2012 VW Jetta TDI

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There is a car – a family-sized sedan (and wagon!) that’s capable of going 600-plus miles on a topped-off tank – more than a Toyota Prius hybrid – and without the complexity (and therefore, additional cost potential) of multiple drivetrains packaged in the same vehicle.

It’s also a more enjoyable car to drive – no small thing for most people. And it’s affordable relative to a Prius  – only $22,775 to start. That’s about $1,200 less than the base price ($24,000) of Toyota’s big-selling hybrid.

What is this car?

It’s the 2012 VW Jetta TDI.

Of course, there’s a catch. Isn’t there always?

I’ll tell you about that in a minute.

WHAT IT IS

The Jetta TDI is one of a very small handful of diesel-powered passenger cars available in the U.S. And it’s the only one in its class – the bread and butter family-car class – available with a diesel engine.

On the left, there’s the soon-to-be-here 2013 SkyActivD Mazda3 diesel – but it’s a more sport-oriented (and physically smaller) car. On the right… well, there’s nothing, really. You have to move up the price chain to an entry-luxury level ride such as the Audi A3 – which starts at just over $30k.

The Jetta TDI’s most direct challenger as efficient family transpo is probably the Prius hybrid. It’s also family-minded in layout – and touts its high efficiency. But it’s also very different type of car in several keys respects – functionally and otherwise.

The 2012 TDI Jetta sedan’s base price is $22,775 with the standard-issue six-speed manual transmission. With the optional DSG automated manual, the price is $23,875. A top-of-the-line TDI with the Premium package, the DSG transmission and GPS navigation lists for $26,445.

A Sportwagen version of the TDI-equipped Jetta is also available. It starts at $25,540.

WHAT’S NEW

Since the Jetta was all-new last year, the ’12 is mostly a carryover. But there are some new features, including a high-end Fender audio system. My test car had this – and it’s top drawer.

WHAT’S GOOD

Near hybrid-equivalent fuel efficiency – without the hybrid’s cost, complexity or compromises.

Powerful off-the-line acceleration due to diesel engine’s tremendous torque output.

Probably good for 300k – or more – with decent treatment.

Meets emissions (NOx) standards without needing a urea tank – and monthly (or weekly) urea top-offs.

Just a really nice car, overall.

Sedan – and wagon – bodystyles available.

WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD

Diesel fuel’s price per gallon undercuts the efficiency of diesel engine’s operation.

Optional DSG transmission’s not the smoothest thing going.

UNDER THE HOOD

The Jetta TDI’s diesel engine displaces 2.0 liters (same as the Jetta’s standard gas engine) but makes 140 hp (vs. the 2.0 gas engine’s 115 hp) and 236 lbs.-ft of torque at 1,750 RPM (vs. the gas engine’s 125 lb.-ft at 4,000 RPM).

That torque figure is particularly impressive – it’s more than twice the torque output of the gas 2.0 engine and at one-fourth the engine speed. Even the Jetta’s optional 2.5 liter gas engine doesn’t come close to matching the TDI’s low-down brawn. It makes just 177 lbs.-ft of torque – and 177 hp.

Performance – as you might expect given the numbers – is very good. The TDI powered Jetta easily beats the 2.0 gas-engined in the race to 60 MPH: about 8.5-8.6 seconds vs. mid-high nines. It’s a closer race against the Jetta with the step-up 2.5 liter engine, but so close (0-60 in about 8.4 seconds) that it comes down to who’s the better shoe – which driver has the quicker reaction times, which driver shifts better. It’s not a difference that’s noticeable – without a stopwatch.

But neither of the Jetta’s gas engines can hang with the diesel mill when it comes to fuel economy. The base 2.0 engine registers a best-case 24 city, 34 highway with the five-speed manual transmission. The step-up 2.5 liter maxxes out 23 city, 33 highway. These are decent numbers – for gas burners.

But check the TDI’s numbers: 30 city – and 42 highway.

The TDI’s city numbers almost match the gas-burner’s highway numbers. And the TDI’s highway numbers crush the gas-burners’ highway numbers by nearly 10 MPG.

The only thing that does better is a hybrid – like the Toyota Prius, which rates 51 city and 48 highway. But to do a fair cross-shop you have to factor in the Toyota’s $1,200 higher base price, as well as its probably shorter useful service life and (related) higher lifetime service/repair costs.

