RELIABILITY - Subaru CVT vs. Toyota Power Sharing Transmission

14,205

Asked by Nov 19, 2015 at 12:07 PM about the 2010 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited

Question type: General

While they may seem similar,  the actual platform that each of these cars use
is different.   Subaru is a metal belt driven CVT with pulleys while the power
sharing transmission uses a planetary gear arrangement in their proprietary
hybrid synergy drive.     I've been told by many professional drivers with taxi
and other ride share services like UBER,  that their Prius cars go well over
200,000 miles or more with no transmission problems.    Do you think that the
Toyota transmission is really that much better?

56 Answers

2,860

Huh? Who said?

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.
14,205

TheSubaruGuruBoston, see this link, read the explanation of power sharing transmissions, scroll down a bit on this page, http://cars.about.com/od/thingsyouneedtoknow/a/CVT.htm

9 out of 9 people think this is helpful.
14,205

Here's the operative language, see attached

2,860

Mark, I'm not questioning the mechanicals...just your stated assumption that one is "really that much better".

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.
14,205

And this explanation,

2,860

Mark, who cares??!! Descriptions of two excellently-designed completely different mechanical systems has NOTHING to do with durability nor reliability per se. You're again acting like Linus....

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.
14,205

TheSubaruGuruBoston -- OK, we're on the same page for mechanical engineering, I've talked with lots of cab drivers, Uber drivers and mechanica who all told me that the Prius transmission is golden and goes well over 200,000 miles and more.

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.
14,205

If your opinion is that the Subaru CVT is just as good, then, I'd expect similar service to 200,000 miles? Judging by what you have previously told me, I'm not sure you believe that? And, I'm very easy on my cars. I'm hoping that I won't need transmission work below 150,000 miles.

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.
14,205

I think that I asked this question. ...Do you think that the Toyota transmission is really that much better?"

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.
2,860

No, we're not "on the same page", as drawing conclusions based upon hearsay and your private weird skinny statistical sampling is just something you should know better than to do. Maybe more important is to know that the Subie CVT simply feels far better to drive than the Prius's. And given the eco of modern iterations like Subie's, the Mazda Sky-Active (sp) and a few others, the Prius will fade away as arcane and horribly ridiculous to drive.

2,860

Again? Ok...I give up. Let's just say "NO".

3 out of 3 people think this is helpful.
35,305

I am not a CVT fan however the Forester I am currently driving with a CVT is pretty impressive. I talked to a Subaru service manager who I know and respect and he told me he is seeing some high mile cars with CVT's in them including one with well over 200,000 miles on it. He recommends changing the fluid regularly even though Subaru does not. One thing he told me that I have come to believe is that Subaru has set up the engine computer to work better with the CVT than with the 6 speed and after driving both I can see his point.

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.
14,205

Maybe it is ? I'm not an engineer. I suppose that Toyotas proprietary hybrid synergy drive is superior? After all, any other car manufacturer in the past like the now discontinued Nissan Altima Hybrid had to pay Toyota a license fee to use their hybrid drive in their car.

35,305

I would like to see some real data on service and replacement costs for the CVT. I plan on talking to my service manager about this and get some real information which I will pass on.

14,205

TheSubaruGuruBoston, so you really think this will happen? "the Prius will fade away as arcane and horribly ridiculous to drive." OK, let's stop here, we agree to disagree. I will concede that it definitely feels "different " driving the Subaru CVT transmission from the Prius.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.
14,205

Full_of_Regrets, hey, I would appreciate any information you can find out.

35,305

BTW Mark a power sharing transmission must have two power sources to work and has nothing to do with CVT's. You are trying to compare apples and watermellons.

14,205

Full_of_Regrets- you know what, you're absolutely right, but, lots of people compare and call the hybrid synergy drive a CVT. Even Subaru has a hybrid Crostrek. We'll see if the Subaru Boston Guru is correct about this transmission "fading away ". As a point of information, the Prius has been on the market starting in Japan from 1998. And, came to the USA in 2001. So, if it were a failed technology, I'm sure we would have heard that by now.

14,205

Full_of_Regrets, hey, I just read your post about your personal experience driving the Forrester with the CVT and the conversation you had with the service manager. I just had as a preventative maintenance measure the CVT transmission fluid changed in my 2010 Outback. It's a good idea, in fact, thanks to the Subaru Boston Guru for advise to do this. Yeah, I took it to my local dealership and they're especially set up to do this, have special machines for this purpose. It's expensive, but, so is the car, who said Subaru was cheap, not me. That's the price of driving. So, I see now that you have had some time behind the wheel with the CVT, you're beginning to like it. I've found that user acceptance on CVTs is slow mainly because people don't know it. A long time ago I learned that people like what they know, even though many people erroneously say "I know what I like".. Do you think now that you're driving the hills with this CVT loaner that it might have worked better for you than the manual-transmission version you purchased?

14,205

Full_of_Regrets- one more thing, my local Subaru dealership DID RECOMMEND changing this periodically. Depends on how you use the car.

