4 or 5 or 6 or 8 or 9) gears and specific ratios and shift points along the acceleration curve. They could "feel" the change from 1 to 2 to 3 and so on...

With the CVT, you have an almost infinite range of ratios and there are no "gears" like traditional so it feels weird.

To combat this - Subaru engineered in some set ratios (through computer controls) to "shift" so that people would feel "normal".

It was an issue before that there was no shift point and it's an issue now (for others) that there ARE shift points.

The CVT - when cared for properly - can be just as easy and long lasting as the conventional automatics. There are loads of makers around the world - even some high-end marques - that have used CVT transmissions without any issues at all. And there are others that have been dismal failures. Just as there have been great automatics and dismal automatics, great manuals and dismal manuals.

As for Long Term - well, I've had my CVT Forester for 7 years, no issues.

As for all the naysayers (and the lack of non-naysayers) it's like the old adage - when I do right, nobody remembers, when I do wrong, nobody forgets. So those that have had issues have bemoaned and lambasted the CVT... Those that have not had issues just keep driving.
 

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2015 Forester2.5i Premium CVT
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Most people who write about cars are enthusiasts. Most CVT-haters also seem to be enthusiasts. There would appear to be a correlation. Few automotive journalists have much good to say about CVTs, and most of the boy-racer crowd seem to feel similarly.

Car enthusiasts are overwhelmingly focused on performance. CVTs are not designed to enhance performance. Indeed, they take the ability to influence performance out of the driver's hands, and turn it over to a computer. Their purpose is to maximize efficiency, a factor to which most enthusiasts appear indifferent.

People who judge cars by their utility, economy, reliability, comfort, and safety seem to be much less biased against CVTs.

I absolutely love the CVT in our 2015 Forester. Since I always drive so as to stress the vehicle as little as possible (and always have), the CVT matches my driving style perfectly.

I'm glad we got our car before the "fake shift point" trend took over. And if ours had paddles, I'd probably have never touched them.


 

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2019 Crosstrek 2018 XT
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I'm glad we got our car before the "fake shift point" trend took over. And if ours had paddles, I'd probably have never touched them.
Have you ever floored it and had it get to red line? I am curious if it wouldn't shift there and keep the rpm's between 5000K and 6000K.
Anyone else do this? If it is "shiftless" it would sit there and just make max power as long as its floored. Engineers may not have wanted this to run at a couple hundred rpms below the RL. But in the case of the XT it would be awesome!!
 

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2014 2.5i Limited CVT
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Most people who write about cars are enthusiasts. Most CVT-haters also seem to be enthusiasts. There would appear to be a correlation. Few automotive journalists have much good to say about CVTs, and most of the boy-racer crowd seem to feel similarly.

Car enthusiasts are overwhelmingly focused on performance. CVTs are not designed to enhance performance. Indeed, they take the ability to influence performance out of the driver's hands, and turn it over to a computer. Their purpose is to maximize efficiency, a factor to which most enthusiasts appear indifferent.
This is mostly true for sure. Some of them lament the loss of the manual transmission in many Porsche models, even when giving super high praise and admitting that the PDK (Porsche-speak for their dual clutch automatic) is faster with the PDK vs the manual.

I've kind of always ... rankled ... at those that figure an enthusiast can only care about speed - being fast. There was a post on here someplace about the demise of the XT and it was suggested that "you can't be an enthusiast if you don't want to go fast"... Hey, I can go pretty fast in my non-turbo 2.5 Limited. I can get on the freeway quickly, easily and without worry, I can pass on country (or remote) 2 lane highways without issue or worry and I can zip away from stop lights without fear of being left behind or run over... Will I be smoking some sports car in a drag race? Nope, but that's not what I bought my Forester for.

Being an enthusiast just means being enthusiastic. You can be a Laz-Y-Boy enthusiast if you want to or be an enthusiast of Vespa scooters. Speed does not equal enthusiast. Overlanding enthusiasts may not give one bit of care about how fast a car can get to 60 MPH or clear the 1/4 mile traps, they're more about the ability to go just about anywhere with whatever (or whomever) they're taking along. That doesn't not make them an enthusiast.

CVTs are "geared" (pardon the pun) towards economy and thrift, you're right. But they can also be good for performance as they can rapidly change the ratio being used and you're offered a nearly infinite set of ratios to work with, as opposed to 4 or 6 or 8 gears that are static and do not change no matter what. The CVT will beat just about any traditional automatic (or even non-traditional) in that way - It can be ANY gear needed and not just a set of 5 or 6.

Using a CVT behind a lower power motor can give you performance gains (of course at the cost of efficiency) and make the motor seem that much more "peppy"... many reviewers of Foresters and other Subaru products have remarked at how peppy the motor was when compared to the static power output - that it drove much quicker than they'd expected from 170-something HP and 180-something lb-ft of torque.

And don't be fooled rdclark - your Forester CVT does have shift points - they're just not as pronounced and certainly barely noticeable in normal driving. But if you floor it - or use the "L" mode, you can feel the CVT shift.

