2019 Subaru Forester, new Subaru Outback, Crosstrek, Ascent, best SUV, CVT automatic
Denis Flierl's picture

Don’t Look For Subaru To Drop The CVT Automatic Transmission Even If You Despise It

Why is Subaru in love the CVT automatic transmission? They won’t move away from it even if you dislike them with a passion.
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Subaru is a brand that has seen impressive growth in the past 10 years, and the Japanese automaker is doing one thing that customers love and another that they dislike with a passion. Subaru’s EyeSight is popular and is getting the brand top safety scores and customers want it. The CVT automatic is a staple in the Subaru stables and some customers loathe it. Why doesn’t Subaru move away from the CVT in the new 2019 Forester, Outback, Crosstrek, and Ascent if customers dislike it?

Subaru uses the Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT) transmission exclusively in their entire lineup of all-wheel-drive vehicles and won’t be dropping it because you have issues with it. They use the 6-speed standard gearbox in their sports cars for driving enthusiasts, but Subaru is committed to the CVT automatic in all their other vehicles and even use it in the sport-tuned WRX and BRZ sport coupe.

Subaru falls in love

Subaru was one of the first automakers to use the CVT. Do you remember the Subaru Justy? In 1989 the Justy became the first production car in the U.S. to offer CVT technology. The Justy was the first car in the world to come equipped with 4WD and ECVT. It was a big thing for Subaru and Justy was the car to introduce the world to the new transmission. Justy with 4WD offered all-weather capability and the new CVT offered fuel efficiency. The two were mated, worked well together and Subaru fell in love with the CVT. 30 years later, they still use a variation of the variable-speed gearbox now called Lineartronic.

2019 Subaru Forester Sport

Why CVT?

Subaru can get maximum power out of their small four-cylinder Boxer engines allowing for quicker and more responsive acceleration. The CVT is best suited for fuel-efficient city driving and a moderate load which works well in the small all-wheel-drive Forester, Outback, and Crosstrek vehicles. And maybe the biggest reason Subaru is love with the CVT, is because the gearbox is lighter in weight, delivers better power efficiency, and it helps improve a vehicle’s fuel economy over a conventional 6-or-8-speed automatic.

The CVT is ideally-suited for Subaru in their small and medium all-wheel-drive lineup of cars and compact SUVs. Subaru has also made it work well with their 2.0-liter WRX turbo Boxer engine and now coupled with the new 2.4-liter turbocharged Boxer in the larger 2019 Ascent family hauler.

Because there are no gears in a CVT, it allows for manual “shifting.” The belt-and-pulley system moves to preset points that simulate changing gears. This is accomplished by manually clicking the steering-wheel-mounted paddles. The CVT in the new Subaru Ascent SUV comes with paddle shifters and eight of these shift points.

2019 Subaru Ascent

Many customers find the sensation of continuous acceleration without shift points to be unnerving. Another common complaint is that a CVT gearbox tends to make the small SUVs seem excessively loud or harsh. That’s because it forces the engine to run at higher revs as the vehicle gets up to speed. Even if you hate the CVT in the new 2019 Subaru Forester, Outback, Crosstrek and Ascent all-wheel-drive vehicles, Subaru will never leave it.

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You Might Also Like: Very Few Buy Subaru WRX With EyeSight, Could It Be The Boring CVT Automatic?

