The CVT gearbox a love hate relationship Our Cars Honest John

13 Июн 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи The CVT gearbox a love hate relationship Our Cars Honest John отключены
Lexus ES Electric Cars

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Hybrids have traditionally come with a CVT gearbox — the old ‘rubber band’ transmissions that most people associate with the DAF 55. They may sound old fashioned but they make a lot of sense. Continuously variable transmissions are good for fuel economy as they allow the engine to run at the most efficient revs, an ideal gearbox choice for a hybrid then.

Toyota and Lexus hybrids have always used CVT gearboxes and the GS450h is no exception. Obviously it’s a bit more sophisticated than the old DAF 55 version but the theory is still the same. I have to admit that despite the advantages a CVT offers I’ve never been a big fan of them, whether in hybrids or conventional diesel and petrol engines.

It’s not the performance, if anything CVT gearboxes delivery surprisingly good acceleration compared to a conventional automatic, especially as there are no separate gears and so no loss of power as the gearbox shifts through the gears. Indeed in the GS450h the CVT means constant acceleration and a 0-62mph time of 5.9 seconds. Even more impressive is the acceleration from around 40mph which is all important when joining fast flowing traffic from a short slip road.

It’s a strange sensation though. While you may be accelerating quickly, it doesn’t feel like it from behind the wheel. The lack of gearchanges is somewhat counterintuitive when you’ve been used to standard gearboxes and you tend to feel detached from what’s going on.

It’s not a car that pins you back in your seat.


Energy Monitor screen shows you where the power is flowing

And then there’s the noise. The whine that accompanies acceleration is not pleasant and makes the car sound like it’s working too hard. Even in the powerful GS450h it’s not that pleasant a sound, while in smaller hybrids like the Prius, it’s a bit like a washing machine getting to full spin.

Lexus GS Electric Cars

There’s none of the grunt you get from a diesel as the engine power peaks high up the rev range at 6000rpm.

What the CVT does do is encourage you not to accelerate too hard. It’s a lot more pleasant a driving experience if you’re gentle with your right foot. Plant it to the floor and all you do is create that awful whine while economy drops too.

Treat it with a bit more finesse and it’s a far more relaxing car to drive — and a more economical one too.

So over the past few months I’ve come to appreciate the CVT gearbox a lot more. I wouldn’t say I’m a convert and choosing a hybrid doesn’t have to mean having a CVT — the likes of the Infiniti M35h (or Q70 as it’s now known) and the BMW ActiveHybrid5 both use conventional automatic gearboes. But the Lexus remains incredibly refined and relaxed — and much of that is down to the CVT.

And talking of rival hybrids, i’ll soon be testing the GS450h alongside the Infiniti Q70. Until then the Lexus will be taking me to Spain for the new year giving me a chance to really put some miles on and see how it copes with covering several thousand miles in a few days.

Lexus IS Electric Cars

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