Hey all, new member here, not a Subaru owner (currently) though we have a couple in our family and I'm contemplating buying a WRX or STI once the new 2015s are out and the performance numbers are in. I would just like to offer my perspective on the whole CVT thing based on my own experience. I currently own a 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SV which has a CVT. I've put just over 18,000 miles on the car, purchased new in October 2012. Previously I owned a 2000 Maxima 3.0 with a 5 speed manual. I was excited to switch to the Altima when I test drove it as it felt a good deal quicker than my old car (270HP vs. 222HP). Gas mileage and nice amenities such as remote start, power everything, backup camera, ipod integration, yada yada were also selling points. Gas mileage can be good if you drive it gently, I've seen highway mileage over 30 when driving for long stretches, mixed mileage can be anywhere fro 20-27 though,depending on how much stop and go traffic you see. Also the car only needs 87 octane so you can save some additional money on gas there. However, shortly after purchasing the car I began to notice the acceleration wasn't as good as I first thought.
Sometimes the CVT just doesn't quite understand what you want it to do. I'll give an example. Let's say you need to pass someone on the highway very quickly. If you put your foot down you may get the necessary acceleration to pass, or you can get a noticeable lag. The engine revs up almost right away, but the transmission just doesn't put the power to the ground until it figures out the right gear ratio. Sometimes this can take a split second, other times you can literally count out two whole seconds before the car gets moving. Another issue I have with the acceleration is that since the car is front wheel drive and it only has brake-based traction control it is not very forgiving at low speeds when applying throttle. The traction control is extremely aggressive in that when it senses wheelspin it will do one of two things: 1) apply brakes to get the wheels to stop spinning 2) disengage the transmission so that ZERO power is put to the ground. You can imagine how stupid it looks to other drivers as my engine is wailing away and my car is just sitting next to them.
Another problem I have with the CVT is that within the last 1000 miles or so it started slipping under certain conditions. There is a known issue with the 9th generation CVT that has been developed for 2013 and newer model year Altimas (and Pathfinders) where the torque converter will lock up repeatedly when applying a small amount of throttle at low RPM say in stop and go traffic or especially when going up a slight incline. Go ahead and check the Altima forums out there, there are a lot of people having this issue. Nissan doesn't appear to have a definite answer for this problem, unfortunately. Lots of owners report taking their cars to the dealership to have the issue investigated and come back with no answers, or a never-ending list of repairs. Some people say they've had their TCU reprogrammed, torque converter replaced, and CVT replaced (all at separate times) and still have the issue. Sounds like a design flaw if you ask me.
My car is due to have its transmission replaced but the CVT is on back-order so I've been waiting for over a month now. Talk about frustrating. I still think Nissan has good designs but I honestly don't think I will ever buy another CVT equipped vehicle for as long as I have the option to get anything else. Same goes for front wheel drive for that matter. For these reasons I am seriously contemplating selling my car after the transmission is replaced and buying a WRX or STI.
I hope my experience can shed some light on the CVT issue for anyone contemplating buying a vehicle with one, I strongly advise against it. Gas mileage is nice, but really no better than other new auto trans designs that feature 7 or more gears, or even a good manual that is driven properly for that matter.
Cheers! Oh, and Merry Christmas to you all as well.