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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been driving Toyota & Lexus hybrids almost exclusively since 2006, which have CVTs. Via family circumstance, I ended up with a '20 Crosstrek Limited with extremely low mileage for an extremely good price that I simply could not pass up. Subaru was never really on my radar, always been a Toyota loyalist, never has let me down, but my Lexus was getting old and high mileage and my daughter's van was all used up so I passed her the Lexus and took up with the Crosstrek for something different. Anyways, just for whatevs I thought I'd share my opinion on the Crosstrek's CVT.

First off, I didn't even realize the Crosstrek had a CVT. After driving it for a couple weeks I assumed it just had a 6sp auto because it definitely has somewhat noticeable rpm plateaus when accelerating moderately around town. The Toyota hybrid CVTs are completely "continuously variable". Accelerate and engine revs steady, accelerate more, engine revs more but steady, accelerate less, engine revs less gradually. The Crosstrek kind of does this but kind of doesn't too. Accelerate moderately engine revs build, then levels off, then builds, then levels off, then steadies when at speed. To me, it felt just like a very smooth normal automatic transmission. I read a little on the Subaru CVT and understand it uses a chain on mechanically changing ratio gears, which I suppose is why it seems to have this gear shifting feel. The Toyota setup is strictly a planetary gear setup with no actual mechanical changes during the process so very smooth.

Now that said, I'm not unhappy at all with it. I like CVTs. I grew up driving manual transmissions and most of my cars were manual until I was about 30 yrs old, but I had a taste of the old 2sp and 3sp autos from the 70s. They were ok for what they were but as the autos went to 4, 5, 6 and more speeds I just found them to be more and more annoying hunting, often poorly, for gears after corners and transitioning from coasting to accel. CVT to me is a better solution, forget fiddling with all those gears, I'm not driving a bicycle.

Anyway, I've heard for 15 yrs now people turning up their nose at CVTs because of the continuous rev noise when accelerating. I've driven boats, I've flown single engine aircraft, they basically work the same way. I consider this normal for power to be delivered to a vehicle in this fashion. People say they are noisy, but a car with a normal auto is also noisy when its accelerating too. I think its just an emotional attachment to the increasing tone of the engine between shifts, just as people like music that builds emotion with tempo, and miss it when its not there. In that regard, the Crosstrek's mechanical feel would definitely be more soothing to those people. As I said, I thought it was a normal auto at first, but maybe because I was used to something different myself. But once I knew it was CVT, I am now more aware of the increased smoothness over a regular auto. I would put the feel of Subaru's CVT's midpoint between a typical auto tranny and Toyota's hybrid CVT (not sure about Subaru's Hybrids, I haven't really studied them much). Considering the 2L Boxer engine in the Crosstrek is noisier then the 3.5L V6 in my Lexus in general, and I still enjoy it, I give it good marks for delivering power quite smoothly across its power band.

The only part I still am not sure about, maybe CVT, maybe throttle response. I find the car quite touchy coming off a stop, and that's in "i" still, not "s". My Lexus was a bit of a gentle giant that was easy to glide away from a stop with any desired pep. The Crosstrek either jumps like a frog or creeps away like a snail. It does give the car a feel of pep, but after the frog initially jumps it feels a bit sluggish after that. After 3 weeks I'm still trying to find the sweet spot easily. I haven't tried "s" mode much yet, wondering if that will be better or worse in this case.

I did spend some time playing with the paddle shifters. My Lexus also had a "sport mode" that allows putting the CVT into an rpm controllable setup that mimicked changing gears. My opinion on that was meh, mildly entertaining for a short period of time. With the Crosstrek, my experience was pretty much the same. But when I discovered that you could use the paddle shifters even in "D" and the car would temporarily go into manual and then back into "D" again, I thought that was pretty cool and useful on occasion.

My Lexus and previous Toyota easily reached a couple hundred thousand mi with little fuss, at this point I am not sure how long I plan to keep the Crosstrek but so far so good, hopefully its capable of this as well.
 

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First off, I didn't even realize the Crosstrek had a CVT. After driving it for a couple weeks I assumed it just had a 6sp auto because it definitely has somewhat noticeable rpm plateaus
. I read a little on the Subaru CVT and understand it uses a chain on mechanically changing ratio gears, which I suppose is why it seems to have this gear shifting feel.
it’s the way the CVT is programmed is why it feels like a regular transmission. some manufacturers including Subi do this so sheepeople feel comfortable with what they know. if the fake shifts weren’t programmed into it it would feels the same as the Yota CVTs
 

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The early Subaru cvt just stayed at the rpm sweet-spot. It was only more recently that the pseudo-gear rpm change was put in to entice those missing the rpm gear "steps".
 

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I read a little on the Subaru CVT and understand it uses a chain on mechanically changing ratio gears, which I suppose is why it seems to have this gear shifting feel.
It my understanding that these fake shift points are the result of software programming, nothing mechanical. If you lightly accelerate you will never notice the fake shift points. I do a lot of mountain driving with my CVT and have never noticed it "hunting" for gears like a traditional automatic transmission does.
 

