Do All Subarus Have A CVT Transmission?

Are you planning to buy a Subaru, and you’d like to know whether you can get one with or without a CVT transmission? You’ve come to the right place. We have researched this question, and we have the answer for you.

Not all Subaru models have CVT. The 2022 Subaru WRX and the 2023 Subaru BRZ are the only models that do not offer CVT in any of their trims.

Some Subaru models have trims with transmission options other than CVT. Learn which models they are in the succeeding sections.

Read on!

2021 Subaru Outback mid size wagon at a dealership. , Do All Subarus Have A CVT Transmission?

The Ins And Outs Of CVT Transmission

CVT stands for Continuously Variable Transmission. It is a type of automatic transmission that doesn’t use actual gears to shift gears.

Instead, it has a mechanism that allows variable changes to the diameters of two pulleys. A chain connects the two pulleys and transfers power from the drive pulley to the other.

The pulley-type CVT is the most common type of CVT in automotive production today.

A pulley-type CVT is only one of the many types of CVT.

The adoption of CVT in modern cars started with government regulation to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. CVT transmission in a vehicle allows the engine to consume less fuel.

How CVT Automatic Transmission Works

The type of CVT inside modern cars has two pulleys—the drive pulley and the driven pulley. The drive pulley draws power directly from the engine. A metal belt connects the drive pulley to the driven pulley. The driven pulley provides power to the wheels of the car.

The Pulley Configuration

Each of the two pulleys is made up of a pair of shallow cones. A cone is a geometric shape where the diameter gets smaller as you move closer to the center and gets bigger as you move toward the edge.

The car’s computer determines the best combination of diameter between the drive pulley and the driven pulley to provide the best balance between fuel economy and output power.

The diameter of the pulleys changes by moving the two cones closer or farther. Moving the cones closer makes the diameter bigger while moving them further apart makes it smaller.

Since the length of the belt doesn’t change, the changes in the diameter of the two pulleys must match. A drop in the diameter of the drive pulley must have a corresponding increase in the diameter of the driven pulley to maintain the tension of the belt. Without the proper tension, the belt will slip, and the car will lose power and waste fuel.

The Metal Belt

CVT transmission belt

Instead of a single flexible metal, a CVT belt is made of hundreds of small rectangular metal bits that make up the cross-section of the belt. The small metal bits are held together by a flexible metal ring.

The metal composition of the belt makes it resistant to the compressive force that the two cones produce when they approach together. Moreover, instead of crushing the belt, the compressive force from the cones provides the belt with more grip to spin the cones.

The Development Of CVT

The development of automobile transmission began with manual transmission or the standard transmission. However, engineers worked to making driving simpler and easier over time. Thus, the first automatic transmission came out to provide a simpler driving experience for everyone.

At first, the standard transmission had the advantage of being more fuel efficient than the automatic transmission, but eventually, car manufacturers discovered a way to make automatic transmissions more fuel efficient than manual transmissions.

The governments of the world agreed in 1997 to reduce the carbon emissions that their respective countries produced. Thus, the Kyoto Protocol was born, and the Paris Agreement ion 2015 continued what was agreed upon in the Kyoto Protocol.

With the birth of these agreements to reduce carbon emissions, the EPA introduced and continues to enforce strict rules that push car manufacturers to reduce the carbon emissions of their cars.

To reduce carbon emissions, car manufacturers need to improve the fuel efficiency of their cars. An improvement in fuel efficiency means that the car will consume less fuel per mile and thus produce fewer exhaust gasses.

This goal of improving fuel efficiency led car manufacturers to the CVT automatic transmission, and they realized improving their  CVT technology would further improve fuel efficiency in their cars.

Advantages Of CVT Transmission

Head of a car engine repairing. Modern cars spare parts, black and white image

CVT transmissions improve fuel economy.

The computer of your car searches for the best diameter match of the drive and driven pulleys for different driving scenarios. This allows your car to remain in the optimum RPM range that consumes just the right amount of fuel for your car’s needs. Since a CVT automatic transmission doesn’t have gears, your car’s computer can use a precise size of the drive and driven pulleys to maximize the fuel that the engine consumes.

With the improvement in fuel economy, there is a corresponding decrease in the production of carbon emissions.

