My 2018 Subaru Legacy 3.6R has a CVT, and I have wondered why it is programmed to change ratios in discrete steps (like a conventional automatic transmission would) rather than varying continuously.

I see a couple possibilities in the comments and answers to this prior question: CVT on 6 cylinder cars

  1. If the ratio varies continuously, it feels and sounds odd to a driver used to conventional transmissions ("like a car with a slipping clutch").
  2. There's greater wear on the transmission during ratio changes, so limiting the frequency of changes improves reliability.

Is it likely one of these, or something else?

  • I read an article about this. I can't source the article, but it said that a couple of manufacturers did this to reduce the complaints of the transmission feeling weird by consumers. So number 1 I believe played a common role in this.
    – Jupiter
    Commented Jun 15, 2022 at 17:44

1 Answer 1


I suspect it's due to how they have designed the actuator that controls the ratio between the input and output drives. While a truly continuous CVT is certainly possible, and I believe there are examples of this in the "wild", Subaru may have decided that it made more sense from a reliability/cost-effectiveness or other factor to use an actuator that moves in discrete steps.

Without knowing what their design criteria were it's unlikely we'll know for sure.

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