CVTs are best for smooth driving - as it is a seamless application of power and movement going forward and a steady increase in momentum.
 

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2014 2.5i Limited CVT
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I'm glad we got our car before the "fake shift point" trend took over. And if ours had paddles, I'd probably have never touched them.
PS - the "regular" Forester has 6 shift points... Those with paddles have 8 shift points.
 

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Love it in my Forester. XT. People are reluctant to change
Are you accusing me of being "reluctant to change"? I loved riding those scooters with the CVT, they were simple and easy to maintain. Couple of hours every few years to change the belt, it is a simple DIY project changing the belt.. I just don't want to be on the bleeding edge of a lot of the (untested) technology that's being pushed down to the consumers. Subaru in general has done a great job with CVT, but still in my book too soon for my personal taste. Just like I don't and will not at this time buy any vehicle that uses GDI engines.
 

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Yeah, I've seen some criticize others with autos as non-enthusiasts. .....suggesting you need a standard transmission to get any enjoyment out of the car.

Either way, I don't have a lot of experience with CVTs in other brands (although the one in our Jeep rental was absolutely horrible), I can say the CVT in my wife's new 2020 performs great. I have absolutely no problem with the "fake shifts" or behavior. ......and if I hadn't mentioned it to my wife, she would have thought it was a traditional auto trans. .....not so in others she drove which had all the CVT niggles you hear people complain about.

As for longevity, I don't necessarily expect any trouble from it. Subaru has had several years with the CVT and I think (I hope) they've got most of the big bugs worked out of it. I do know that in some of the recent MYs they increased the warranty period due to failures but again, I'm not overly concerned about it in the 2020 myself.

Only time will tell in our scenario but we have no intention of babying the car but we also don't plan to abuse it. .....nor will we be towing anything or overloading the car.
 

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2019 Crosstrek 2018 XT
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PS - the "regular" Forester has 6 shift points... Those with paddles have 8 shift points.
I thought my XT had 6 but I could be wrong. I know my '19 Crosstrek with paddles has 6
 

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And don't be fooled rdclark - your Forester CVT does have shift points - they're just not as pronounced and certainly barely noticeable in normal driving. But if you floor it - or use the "L" mode, you can feel the CVT shift.
I was referring to the pre-programmed "fake" shift points being added to so many CVTs these days. My 2015 2.5i Premium does not have them. Yes, of course the transmission will react to conditions and demands. That's different.
 

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No. I've had cars that were designed so that flooring the accelerator was necessary by design. The 2015 Forester is not one of them.
Well then I guess you have never used 100% of the power. So you have never had it to RL?
 

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Have you ever floored it and had it get to red line? I am curious if it wouldn't shift there and keep the rpm's between 5000K and 6000K.
Anyone else do this? If it is "shiftless" it would sit there and just make max power as long as its floored. Engineers may not have wanted this to run at a couple hundred rpms below the RL. But in the case of the XT it would be awesome!!
I can't say I've been looking at the tachometer when I've floored it and gotten up there....

But why would it be awesome in the XT to push it to redline...? If peak hp and torque come in as below ....
  • 2014-2018 USDM Subaru Forester XT:
    • Power: 250 hp at 5,600 RPM
    • Torque: 258 lb⋅ft at 2,000-4,800 RPM
... then what's the point of hitting redline...? Power drops off from those peaks so by going above 5600 rpm you gain nothing ..

Well, you gain noise.
 

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I was referring to the pre-programmed "fake" shift points being added to so many CVTs these days. My 2015 2.5i Premium does not have them. Yes, of course the transmission will react to conditions and demands. That's different.
Sorry - but yes, it does. There are 6 pre-selected ratios that are in there. It's just if you never hit those points, you'll never know it.

The later models had them more .. prominent ... in average acceleration.

And @adc - the Crosstrek is different - in the way that it's programmed. But if your XT has the "SI Drive" - and you put it in manual mode and using Sport Sharp (S#) then it is 1 - 8, on other situations it's 1 - 6...

at least that's the way it was for 2014.
 

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And just found this for the SI Drive S# mode -

For models with SI-DRIVE, by selecting Sport Sharp (S#) mode, upshifting will not occur automatically. According to the road conditions, shift change manually so that the tachometer needle does not enter the red zone. Also, if the engine revolutions reach the specified number, the fuel supply will be cut. In this case, perform shift up operation.
 

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A lot of the people that get 200+K out of a Nissan CVT change the fluid frequently.
I don't think the JATCO issue is the fluid, but the basic design using very thin metal bands to hold the ~400 metal elements which make up the band together. Subaru uses a metal chain which seems to be almost bullet proof. I can't recall any posts here claiming a break. The main issue with the Subaru CVT seems to be the solenoids which were also in the 4/5EAT automatics. These are now readily available and replacing them is relatively easy:
.
 

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Sorry - but yes, it does. There are 6 pre-selected ratios that are in there. It's just if you never hit those points, you'll never know it.
Hey, that's a bear! No, it's a squirrel. Sorry, it's just a picture of a dead rat.
 
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