Another advantage of the CVT transmission is that it is lighter.

Conventional automatic transmissions are made of many gears that make them heavier than a CVT transmission. A lighter transmission means that the total weight of the car is lighter too. With this reduction in weight, the fuel that the car needs to accelerate or travel at an incline decreases as well.

Disadvantages Of CVT Transmission

The steel belt in CVT gearbox of automobile transmission in light blue scene with lighting effect.

Despite the advantages of a CVT transmission, not everyone is ready to spend thousands of dollars on a car that has a CVT transmission.

The biggest disadvantage of CVT is that it is expensive to repair.

As discussed earlier, the belt is made of small metal bits. The problem with such small components is that they are sensitive to wear.

If you have a circular component with a diameter of 12 inches, the wear on its surface after a few years of use will not be immediately noticeable. However, a component that is barely half an inch in diameter will easily show signs of wear after a few years of use.

Thus, the CVT belt is the weak point of CVT transmission, and worse, since the belt is made of many small bits of metal, once it fails, it will scatter its many components inside the transmission. The conventional automatic transmission does not make this same mess when it fails.

Many servicing shops, even transmission specialists, do not perform CVT repairs or rebuilds. This means that when a CVT transmission fails, you will likely have to replace the entire transmission. This makes it a very costly repair.

Expensive Maintenance

A CVT transmission can be expensive to maintain. It requires a special oil that doesn’t lubricate its parts. Instead, the transmission fluid of a CVT transmission improves the grip of the CVT belt to prevent slipping.

Low Torque

A CVT transmission is suitable only for light vehicles. Performance vehicles or work vehicles cannot use a CVT transmission.

The transfer of power in a CVT is less consistent because of how it works. The belt that connects the two pulleys can slip if the force that the vehicle needs is greater than the cohesive force that maintains the grip of the belt. Since there are no teeth inside the pulleys of a CVT transmission, this cohesive force is not so high.

Which Subarus has CVT?

Two Subaru hatchbacks for sale at a dealership on a sunny fall day

Most of Subaru’s car models use CVT. However, some models offer trims with the option to have a manual transmission or a standard automatic transmission.

The 2023 Subaru Crosstrek

The 2023 Subaru Crosstrek’s three higher trims come standard with Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT transmission with no other transmission options. The Crosstrek Base and the Crosstrek Premium come with a standard 6-speed manual transmission. However, you still get the option to install a CVT transmission into these trims.

The 2022 Subaru Impreza

The 2022 and 2023 Subaru Impreza has seven trims.

Four out of the seven trims have standard CVT transmission with no option to install a different transmission. On the other hand, Subaru Impreza Base Sedan trim, Impreza Base 5-Door trim, and Impreza Sport 5-Door have a 5-speed manual transmission as a standard. They also offer the option to install a CVT transmission.

The 2023 Subaru BRZ

The 2023 Subaru BRZ doesn’t have a trim that comes with a standard CVT transmission. Additionally, the optional transmission for all trims of Subaru BRZ doesn’t include a CVT transmission. You can choose from the standard 6-speed manual transmission or the 6-speed automatic transmission.

2023 Subaru Forester

All 2023 Subaru Forester trims come with a standard CVT transmission. They don’t offer any optional transmission for this model.

2023 Subaru Legacy

Just like the Subaru Forester, the 2023 Subaru Legacy comes with a standard CVT transmission. There is no optional transmission for all trims of this model.

2022 Subaru WRX

The 2022 Subaru WRX GT comes with a standard Subaru Performance Transmission. This trim doesn’t offer any other transmission.

The 2022 Subaru WRX Base, WRX Premium, and WRX Limited come with standard 6-speed manual transmission. You get the option to install the Subaru Performance Transmission on these three trims.

2023 Subaru Outback and 2023 Subaru Ascent

All trims of the 2023 Subaru Outback and Subaru Ascent come with a standard CVT transmission with no option to install other transmissions.


Many Subaru models come with a standard CVT transmission but not all.

If you enjoyed reading this article, you might find the articles below equally enjoyable to read:

Does Hyundai Tucson Have CVT Transmission?

Does Mazda Have CVT Transmission?

Share this article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *