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Sorry to bump a post that's more than a month old, but this problem sounds very familiar to me. I have had the same CVT whining problem on my 08 Altima 2.5. My car is now at 77k miles and on it's 3rd CVT. Unfortunately, this 3rd tranny is also exhibiting signs of failure, after only 8k miles or so.
My two cents on the issue...
Regarding the sound it makes, in my case I have noticed that the noise does follow the engine. Higher revs make the frequency higher, lower revs make it lower, but always there is a lag from the engine to the noise. Let off the gas and the noise will decrease in frequency but at a slower pace. I've never owned a car with a turbo or supercharger, but it's what I imagine they would sound like. I'll make a recording of it on Monday when I'm coming home from work, there is a ton of road noise and you'd have to turn it up, but I've used my iphone to record it before for the service guys.
I am not even remotely a mechanic, so please take what I say with a grain of salt, but I will tell you what I have noticed with regard to causes. The noise starts up after the car has been driving for a bit, say 30 miles or so. It's very faint to begin with but as it heats up it becomes louder. You really start hearing it when you put the car under a load. I live in the California high desert and to get home I have to go up two very significant grades. Usually by midpoint of the first grade (after driving on the highway for roughly 40 miles) the CVT is whining very audibly. By the time I get to the top of the second grade It is quite audible even on a decline and coasting. I've never thrown it in neutral to determine if it continues then. I am quite confident that I could throw an engine light if I just continued going up and down that hill for a few hours. I've thrown a PO710 and a PO744 on a trip to Idaho. (Transmission temp sensor and Torque Converter clutch circuit.)
The failures appear to be severe overheating, what causes it? No idea, but on the RO for the last CVT replacement the technician wrote that the cvt torque converter had some heavy burn marks on the snout of the converter and when removing the trans the converter was seized onto the flywheel. Please bear in mind, while I do travel quite a bit for work I am not a NASCAR driver. I need my cars to last for the long haul, not the quarter mile. This is all under normal driving, albeit up a big hill. I can also attest that I am aware of at least two other people that live in this area that also have the CVT problems I am experiencing. One is another 2.5 Altima and the other is a Rogue.
There is also a TSB out that is supposed to address this issue, I have it listed on paperwork from Nissan as NTB09-044:
Description: VARIOUS NISSAN MODELS; MIL ‘ON’ WITH P0840/P0845 AND P0710
An applied vehicle has CVT Fluid that is discolored and / or has unusual odor.
The MIL is ‘ON’ with DTCs P0840 and / or P0845 stored in CONSULT III / ENGINE and / or TRANSMISSION.
The MIL is ‘ON’ and P0710 is stored in CONSULT III / ENGINE and / or TRANSMISSION.
• P0710 may be stored with P0840 and / or P0845.
The service story on this car is chock full of "CANNOT CONFIRM ISSUES" and rampant lunacy from the service department but the car went in for the first time around 25k miles for the acceleration lag issue. To this day they deny that the lag problem exists. Shortly after that is when I noticed the whining and it took me until 49k miles before they finally admitted there was a problem. If you guys have this problem, FIGHT them until they admit the issue and replace it. Maybe you'll have better luck then me. It's a shame really, because I love the car otherwise. Just wish they could give me a transmission that won't blow up every 10k miles or so...