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Subaru does not have the R & D budget of a company like Toyota/Lexus. Toyota does not change up it power train line ups frequently and keeps few of them on the production line. This allows them to vastly refine the product and lower warranty costs.
Having said that, within the 2 CVT cars that have been in the family, I've learned that these gearboxes behave quite differently when you get the engines to run properly(IE feels like a different car, more linear) and get the servicing dialed in. They they seem to lack some degree of refinement(service policy, chassis/suspension set-up, component quality/service life, etc..). I'll be interested in how our's shifts after servicing the fluid in the spring.
regards
 

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I'm not a fan of the fake shift points the new cars have. Why induce any unneeded shock to the system just to appease a few that don't understand how one works. Manual mode is one thing but for general driving, I don't see the point changing from what worked.

Another misconception is the chain. People associate that with teeth and gears. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a belt but made up of special metal links to help with longevity. Works similar to a Snowmobile or UTV CVT only the gearing changes on the sheaves are controlled by the computer and hydraulics rather than centrifugal force and weights. Subaru's is the best in the business.
 

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2021 Subaru Crosstrek Limited
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I don't mind the fake shift points, but If we could electronically shut them off, I would.

The Subaru "chain" looks like this (more or less. I think this is from an Ascent, but the other models use either the same or similar):

306805
 

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I don't mind the fake shift points too. They only come in when you put the foot down. I use it as a bit of a fuel saving challenge on my way to and from work and find if you feel the fake shift points then you are likely using a bit more fuel than you need but if you can keep it smooth then you are likely saving fuel.
 

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"I've driven boats, I've flown single engine aircraft, they basically work the same way. "

Finally someone else that thinks the CVT feels like driving a boat. Thought I was the only one driving a boat with tires (except for the fake shits). I love the smooth power delivery of the CVT!
 
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I’ll take one in 23K GOLD

I have a 18” neck

checks in the mail 😉

do I now have to trade my Trek for a WRX & a flat bill hat?
Ha, ha, I was thinking that would make a nice platinum bracelet for OAK! 😸

The fake shifting didn't bother me until I started reading posts about it here.

Edit: and I've had boats and planes, single and multi-engine
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Fake shifting for the common folk, duh, of course. Makes perfect sense to me now how it seems to be more or less noticeable depending on the situation. Thanks all for pointing this out.

sheepeople
Lol, perfect.

D13:
The attached link
Thanks very much, very interesting. I was especially interested in #8, Shift Lock Upon Deceleration. Coming out of hybrids, I was very much used to the vehicle slowing down noticeably when off the gas pedal as the regenerative braking took over. If feels very weird for me for a car to coast so quickly into cars in front of me, but at times I did feel this engine braking too and while a more familiar feel to me, it was a bit unexpected too. Good to know.

I’ll take one in 23K GOLD
Too much bling for me.
 

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OP has a pretty good take on things, I agree. This past week was the first time I’ve driven my wife’s car on a long trip, so I finally got a feeling for it. About 500 miles. The first 250 I didn’t even pay attention to it. Just went. Only in the second half of the trip did I notice the shift points, and I was like , why did they do that? Once you pay attention to it, the OP is right, just feels like a very smooth auto.
 

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I bought a Saturn vue in 03. Had that car for three years and swore I would never own another. CVT car again. It was such a POS transmission. It did nothing but keep the rpms up and I felt like I was going nowhere. On a hill I could never get past 65 mph. I called it a continuous slipping transmission. Fast forward to 2014……. I wanted a six speed manual XV. No one had one in So Cal. Nearest one was in AZ in the color I wanted(TOP). My wife said I should at least TRY the CVT equipped car. I reluctantly drove the car. I was surprised at how it didn’t “slip”. I found the paddle shifters to be somewhat fun. I bought the car. I grew tired of the 2.0’s lack of power, so I traded it in for a six speed WRX IN 2017. LOVED the power, but the upkeep of a turbo powered car got to be a hassle. We moved to northern Idaho and the lack of ground clearance on dirt roads and snow was not a good thing, so I traded that in on a Crosstrek sport. The 2.5 liter has good enough power even with the CVT. The ground clearance is great. So no more worries. I have had skid plates on every Suble I have owned which is a good thing up here and for the off road driving I find myself doing. I still use the paddle shifters mostly, both in I drive and Sport drive. I have never had an issue with the CVT’s, including the 2016 Forester we have with 47,000 miles on it. I had the fluid changed on that one at 45,000. Subaru seems to have their CVT’s dialed in very good for durable service.
 
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Perfect description of Subaru Crosstrek CVT.
I took my car into an independent shop and they flashed the CVT with a newer version. Mine now shifts very smoothly without the pseudo gear shifting. Still kinda hops off the line though.
 

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Perfect description of Subaru Crosstrek CVT.
I took my car into an independent shop and they flashed the CVT with a newer version. Mine now shifts very smoothly without the pseudo gear shifting. Still kinda hops off the line though.
I asked Subaru Canada if there was a flash for the CVT that would remove the "steps". They said "no". I'm going in for the coil-pack recall next week and I'll ask the dealer if there is.
 
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