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CVT knowledge anyone?

I’m looking into purchasing a 2004 Saturn Ion 3 coupe with a CVT transmission. Everything else in the car works great but when I accelerated to 60 mph the rpms jumped to about 4700 and when I let off the gas they dropped to 2500. There was some buzzing from the car during this but nothing I found alarming. The car got to the desired speed just fine but I’m worried that the transmission may have to be replaced. Car passed inspection this month. Thoughts?

Under hard acceleration, it’s normal for RPM’s to climb as the transmission “downshifts”…But when desired speed is reached and you ease up on the throttle the transmission should “upshift” and RPM’s fall to cruising levels…

Before I purchased this car I would check on availability and price of a replacement transmission just in case…

That behavior is normal for a CVT, when you stand on the gas the RPMs will rise and stay there until you let off, there will be no shifting like in a normal automatic. When you let off the throttle the RPMs will go back down again.

If you’re in doubt, don’t buy it. Your gut may be trying to tell you something.

CVTs are just like regular automatics in the respect that when you accelerate they allow the engine to run at higher RPMs to get the additional power necessary, and then allow the engine to run at slower RPMs when you lift your foot from the accelerator to cruise. Except that they don’t have to shift to do it. It sounds to me like that’s what the Saturn is doing.

But, to quote John Bernard Books, “do what your guts tells you to”. There are other cars out there.

CVT’s are wonky (I drive one). If you were at 2/3 throttle or more in your run to 60, it sounds OK. If you weren’t, then try a full-throttle run to 60. If it gets close to red line and holds, that’s good. If it starts cutting out, you’ve hit the rev-limiter and the tranny is toast.

I’m less concerned about the CVT than I am about a 11 year old Ion. Not known for its reliability. And it’s an ‘orphan’ brand. Lots of better options out there, I’d think.

With all the recalls General Motors has why would anyone even look at a Saturn? Also if you test drive and have the slightest doubt about a vehicle there are thousands on the market.

"With all the recalls General Motors has why would anyone even look at a Saturn? "


As insightful said…how much gas pedal is required will indicate if the cvt is working right.
The only thing I have to compare it to is my 06 Escape hybrid CVT.
Increase and decrease in rpm is how the thing works, even at a given mph.

Along rt-66 it’s mostly flat with some rises. When accelerating the rpms race until you get to speed then it only takes a light touch on the pedal to maintain speed as the rpms decrease.

  • Coming to a rise and miantaining the pedal pressure , with no changes in your foot, the rpms will increase as the car wants to keep the mph you have selected then the prms drop when the road levels out.

I would forget about it. The Vue and Ion had disastrous CVT’s in them which frequently failed at about 25,000 miles. Saturn extended the warranty on them to 5 years or 75,000 miles to appease the throngs of pissed off customers.

CVT’s are wonky…that’s putting it mildly. I would forget this car because there are much better ones out there for the price.