Piston Slap: Justy-fied Freestylin' Over CVTs (PART VI)

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

TTAC commentator Patrickj writes:

Sajeev, an update:

My 2006 Ford Freestyle that started this series has been traded in after 184,000 miles. It’s replacement is a 2015 Subaru Legacy, so I guess I wasn’t scared off by the CVT.

The reason for getting the Subaru is mostly because of the second A/C failure of the summer in the Freestyle, though it also needed four struts, assorted bushings, and a steering shaft (u-joints doing a weird stick-slip thing). CVT and engine have been been fine to the end, with only two transmission fluid changes.

Sajeev answers:

Patrick’s Freestyle was three years old in the first Piston Slap, starting the “Justy-fied” CVT postings. Are we getting old?

And keep in mind his Freestyle had 75,000 miles back then. With 184,000 miles now, this CVT lived the relaxed life of a more-highway-than-city cruiser. So what does this update mean?

Here are some takeaways:

  1. Transmission/transaxle fluid changes every 90,000-ish miles are a very good thing (or sooner, better RTFM on that).
  2. Just because the Internet makes a blanket statement about something (like CVT durability) doesn’t make it true.**
  3. If you need a cheap set of wheels for a couple of years, higher mileage vehicles might be a better value! Don’t shy away from one — go kick the tires.
  4. CVTs may be slow to react, but modern 6+ speed autoboxes are rather slow on a factory tune. Considering their fuel efficiency and the ability to keep the engine in its powerband during hard acceleration, are CVTs really that bad?

** Except for Panther Love. That’s totally true.

[Photo courtesy: Shutterstock user Pixel B]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Felix Hoenikker Felix Hoenikker on Jan 12, 2016

    I remember renting both the Freestyle and the Rogue in 2006/2007. I had each one for two weeks. I now have a 14 Accord with the CVT. As I recall, both the Rogue and Freestyle displayed a lot of "rubber banding" when accelerating. It was quite noticeable, and I could see why many would find it annoying. Honda seems to have eliminated that on the Accord. In fact, the only way I now that it's a CVT is by the lack of shifting.

  • MrFixit1599 MrFixit1599 on Jan 13, 2016

    I have a question that I am too lazy to look up. What is the difference between the CVT in the Freestyle and the Escape Hybrid? We have 2 older ones in our work fleet, and both are over 300K with zero maintenance on the transmission, since it is supposedly a sealed system. I heard at one time that the Freestyle uses belts, and the Escape uses planetary gear sets. Which is the preferred style? Which is better?

    • Scoutdude Scoutdude on Jan 13, 2016

      The Escape has an eCVT and is integral to the hybrid system just like on Toyota Hybrids. They do use a planetary gear set. This page as a good description along with an interactive animation that shows how the speeds of the range MG and Ice make for a CVT. http://eahart.com/prius/psd/ Other CVTs use a belt of sorts with variable diameter pulleys. The eCVT is the most elegant and simplest solution to the CVT problem if you ignore the fact that it needs the hybrid controller and battery pack to make it all work. Because it is a simple planetary gear set there are no belts, pulleys and actuators to wear which does mean that they can really rack up the miles. Unlike conventional automatics there are no clutches, or bands to wear either.

  • ChristianWimmer Yes, but with a carbureted 500cid V8. None of that fuel-injection silliness. 😇
  • VoGhost Fantastic work by Honda design. When I first saw the pictures, I thought "Is that a second gen Acura NSX?"
  • V16 2025 VW GLI...or 2025 Honda Civic SI? Same target audience, similar price points. Both are rays of sun in the gray world of SUV'S.
  • FreedMike Said this before and I'll say it again: I'm not that exercised about this whole "pay for a subscription" thing, as long as the deal's reasonable. And here's how you make it reasonable: offer it a monthly charge. Let's say that adaptive headlights are a $500 option on this vehicle, and the subscription is $15 a month, or $540 over a three year lease. So you try the feature for a month, and if you like it, you keep it; if you don't, then you discontinue it, like a Netflix subscription. In any case, you didn't get charged $500 up front the feature. That's not a bad deal.In my case, let's say VW offers an over the air chip reflash that gives me another 25 hp. The total price of the upgrade is $1,000 (which is what a reflash would cost you in the aftermarket). If they offered me a one time monthly subscription for $50 to try it out, I'd take it. In other words, maybe the news isn't all bad.
  • 2ACL A good car, but - at least in this configuration -not one that should command a premium. Its qualities just aren't as enduring as those of Honda's contemporary sports cars. For better or worse, this is a formula they remain able to replicate.