Ah, my dear Lineartronic CVT. You're the crux of my emotional conflict. Just a year ago I was lauding my long-term Mazda CX-5's six-speed automatic. That 'box was a spectacular upgrade from the CVT bolted into my previous Nissan Juke SL that was loud, obnoxious, and almost unbearable.
It is precisely why I relished wringing out my CX-5's 2.0 liter. I luxuriated in the brief, discernible lulls between gears. Downshifts via the manual mode brought me happiness. Going wide-open throttle didn't sound like I was stepping on a sack of kittens. Living with another CVT was the last thing I ever wanted.
Then the Forester arrived. I told myself that I'd give its Lineartronic CVT a chance. I had sampled it before but hadn't spent any extensive time with it. I anticipated a mechanical din polluting my otherwise peaceful cabin. I already lusted for a "manual" shift. I yearned for a tachometer needle that religiously rose then freefell, not lingered then listlessly waned.
Weeks and months passed. More 20,000 miles show on my odometer. And so far, my fears were unfounded. My lack grievance with the CVT is as shocking as the buttery smoothness with which it operates. It has gained my utmost admiration.
The Forester's CVT is the antithesis of the Juke's: quiet, calm, and mostly unnoticeable in the real world. Then again, the Juke's was constructed almost five years ago, and engineered well before that -- eons in the technologically progressive car world.
There's no drawn-out, loud humming emanating from the floor at each toe tip-in. Power consistently arrives whenever I summon it. Subaru says having pulleys arranged vertically (or linearly, hence its name), rather than side by side (as in other CVTs) benefits comfort and power application. I have to agree.
I could, however, use paddles behind my steering wheel. When I crave entertainment, I sometimes fan an imaginary pair constructed of the finest of carbon titanium weave extant, a la the bodywork worn by Pagani's Huayra. Paddles would add a cool fun factor to the Forester's already well-rounded driving experience. They wouldn't be a difficult addition. Engineers currently outfit the pricier, faster, more powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter Forester with them -- regular plastic ones, not my imaginary Pagani Huayra editions. It even gets eight faux gears to play with.
While the orchestration of driver input, engine speed, and gear engagement is a beautiful thing to experience, so too is a well-crafted article of engineering that performs its intended function with unnoticeable adeptness. Yup, you're quite alright, Lineartronic.