What is a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)?

When shopping for a used vehicle at Enterprise Car Sales, you may have seen the acronym CVT listed as the transmission type on many different vehicles. It stands for continuously variable automatic transmission and has quickly become the standard transmission in many popular models from brands in an effort to improve fuel economy, especially in smaller gas-powered cars and SUVs. But what makes a CVT different from a traditional automatic transmission?

The biggest difference between a CVT and other transmissions is that a CVT doesn’t have gears like you would find in most other automatic or manual transmissions. Instead, it uses a pair of variable diameter cone-shaped pulleys that are connected to each other by a belt, typically made from a durable composite or steel belt. This allows for a virtually infinite number of “gear” ratios that can be optimized for fuel economy or power in a variety of driving conditions.

Benefits of a CVT

The primary reason for the increasing number of CVTs in vehicles over the past decade is fuel economy. By allowing an engine to always operate in its most efficient powerband, a CVT can improve fuel economy in a vehicle that was previously using a multi-speed automatic transmission or a manual transmission, even when all other factors are the same.

CVTs are also typically lighter than a multi-speed automatic transmission and have much fewer moving parts. This simplicity reduces manufacturing costs and can make these transmissions very reliable when maintained according to a manufacturer’s recommendations.
Their design also eliminates the shifting feel that you get in other vehicles, providing a much smoother ride and the ability to adapt to varying road conditions.

Is a CVT right for me?

While CVTs have seen many improvements over the years and are built by automakers around the world, you may still prefer a traditional multi-speed automatic transmission when purchasing your next vehicle. Some drivers don’t care for the lower torque at low speeds that can give CVTs a “rubber band” feeling, though many automakers have compensated for that by having virtual gear steps that more closely mimic the power curve of a multi-speed automatic transmission.

CVTs have come a long way since they started becoming widely available in vehicles in the 90s and early 2000s and have been widely used in various applications for the last century. In fact, the first automobile built in 1886 by Karl Benz used an early version of a CVT. They continue to improve all the time as well, much like how today’s 8-, 9-, and 10-speed automatic transmissions are far more advanced than the 2- and 3-speed automatic transmissions introduced in the 1950s.

If you are interested in experiencing the benefits of a CVT and seeing if it is the right choice for you, test driving a vehicle at your local Enterprise Car Sales dealership is a great way to start. We offer a wide variety of cars and SUVs from multiple automakers with CVTs.

Find Your Next Vehicle with a CVT

Check out our cars, SUVs, and vans with continuously variable transmissions.