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Nissan Altima CVT

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  • motoguy128motoguy128 Posts: 146
    I was spkeptical of the CVT, but after the test drive I was sold. This comming from someone that normally prefers manual transmissions, but the CVT with manual mode satisfies ALL complaints I had about traditonal automatics.

    Couple of observations:

    1) The motor has excellent bottom end torque. The CVT still has a torque converter to get the car moving and to engage neutral or reverse. The lowest gear ration allws the car to crawl up fairly steep grades in gear (no torque converter slip) as low as 5-6mph.

    2) For economy, the CVT attempt to operate the engine as low as 1300- 1500RPM until it reaches it's highest ratio (at around 35mph). thsi does cause some "booming" due ot the low RPM's. I think Nissan could add soem active engine mounts of noise cancellation to help this (Honda NEEDS this when running on 3 or 4 cylinders on it's V6 for hte same reason).

    3) EVERY automatic I've ever drien at times uses too low of a gear causing the "booming" sound. They only did it at a couple of speed sranges and as soon as you hit the gas the torque converter unloocked. On the CVT with the torquey 2.5, it can hold 1500RPM from 5mph-35mph. My '04 Honda Accord 5 speed automatic always got into 5th gear really early (35mph) and made a booming sound.

    4) The best atribute of the CVT is that it's incredibly responsive, there's no waiting for a downshift.

    5) My Honda Accord also used to have the RPM's jump and hte engien braking change as it downshifted while slowing down. At 10mph, my braking force would change dramatically. I haven't noticed this with the Altima, but I don't drive it aggressively in traffic. I suspect that when accleratign and braking hard in stop and go traffic, this could happen. I'll find out this Fall when my wfie and I drive back to my parents in Detroit, MI. I always forget how aggressive and fast they drive out there.

    6) You do need to retrain you foot and learn to drive smoothly to get the most out of the transmission.

    Don't get me wrong, the Accord has an excellent automatic trnsmission. Very responsive, but when I want to pass on a 2 lane road, I get instant power with the Altima. On the Honda and my wife's previous Altima, you have to anticipate your move sicne the transmission needed a 1/2 second to get in the right gear and provides no accelration at that moment. On the Altima accelration start immediately and increases as hte gear ratio drops as needed.

    Form a engineering standpoint. What's ideal about the CVT is that the throttle positon causes an increse in RPM linerarly. Therefore horesepower increases almost directly porportionally to throttle position since the 2.5 motor has a very flat torque curve and HP is constant since you are at a constant RPM. Very similar to thrust from a jet turbine. IN a conventional automatic the RPM's change and therefore the HP varies between the shifts.

    The only downside of the CVT is that hydralic force is needed to hold the gear ratio. So there are some losses with the hydralic pump. Thsi might explain why the RPM's jump around at low RPM's as the car is transitioning possibly form the torque converter to the CVT and the hydalic pump suddenly puts a load on the engine at the same time the torque converter locks up.

    Here's how that works. The CVT's lowest ratio would allow for lets say 4000RPM at 15mph. If you acclerate hard, the torque converter must "slip" all the way until it can lock up when it reaches the same speed at the lowest gear range in the CVT. To make the car feel responsive and not bog down when you hit the gas, it takes some fancy "footwork" between the torque converter, throttle and CVT to make them all match up under 20mph. Above 20-25mph, you're pretty much locked up 100% on the CVT and it behaves in many ways more like a manual transmission with an fly by wire throttle except that the gear ratios are infinitly vairable between the max and mimimum ranges.
  • madpistolmadpistol Posts: 126
    That "booming" that you hear is normal. You can't honestly expect a car to be perfect for under $30k. I've felt this in my car, and it doesn't bother you if you don't think about it. An easy way to cure this is to either shift to manual mode, or give the engine a little more throttle.