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Photo credit: Timmons Subaru, Subaru USA


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Comments

Will the CVT automatic keep you from buying a Subaru SUV?
I have an overwhelming hated for CVTs, so a CVT would keep me from buying any vehicle. I prefer a manual transmission, anyway, and Subaru is about the only manufacturer to offer that along with AWD. As long as that is still an option, I'll keep considering Subaru for new vehicle purchases.
I can deal with additional noise (is that the main complaint?), but reports of early failure are a significant concern.
I'm dealing with this right now. It's an $8000 repair for a 2014 Forester with 135k miles.
10 year waranty
10 year warranty means nothing - you can sell me a brand new pig with a 40 year warranty and it's still apig
I have a 2005 stick-shift Toyota Tacoma with 220, 590+ miles on the clock. Not one problem with the transmission or clutch Not one.
Have a 2013 Outback with 115k miles and the CVT is about ready to eat it. Bought it less than 2 years ago @ 93k miles and now I have to buy another car and this one's trade in value is basically $0. I also don't understand why they insist on sticking w CVT and can't find a reliable source to determine if the issue has been solved, or if every CVT I buy has a probability of dropping an $8000 repair bill at 100k miles. They make such great cars, so why sully them with this unreliable tranny.
It really shouldn't prevent you from buying a Subaru! I have a 2015 Forester 2.5i Premium. It does just fine, even in the mountains of Colorado. If I had wanted a sports car, I would have bought a sports car! Love my Suby!
Good Luck. hope you are lucky. Subaru have lots of problems. CVT, Wheel bearings, Oil consumption and head gasket
I purchased a 2014 Subaru Forester. It has used oil since the day we left the dealership. I forced them to do a consumption study. They said the car is just fine so why do I have to keep putting oil in the car between regular scheduled oil changes. I have also had the wheel bearings go bad and now the Cvt is out at 106,000 miles. The dealership said they have not seen one cvt repair covered by Subaru if it is a mile over 100,000. So disappointed. The car is junk. Our family will never own another Subaru.
Yes the bearings are junk I'm a transmission shop manager. They start making noise around 80k lots of disappointed people when they find out the dealer wants 5 grand to repair.
If I don't get at least 175,000 out of the CVT I'll be upset... In this day and age, I expect to get 300,000-400,000 miles out of my car... I also don't like how the transmission turns off under very steep, off road situations. . Most CVTs are barely making 110,000, most under...90,000 miles...
Just the opposite. I purchased 3 Subarus with manual transmissions, but hen purchased two with the 4 EAT automatic transmission. That conventional automatic was reliable, but the shifting disturbed me, so in 2007 I pleaded with Subaru to bring back the CVT. The response was the 2010 Legacy Outback that featured the CVT in all those models except for the ones with the H6 engine and the units witgh a manual transmission. . I purchased the 2011 Outback with the CVT and was very pleased with it. When the next generation (2015) Outback appeared, ALL US spec Outbacks came with CVT transmissions. -ven the H6 engines were mated to a CVT. The latest generation Forester followed the same rule. ALL 2019 Forester come with CVT transmissions. No US spec Subaru can be purchased with a conventional automatic transmission. And guess what? Subaru is selling more vehicles in the US than ever before. What does that tell you?
How many vehicles are sold has nothing to do with reliability. That's my concern. I've owned many Subarus, but not currently. I prefer manual transmissions, but have come to terms that modern automatics are more efficient.A CVT would be fine with me. I don't know if Subaru CVT failures are common approaching 200k miles, I was hoping that wasn't the case because I'd like to own a Subaru again some day. The other concern of course are head gaskets. They're now failing on the 2010 and (some) newer models. I was hoping those failures are rare like the CVT troubles, but there seems to be many experiences with head gasket failures (not so much CVT troubles) posted on the Subaru forums. The 4EAT was quite reliable, but made me crazy how soon it downshifted going up a slight grade, The Subaru CVT definitely seems more reliable than the Jatco CVT (Nissan, Jeep Patriot) where failures were very common around 120k miles.