Diesel engines are built rugged – they have to be rugged, in order to survive the internal stresses of compression ratios that can be twice or three times those a gas engine endures. Diesel fuel also has the advantage of providing a lubrication benefit to internal parts that gasoline doesn’t. The result is that – typically – a diesel engine can go for several hundred thousand miles before major work is necessary. While hybrids like the Prius have proved to be more durable than many critics (me among them) expected, it’s a an engineering fact that, over time, battery performance – the ability to accept and hold a charge – inevitably declines. Fifteen or twenty years out, a diesel powered car like the Jetta TDI is a more likely survivor than a hybrid like the Prius. More on this below.

You can pair the Jetta’s TDI engine with either a six-speed manual transmission or – optionally – VW’s Direct Shift (DSG) gearbox, an automated manual designed to match the efficiency of a driver-controlled manual transmission with the ease of use of a conventional automatic. And, it does. The TDI’s mileage ratings are the same with either transmission.

All versions of the 2012 Jetta are FWD.

ON THE ROAD

I loved driving this car for a week – and in particular, loved that I did not have to top off the tank even once during that week. This never happens – not even when I have a hybrid to drive.

The TDI Jetta has a 600-plus mile range on a full tank, which is easily 100 miles more range than the gas-burner Jetta and – here’s the big one – more range than the Prius hybrid. Because the Prius has a smaller (11.8 gallon vs. 14.5 gallon) gas tank. It’ll go about 570 miles – close, but no cigar. And in real-world driving – in particular, real-world highway driving – the diesel Jetta’s MPGs match or even beat what the Prius delivers.

Remember: hybrids are optimized for low-speed, city-type driving – the old stop n’ go and bump n’ grind. In such situations, the hybrid can shut off its gas engine entirely and rely exclusively – or mostly – on the electric side of its powertrain, thereby not burning much, if any gasoline. But to keep up with highway traffic running 75 MPH or faster – as is routine nowadays – the hybrid has to work its gas engine pretty hard. But this is the diesel’s home field advantage. The TDI burbles along at a fast idle – around 2,200 RPM – at 75 MPH. This RPM range coincides with the TDI engine’s torque peak, so the engine doesn’t need to work very hard to maintain fairly high road speeds – the exact opposite of the hybrid. If you do a lot of highway driving, a car like the Jetta TDI will probably suit you more than a hybrid like the Prius.

But, efficiency isn’t everything.

Another area where the Jetta TDI shines is performance. With all that torque available right now – no need to wind the engine up like you would a gas-burner – the car literally lunges forward with minimal pedal pressure. Floor it off the line and the front tires will leave their vulcanized DNA all over the road. The Prius – which needs about 10 seconds to get to 60 – is a dog in comparison.

Part-throttle response is especially satisfying – again, courtesy of all that torque (comparable to the output of large gasoline-powered V-6 or even a small V-8) that’s almost always right there, just waiting to be tasked with the job of passing a slow-moving clover.

And noise? There is no noise. Well, no noticeable diesel noise. In fact, the TDI I just tested was quieter than the gas-engined (and direct injected) BMW I had the week before. The gas direct-injected BMW “dieseled” (tatatatata at idle) more noticeably than the diesel VW!

Absolutely no smoke – or smell – either.

Functionally – and aesthetically – the Jetta’s diesel engine has no downsides.

My only quibble with the Jetta TDI’s drivetrain centers on the optional DSG transmission. It’s not as smooth as a conventional automatic, especially during deceleration. As you come to a stop, there’s often a noticeable engine braking effect as the transmission gears down. It’s much more like a manual transmission (which it is, only the computers work the clutch) than a conventional (fluid-drive) automatic, which typically “coasts” as you decelerate to a stop.

This is subjective, of course.

How the DSG feels to you is what matters. Try both out and see for yourself. Objectively, I’d choose the standard six-speed manual to keep the Jetta’s buy-in price as favorable as possible – and also because the six-speed manual will probably be less likely to hit you with costs down the line. Or to be more precise, its repair/maintenance costs will probably be less than the costs of dealing with a deader DSG – which is an elaborate (and so, expensive) piece of equipment.

There’s also handling/driving feel to consider – relative to something like the Prius. Night and day difference. The Jetta’s sporty – and engaging. The Prius is neither. In the VW, you’ve got European car steering precision, a firm but not harshly set suspension – and the ability to run fast and feel good doing it. The Prius – with its electric toggle shifter and electric power steering – has the feel of a golf cart. A very nice golf cart – but still, a golf cart. It’s a transportation appliance. It gets you from A to B quietly and efficiently.

The Jetta TDI helps you enjoy getting from A to B.

AT THE CURB

The TDI Jetta looks exactly like the standard gas-burner Jetta. Only the “TDI” badge on the trunk lid gives away the difference. Last year’s major redesign bestowed numerous subtle but important changes to the exterior – including redesigned (narrower and flatter) headlights. But overall, the car retains the VW trademark ambiance of higher-end but not flashy that has long been a big part of the brand’s appeal.

Neat little detail touches include the hand slot for the hood release, just above the VW crest in the grille. It lets you find the catch – and open the hood – without having to get on your knees and fumble around looking for it. The interior is direct – and to the point. Obvious everything. No learning curve. There are your gauges; here are your controls. Get in – and go.

The optional GPS system could use a larger screen – that’s the only complaint I have.  Well, there is one other thing: I’m not a big fan of the push-button ignition thing. Sure, it’s neat. But the electronic keys cost a fortune – and you will inevitably lose them or break them or they will just wear out. I personally would prefer a simple mechanical key – one I could get replaced for about $5 down at Lowes or Home Depot.

Though not quite technically a mid-sized car, the Jetta is larger than a typical (official) compact-sized car, so it has an occupant friendly interior – the back seats in particular. The VW has two inches more backseat legroom than the also almost-mid-sized Toyota Prius hybrid – 38.1 inches vs. 36 inches. Both cars are roomy. But the VW’s roomier. At least, in the back. In addition to having more physical space, the Jetta makes better use of the available space by giving you very wide-opening doors. At full extension, they are almost at 90 degree angles relative to the car. That makes getting in – and out – easier.

And makes the car just feel bigger than it is.

Up front, it’s closer – but closer to being a draw. The Jetta’s got 41.2 inches of front seat legroom and the Prius has 42.5 inches.

The Prius is the clear winner in two respects: headroom (courtesy of its taller roofline) and overall cargo space – where it crushes the Jetta sedan. You get 1.6 inches more headroom up front in the Toyota (38.6 inches vs. 37 inches for the TDI) and a humungous 39.6 cubic feet of cargo space (second row folded) vs. a 15.5 cubic foot trunk in the VW.

But, the Sportwagen TDI crushes back – with 66.9 cubic feet of cargo capacity.

I haven’t yet gotten my hands on the 2013 Mazda3 Sky-D but physically, in terms of the car itself, the diesel-powered version of the Mazda3 is identical to the gas-burner version, which I have tested. And it’s a smaller on the outside car than the Jetta: 177.4 inches long vs. 182.2 for the VW. Not surprisingly, the smaller 3 also has a smaller back seat area (36.2 inches of legroom) and a smaller (11.8 cube) trunk.

If you were to select the hatchback version of the Mazda3, you could buy yourself more cargo capacity (42.8 cubes). But that’s still a lot less space than the Jetta Sportwagen offers.

Still, it’ll be interesting to find out how well the SkyD version of the Mazda3 is as far as fuel economy – and performance.

THE REST

There’s just one hair in the soup – the price of diesel fuel.

At the time of this review in early July 2012, diesel was selling in my area for about $3.69 per gallon vs. 2.99 for regular unleaded. That (roughly) 70 cents per gallon difference cuts hard into the Jetta’s overall cost-to-drive relative to both gas-burners and hybrids like the Prius.

Filling up the Jetta’s appx. 14 gallon tank with diesel costs (as I write this) about $51. The same fill-up with regular unleaded costs about $41 – so a difference of about $10 per tank at current prices. When you work the numbers, you find out that the diesel still gets you farther for less money – but it’s not a huge advantage.

Meanwhile, the gas-burning Jetta starts at $15,515 – a difference of $7,260 up front.

Now, you could probably work this off in down-the-road fuel savings, especially if gas prices go up again (as they probably will) and if “down the road” means 12-15 years of driving at 12,000 or so miles annually. The TDI is a lot like a hybrid in that you need to drive the thing – often – to make the math really work for you. Diesel drivers are hip to this. They tend to be the kind of people who put 20 years on their cars – or even more – before thinking about changing up. In that case, the TDI will more than pay for itself – probably much more so than a hybrid, too – because at some point you’ll be faced with a dead (or dying) hybrid battery pack and a bill of possibly several thousand bucks to replace it with a fresh one. And if you don’t replace it, your hybrid’s efficiency will plummet. No such worries with a diesel.

One last thing: The TDI Jetta does not have a urea tank that must be topped off periodically in order to keep the car emissions compliant. This is a big advantage – because having to deal with urea (which is a nice way of saying animal pee) is a major turnoff for most people – me included.

There are no additional/unusual hassles – or oddities – to deal with when you buy a TDI. Just hop in – and go.

