Different types of transmissions

I have been looking at buying a new car for snowy, icy Vermont. After totalling my Jeep on some black ice, I have been trying to compare the Honda Cr/V, Toyota Rav4, Subaru Outback, and the Nissan Rogue.

I’d like some wisdom about the relative strengths and weaknesses of cars that are ALWAYS 50/50 power, versus those that are 70/30 or 60/40 front wheel drive with locking differentials at low speed. AND I’d like some assessment of the new Nissan Rogue’s Continuously Variable Trnsmission! Help!!!

I would stay awy from the Nissan Transmission because it is relatively new and unproven and current users don’t seem to like the leisurely acceleration it provides. It’s great on gas mileage though.

Can’t comment on the power division, except that most posters over the last few months have raved about the Subaru AWD system as the “smartest” available, if you need AWD all the time. It has a gas mileage penalty for that reason. If you only need AWD some of the time the Honda CRV gives the best economy, since it is usually in 2WD mode.

Just remember that AWD will not help you stop or turn. Many crashes and flipped vehicles on the roads in winter are SUVs that in all likelihood were driven too fast by people who thought AWD meant that physics takes a vacation. I drive a Chevy Impala (FWD only) and don’t have any problems in the winter (I live in Eastern Ontario.) I just drive slower when it’s crappy out. I also have all-season tires on my car. While snow tires would no doubt provide much better traction, I can’t justify the cost when I’d need them only a couple days a year - we have very efficient and quick snow plowing and road salting.

So, in short, don’t get an SUV because you think it’s invincible - it’ll just be in the ditch again.

The new Subaru I think puts something like 90% to the rear, while it used to put a similar amount to the front to make it almost part time awd (on the automatic and is why the auto got the same MPG as the manual). They are going with the rear favor because it makes it handle better on good/dry pavement. There is a reason why you see more outbacks in New England than anywhere else. I think it is the state bird isn’t it? :wink: For me the Subaru advantage is really about center of gravity. with the horizontally opposed 4 you get a lower center of gravity and that helps stability. Nothing will help much on black ice except studded snow tires, though a Jeep has such a high center of gravity once you start to loose control it is much harder to get it back.

I would stay away from CVTs for a few more years yet. Personally I would suggest a Manual transmission as you get much better control over the vehicle.

The poster who mentioned GO SLOW is on the right track. No tranny is going to help stop you from sliding on ice.

My daughter drove home from college last night after an ice storm, SUV’s by the score were in the ditch and smashing into one another. While I did not necessarily agree with her decision to drive her two-wheel drive automatic Toyota Camry with all-season tires home, she did it, at an argubly 5-10 mph and made it with no problem.

Talked to a cop friend of mine today who had to work last night…he said like always, the little two-wheel drive sedans, being driven like 80-year-old women were behind the wheel had no problem…

I like to recommend the Toyota, but not because I know how it runs. I want Toyota to become the biggest American auto manufacturer. I just want to prod the original U. S. guys to improve their stuff and maybe start negotiating a little harder for their survival. I’m almost certain that if there was an honest slogan provided by a car company, it would sound like “every time it snows, another Ranger rolls.” I know it was a 1995 one but it is a constant reminder ow what we would be forced to drive if not for foreign competition.

Not to confuse you, but I really like the DSG in the VWs and Audis. I am very convinced this is the future of transmissions.

It’s a manual transmission internally, but it’s automated. You get the smoothness and ease of an automatic, with none of the hydraulic inefficiency of an automatic. It’s so impressive that many Japanese manufacturers have emulated the concept; some are now out, and many more are coming. You can shift it like a manual when you want, or just let it shift (which it does very smoothly).

I was concerned about the reliability of these, but everything I’ve read says VW is having no problems with it. It’s a great design.

I think your question, though, is about drivetrains, not automatic vs manual. At this stage, I find CVTs to be annoying; it has a motorboat effect. And I don’t think it gets you a lot of efficiency. And with the amount of snow you get, I think the Subaru would be a great choice. The VW AWD vehicles might be worth testing, though. I bet you see a lot of those. You will sacrifice some reliability with a VW, but doggone it if they’re not fun to drive. Try one.

You might also want to try a Ford Edge or Escape Hybrid.

Having recently left VT after 30 years I would highly recommend a AWD vehicle…my preference is the RAV since I have had them since 1997, still have two, virtually repair free and reliable in all weather.

Note: No 4WD or AWD is going to help you on black ice, or any ice or up to about four inches of snow. Now 4WD or AWD may help you get out of the ditch you slid into, but it will not help keep you out of it. The fact is on pavement either 4WD or AWD can make your car less stable, although that does not seem to be a big factor. Unless you lock it into full time 4WD on pavement when it is not called for.

A set of good winter not “all season” tyres will help. Traction control can also help.

I’ve got to go with the advice that many others offer - unless you will be facing steeper, unpaved, unplowed roads, etc, 4WD or AWD really isn’t that important. I have a Taurus and a Camry - both old and both FWD. I have NEVER had problems with snow and ice in either. On an older Camry, I had issues with Dunlop tires that were lousy in the snow from day 1. I replaced the tires and had no problems. The one thing I have found is that I do not like Goodyear products at all (lousy luck with Goodyear tires, and Dunlop is a Goodyear brand)…

But I have never slid in my Taurus (the one I drive - the wife gets the Camry)… and that is through some nasty icy, snowy Michigan and Ohio winters, with nice steep hills to climb.

My trick is to imagine a raw egg between my foot and the pedals. Keep pretending that I don’t want to break it.

That, and do everything to try to avoid braking or accelerating in turns while on snow or ice.

