Gimme back my gears

Nissan is busily bolting continuously-variable transmissions into almost everything it sells, though it should be noted that the only Infiniti that gets a CVT, the QX60, is the only one that’s also sold for a few dollars less as a Nissan (the Pathfinder). That said, the upcoming Q30/QX30 will presumably be fitted with the Mercedes-Benz 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, because people will avoid it in droves if it has the rubber-band box — and because its engine, albeit built by Nissan in the States, is a Mercedes design. There has been no suggestion that any other Infiniti will be saddled with a CVT, which is a good thing, given Dale Franks’ opinion of the CVT inflicted on every Nissan Altima:

Some people, of course, will find the Continuously Variable Transmission perfectly acceptable, but for me, it’s a hump I can’t get over. Which, I must say, biases me against Nissan in general, because the CVT powertrain is their bread and butter, and it appears in nearly all of the cars in their lineup. Nissan, as I’ve mentioned before, is fully invested in the CVT, and they’ve done everything they can to make as good a CVT as possible. Yet, the end result is like a gourmet pastry, baked by Paul Bocuse, and made from the finest flour, the richest chocolate, the purest cane sugar, the freshest heavy cream, and bat guano.

But is it the highest-quality bat guano? Not at the Altima’s price point, I suspect.


  1. McGehee »

    4 October 2015 · 4:18 pm

    Having been unaware until now that CVTs were widely available I don’t know what the problem is with the technology as implemented — or is the problem the lack of periodic momentary non-acceleration during … acceleration?

  2. CGHill »

    4 October 2015 · 4:32 pm

    Pretty much that: to make this work, the engine has to push way out toward Wide-Open Throttle, and then the CVT has to play catch-up. This is disconcerting if you’re used to traditional American “I didn’t even notice the shift” behavior.

    It’s egregious enough, in fact, that a couple of manufacturers are now programming CVTs with fake shift points to make them seem less CVTish; the new Maxima even has shift paddles.

  3. Chuck »

    4 October 2015 · 7:50 pm

    CVT is wonderful, no more complicated gears, no more shifting, maximum power and maximum torque at all times, or so I’ve heard. They use a special, magic oil which is fascinating stuff. I also heard that they are expensive to replace. A CVT transmission for a Mini-Cooper runs eight grand. If it lasts half a million miles, that would be okay, but do any cars last that long?

  4. CGHill »

    4 October 2015 · 8:18 pm

    There’s no reason to think the CVT would have any additional longevity; Nissan actually had to extend warranties on a batch of particularly bad ones. And yes, that magic-pixie fluid is special, but self-described bargain hunters will happily pour Dexron into the spout and destroy the machine, then complain about it online.

  5. McGehee »

    5 October 2015 · 10:31 am

    Perhaps I’ll find an excuse to rent one for a couple of days to see what it’s like.

    Which would be easier to arrange if I were still inclined to travel by air, or were still driving vehicles well into their mechanical dodderage and in need of occasional extended repair shop stays.

  6. Lynn »

    5 October 2015 · 8:32 pm

    Some people just can’t face the idea of something different.

RSS feed for comments on this post