    This car is a great car. The CVT is very responsive, the interior is nice on the S and wonderful on the SL, the ride is very sporty, responsive, and comfortable, and the car gets great gas mileage for the power it puts out. People need to stop complaining. Either enjoy the car or trade it for something else. I love my 2.5 SL, and I have no intention of trading it just because of the CVT has a couple drawbacks. The advantages more than make up for its shortcomings.
  • sal1948sal1948 Posts: 1
    I have had an Altima for 1 year. 13,000 mi to date. I didn't experience weird behavior of the CVT. I expected lack of shift points to feel obvious by their absence. Not so...............
    However, I experience an annoying slow pulsation in "cruise" when going downhill.
    It is certainly tolerable, but noticeable. I assume it's the combination o CVT and throttle being confused.............. No biggie.

    ..........
  • karsickkarsick Posts: 312
    As a 4cyl/ 6speed owner I'll attest to the torque of the 2.5... very impressive.

    The engine spins about 2000rpm at 60mph in 6th, yet when you need to accelerate more, it simply & instantly gathers speed, drama-free, like there's a giant, torque-monster Cummins diesel under the hood.

    By the same token, the motor & soundproofing are good enough that I've accidentally left it in 4th gear for a few 60mph freeway miles, and only a glance at the tach revealed my error.

    In 9000 miles, I've yet to feel the need for revving past 4000rpm (except to pass a long tractor-trailer on a 2-lane road).

    BTW -our last tank got us 31.5 mpg (calculated by hand) in mixed city/fwy driving.

    Very happy.
  • dbarrett2dbarrett2 Posts: 1
    I have a new 2008, 2.5L Altima Coupe. Both my wife and I have experienced a pulsing between 20-30 mph. It almost feels like the transmission (CVT) doesn't know what gear to be in, somewhat like letting the clutch out a little too fast on a stick transmission. Is this normal and is this similar to what many others are experiencing?
  • madpistolmadpistol Posts: 126
    I have experienced this. It's like a slight "jerking" at lower speeds. This is simply the CVT moving while the revs on the engine stays the same. There's nothing that can be done. The CVT still has set intervals that it runs at, but there are a lot more than a standard transmission, so when you're accelerating, it's so smooth that it's imperceptible to a conscious mind. This is normal operation for the car.
  • ripper82ripper82 Posts: 4
    Yes, that is exactly what we're talking about.

    But apparently we're all crazy and should just be quiet and enjoy the jerkiness.
  • madpistolmadpistol Posts: 126
    I wish there was something else we could do to fix it. Unfortunately, this is normal for a CVT. It was sort of annoying to me at first, but now I don't even notice it because it's just part of how the car operates.

    You have a choice:

    1. Go get a car with a regular automatic that has several larger shifts that are dictated by gear placement.

    -or-

    2. Enjoy the Altima and ignore its slight quirkiness at lower speeds. Even with these micro-jerks, it's still the smoothest transmission on the market.
  • I have only 5900 miles on my '08 Altima but have been extremely disappointed since day 1 of my ownership experience with the CVT performance. First, there is jerkiness when driving low speeds (e.g. 35 mph) and it feels like a standard that is not in the right gear; then when driving at highway speeds (65 - 75 mph) there is vibration. Additionally, at highway speeds there is an intermittent loose steering feeling. This is my second Altima. The first - an '02 - was a superior vehicle, in fact, I still have it and couldn't be happier with performance, gas mileage, and reliability. However my '08 pales in comparison with regard to the transmission feel and performance. I've returned to the dealership several times - with limited assistance in remedying these issues. I'm told that this is the way the CVT performs. I just can't believe that vibration and jerkiness are considered adequate performance for a transmission. I'm considering filing under the Lemon Law. Any suggestions?
  • jjanjjan Posts: 1
    I accidently drove my brand new 2009 Altima (automatic) for ~4 miles in manual mode without realizing it. I don't even know how to drive manual.

    It was making it's normal noises, but when I sped up to about 40 mph, I kept hearing a LOUD grinding type mechanical noise from engine. I thought it was something else. Then when I stopped the sound stopped too. That's when I realized that my gear shift was accidentally on the manual side.