2,860

Changing the CVT fluids requires 5.5-6 qts ATF fluid at $8 per, plus about 15 minutes labor. Total cost about $75.

2,860

The Crosstrek was pushed down Subaru's gullet by Toyoburu instead of certifying Subie's really excellent 2.O Diesel motor that was so successful in fleet trials in Germany (for one). Toyota HATES passenger car diesels, and wants to mily their hybrid tech instead. The CrossTrek hybrid experiment was supposed of offer +5mpg for +$5k, but came out only +3mpg more efficient...HUGE egg on Toyota's face! Hence the price drop, as none of the dealers want them, and are really pissed they don't get the diesel. Oh the horrors....

2,860

"Mily" = "milk"

35,305

Preliminary results of driving a CVT vs a 6 speed are that the 6 speed gets slightly better mileage in the mountains but the CVT gets maybe 3 mpg better on the highway due to the higher final gear ratio. In the mountains a high final gear ratio is of no value.

2,860

Depends how steep the inclines are, and thus what rpm range is required. I'd be pretty hard to lug the stick low enough to equal the CVT's eco programming. I routinely see 26-27mpg hwy on BOTH 2.5i 4EAT and sticks, but 32mpg hwy on CVT 2.5i. +2-% is HUGE!

2,860

Oy...meant +20%. (Note that the increase in eco for the tall and heavy 2010+ OB is only +3mpg compared to prior EAT instead of +5 because of poor aerodynamics compared to the lower Cog and more aero Leg Sedan, whre an apples-to-apples comparo yields +5mpg.)

35,305

On flat ground at 55 I can get nearly 40 with the 6 speed. At 70 the higher gear ratio of the CVT kicks in with maybe 32 mpg compared to 28-29 for the 6 speed but that is with a bad motor.

14,205

Full_of_Regrets, let me ask you a hypothetical question. Now that you've had a chance to drive the CVT Forester, do you think that you would have been better served with the Subaru Outback and the more powerful 3.6 H6 engine with 256 horsepower in the mountains.

35,305

No. If I was to spend that much I would get something like the Explorer with actual 4 wheel drive and even more power and room.

35,305

No. If I was to spend that much I would get something like the Explorer with actual 4 wheel drive and even more power and room. To me the only reasons to get a Subaru is all wheel drive and economy. They don't hold any other appeal to me as there are lot of other cars that are more fun to drive and that look a lot better too.

14,205

Full_of_Regrets, are you sure that the Explorer would have done any better than the Outback in the snow? I mean, and sorry to bring this up, but, the Outback was listed as the top vehicle in the snow by Consumers Reports, you might want to peruse the article on the truth about all wheel drive in their November 2015 issue. Also, see this picture from a forum discussing the Explorer. Just saying, facts are facts. And, your Forrester was listed as the third best vehicle in the snow. Thought that more horsepower for the mountainous driving would have been a good idea. That's all.

14,205

Incidentally, while the Ford Expedition made the list of vehicles for the snow, there's no mention of the Ford Explorer.

14,205

Full_of_Regrets, found this for you, see this link below, http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2015/02/how-good-is-a- subaru-in-the-snow-.html

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.
2,860

We're off topic. Please close the thread.

35,305

Mark - I doubt Consumer Reports tests cars in what I would call real snow. They likely test on hard packed snow or in an inch or two. What I call real snow is 6" to 18" of snow which a real 4x4 with good tires can handle. Consumer has a heavy bias against trucks anyway so they are the last source I would use for advice when buying a 4x4. The Explorer has good ground clearance and has 4 wheel independent suspension which is good in snow so I have little doubt one would do well in snow with the right tires/

14,205

Full_of_Regrets- well, that's interesting, Consumers Reports, bias?? I don't think they'd like hearing that, and what do you mean by "real snow"??? And, just so you know, the ground clearance on the Ford Explorer is 7.6 inches while the Outback is 8.7 inches. And, yes, both have four wheel independent suspension. These are not made up numbers. Finally, why do you think that the overwhelming majority of Outbacks are in the northwest and northeast? Yes, snow tires would be helpful on either one,

14,205

I just re-read your answer about "real snow", and I'm sure that they test in real world conditions of all kinds. You may want to pick up or read the November 2015 issue I referred to earlier.

35,305

The effective clearance of a real 4x4 is much higher than a Subaru as clearance measured to the lowest point of the differential. My 4x4 probably has about 8" of clearance at the differential where as the rest of the truck is much higher off the ground. Your Outback would be floating on 10" snow and I would be driving past you leaving a small groove in the snow from the rear diff. Consumer is hardly an authority on snow conditions and yes they have a very heavy bias towards cars and car based SUV's. To me Consumer rates cars like a 75 year old granny would, not as a car enthusiast would.

35,305

I never said Subaru's are not good in snow. I own two but my 4x4's are far, far better once the snow gets deeper than 4". That is 30+ years of snow driving experience talking, not some magazine.

