Piston Slap: Justy-fied Freestylin' Over CVTs

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

TTAC commentator Patrickj writes:

I have a 2006 Ford Freestyle with about 75,000 miles. I like it well enough, including the CVT, and it has been very reliable, but I can’t say I love it. Biggest current issue with the car is wear on the interior, especially carpets. The high depreciation is a sunk cost, and I’m not going to decide anything on that basis. Problem is, there’s nothing else I’m particularly eager to drive that has the cargo room, comfort for a big driver (6 feet, 230 pounds), and any better gas mileage for my long commute.

Several Piston Slap posters basically said that the CVT was something to run away from, and that I’ve already pushed it well beyond its expected lifetime. I had the fluid changed by the dealer at 55K miles.

Am I committing the car ownership equivalent of driving on the wrong side of the interstate? Is the expense of CVT repair that high and that imminent? At 3 years old, shouldn’t I be able to get a transmission from a low mileage wreck if it does fail?

Sajeev replies:

You like the bones of the Freestyle, which means you actually want a Taurus X. I’m no CVT worrywart, I just can’t stand their modus operandi. The “X” has the same excellent value proposition, only with a far superior engine and a popular 6-speed automatic. WIN.

I don’t know if we can accurately predict the lifespan of that CVT unit: it wasn’t a popular option and Ford stopped production rather quickly. Freestyle/Five Hundreds/Montegos aren’t dropping like flies either, unlike yesteryear’s Chrysler Ultradrive transaxles. Unless the vast majority (of what few were made) fail in the next few years, there is no relevant statistical base to make an informed decision.

And finding a replacement unit 10 years from now should be easy: I went to car-part.com and found at least one CVT for a (1992) Subaru Justy for the modest asking price of $650. So if Justy owners can still get their CVT on, the Freestyle should fare well. Because if there’s a will, there is a way.

But a Taurus X is still better.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Patrickj Patrickj on Jul 02, 2009

    On psarhjinian's post on CVT/hybrid hate. I've already given up standard shift with this car, I really don't feel any traditionalist attachment to the 4 speed FWD autobox.

  • Patrickj Patrickj on Sep 08, 2010

    Freestyle update: 102,000 miles. About $1000 spent on car (maintenance and repair) since original post. Not a peep from the transmission.

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