It tells me they are setting themselves up for huge warranty or class action costs and a steep decline in future sales once all these timebombs detonate. Subaru is selling well (now) because they offer capable AWD sedans/wagons while the rest of the world has gone mad with these POS FWD-based shoebox style CUV's. Subaru is selling well because their older models had very good residual value. These 2 factors got people like me to take a serious look. For myself, a 6MT would be the choice, but for the daughter an automatic is pretty much mandatory right now. The CVT ,the already blossoming problems with head gaskets, oil consumption, and general valvetrain durability, coupled with the high cost of repairs since so many common things are 'engine out' in a subaru have caused me to write off the idea of purchasing any new or used subaru. A lease would be OK, but somehow that high resale value does not translate into attractive lease options, so it looks like used AUDI's or BMW x-drive is the alternative. Most any maker sells today on the strength of their past models. Some, like GM and Subaru, seem to be destroying their own future with short-sighted grasps at profit today and by skimping on development of new product that will be attractive when tastes shift back to smaller sedans with IC engines. I have serious concerns that the crap makers are pushing onto consumers today will leave a bad taste that results in serious harm to future sales
I had to pay extra for my 2018 Forester with manual transmission I will not buy another because cvt is one of the worst automatics I have ever driven. Mabe it was the demonstrators I drove, but it felt like the cars were struggling. Mabe those transmissions will last in the long haul Mabe not. I keep cars forever so I’m not chancing it My 1995 Legacy wagon is still going strong
“Mabe” is actually spelled with a “y” “ Maybe” is the correct spelling.
Simply too many poor reviews from experienced motor industry personnel to allow me to consider a Subaru with CVT. Imagine how many Levorg's they would sell if offered with a manual gear box ! Time the senior management at FHi woke up.
I will never buy another subaru
No more Subarus in my garage. Its a garbage!!
CV transmissions rely on belt drive. Never met a belt I liked. Can't buy Subarus for this reason.
What about a hairbrush?
Great for spanking your wife’s bare bottom!
Actually the 2019 and news Subaru's have a CVT chain not a belt. Have you met a chain you liked?
ABSOLUTELY. I will never drive another vehicle with a CVT. I leased a 2014 Outback with CVT transmission and despised it so completely, I traded it in on a low mileage 2008 3.0R (which I LOOOOVE). I don't know what I'll do when it's time for a new vehicle. Unfortunately, it won't be a Subaru if they stick with the CVT. I also won't drive a vehicle the EyeSight technology. Subaru should pay attention to feedback from their oldest and most loyal supporters.
Drove a new Subaru outback - will never buy any car with the cvt trans. Why these people insist on keeping that crappy trans on such a basically good car is beyond me. Put VW's/Audi's DSG transmissions in them and you will find a ton more buyers. I'm all out
Yes. We have owned a 2004 Forester XT (one of my favorite cars I have ever owned), a 2005 Legacy GT, a 2009 Forester, and finally a 2011 Legacy with a CVT. That killed it for us. We now drive a 2015 Toyota Highlander and a 2017 Infiniti QX50. CVTs are junk. Yes they are lighter and get a little bit better gas mileage, but not hardly at all any better than the new automatics. My biggest issue was our 2011 Legacy started to have transmission problems and this is a direct quote from the dealer..."Are you out of warranty? Oh, those things are very expensive to fix and most times they can't be fixed at all. A new one will cost you around $5700" We left Subaru for ever. Give us a call when they dump that trashy transmission!!!!!
Will not buy CVT. It is cheaper for manufacturer but horrible for consumers. Subaru has problems with their CVT. Also will be very expensive to repair
Being a car enthusiast, I was very disappointed when Subaru discontinued the 5speed automatic in the Legacy and outback 3.6 versions in favor of the CVT. This was at a time when we had sold our daughter my wife’s 2.5 Legacy with CVT with me giving my wife my 2011 3.6 Outback. So, I needed a car. The new 2014 Legacy’s were just coming out and I had planned on purchasing a 3.6 model. Unfortunately, they announced that we’re dropping the 5 speed in favor of the CVT. So, no more Subaru for me. I punched an Audi S5 with a beautiful 7 speed dual clutch tranny. We still have our 2011 Outback now with 121K miles. But when it goes it will be replaced by an Audi SQ5.

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