14,205

OK, did you actually look up the ground clearance of a Ford Explorer, you can see it right here on this web link below, http://www.edmunds.com/ford/explorer/2015/suv/features-specs/ it's 7.6 inches, and if you were unaware, the ground clearance is measured by the lowest point of the vehicle, so, when you talk about the lowest point of the differential on each of these cars, the Outback is a 8.7 inches. Last time I checked, 8.7 was more than 7.6, so, your fuzzy math on this is not working.

35,305

If you actually read what Consumer says about their snow report you will find it is just a survey with drivers basing their ratings on a minimum of 6 days driving. Hardly authoritative at all.

14,205

OK, but, that's a minimum of 6 days. Plus, what their own expert staff reviews. If the 4 by 4's work better for you in the snow, I would definitely stick to that. Apparently, you have both and are certainly more comfortable with that.

35,305

Mark you are ignoring what I am saying to try make Outbacks look better. If you actually look at a Subaru the bottom of the car is flat. The minimum clearance is all the clearance there is! A real 4x4 may be 8" at the diff, but the rest of the vehicle is sitting a foot higher than a Subaru. Like I said when the snow gets deep you will be stuck but I will wave as I go by in my truck!

35,305

I watched the Consumer "expert" test of small SUV's and all I can say is that is 2wd conditions! Not much of a test at all. You live in sunny SoCal, I live in heavy duty snow driving conditions. What is your actual snow driving experience? A trip up to Big Bear on plowed roads with 1" of snow? Like I said Subaru's are good in snow up to a point.

14,205

Full_of_Regrets- OK, let's stop here and call a truce. Yes, I know the truck sits higher off the ground, I was responding to the lowest ground clearance. Listen, you drive and have to put up with this all winter, I don't have issues like that. You might as well just sell the Subaru and use your trucks.

35,305

Here is Consumer on 4x4 and snow -- AWD is fine for most normal snow conditions or for light-duty, off-pavement excursions. If you'll be driving in severe snow or true off-road situations, or if you're interested in pursuing off-roading as a hobby, you should opt for a vehicle with 4WD and lots of ground clearance.

14,205

OK, have a nice Thanksgiving.

35,305

You too Mark! Snow is predicted!

14,205

Thanks, we have a vacation home in Michigan where it does snow. If I ever decide to go live there, I'll take my Subaru, but, for now I live in Los Angeles. No snow here, but, plenty of rain, so the AWD will be helpful on slippery roads. My other car is a Toyota Prius, it does not have good traction control... in fact, it's much lower to the ground, sometimes scrapes the street exiting driveways ( unbelievable but true) and whenever I drive through slippery surfaces, this little yellow light illuminates telling me that I've just lost some traction. It's fantastic on fuel, 45 to 50 mpg if I'm careful and is not terrible on the highway, but, the Outback is more of a road car,

14,205

El Nino is coming and building steadily. There's a 95 percent chance of a really wet winter in Northern and Southern California. Should be interesting.

35,305

I certainly hope so. We sure need it.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

lol, you guys realize the new explorers are AWD, not 4wd, right? And that they have HORRIBLE ground clearance? haven't been awd since 2006... and have HORRIBLE transmissions? i hope.

14,205

Hi Eian, are you talking about the Ford Explorer or referring to the Outbacks as "explorers", in general? The Subaru Outback has a ground clearance of 8.7 inches, while the Ford Explorer has an 8.2 inch ground clearance, so, the Outback is slightly higher. I think that the Ford Explorer is actually AWD and they are playing with word from this explanation from Ford in this thread below. 4 WD requires that you unlock the hubs at a certain speed, usually over 40 MPH. The fact that they said it's "automatically done for you with no interaction" signals to me that it's probably AWD. As far as I'm concerned, the Subaru Outback AWD works very well. They've been doing AWD since the 70s. And, the CVT transmission is pretty responsive and gets better fuel economy. Ford transmissions have never been known for their integrity, maybe in trucks, but look how many have failed in their cars, like Ford Taurus, etc. http://www.explorerforum.com/forums/index.php?threads/true- 4wd-or-awd.306348/

2,860

You took the bait, Mark. Ignore him. BTW, Subie also used only a crude 4WD until they developed AWD introduced here in 1989. Keep cool...it's HOT here in Beantown!

14,205

Thanks Ernie, OK, 1989, that's still 27 years for true AWD. YES, it's supposed to be 105 today and 107 tomorrow (estimated). I'm always amazed that people seem surprised that the Subaru Outback actually has more ground clearance than many of their rivals. An example is the GMC Sonoma. While the overall height of the vehicle has a higher profile than the Outback, the actual ground clearance is 7.5.

My 2017 Forester purchased a month ago has a CVT. It took me zero time to 'get used to it'. I like it! It's not my first Forester. Also, the CVT is "factory sealed, no maintenance, no fluid changes, no filter changes, nothing". If it fails, replacement is the only option. Also, the engine timing belt, which used to require replacement at 60,000, then at 105,000 apparently has been re- engineered with new materials, because it doesn't have to be replaced either, ever. Don't know how they do it. My only question is: how does a CVT do reverse? Dennis

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