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CVT not the next step in transmission tech

CVT not the next step in transmission tech

Why I’m not a fan of (most) CVTs…

The theory with Constantly Variable Transmissions (CVT) is sound, very sound – but the execution is often poor, even to the point that you might want to consider a different car.

That’s how I feel about CVTs based on most of the extensive array of different models I have driven that offer the ‘pulley type’ transmission.

Again, there’s no good reason for this technology, which is certainly nothing all that revolutionary, to not be the natural progression for auto transmissions.

Theoretically, the CVT should have an advantage over a traditional auto by always (or constantly) being able to provide the right ratio to fully assist the engine (and therefore save fuel/energy).

They say the CVT is also more efficient than a regular auto, as well as being easier to service and repair.

But the real reason why we have had CVTs shoehorned into our cars, in my opinion, is that with that simplicity comes a lower production cost to the manufacturers.

That’s why you are more likely to find a CVT in more budget focussed models rather than the top-end of the car market.

Brands like Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW generally do not use CVTs in their cars.

So, what’s not to like about the CVT?

In my opinion, CVTs dull engine performance and create a somewhat stilted and artificial feel between engine revs/torque and the actual performance of the vehicle.

For example, high revs don’t necessarily equate to good acceleration with a CVT.

But then there’s also my biggest bugbear with them - the inability to be able to really do what they promise – even in their name - give the engine the right ratio to assist it to the full when climbing hills or overtaking.

Compared to a quality auto transmission, which reacts to a change in driving conditions/commands in a millisecond, many CVTs seem to have to think about what to do and then think again, oh and then might do something.

‘Dull as dishwater’ is the term that normally comes to mind with a CVT.

We are not being offered cars with a CVT because it is a miracle breakthrough in transmission technology, we are having them bolted in to cars because they help the car manufacturer bottom line.

So when you see a car company trying to convince you that a CVT is something better than an auto, well just remember the old term ‘buyer beware’.

Feel free to tell us what you think in the comments section below.

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About Joel Helmes 3664 Articles
Joel is the founder and CEO of Behind the Wheel. Joel has a background as a radio broadcaster with on-air roles at 4BC, 4KQ, 2KY, 2LT and 2UE amongst others, as well as a news editor and program director. Joel’s relationship with cars stems back to his early childhood learning to change oil and brakes with his father and uncle. This continued on into his driving years owning an assorted collection of cars.

4 Comments on CVT not the next step in transmission tech

  1. Amen. Have driven several CVTs from different manufacturers and each utterly killed any involvement or enjoyment for me. If a car is available only in with a CVT I will look elsewhere, regardless what else the car brings to the table.

      • The Corolla is said to be the world’s popular car, so one might assume from that the majority of buyers are happy with the CVT transmission sold on most of them, so perhaps my opinion is not at odds with what most people think about CVT’s? Love to read your opinion also, just as I enjoy to provide mine.

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