What is CVT?
CVT stands for Continuously Variable Transmission. Quite simply it is a very efficient transmission design where it gets the most power to the wheels operating the engine at the most efficient RPM.
Nissan has lead the way with CVT transmission. Nissan started using them in 2002 and most of their product line has a CVT. Many manufacturers have followed Nissan’s lead and today have started using CVT transmissions in the pursuit of reaching the government mandatory mpg increases. The benefit of CVT is the fuel mileage increase, but an additional result is not feeling a “shift.” CVT’s do not have traditional gears like most automatic transmissions. A CVT has two cones that move in and out to create infinite gear ratios.
When I am giving a test drive, I often point out that on a traditional transmission you will see the RPM’s of the engine reach around 3,000 RPM (under light driving) prior to shifting down to about 1000 RPM’s prior to climbing again. On a CVT the RPM’s rise and lower slowly so there is not a traditional “shift” where a gear changes. Many automotive enthusiasts prefer the traditional transmission. I don’t understand the desire to feel a transmission shift as my belief is that the goal of any transmission should be to not feel it shift.
Why does Nissan use CVT in most of their vehicle?
Utilizing and becoming a leader in CVT has allowed Nissan to be a leader in fuel economy. Nissan came out with CVT on the 2002 Murano and within a few years all of their sedans. Today, most of their SUV’s and Crossovers utilize this technology. Believe it or not, the model T Ford transmission design had many similarities to a CVT.
Here is a video by Jason Fenske of Engineering Explained talking about vehicles with CVT.