We know we’ll get a negative response from this report. Still, the Subaru Lineartronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) automatic gearbox is one of the best features on the 2021 Forester, Crosstrek, Outback, and Ascent SUVs. It’s probably the most misunderstood part of the drivetrain and despised by most automotive “experts.” But when used correctly, it’s a feature that ramps up driver engagement.
The CVT automatic transmission is criticized most because they are high revving, noisy, and slow to accelerate once the car is moving. In most cars, this is true. Subaru pairs the Boxer engine with the CVT automatic for its fuel-saving capabilities. The CVT uses a step-less gear ratio that allows the engine to run in its optimal power range, no matter what speed you maintain, for improved fuel economy and performance. But Subaru adds two misunderstood features.
But Subaru adds a manual mode function with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters that allow the driver to select seven or eight preset ratios depending on the model. Most automotive journalists don’t take the time to understand, and most importantly, use the system correctly to maximize the Lineartronic CVT’s abilities.
They leave the transmission in automatic mode, eliminating the need to shift and let the Lineartronic CVT adjust to match acceleration. But they let one of the best attributes of the Forester, Crosstrek, and Outback go unused.
The 2021 Subaru Forester Sport, Limited, and Touring models use a Lineartronic CVT with Adaptive Control and a 7-speed manual mode with steering wheel paddle shifters. All 2021 Subaru Outback trims come with Lineartronic CVT with Adaptive Control and an 8-speed manual mode with paddles.
The 2021 Crosstrek Sport and Limited get the automaker’s newest Lineartronic CVT with Adaptive Control, Incline Start Assist, and 8-speed manual mode with paddle shifters.
In 7-or 8-Speed Manual Mode, paddle shifters are mounted near the top of the steering wheel for easy “fingertip control,” giving the driver the ability to select the gear ratio that suits the driving situation. The result is a sharper and sportier driving experience. But many automotive journalists are either too lazy or fail to learn how to use the paddles correctly.
They let the transmission sort everything out on its own by default and then complain because it doesn’t “shift” like a conventional automatic transmission. But Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT manual mode combined with the steering wheel paddles are a unique feature for drivers who take the time to understand how it works.
The CVT, manual mode, and paddles work in concert and are an excellent option to have in a performance context. The driver can “downshift” with the left paddle and bump the shifter on the center console left to lock it into manual mode. The two features give the informed driver a high level of engagement and control over the transmission’s behavior, as you’ll find in more expensive sports cars.
The Subaru Lineartronic CVT automatic gearbox is one of the best features on the 2021 Subaru Forester, Crosstrek, Outback, and Ascent SUVs when appropriately used.
Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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