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Ask almost any Subaru WRX enthusiast and they will tell youthat cars with automatic transmissions are lame. That’s because having a manualtransmission and being able to shift to the next gear at redline is key when itcomes to racing, and it also makes the daily drive more fun. However, if that’sthe case, then why are popular cars like the SubaruWRX still available with an automatic?
A traditional automatic transmission uses a set of gears todetermine the engine’s revolutions per minute (RPM) with every shift. For example,a six-speed automatic will have six gears with set gear ratios that determine whatRPM the engine is shifted into at every gear.
Subaru’s LINEARTRONIC CVT transmission, on the other hand, utilizestwo hydraulic adjustable pulleys driven by a chain belt in order to find themost optimum “gear ratio” at every rpm. The spools constantly change diameter, whichchanges the gear ratio depending on your throttle input. Unlike the traditionalautomatic, there are no gears to shift to. This is why it’s a called a CVT, orcontinuously variable transmission.
Just think of a CVT as having “infinite gear ratios” inorder to provide maximum performance and fuel economy, along with smootherdriving, however hard or soft you step on the gas pedal.
Sounds good (in theory)
The CVT transmission sounds great, after all; wouldn’t a transmissionthat can keep the engine spinning at the most optimal RPM for maximum fueleconomy and performance be the best thing ever?
For regular commuters, yes, because the average driverwouldn’t care or even notice that they are driving a car with a CVT since they usuallyonly drive it under partial throttle.
But for a driving enthusiast, especially those shopping fora Subaru WRX, it would not be ideal. Being able to shift gears manually gives thedriver a better sense of control over the car and allows them to shift atredline during “spirited driving” or racing situations.
As a note, opting for a CVT transmission in a Subaru WRXdoes give you shift paddles behind the steering wheel, which allow you to “shift”the fake gears yourself. They work well, but it’s generally not as good as anold-fashioned clutch and shifter.
Wrx Transmission Swap
Is the CVT transmission worth buying?
In MotorTend’s review of the 2015 Subaru WRX with the CVT, the car got to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, as compared to a similarly-tested WRX with a manual, which achieved a 0-60 time of 5.5 seconds. The CVT version also ran a half-second slower than the manual in the quarter-mile.
We realize that it’s not just about straight-line performancewhen it comes to weighing transmission options as the Subaru WRX was built tobe an all-around sporty car meant mainly for rally racing. However, most consumersdon’t get into stoplight drag races every day, nor do they rally their cars onthe weekends.
According to CarBuzz, “The take rate forthe WRX is a whopping 90%, which means only 10% of customers opt for the CVT.”Keep in mind that the base WRX is not available with the automatic and most WRXbuyers are enthusiasts who like to modify their cars.
Wrx Transmission Whine
Checking the box for the CVT when configuring your WRX will add$1900 to the price. It sounds steep, but for a daily driven commute,filled with loads of traffic and red lights, we think that the CVT would be worthit. Clearly, 10 percent of the buyers agree with us.