    It's been driving fine since the incident, but have I damaged anything??
    When I go for my first service checkup, what should I tell them to check out?

    THANKS
  • It's been driving fine since the incident, but have I damaged anything??
    When I go for my first service checkup, what should I tell them to check out?


    It depends. If the car is still in its break-in period (first 1000-1200 miles), then it couldn't hurt to ask. However, if you're out of that break-in period, you shouldn't worry about it.

    My '08 Altima 2.5 SL has 14k miles on it now, and I take it onto some curvy mountain roads quite a bit. While I drive it, I try and keep the revs above 3k so that power is always on tap. I've done this many times, and the engine is just as happy as the day I bought it. The car is built for this. If it wasn't, it wouldn't have a 6-speed manual mode. ;)
  • Hi guys and girls...I'm looking at getting a 2009 Altima 2.5 S w/ the auto CVT transmission. In my research, I've read a lot about the knocking, grinding and speed issues but my main concern is about the transmission breaking down. I have heard that if the belt goes, you have to replace the transmission. Does anyone know much about this or know how often this actually happens. My mechanic and his transmission shop have never worked on a CVT so they provided no help on this issue. I love the Altima and can live with some of the noise/shaking if I can drive with confidence that I won't have to buy a new $4000 transmission as soon as the warranty runs out. Any help is much appreciated.
  • jd10013jd10013 Posts: 779
    ok, I'll try to exlain this as best I can. fist off, the CVT doesn't use a "belt". It's actually a chain. Much like a timing chain, so long as it lubercated with clean transmission fluid, It's not going to break. In other words, service the transmission at the proper intervals and you wont have to worry about it.

    As for the reliability, Nissan says that their CVT has been (bassed on waranty claim numbers) more reliable than their automatic transmission. Now that what nissan says, but I tend to agree with them. I do not believe they would expanding their use if they knew they were inferior. It just wouldn't make sense from a business standpoint.

    But one way to look at the CVT is like this:
    Basically, it consists of two pullies connected with a belt (chain). There are no gears, gear cluster or any of the other parts in a conventional automatic transmission. That pretty much means there are far fewer things to go wrong with it.

    Personally, I would see no reason to worry about it. they're not new. Nissan first started using them with the murano back in 2002 or something like that. and now, with several generations of them having been made, the bugs and quirks have been worked out.
  • Thanks for the great explanation. I'm debating between the always reliable Civic Sedan and the Altima 2.5s. My concerns stem from talking to mechanic shops who have told me that you can't repair parts on a CVT tranny, you can only replace the tranny. In Canada/Toronto, the cost is approx $5000 to $6000. Which means after the warranty period of 100,000 kilometres, you're looking at spending about as much on a new transmission as the car is probably worth.

    There are lots of forums on the web with people complaining about their reliability and Nissan's inability/lack of motivation to fix them. I've already been told that tranny shops aren't seeing them in for repairs b/c you can't repair them. And they're not getting the Altima's in for replacement as it's cheaper to just get it done through Nissan directly...sort of a captive market created by Nissan.

    Consumer's reports say nothing bad at all about the CVT transmission. I do absolutely service my current car as much as required and always do the "recommended" items just to spoil it so it treats me better in the long run.

    I'm still really on the fence with this.
  • DO NOT - DO NOT purchase the Alitma. The tranny can only be service by Nissan - other mechanics do not want to touch it.

    I purchase a 2007 Altima in July of 2007 and due to my long commute to/from work, I've place a lot of miles on the vehicle. After hearing an unusual noise, I had the dealership look at it, they told me I need a new transmission. parts cannot be replace, you must purchase the entire tranny. I only have 66,000 miles on the car. Of course they do not want to provide any assistance for replacement to fix the car. I would not recommend purchasing Nissan vehicles.

