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From the newsgroup alt.autos.toyota.prius; I don't know why they thought that a CVT might be problematic:

<[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]
> I've put about 30,000 miles on my 2002 Prius, and just recently got
> caught in a snow storm while on a trip. The now was not real bad,
> but we were watching the altimiter closely to see if we were headed
> down (out of the snow) or up (where it might get heavier). We did
> not put the chains on the tires, as the snow accumulation was never
> more than an inch.
>
> The CVT of the Prius performed perfectly and, in retrospect, made
> the car feel extremely stable. There was no shifting or jerkyness of
> any kind. The power (when applied to climb hills) was applied smoothly
> and without any sign of losing traction.
>
> All this was at speeds as low as 25 and as high as 45.
>
> Anyone have a similar experience with a CVT?

I kept my Ford Explorer so I could get up my steep driveway in winter. My previous car, a mini-van with front wheel drive, often couldn't make it
and I figured the Prius would have trouble too. Much to my surprise it walked right up a layer of ice with 5" of heavy snow on top. That same day I tested stability control system on a sharp curve. It acted like it was
glued to the road in a situation where the Explorer's rear end would have
come around. Anybody want to buy a '95 Explorer with leather seats and
Eddie Bauer kit that has a lifetime average of 18.1 mpg? Only 110,000
miles. :)
 

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CVT wouldn't have anything to do with it, other than possibly sounding like it is slipping as it revvs when trying to generate the power needed to overcome an obstacle. Of course if that power exceeds the static friction between the tires and the ground, the wheels will slip, which is what traction control would take care of.
 

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In additon, the 'CVT' in a Prius is completely different than a conventional CVT. (To my knowledge, the only two vehicles with Prius-style CVT are the Prius and the Ford Escape Hybrid. Even the CVT Civic and Insight are more conventional 'cone and belt' style CVTs.)

Cone and belt CVTs have a downside in that the belt eventually wears a groove in the cones, making it very rough as it 'shifts'. (As it tries to shift, but can't, then all of a sudden shifts violently as the belt finally leaves the groove.) I had a Subaru Justy CVT, and it was jarring.

The Prius CVT is really just a power distribution gearbox. It's not a transmission in the conventional sense at all.
 

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ehurtley said:
Cone and belt CVTs have a downside in that the belt eventually wears a groove in the cones, making it very rough as it 'shifts'. (As it tries to shift, but can't, then all of a sudden shifts violently as the belt finally leaves the groove.) I had a Subaru Justy CVT, and it was jarring.
There's a third type of CVT, I guess... Audi uses a "belt and cone" type CVT, but they don't use a belt. They use a vanadium-plated steel chain with slightly over a thousand links, so it has the flexibility of the rubber belt, but with the strength of the steel.
 
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