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2012 Forester Transmissions

Disclaimer: I am not a car person. It is fine to talk to me as if I am 3 years old when you answer my questions.

I have a 2003 forester (manual trans) with 116K miles. I bought it when I lived in Oklahoma, and now live in New Mexico. It's been great, and after spending the last 3 months looking at other cars, I've decided that when I replace her (probably in a year or so), I'll get another subaru.

I initially thought I'd get the outback with the bigger engine, but SO MANY people are complaining of problems with the outback CVT that I'm now shying away from it (the bigger engine doesn't have a manual trans option, and since the outback is a little heavier than the forester, I'm worried about the outback with the smaller engine being underpowered on mountain roads). My current forester is probably a little underpowered on mountain roads, but it's doable since I can downshift. My husband (who only gets a token vote in what car I buy) thinks the forester is horribly underpowered, but he is wrong.

I might consider the Turbo forester, but I notice that it does not have a manual transmission option. However, it looks like it just has a basic 4 speed automatic instead of the CVT.

So, these are the things I'm assuming:

1. The 4spd auto in the Forester is TOTALLY different than the outback's CVT, and so the problems with the CVT will not apply to the 4spd auto in the Forester.

2. The turbo forester is, as a rule, less reliable than the nonturbo forester, but at least the 4 spd auto transmission would be as reliable as the 4 spd transmission in the non turbo forester.

3. If I wait to buy a 2013 Forester, they may decide to put the CVTs in them, and then I'll only have the option of buying a nonturbo forester or the outback with the smaller engine because that will be the only manual transmission I can get.

4. I have to put premium gas in the Turbo. All gas sold here is 10 percent ethanol. I have no idea how turbos do with ethanol, but I know my current forester seems to like the ethanol free gas in Oklahoma better than our ethanol gas here.

Do all of the assumptions seem right? Any words of wisdom? I would normally just ask my husband these questions, but he is REALLY trying to push me to the Acura RDX, and so I'm not sure I can trust his input at this point.

Thanks so much!

Comments

  • rshollandrsholland Posts: 19,694
    1. The 4spd auto in the Forester is TOTALLY different than the outback's CVT, and so the problems with the CVT will not apply to the 4spd auto in the Forester.

    Problems with the Subie CVT? None that I'm aware of. I've test-driven several CVT-equipped Subies and have nothing but praise for the CVT.

    2. The turbo forester is, as a rule, less reliable than the nonturbo forester, but at least the 4 spd auto transmission would be as reliable as the 4 spd transmission in the non turbo forester.

    How did you arrive at the turbo Forester being less reliable than the non-turbo model? If so, it's news to me. Yes, they require a little more maintenance, as in 3500 mile oil changes, but that's about it. I'm on my second (turbo) WRX. Between the two that I've had, I've had zero engine problems in over 100K of driving.

    3. If I wait to buy a 2013 Forester, they may decide to put the CVTs in them, and then I'll only have the option of buying a nonturbo forester or the outback with the smaller engine because that will be the only manual transmission I can get.

    It's quite likely the 2013 Forester will be all new, and the 4EAT will be replaced by the CVT. Other than that we know nothing about that car.

    4. I have to put premium gas in the Turbo. All gas sold here is 10 percent ethanol. I have no idea how turbos do with ethanol, but I know my current forester seems to like the ethanol free gas in Oklahoma better than our ethanol gas here.

    I wouldn't be too concerned about ethanol. If there was a problem I'm sure SOA would have issued some sort of warning by now.

    Bob
  • dcm61dcm61 Posts: 1,472
    edited November 2011
    I initially thought I'd get the outback with the bigger engine, but SO MANY people are complaining of problems with the outback CVT that I'm now shying away from it (the bigger engine doesn't have a manual trans option, and since the outback is a little heavier than the forester, I'm worried about the outback with the smaller engine being underpowered on mountain roads).

    The "bigger engine" Outback is a H6 (horizontal 6) with a 5-spd automatic; it does not have a CVT.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    The turbo forester is, as a rule, less reliable than the nonturbo forester

    True, but the gap has really narrowed. Check out the brand new issue of Consumer Reports, the XT has about 20% fewer problems than the average car, among the top in its class.

    The base model is indeed even better, but I'd say both are safe bets.