    I returned to the Service Manager to plea my case and is currently waiting for a response.
  • jd10013jd10013 Posts: 779
    Keep in mind, rebuilding or replacing an automatic transmission will be in excess of 4 grand. its not as though an auto is cheap to replace either. However, if reliability is your primary concern, buy something with a manual transmission, as you'll never need to replace anything but the clutch, if that.

    Transmission shops will replace them, and are probably cheaper than a dealership. Like I told you before, they are actually much less complicated than an automatic transmission. And don't put much stock into what you see on message board on the internet. People seldom go to message boards for any other reason than to complain, vent, and talk bad about the car they're having problems with. nothing wrong with that, it is what it is.

    As for you choice, thats a tough decision to make. I own both a civic and an altima; and both are great cars.

    but which ever one you get, BUY THE EXTENDED WARRANTY! I can't overstate that enough. first off, you can get them cheap. Dealerships love to sell them, and will give you a great deal on one if you push for it. getting one for half the price they initially offer you in not uncommon. And second, fixing cars is expensive. Auto or CVT, replacing (or in the case of an auto, rebuilding) will cost thousands. And even honda (despite their stellar record) have had problems with their auto transmissions before. but aside from transmissions, it just isn't that hard to need a thousand or more in repairs for a car. It's just not worth taking the chance.
  • Funny you mention getting a manual tranny. I've never driven stick and have tried but didn't like it. The fact that I really love this car has made me start thinking again about taking lessons! lol.

    I totally agree with you about internet hype and I take everything with a grain of salt.

    Regarding the Extended warranty, i agree for the Altima it's probably a good buy. A friend of mine who knows tonnes about cars and knows that I'd probably buy the Altima even if I knew there were inherent problems with it suggested getting the extended warranty too. I very well may try to do that and haggle the guy on the price. I'm in Canada so I'm not sure how much they will haggle on the price of that like they do in the US. I will definitely try though...that's just my nature.

    Thank you so much for the info so far. I really appreciate it. Any other insights are gladly welcomed as it sounds like we think on the same wavelength.
  • jd10013jd10013 Posts: 779
    No need to go as far as learning how to drive a stick. think of it this way with the CVT. It's totally optional on nissans part. they still use autos on their trucks and suv's. they have perfectly good automatic transmission on the shelf. If the CVT were flawed, or there were know problems with it, or problems with its long term reliability................................ Nissan would just go back to an auto trans. they have plenty already, and could switch over in in a matter of weeks. It's not as though their stuck with using CVT's. And personally, I just can't imagine they're risk the future of the company for no reason.

    another thing you might want to know about CVT' is, nissan is not the first company to use them. ford used them before, as has subaru. and I believe both toyota and honda offer them in foreign markets. Nissan is simply the first company to make widespread use of them in the all so important North American market. the CVT is neither new, nor revolutionary. The only two factors that have held them back are finding a material for the belt that will hold up in higher torque and HP cars, and public acceptance. Nissan solved the first, and is working on the second.

    as for warranties, the transmission is just one reason to get one. anything on a car can cost a fortune to fix. even something as simple as a power window motor can run $600 to fix. A blown head gasket can run $1600. so much depends on the car. you could have a $25 doallar part that requires 15 hours of labor to replace, and end up running 3k to do. I could go on, but I'm sure you get the point.

    As for the cost, I could be wrong, as I'm not a car salesman; but I believe the finance people get a financial incentive to sell those things. I'm also pretty sure there is a HUGE mark up on them. Hence why the dealerships love to sell them. but If you hold out and bargain hard, you should be able to get a platinum 10yr 100k extended warranty for somewhere between 1000 and 1500. yea, thats a good chunk of money. but having spent nearly 20k on the car, 10 years of worry free driving makes it seem like a good deal to me.
  • Hello,

    I have an Altima 2.5s 2008 with CVT tran. and I would like to change this one with manual tran

    Could someone give me informations about the cost and if it posibile to be done.

    Thanks
  • madpistolmadpistol Posts: 126
    It's not worth the money. You would have to have the shifter, tranny, and clutch installed. You'd be better off selling your current car and buying one with a manual transmission.
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