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Subaru spreads its CVT wings

Auto action: The new Subaru Liberty GT eventually will get Subaru's new Lineartronic CVT transmission.

Subaru Forester and Impreza next in line for CVT, along with diesels and Boxer 6

Subaru logo9 Sep 2009

SUBARU has revealed that its all-new Lineartronic CVT transmission will soon spread across most of the model range.

Introduced on the new fifth-generation Liberty and Outback this week, Lineartronic is available only with the naturally aspirated 123kW/229Nm 2.5-litre single overhead cam horizontally opposed four-cylinder ‘boxer’ engine.

However, the turbocharged 195kW/350Nm 2.5-litre twin-cam boxer unit in the latest Liberty GT, as well as the 191kW/350Nm 3.6-litre horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine available in the up-spec Liberty and Outback 3.6R, are in line to receive the CVT gearbox. It has also been earmarked for a variation of the company’s first diesel engine, the 2.0D, which is only available for the time being with a manual transmission in European-market Liberty, Outback, Forester and Impreza models. Current 2.0D outputs are 110kW and 350Nm.

According to Subaru chief engineer Takeshi Tachimori, the Lineartronic gearbox had been designed to handle torque loads up to about 400Nm.

However, the beefier version of the CVT is still some time away, as the Lineartronic in the Liberty and Outback 2.5i – as well as Liberty-based Exiga 2.5i six-seater people mover heading to Australia in November – can only deal with a maximum of 250Nm of torque.

As a result, the Outback 2.0D coming to Australia in November will only be available with the six-speed manual transmission initially, as Subaru steps up its work to complete the beefed-up gearbox.

Aware that most diesel buyers in the medium and large vehicle segments prefer not to have to change gears themselves, Subaru Australia is thus forecasting a cautious 100 monthly sales for the Outback 2.0D, and is understandably keen to offer an automatic for its first-ever diesel model as a result.

The Forester is believed to be next in line with the 2.0D installation for Australia.

Depending on the success of the new Subaru diesels, future Australian-bound Liberty and Impreza ranges will most likely also include a variation of the 2.0D powerplant.

Whether it happens during the existing model cycles of both vehicles is unclear.

One Japanese media outlet reported this week that the Lineartronic gearbox would spread to all Subaru models within two years.

“CVT is the future for all Subaru automatics,” Mr Tachimori told GoAuto.

“Subaru always intended to expand CVT to turbo and six-cylinder models from the beginning.

“When we made the decision to produce a CVT we thought it should take up to about 390Nm.

“The basic structure of the current CVT can accept 350Nm, so only some modifications are needed to be made for it to take 380 to 390Nm.

“It means we can also combine the diesel with a CVT.”

Subaru has been in the CVT business since 1987, when it released the Justy CVT ‘Kei’ micro car in Japan, and even supplied earlier Nissan Micra models with the gearbox.

The CVT is built at Subaru's Oizumi engine plant in Japan.

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