    You'll be fine with E10 blends as long as you get high octane.
  • @rsholland: There is a lot of chatter about the CVTs on the outback forum here. And, while I tend to take internet complaints with a grain of salt, enough people are complaining about the same issues that I'm pretty hesitant to try the CVT.

    My understanding about the turbos is that higher output engines get more wear and therefore don't last as long. I prefer to keep my cars for around 10 years, and so knowing that I can put well over 100K on an engine is important to me.

    I was wondering if the larger engine outback had a different transmission...that's good to know, I guess, but now I have to research a whole new thing. If they would just offer manuals in all the models and trim levels I wouldn't even have to be stressing about this.

    Thanks everyone for your input...it really helps.
  • I did see that issue of CR, and it was reassuring. I'm still not sure how I feel about trying to eek 10 years out of the turbo, but I do feel better about it overall now.
  • People need to do more homework before they drop 25000 bucks on something which they don't understand. How long with the CVT last?

    Transmissions/drive systems mostly use gears. The CVT uses a belt. How long will a belt last on a 3500 pound car? A belt on a 25000 - 30000 dollar car? The belt on my Harley is good for 100,000 miles but, it's not inside the transmission case and easy to replace. Now, the CVT belt is a kind of magical belt. In fact it is a metal belt. Most belts transmit power by pulling. The CVT belt transmits power by pushing. You can't push a rubber belt but, you can push a metal belt. The belt is made of many small links. When they are stacked up the become a solid bar which can be pushed. It's called a stack belt drive system and it has been around for many years. Problem is they ware out.

    Gears transmits power when the tooth of one gear presses against another. The CVT belt transmits power by friction at the side of the belt. Just like the fan/alternator/(power steering) belt you see under the hood.

    If want to see how this drive systems works there are good pictures on wikipedia at the following page

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuously_variable_transmission

    If that link for some reasons does not work just enter the following words into the wikipedia search box

    continuously variable transmission

    So the real question is, how good are the new materials which are being used to make the metal belt? Belts ware out, how long will this Subaru CVT belt last. When it does ware out it will be thousands to replace it.

    Would I drop 30 grand on a Subaru with this new CVT transmission? No way. If it lasts for 250,000 miles like a good old 5 speed then great but, I won't be using my 30 grand to prove it.

    People, when you are going to drop 30 grand on a car you have got to know more then the sales people or you could get a car with a hamster wheel in it. If you ask the dealer "is the CVT a good system"? I wonder what she will say?

    I have to say I am not very happy with our 2011 Subaru forester. It has the 4 speed auto NOT THE CVT. I still hate automatics. Give me a good old 5 or 6 speed manual but, my wife wanted the auto.

    I remember the day when a Subaru was a good solid car which would run for years and yeas and need almost no repairs. My 1994 Impreza went 300,000 miles before it rusted out. It was still running fine. Will our 2011 Forester got 300,000 miles? I really doubt it.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,578
    I respect your opinions, mountaindog; you generally write thoughtful posts. While I cannot say whether your Forester is likely to last 300,000 miles or not, I do know that the defeatist attitude presented in the last sentence of your post may turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    That said, the engine in your car has much going for it (aside from the fact that it is a first-year run)and is coupled to the rock-solid reliability of the 4EAT. Cars in general these days have all sorts of electronic who-hah that is likely to fail as the car ages, but whether that affects the reliability of the vehicle is a separate question.

    I know that my Forester will take me 200,000 miles and beyond, and I also know that it is likely to develop those "charming" old-car quirks that come with that mileage. I know these things, I accept them, and I enjoy the drive.

    -Wes-
    2010 Subaru Forester, 2011 Ford Fiesta, 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup, 1974 Ford Pinto Wagon
  • Defeatist attitude? That does not come into play. I only work on what I see as durability. Our 1994 and 1995 Impreza models were great cars. One is in the hands of a friend and is now over 250,000 and my 1994 rusted out at 300,000. When the 1995 was sold my wife got a new 2007. Plastic everything and at 83000 it has many problems that none of my previous 7 Suburas had going all the way back to 1977.

    I agree that the new engine is okay so far and looks like a good design. Will the timing chain go 200,000??????? The timing belts are very good these days and not too expensive to replace but, in general I would prefer a chain inside the case which gets oil. We will see.