THE BOTTOM LINE

If you’re a long-hauler, this is a car you’ll appreciate. It’s one of the very few new cars that can be considered an investment.

Or at least, not a money pit.

Throw it in the woods?

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41 COMMENTS

  1. I have a 2010 Jetta TDI Sedan and just love it! Bought it to save money commuting 60 miles/day in LA traffic. Didn’t like the feel of the automatic transmission, so opted for the manual. Very good turbo pickup when needed and average 45mpg and about 600 miles per tank. Cheaper than the Prius and most important for me – more fun to drive!

    • Having driven both, I much prefer the driving qualities of the Jetta. It has very strong off the line and mid-range punch (the Prius doesn’t), extremely long legs on the highway and has excellent (precise, direct) steering, minimal body roll and is just a blast to drive. The superb mileage (and probable durability, long-term) are just the icing on top of the cake!

  2. I’d be interested in hearing/learning more about the turbo failure/ or lack-thereof rates nowadays. Ford ran the f- 150 trucks over 300k flat out with the turbo engines on the test track supposedly when doing their testing, so turbo failure may be becoming less of an issue.

    • I’ll respond to why I voted Prius over Jetta.I had no iusess in voting in a biased manner after all GreenHuman had no problem producing a biased comparison.I vote against making a big deal of the push button start, what were you thinking when you did that?I voted for a quiet idle, well actually a silent idle.I voted for a flexible hatchback design.I voted for the lowest emissions and the lowest spend at the pump.I drive 37km each way across town each day through 40 sets of traffic lights, and a couple of stop signs. I get better than 4.4L/100km on my daily commute and when I hit the open road, which I do more in my Prius than I have in any other car, I average 5.2L/100km. I don’t mess about with many fuel saving tricks either, I just drive smooth but with the traffic, I enjoy winning traffic light drags up to the speed limit though.I’m an ex-motor mechanic, I quit the trade and drive Toyota because I’m sick of fixing cars. Yes I have had the displeasure of fixing VWs and VW diesels, not fun. I’m glad I don’t have a turbo car too.I’ll stick with the reliable, economical Toyota Prius, I might even buy a new 2010 Prius and pass this car to my wife, The 2010 Prius from all reports will be a much better car than even the near perfect current Prius.

      • Your situation – mostly stop-and-go driving – is ideal for a hybrid like the Prius, so I agree with your reasoning.

        However, if your driving were to include a lot of highway/high-speed miles, then the dynamic changes – in favor of a car like the diesel VW.

  3. Bought a 2011 TDI wagon early last year and have logged 67K on it, mostly hwy miles. Average around 38 mpg combined, as much as 44 hwy. Yes, diesel is higher but filled up in Greenville, SC at 3.27 this past week.

    The DSG will “jump” at times when accelerating from low speeds after slowing down when not completely stopping. This is my only complaint. But, I’ve not gone to the dealer for service since the warranty expired. Oil change w/ synthetic runs around $75 though.

    The amount of storage is amazing – find I don’t need the pickup for many smaller jobs. Very satisfied to date. Great wagon for $30K.

    • Hi Harvey,

      I’m a fan of this car, too.

      If I were going to buy a new car for myself, this one would be at the top of my list.

      I do wish, though, that we could get the Euro-spec Jetta (with the 1.6 liter TDI engine) over here….

  4. Nice review, and, as usual, spot-on. I’ve been hearing about the VW TDI diesels for awhile now, and it was good to read all the juicy details. If I needed a highway car (Interstates) I’d probably have looked harder at this instead of the Prius II I got a couple of years ago. But, for me, the Prius fits my driving needs better. For highway cruises, I just hop in my gigantic-azzed Buick Park Avenue (old, but still well-maintained!) and cruise quietly down the hi-way of life to the tune of about 30 MPG, believe it or not. I’ll trade a bit of economy for two tons of GM steel around me, thank you very much.
    But, I’m very happy to see VW keeping up the good fight to keep diesels relevant here. I just wish the price of their fuel was less – what gives with that?
    As always, enjoy your blog immensely, Eric.

    • Thanks, DR!

      I was very impressed with the Jetta TDI – in particular, that it does not have a urea tank. But also, its extremely smooth operation – and high efficiency, even at high speeds. For me, this kind of car would be a better choice than a hybrid because a great deal of my driving is 60 MPH and higher, where a diesel will give you better real-world mileage than a hybrid.

      In Europe, VW sells a version of this car with a smaller (1.6 liter) engine that gets 50 MPG (our measure, not Euro measure).

      That’s a car I wish we could buy over here!

