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I realize that there are other threads available for the opinions of many on this topic already, so these are just our thoughts and comparisons after driving a CVT XV Loaner for a few days.

Our most initial reaction to the CVT is the MPG Dial Gauge (5 to 7 o'clock position) within the Bottom Right Gauge Cluster. On the CVT the Gauge tends to stay in the 6 to 7 (-mpg) not overly efficient position as versus the 5MT driving which we seem to keep on the 6 to 5 (+mpg) side of the gauge. The CVT shows a greater consumption of fuel until you get to 50mph, utilizing that dial only as a judge, than our 5MT. I don't watch the digital mpg gauge on the dash, it is just too distracting. Where the CVT truly excels is above 50mph. When we run at 58mph with our 5MT we stay around 2500 rpm and the CVT cruises at 1800rpm. I can only imagine that the true mpg highway driving of the CVT will be amazing.

From the stoplight, the CVT has a definitive edge over the 5MT. The initial giddy-up from the line on the CVT is significantly better than our 5MT. Once you get to 30mph both transmissions are equal. I truly feel that the 5MT excels between 30mph through 50mph where the CVT seems to be confused as to how it should operate. Again, we were only driving the CVT in the Automatic Mode, so those biased to the Sport Auto Paddle Shifter Mode can eliminate the shifting inconsistencies at this speed range. The CVT would overthink a shift to maintain a higher rpm at times and within the same drive it would shift to a lower rpm as I thought it should. I seemed to share the same confusion that the CVT would randomly display, again only between the 30mph through 50mph range.

We can now see why the CVT may not be as fuel efficient as the 5MT presents for around town driving. The CVT would be much easier during Stop and Go traffic because the 5MT does not always agree with the slower speed driving. There is a slow speed crusing difference between 1st and 2nd Gear on the 5MT that takes some getting used to for optimal trolling speeds.

We can say this, there is no substitute for the Driving Feel of the Manual Transmission no matter how good you get at Sport Paddle Shifting. From the ease of cruising mindset, the CVT is truly effortless and does not require any attention to the cluster, it simply allows you to keep your eyes on the road ahead.

We waited for our XV, so we are clearly biased to the Clutch, but I truly do not understand why so many "Critics" have such a distaste for the Subaru CVT. From a CVT comparative view the Subaru Transmission far exceeds any other CVT that we have driven and experienced, this includes rental cars, within the $20k to $40k price bracket.

Our XV and the Loaner XV were the Base Premium Cloth Models, so it was an apples to apples comparable driving experience. The only difference was our 5MT vs. the Loaner CVT.

If you have read through this and still haven't felt the satisfaction as to why we had an XV Loaner for three days then here is your answer. Our XV arrived with a huge Scuff/Rub mark on the superior side of the Rear Spoiler. It was buffed, but the damage went through the clear coat. The dealer got Subaru of America to authorize the Spoiler to be removed, wet sanded, and Clear painted again. The results and look of the Spoiler now match the rest of the paint on our XV.
 

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I think your writeup will be very useful for those trying to decide which XV to buy based on manual vs. auto. Having the manual, I found it extremely interesting because I've occasionally wondered should I have gone with the auto. I never even test drove one. I am surprised somewhat about your observation of the auto being quicker off the line....thought it would have gone the other way but I certainly accept your observation. Would still love to drag race a cvt just for fun! I can hit 60 mph in 2nd gear before hitting the rev limiter which is kind addicting because the motor sounds really sweet at around 4500-5500 rpm! Really stinks they didn't prep your car right initially but I'm glad they're making it right.
 

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Thanks for the write of of this comparison! I have the CVT myself and I have been trying to play with the paddle shifters here and there. I haven't driven a manual in probably 5 years or more, so I'm pretty rusty at shifting. One thing about the CVT that I am very happy with (which you also noticed) is the low rpm is holds at highway speeds. On flat ground I have to creep up to around 80mph before the rpm hits 3000.
 

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Awesome writeup, Hulls, very useful. Though I know I wouldn't get a 5MT just because of annoying LA traffic, I would still like to drive one to compare.

AlexAlejan said:
Thanks for the write of of this comparison! I have the CVT myself and I have been trying to play with the paddle shifters here and there. I haven't driven a manual in probably 5 years or more, so I'm pretty rusty at shifting. One thing about the CVT that I am very happy with (which you also noticed) is the low rpm is holds at highway speeds. On flat ground I have to creep up to around 80mph before the rpm hits 3000.
The paddle shifters are great once you learn them. When I first got my XV I wrote them off as being just a little added gimmick. Now that I've learned to use them a little better (still not great with them) I think they are awesome. I usually use them on my way home from work, racing to get to my couch!
 

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Nice write up! I agree with a lot of that for sure. The 5mt is great in the mid range speeds. The big issues I had with it way up here at altitude was speeds over about 65mph. With the 5mt it was very hard to pass or pick up speed quickly under highway conditions. I imagine that would be less of an issue at lower altitudes though. The cvt allows the engine a much broader range of gearing options and performed much better at high speeds way up here. Especially over passes etc.
 

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Before I bought the car I test drove the MT and left the dealer dissatisfied. My wife convinced me to go back and try one with the CVT. Fifteen minutes later I was putting down a deposit :) I also felt that the MT was sluggish off the line, it was also louder inside the car as well as feeling like it was always going to be between gears going uphill.
 

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Great write up! Even though I didn't test drive a CVT Crosstrek, I did have a loaner 2013 Outback with the CVT in it. My WRX was in the shop for a roof rack leak, so I decided to take advantage and test out the Outback. During this time, I was interested in the Outback, so I decided to find a 6sp manual and test it out. I found the same observations as you did. The CVT seemed to have more giddy up in the initial take off, but I found the 6sp to be more fun to drive. I had the Outback for a week, and at the end of the week, I just started to get bored of the CVT. I missed the engine running through the RPMs.

Even though I did love the Outback, I went with the Crosstrek instead ;)
 

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If the CVT is able to accelerate to a higher speed what do you think it is doing ?
Just down shift the MT to 4th gear or perhaps 3rt gear.
I bet you it will accelerate then.

I have this problem all the time with my '93 toyota pickup.
I can get up to 70 MPH but on a hill I start slowing down
from 5th to 4th to maintain speed.

The CVT is wonderful by the way.

I'm not sure I want to pay $1000 for it
even thought I think it is worth it.
 

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Of course while you are shifting the MT you are slowing down.
Especially on the '93 Toyota truck.

CVT again has a big advantage.

It can change the gear ratio any amount it chooses
without interrupting power flow.
 
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