What is a Transmission?

A vehicle’s transmission—sometimes known as the gearbox—is a key component of its drivetrain system. The transmission, which is mounted directly onto the engine, converts the raw combustion power the engine produces into momentum. This process transfers the right amount of power and torque to the wheels, allowing the vehicle to move.

The transmission’s main job is to deliver adequate power and torque to perform a given task or to operate under particular conditions without giving too much power that the car becomes difficult to control. The transmission allows you to accelerate in bursts, navigate challenging terrain, travel icy roadways, or scale up or down steep hills.

In motor vehicles with internal combustion engines, the ignition of fuel in the engine’s combustion chamber produces the raw energy to start all systems in the car. However, it generates far more energy than is needed for the car to run idle or travel at low speeds. The energy flows through the transmission to allow the driver to control the amount of power being transferred to the wheels at any given time, depending on power needs and driving conditions. Most importantly, this process helps in maintaining safe and steady speeds.

What is the Difference Between a Manual & Automatic Transmission?

There are two main types of transmissions: manual and automatic. In a manual transmission (or “stick shift”) vehicle, the driver must continuously select the appropriate gear to operate their car under the conditions at hand using a clutch pedal and a gear shifter. Depending on the gear selected, the transmission delivers the appropriate amount of power to rotate the wheels to handle a given road condition. Drivers of cars with manual transmissions must be aware of their power needs at all times so they can shift gears when necessary.

Automatic transmissions function the same as manual in terms of how power is delivered to the wheels. However, instead of the driver continuously shifting gears, automatic transmissions have an internal system of sensors, processors, and actuators. This system determines the proper gear for the vehicle under given conditions and shifts on their own, without additional action by the driver.

Today, most new cars in the United States have automatic transmissions by default, but manual vehicles certainly have their uses and their loyalists.

Manual Transmission

With automatic transmission cars generally being less complicated to operate, what is a manual transmission vehicle good for and who would choose one? Despite the added work of driving a stick shift, plenty of drivers prefer the feel of a manual transmission, noting more precise control and a more exciting driving experience. Manual transmissions are the default for most sports cars and racecars. Our performance sports cars, the Subaru BRZ and the Subaru WRX are the only two vehicles with manual transmission options available. 

Pros of a Manual Transmission

Manual transmission devotees are loyal to stick shift for how these cars perform, and with select models, such as the Subaru WRX, drivers don’t have to choose between the performance of manual transmission and the safety that all-wheel drive (AWD) provides. Some of the biggest advantages of manual transmission vehicles include:

  • Precise driver control over gear shifting, allowing for maximum performance
  • Generally superior fuel efficiency over automatic transmission vehicles due to increased control
  • Typically lower purchase price and lower maintenance costs over time due to simpler design and fewer parts

Considerations of a Manual Transmission

Despite the advantages that a manual transmission offers, there are some potential drawbacks to be aware of, especially for less experienced drivers. Consider the following:

  • A learning curve that requires skill and practice to properly drive a stick shift vehicle
  • Constant gear changing and clutch engagement, which can be challenging in traffic or city driving
  • Potential to stall on steep inclines if not operated properly.

Automatic Transmission

With their smooth, seamless shifting and overall ease of use, it’s no surprise that automatic transmission vehicles are the most popular and practical choice for everyday drivers. While stick shifts can be fun to drive, some drivers may prefer automatic transmission for everyday driving.

Subaru offers automatic transmissions as standard in many trims and models of sedans, hatchbacks, SUVs, and crossovers, including the top-selling Subaru Crosstrek and Subaru Forester vehicles.

Pros of an Automatic Transmission

Consider the following advantages that an automatic transmission offers:

  • Effortless gear shifting, especially in traffic
  • Smoother overall ride
  • Easier to drive and simpler to learn, particularly for inexperienced drivers

Considerations of an Automatic Transmission

Consider a few drawbacks to automatic transmission vehicles:

  • Higher purchase price and higher maintenance costs due to more vehicle components
  • May not appeal to experienced stick shift devotees who prefer a more hands-on driving experience

What is Subaru CVT Transmission?

Lineartronic® CVT, or Continuously Variable Transmission, is the type of automatic transmission used across the Subaru line-up. Instead of a more traditional physical gear setup common to automatic transmissions, CVTs rely on a belt, chain, and pulley system to deliver power automatically to the wheels. This innovative approach offers a wider range of gears that shift even more seamlessly for a smooth driving experience.

Among their many advantages, Subaru CVT offer exceptional fuel economy and drivetrain efficiency. They also offer smoother linear acceleration versus a traditional automatic setup. Since 2014, the Lineartronic® CVT has been standard in all automatic Subaru models and trims (except the Subaru BRZ).

How to Choose Which Subaru Transmission is Right for You

Ultimately, the choice between manual or automatic is a personal one, based on the way you plan to use your Subaru and your driving habits and needs. To explore the full range of vehicle options and transmissions from Subaru, build your vehicle today.