It’s no secret that Continuously Variable Transmissions don’t find a lot of fans in the enthusiasts community. That’s because the unit eliminates some of the joy in driving – shifting. Not just manual shifting, but the shift points in automatics that we’ve become accustomed to under acceleration and deceleration. As its name implies, the CVT is continuously adjusting – there is no gears to speak of.
Instead, it just offers up a steady stream of power. In electric cars, this is quite fun. When paired with an internal combustion engine though? Not as much. Get ready for a lot more of them anyhow though, thanks to the need to increase efficiency. Nissan is a big proponent of the CVT, and is making it a centerpiece of the new 2013 Altima’s launch campaign.
That’s because, with the elimination of gears, they often aid in fuel economy. Also, they are a lot simpler and cheaper to build. When you’re looking to boost margins, anything helps. They don’t seem to be as reliable, but that’s another story. The rest of the industry appears to be getting the memo on their benefits. Automotive News has reported on a study that predicts the percentage of vehicles equipped with CVTs will reach 16 percent by 2016. That’s a pretty hefty chunk of the market.
In 2010, the number was at seven percent – in 2005, one percent (Ford was selling a CVT Five Hundred back then). In traditional automatics we’re seeing a push for efficiency as well; six-, seven-, and eight-speed units that have boosted EPA ratings significantly. We’ll take those traditional automatics instead, thanks. One thing is though – CVTs are often placed in low horsepower, economy-focused cars – models enthusiasts wouldn’t be interested in anyway. A lot of buyers in those segment don’t care much for driving. For those buyers, CVTs could fit the bill perfectly.