I may drive like an old Grandma, but it gets me there safely and at reasonable speed. I once drove a section of Michigan highway on ice where in 20 miles I drove around almost a dozen jacknifed semis and counted about 60 cars in the ditch, the majority of them 4WD. I never felt my car losing traction once.

I kid not.

Hey there Docnick,
I’d appreciate it if you could refer me to the site where you’ve found people unhappy with the Nissan acceleration. I was surprised at how well it seemed to function despite having had a 6 cylinder Jeep before… All the info I can get would help!

Thanks to all - I understand the value of going slow, but I was definitively NOT racing on this stretch of road. I have since found out there have been many accidents there because water spills down from the hill above onto the road and there is no adequate ditching. No one mentioned this before, but everyone NOW seems to have known about it, and the state has opted to do nothing. We have limited plowing/sanding under the best of circumstances and the highway department actually says they don’t do much at night since most people travel during the day!!!

Anyway, I understand that apart from the RAV4 and Honda fans, most of you are Subaru-ers, but I definitely felt the Subaru Outback was less successful at holding the road when I test drove it than the Rav4 or Rogue, and I am now hearing that there are head gasket and ball bearing problems at about 70,000 miles. So… please explain what it is about the CVT that you (all) don’t like. It seems to get high marks from its use in other Nissans and other car models. Can someone explain what it is that makes this problematic – other than that it is “new”?

I think it’s a matter of tastes. I don’t like the “motorboat effect”, and it buys you very little in terms of efficiency (the 5 and 6 speeds in most automatics and manuals is plenty of gears).

Here it is in a nutshell: There’s no accounting for taste. I prefer a manual or a DSG in some cars, and an automatic in others.

It sounds like the Rav4 might be your first choice. If it is, I just can’t see how you’d go wrong. If it has enough room and power for you, and you like the way it drives, with good care, it’ll last you 15 years.

Actually, I was mainly referring to the owners of the Ford 500 and Prius owners who were less than happy with its performance. Ford 500 is now the new Taurus with a new transmision. There were also some tests with the Versa, which is tuned for economy rather than performance (orgot which mag.), where they said it could use more oomph. However a transmission can be tuned for performance or economy.

At this stage the life expectancy of these transmissions in unknown. The Toyota version in the Prius has stood up well in taxi service.

To the best of my knowledge, Nissan’s CVT has performed quite well. I have friends with a Versa, and they love the CVT in it. While Ford screwed the pooch with their CVT, Nissan’s done a good job. Plus it’s been widely available in their cars now for a couple years; any major kinks would have been worked out by now.

By the way, the CVT isn’t new to the Rogue; Nissan’s been using it in their other vehicles for a few years now.

AWD does not make a vehicle less stable in any shape or fashion. Most AWD’s are reactive sadly and simply FWD’s that apply a small amount of torque as needed when slippage is sensed.

Subaru and Audi AWD are full time systems that help a with stability as you don’t get slippage of power wheel(singleton) that send a vehicle one side to the other. Also in deep slush the vehicle simply tracks better when under power. I find simply applying light throttle takes cars of most of problems I ever encounter when driving my all-season equipped Subaru WRX. I have yet to encounter anything that disturbs my other Subaru equipped with winter rated tires including 3" deep slush unexpected at 45MPH.

The Subaru head gasket issues went away in 2003 for sure. The modern ones are fine.

The main issue with not going Subaru is you get an after the fact AWD system on all other cars listed. Subaru(and Audi) is always in AWD. The other systems(Toyota, Nissan, Honda) your basically paying for front wheel drive that reacts a bit later and the front wheels kick in here and there. These systems get really stuck in deeper snow(I have seen them at Jay Peak struggling). These FWD systems also only offer 10% power to the rear wheels when needed.

The one item that can save you and available on all is stability control with a different acronym on each vehicle make. It can save you on black ice IMHO if there is traction ahead. Basically if your vehicle senses its not going in proper direction by steering angle and motion sensors it backs off on throttle and brakes at a single wheel in the rear to pivot your vehicle back into the proper path. It really works and no driver can replicate this. The caveat is traction required at that one wheel.

I hear it all the time, slow down but black ice is called black ice for a reason and sometimes cannot be anticipated. AWD won’t help here, stability control does beyond a good set of winter tires.

Well, I have probably done too much research at this point and I finally bit the bullet and bought the Rogue. I had NO problem with acceleration in a test drive and it still seemed to hold the road better than the Subaru in my VERY LIMITED test. I didn’t like the CrV as much - it felt lighter and more “responsive” to the road e.g. too flexible, and while I liked the Rav4, and its cargo space, I am worried about people stealing the tire when I am in the cities. It also was more expensive with comparable equipment. The Toyota dealer says “you get what you pay for,” and while he may be right, I am finding that so far people who own the Rogue are very happy with it. So, if any of you are interested I’ll post a review after I’ve had it a while.

BTW the transmission is 100% FWD when it isn’t in 50-50 AWD which happens when it senses wheel slip (as I understand it). It uses a chain rather than a belt and the CVT system has been in other Nissan cars for a while as someone else on this forum pointed out.

So wish me luck. I admit to being nervous about the new car thing, but I am hoping that since it is basically a smaller version of the successful Murano and based on the Altima and Sentra engines, I’ll get through.

Thanks all for your help - It was a tough decision!

I think you made a good choice. From what I’ve heard the Rogue is a decent vehicle, and Nissan is getting quite a good reputation for build quality. I hope you enjoy it.

Not getting into which is better on the road. I personally don’t like the Continuously Variable Transmissions. And I’m a HUGH Nissan fan. First off they are NOT very strong and can’t tow or haul a lot with them. Second…they are NOT servicable. If there’s a problem…REPLACE. At a cost of several thousand dollars.