Winter driving: CVT vs Shiftable Automatic

jim2345jim2345 Member Posts: 45
I really like the way my 2009 Outback with shiftable automatic handles snowy winter roads. In descending steep ski mountain access roads I can downshift smoother than with a clutch and 2nd gear keeps me off the brakes and glued to the road through the switchbacks. I can't imagine a better transmission for winter driving. So I was surprised the new Outback 4-cyl models abandoned this transmission in favor of a CVT.

I'd like to hear from some CVT owners about winter driving. How do the CVTs perform generally and especially I'd like to know if you can get any engine braking out of them when descending slippery roads like I described. I would expect that CVTs would try to run away with you downhill as you stand on the brakes and slide off the road. Or am I wrong?


  • dcm61dcm61 Member Posts: 1,567
    You can "shift" the CVT in the Outback.

    1) Slide the gear shift into M(anual) - left of drive.
    2) Click the paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
  • jim2345jim2345 Member Posts: 45
    Thanks for replying - I had no idea that a CVT could recognize "gears"! So how many gears does it have and how can you tell from a paddle what gear you are in?

    More important, how does it perform in snow? Do you think it can handle well the descent I described in my earlier post?
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaMember Posts: 16,132
    The Legacy that I drove with a CV automatic transmission had six preset ratios. It could handle the descent you described earlier exactly the same as the "slush box" automatic transmission. I put the car in manual mode and drove it exactly as I would my manual transmission cars, and it behaved just as I would expect.

    I wouldn't call it fun, but it was no less fun than any other automatic. The car was peppy and sure-footed. If you're considering a newer automatic Subaru, don't let the CVT's performance be a primary concern on your list!
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
  • jim2345jim2345 Member Posts: 45
    Ok - I think I got it. The CVT is also a shiftable automatic; it just behaves differently than my Outback when in automatic mode. I would have checked out the new Outbacks at a dealer when the time comes but I really wasn't expecting I would like what they have to offer. Thanks for explaining this.

    Like you, I always used to drive a standard - a Jeep, which was great on mountain roads but not much fun on the highway for 3 hours getting there. I chose the Outback with shiftable automatic because the AWD system is much better than the one offered on standards. At the time, I was really unsure about this but now I'm really happy with my decision.
  • bob192bob192 Member Posts: 19
    I'm interested in the towing capacity of a cvt, if there is one. We pull a lightweight camper (under 2000 lbs. with our outback. It has an automatic with sport mode which I use when towing. Keeps the rpms up when going up a hill and really helps with braking when descending. Our camper has brakes too. My chief concern is that the transmission be up to the task. A very expensive repair! I saw a prius pulling a lightweight popup at a campground this summer. I didnt get to talk to the driver though. I dont know how Subarus cvt works. does anyone tow with theirs?
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaMember Posts: 16,132
    Towing capacity of the 2014 Outback is 2,700# for the CVT or MT, and 3,000 for the 3.6L engine (which, IIRC, has a 5-speed TCT - torque-converter automatic transmission). There's the standard caveat of ensuring the car is properly equipped. I know that for my car (2010 Forester), the manufacturer requests an electronic brake controller for all towed weight over 1,000#. com&utm_medium=cta&tm_campaign=rab

    I haven't talked with anyone who tows with a CVT Subaru, but I did see three or four 2010+ Outbacks in different campgrounds while on a transcontinental trip last month. They were all towing pop-ups, but I didn't stop in to chat or ask about their transmission type.
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
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