CVT vs. Automatic Transmission

In advertisements and at dealerships, consumers constantly hear about continuously variable transmission and automatic transmission — but though you’ve heard about them often enough, do you understand the difference between them. Keep reading as we compare the CVT vs. automatic transmission — what they are and the pros and cons of each. You’ll then be better prepared to make an educated decision the next time you venture forth to go car shopping near Bloomfield!

What is a Continuously Variable Transmission vs. Automatic?


First, let’s talk about the newer kid on the block: the continuously variable transmission.

In calling CVT the “newer kid,” we refer only to the advent of its widespread use in vehicles compared with an automatic transmission. In terms of its existence, a sketch of a CVT from the 16th century has actually been attributed to Leonardo da Vinci; so, in that sense, continuously variable transmission isn’t “new” at all. In 1886, Daimler-Benz filed the very first patent for a CVT, but the technology didn’t achieve widespread deployment in modern vehicles until the 1989 model year, when Subaru introduced a CVT onboard its subcompact Justy.

In a nutshell, a CVT is an automatic transmission that uses two pulleys connected via a steel band, rather than employing fixed gears. So whether you’re talking about the differences between an 8-speed automatic vs. CVT, a CVT vs. 4AT, or a CVT vs. 10-speed automatic, it really comes down to the same fundamental difference.

Automatic Transmission

Now, on to the great-uncle of the transmission family: the automatic transmission.

General Motors was the first to introduce the automatic transmission, debuting it in the 1940 Oldsmobile as the “Hydra-Matic” transmission.

Continuously Variable Transmission: Pros and Cons

As with anything, a CVT automatic transmission and a traditional automatic transmission each have their advantages and their disadvantages. Here are some of the most noteworthy continuously variable transmission pros and cons.

CVT Pros:

  • Fewer components and less expensive to manufacture.
  • Estimated to boost fuel economy by approximately 6 percent.
  • Often smaller and lighter than a conventional automatic transmission.

CVT Cons:

  • “Rubber band” feeling of disconnect between pressure applied to accelerator and engine RPM.
  • Limitations on size and power of engines CVT can be paired with.
  • Higher maintenance demands.

Automatic Transmission Pros and Cons

Automatic Pros:

  • Better connection between engine sound and actual speed.
  • Better sense of control and connectedness for the driver.
  • Lower maintenance demands.

Automatic Cons:

  • Lower fuel economy ratings than a CVT.
  • More complex and expensive construction.

Learn More About CVT vs. Automatic Transmissions at Tamaroff Honda

Whether you drive a vehicle with automatic, continuously variable or manual transmission, the team in the service department at Tamaroff Honda is here to serve you! Make the short trip to our dealership from Troy or Farmington Hills, or contact us today for all your automotive needs. We would be glad to talk more with you about continuously variable transmission pros and cons as well as the advantages and disadvantages of an automatic transmission.