    I will admit that many of the annoyances of the 2011 Forester are related to our Congress interfering with private affairs that should be a matter for the states. Like those stupid TPMS transmitters on each wheel. I run snows here in the Mountains of Utah and have a second set of wheels. I won't buy a second set of those things. So until I rip the dash appart and remove that silly tire light, I have tape over it. I can check a tire and can feel when they are low.

    Now, on point. I will admit I am being critical about the CVS transmission. Is it your opinion that the Subaru CVS friction drive system will hold up? If so that would be good news. Would you risk your 30,000?

    For those who can handle a manual transmission they are almost always a better bet then any 4 or 5 speed planetary automatic with a torque converter which is unlocked much of the time. Too, heavy and too expensive. The torque coveter on my 2007 Impreza only locks in 4th gear. Any time you press the gas it unlocks and the engine RPP goes up a few hundred RPM and power is then being wasted in the converter.

    Any way do you have positive things to add about the CVS which I don't know about. I am always looking for good information. If it's a great transmission then props to Subaru.

    Nothing defeatist here, just the facts. My 2007 is not a durable car and while I like many things about the 2011 Forester it is kind of weak and light underneath. I will congratulate Subaru for finally putting an oil filter in a place where it's easy to get at. But,,,,,,, why another new filter???? Subarus have been around for 40 years plus. Did we really need another filter? I am now stuck with 3 of them from the 1995 models.

    L
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    We should compare durability to current competitors. If we look back that isn't really fair, mostly because older engines didn't have to meet the strict emissions regulations.

    Honestly, I think a vehicle today is more likely to be retired due to failing emissions or safety tests vs. an oil leak.
  • We have gone off point a bit here and I will admit I was the one who started this but, I feel the information is worth noting.

    As for the general subject of durability, you have a point about comparisons to past models. I will say this, new engines area amazing and the Subaru horizontal piston engines could be about the toughest on the market. When my 1994 1.8 Impreza rusted out at 300,000 miles the engine was still running like the day I got it. I would say that with the exception of the head gasket problems a few years back Subaru engines get better with each generation. The crank shafts on Subaru engines are like nothing else on the market. My main complaint is that everything else is getting lighter. The suspension parts are less the robust. It's ok for a dirt road but that it. It's not jeep and I'm not saying is should be. I also can't tune the traction control for the way I want it to run. I have to push a stupid button every startup to get up my 23 percent grade snow covered drive way. I want it in that mode all the time. It's a software system so I should have the option. Again to be fair this could be another Federal Government thing.

    I am one who could care less what a car looks like. I expect it to do it's job and not cost a lot to keep it going. We all need to demand more. A new Subaru if we figure 27000, plus the loan interest, insurance, sales tax could be around 34,000 now add in the tax load,,,,,,,, 49 percent (FED 25%, FICA 13%, Medicare 4%, State income tax 7%) to clear the 30,000 and we need to earn about 60,000 to pay for a plain old Subaru (60000 * .51 = 30600). So, stick with me here. If a working class person needs to work 1.5 years just to pay for a Subaru plus gas and maintenance, should the person not be entitled to expect at least 250,000 miles or 20 years of use from the car?

    This is what makes the CVT transmission such a gamble. To pay this much money for something with no track record is not a risk I can afford to take. I am retired and now live on 60,000 per years. The next car or truck I buy must last.

    I am still waiting for a technical person/engineer to inform us about the build quality and materials quality of the CVT transmission. I would love to hear great things but, at this point all I have heard is from Subaru dealership people. Would a person at the dealer ever say anything negative, of course not. When we got the 2011 Forester, we looked at the outback models as well. The sales person was pushing the CVT models. When I asked her what CVT was she couldn't explain it. She was unaware I already new about this type of transmission. I told her I would not buy a CVT and it is not available on the Forester. It is our job to know it is top notch before we buy it. We need to walk into the dealer knowing more then they do. It is our job to learn about things like CVT before we buy.
  • Correction to my previous CVT posts.

    Here are links to some information about the Subaru CVT transmission.

    Here is a brief description of the CVT
    http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/sedans/112_0903_2010_subaru_legacy_first_loo- k/turbo_engine_cvt.html

    Here is link to a good cut away image of the inside.
    http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/sedans/112_0903_2010_subaru_legacy_first_loo- k/photo_06.html

    I previously assued and stated that I though it was a stack belt system. It is not a stack belt. It uses a chain which pulls instead of a stack belt which pushes. It still transmits drive by frictional forces on the side of the links of the chain. I have my concerns that a friction drive system can have the durability to last very long.

