Subaru’s Upgrade to CVT Transmissions: Benefits, Drawbacks, and What You Need to Know

Subaru is known for its reliable and efficient vehicles that offer a smooth driving experience. One crucial component in achieving this drive is the transmission system. Subaru has made several changes to its transmissions over the years, with the most significant one being the switch to Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) in many of its models. In this article, we will explore the history of Subaru transmissions leading up to the switch to CVT, the reasons for the change, the benefits and drawbacks of CVT compared to other transmission types, and how a CVT transmission works.

History of Subaru Transmissions

Subaru has offered various transmission types over the years, ranging from manual to automatic and semi-automatic. Before the switch to CVT, Subaru offered mostly traditional automatic transmissions in its vehicles, with some manual transmission options available as well.

In 2010, Subaru introduced its first CVT in its Legacy model. At the time, CVT was still a relatively new technology and was not widely used in vehicles. Since then, Subaru has continued to expand its use of CVT in many of its models, making it the standard choice in their line of vehicles.

Reasons for the Switch to CVT

The primary reason for the switch to CVT was to improve fuel efficiency. CVT allows the engine to run at its optimal RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) range, minimizing energy waste and reducing fuel consumption. Moreover, the CVT is more responsive and offers a smooth driving experience, producing less noise and fewer vibrations.

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Also, the CVT is a more reliable transmission compared to traditional gear transmissions. It has fewer parts, reducing the chances of failure, and Subaru offers an impressive 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty on CVT transmissions.

Benefits and Drawbacks of CVT

CVT offers several benefits for drivers. It provides smoother acceleration, better fuel efficiency, and a more refined driving experience. The CVT also requires less maintenance and is more durable than traditional transmissions.

However, the CVT has some drawbacks as well. Despite being reliable, some drivers complain of a rubbery feel when accelerating due to the lack of gear shifting. Additionally, the CVT can become noisy at high speeds, and some drivers find it less engaging than traditional transmissions.

How a CVT Transmission Works

In traditional transmissions, there are fixed gears that the transmission must shift between. The CVT, on the other hand, uses belts and pulleys to keep the engine running at the optimal RPM range constantly. During operation, the system adjusts the pulley diameters to provide the necessary power to the wheels, resulting in a seamless and almost linear acceleration.

Subaru Models with CVT transmissions

Subaru offers several models with CVT transmissions, including the Crosstrek, Forester, Impreza, Legacy, and Outback. Subaru owners report that the CVT improves the car’s fuel economy and acceleration, making for a more enjoyable driving experience. However, not all Subaru models come with a CVT, with some still offering manual or traditional automatic transmissions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Is CVT better than a traditional automatic transmission?
A: CVT offers smoother acceleration, better fuel efficiency, and lower maintenance costs, but some drivers may prefer the feel of a traditional automatic transmission.

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Q: How long do CVT transmissions last?
A: If properly maintained, a CVT transmission can last the life of the vehicle.

Q: Which Subaru models have CVT transmissions?
A: The Crosstrek, Forester, Impreza, Legacy, and Outback all come with a CVT transmission option.


Subaru’s switch to CVT transmission was a significant move that has improved the driving experience and fuel efficiency of their vehicles. While some drivers may still prefer traditional transmissions, the CVT has become a popular choice for its reliability, smooth acceleration, and better fuel economy. If you’re considering purchasing a Subaru with a CVT transmission, make sure to take one for a test drive to decide if it’s the right choice for you.

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Davis Bellew

As a Subaru owner and enthusiast, Davis has a deep understanding of the needs and concerns of Subaru drivers. He specializes in writing informative and engaging content about Subaru maintenance and repair, and his articles are always well-researched and easy to understand. When he's not writing, he enjoys hiking and photography.

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