The Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is an annoying automatic transmission that winds up like a toy and is designed for fuel efficiency and belongs in an economy car not a performance car. What is Subaru thinking by putting a CVT in the performance WRX? Luckily, the big news for the 2015 WRX is that it now comes with a six-speed manual transmission and that will be a welcome change. But what about this new CVT automatic?
Subaru calls the automatic option a “Sport” Lineartronic CVT. They say it comes with a manual mode and paddle shifters. Is this just for window dressing or will it really work in the performance model? Subaru says it gets better fuel efficiency (of course), but also benefits from a choice of stepped automatic shifting with eight pre-selected ratios.
This is the same Lineartronic automatic CVT transmission found in the 2014 Subaru Forester XT. But Subaru says they’ve tuned the WRX version to provide a “greatly improved” shift response for a sportier ride than the high-torque Lineartronic CVT found in the Forester XT. Maybe combined with the new DIT 2.0-liter Boxer engine and updated suspension and steering they can make it work.
The annoying sound from the CVT may be muffled by additional sound insulation that is claimed to have been added. This new 2015 WRX CVT also differs from the Forester XT by offering several operating modes: Intelligent, Sport and Sport Sharp, as well as step-shifting. It is supposed to emulate traditional shift points to let drivers feel the WRX's power and performance.
During more aggressive driving, the Sport Lineartronic CVT, offered in the WRX Premium model, produces stepped shifting, giving the impression of six forward gear ratios using either the ‘I’ or ‘S’ modes. When in Sport Sharp mode, the driver can use the steering wheel paddle shifters for sharper throttle response and eight-speed close-ratio stepped-shifting.
In an interview with CarAdvice, Subaru’s General Manager Product, Masua Takatsu said, “If you’re driving the WRX like a sports car, it will feel like a sports car, and yes, it will give you that dynamic feeling.” He went on to say, “We’ve put a lot of effort into developing our sport CVT, and feel that it delivers the kind of response and feel that you would expect of a car like the WRX.”
Why didn’t Subaru go with a more sophisticated dual-clutch automatic gearbox we see in other performance models? Takatsu said the primary reason was because of the additional cost of that level of technology for the WRX price point.
We’ll have to reserve judgement on the 2015 Subaru WRX with the Sport Lineartronic CVT until we see how it performs in the real world. But does it really matter with Subaru offering the new six-speed standard gearbox for 2015? Will anyone really buy a WRX with an automatic? Only if your wife can’t drive a stick and she won’t let you buy one unless it’s an automatic. See how the all-new WRX will outperform the outgoing model.
Watch the new 2015 Subaru WRX video.