    My Apologies for previously posting incorrect information.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,578
    edited December 2011
    I don't have anything positive or negative to add regarding the CVT. A first-year introduction is always a risk for the consumer. That said, there are already high-mileage (for the year) examples of the 2010 Legacy/Outback out there, so we'll likely see 200K+ examples out there in the next 2-3 years and more information regarding failures if they crop up.

    I drove a Legacy with CVT a few months ago, and it felt great (for an automatic), but that said nothing about its longevity.

    As with most transmissions (not all, mind you), I strongly suspect that results will depend heavily on the care exhibited by owners. A point of praise for the 4EAT is that it has demonstrated its abilities over the years to absorb some abuse/neglect by owners. I'm not so confident that the CVT will carry on this trait even though I'm not going to throw it under the bus, either.

    Subaru has experimented with CVT technology in the past, and it didn't go so well for them, so I'm certain they took a more cautious and measured approach this time... which is an encouraging thought.

    For me, though, I won't consider an automatic unless there is an extremelycompelling case to do so. Manual or nothing. :shades:
    2010 Subaru Forester, 2011 Ford Fiesta, 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup, 1974 Ford Pinto Wagon
  • I am with you on the automatic stuff. I need to replace an 18 year old T100 truck. The only full size truck with a manual is a 45000 dollar ram diesel 6 speed manual. Not 1 manual trans gas engine truck with a manual on the market. ZERO.

    Going back to 1977 I have owned 6 Subarus with manual transmissions all we rock solid. Never a transmission or clutch failure.

    My 1994 was great. Push rod motor, manual trans with high and low range gearing. That was a good one. Why did they ever stop making that setup??? I sold the car at 250,000 miles and still regret it.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,578
    A coworker had a... '93? wagon (Loyale, I think) that had a manual with the dual range push-button 4WD. Now, I don't mind the AWD versus push-button 4WD, but I would just love a dual range transmission. He had that car until about 2005 or 6, I think, and it was in pristine condition (literally looked new -especially the interior- aside from a few scratches, etc). Simple, practical.

    These new ones are still fairly simple compared to many of the competitors' models, but they still have a lot of stuff in them to go wrong with age.
    2010 Subaru Forester, 2011 Ford Fiesta, 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup, 1974 Ford Pinto Wagon
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    edited December 2011
    I wonder who actually supplies the CVT?

    Nissan has been using them for quite a while now. FWIW, Consumer Reports ratings on their models with CVT rate them above average under the Transmission categories. Across the board, dating back to 2005 models.
  • I don't put much value in consumer reports. The real and only proof are miles and years.

    I have seen bad reports in CR on cars which often run for years and years. On example I read some negative stuff they said about the Corolla. Those things are hard to kill.

    I wonder if they might be unbiased?
  • rshollandrsholland Posts: 19,694
    I believe the Subaru CVT is an in-house unit.

    Bob
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    In my experience, they tend to pin-point just the right issues. Subaru had head gasket and wheel bearing issues for certain years, those showed up in Consumer Reports, accurately too.

    Even the short-term problem with crank bearings in the WRX and Forester XT showed up. They even rated the XT model separately because it did quite well. When Subaru replaced the bearings, both of those improved, just as we observed among member here on Edmunds.
  • Thanks for pointing out that information about CR, it's good to know.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Yep - Honda transmission issues, too. You can even see what year Ody trans started improving (2004+).
  • The worst part about my 2008 LL Bean is the 4EAT. It is slow to react to aggressive on and off throttle around town. I can catch it between gears and cause harsh jerks. My 5MT Scion is a joy to drive in such situations.

    I had heard bad things about a CVT. Last weekend I had a chance to drive a 2008 Nissan Centris with CVT. I drove it aggressively at low speed around town, doing what would have caused distress to my Subaru 4EAT.

    I can say that the Nissan CVT was great. Although I regret that I cannot buy a leather Forester with 5MT, a leather CVT will not be so bad.
  • saedavesaedave Chicago, ILPosts: 685
    The worst part about my 2008 LL Bean is the 4EAT.

    How did you get a 4EAT on the Bean? The six has a 5EAT.
  • aathertonaatherton Posts: 617
    edited December 2011
    This is a Forester forum. The Forester LL Bean is a four, with a 4EAT.
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