The subtle differences between an Automatic transmission and a CVT

CVT vs Automatic

It has been widely debated and has been the subject of many arguments. Which one is better? The old standard automatic transmission or new the kid on the block which is continuously variable transmission or CVT? And which one is prevailing in the market?

CVT is Automatic but Automatic is not CVT

Although it can be a bit confusing, both standard automatic transmissions and CVT offer automatic changing of gears without the driver having to step on the clutch and doing the shifting himself/herself using the gear lever.

The differences are on how the changing of gears is implemented on each system and the driving experience according to die hard standard automatic transmission advocates. But when you need to drive, you just put the stick into ‘D’ and hit the pedal on both.

CVT is Fast Replacing Automatic

Although the standard automatic transmission ruled for quite some time since its first inception in the 1940s by General Motors, CVT has been recently creeping up and is fast replacing its predecessor. Simply put, more and more car manufacturers like Honda, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Nissan are putting in CVT into their vehicles.

Why is CVT Better?

If it’s becoming the norm and is being more widely used, then it must be better, right? Let’s discuss why CVTs trumps the standard automatic transmissions.

Better engine control: You will never feel like you are losing control when driving a CVT as compared to an automatic. The engine responds as you hit the gas pedal and when you take your foot off the engine goes down.

Great fuel economy: Perhaps this is the main reason why more people prefer CVTs over automatic transmissions – getting more kilometers out of each tank. When driving a CVT, you will notice that as you cruise along at speed from 40 to 100 kilometers per hour, the engine revs go down smoothly. This is because as the car gains speed, the belts are moved to adjust the rev conversion from engine to wheels. Lower engine revolutions mean better fuel economy.

CVT is Not Perfect

But there are still die-hard fans of the standard automatic transmission who point out the disadvantages of the CVT system.

Vibrates: Actually, this might only occur when the engine is idle or cold because it is adjusting as it tries to reach ideal status.

Slower acceleration: Unlike manual or automatic transmissions, you can feel the lack of punch when trying to accelerate fast on a CVT vehicle. CVTs have been designed for more general purposes so it tends to miss out on ‘sporty’ performance.

Which One to Buy?

With the recent improvements on the CVT system itself and the addition of more intelligent computer controls, CVT is the way to go. Plus, there are CVT cars that offer paddle shifting if you want to have more control on the shifting behavior of your car.

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