  5. Thanks for this review. I was hoping to get your impressions of diesels, and this is the most popular one out there.

    One thing you may not be considering is that although you pay more up front for a diesel, it will be worth much more than the equivalent gas engine when you sell it (of course you have to keep it maintained). I just checked the Kelly Blue Book website for a 2005 Jetta GLS and the difference between a gas engine and TDI is about $2,000, not insignificant.

    And the price difference on diesel usually comes down to taxes. Here in Colorado, diesel and regular unleaded have been within 1 cent all summer long, and more than once diesel has been cheaper than RUG. The state tax on fuel is the same percentage no matter what grade you buy. I’m sure Virgina wants to soak everyone the same amount, so because diesel owners pay less per mile, they have to be taxed more in the spirit of “fairness.”

    • Thanks, Eric!

      And, good points. The cost of diesel in your area is an important factor. I’ll have to look into it and see whether I can find out why diesel fuel costs so much more here (Virginia). I’m unaware of any diesel-specific taxes, and so assumed the higher cost was just reflective of higher (low sulfur) diesel fuel costs, nationally. But if you’re paying about the same for diesel in CO, then maybe VA does have some sort of obnoxious tax on diesel fuel.

      For me, the big plus with regard to a diesel car is that one could expect to drive it for 20-plus years. Then the math really works out!

      • Correction: Colorado does tax diesel higher than RUG, 44.9¢ vs 40.4¢. However it looks like VA robs diesel users an extra 6.2¢/gallon, 2¢ more than CO. Either way, the pump price is the same in my area lately.

        The sad thing is that diesel owners are taxed more at all, given the fact that if I were to buy a hybrid, which would be an inferior vehicle for my needs (almost exclusively highway driving), I could get a nice tax break.

    • I’m a big fan of the 3 – diesel powered or otherwise!

      Hopefully, Mazda will also offer diesel power in the 6 – a larger, more family-friendly car than the 3.

      • I love Mazda handling.

        The best front-wheel-drive car I ever drove was a Protege I rented. You could stand that little thing on its nose under braking, hurl it into a corner and get a little pivot of the rear before getting back in it at the apex.

        Such lively, fun cars!

      • Mazda claims their SkyActiv diesel is tier 2 bin 5 compliant without urea…I think they are planning on bringing it to the US next year…I think CX5 and Mazda6 will get this.

          • Yes…And atomization of diesel using high pressure injection and swirl techniques to get ever closer to complete oxidation…14:1 compression ratio and a 5200 RPM redline in a diesel is a big advancement (the first link I provided above shows the engine winding up to 5500 RPM and it is almost as smooth as any gasoline engine). I do trust Mazda engineers to make this engine reliable since they have been supplying excellent and durable MZR engines to Ford Europe for many years.

          • I watched a “Pinks” tv episode once with a diesel 4×4 truck racing a fast car. I can’t remember completely how it turned out, but it was awesome! The truck ended up blowing something I think. The performance put out was absolutely sick, this was years ago and home grown!

            Found it!

  6. Diesel (C14) is such a wonderful thing…Incredible energy density and low volatility compared to gasoline (C8) and with advancements in high-pressure injection to produce a cleaner and efficient oxidation event. Even though it cost more to produce in America, when the EPA terrorists demand their slaves use more ethanol in their gasoline (E85), diesel will become a more viable alternative…You can’t put ethanol in diesel. Imagine 15 mpg from your E85/$5 per gallon (more $ if there is a drought and corn crop yields are low…Duhhh) Corolla vs 50 mpg from your $3.70 per gallon diesel TDI Jetta.

    Best thing about diesel…Nice low-end torque.
    Who gives a crap about high-end Horsepower….

    • Good points, DD –

      Especially for typical everyday-type driving, a diesel is the ideal powerplant because of its high torque/low RPM nature. But – unlike a hybrid – a diesel is also excellent for high-speed highway use.

      Another poster mentioned that it would be interesting to compared the MPGs of a Prius vs. something like the Jetta TDI at a sustained 75-80 MPH. The bet was that the TDI’s MPGs would be significantly better. I’d take that bet!

  7. Is there still a problem getting warranty service for the TDi?

    Last time I checked tdiforums a number of owners who had fuel system problems were being denied warranty service by their VW dealer because ‘they put gasoline in’ or ‘algae formed in the tank’

    Even if they had every fuel receipt or used diesel treatments.

    I’m not sure I want to buy a vehicle where I’d have to sue to get warranty service.

    • RE warranty: at Fred’s tdiclub according to some posters it appears that (dealer or VW America) will look for any possible loophole to get out of paying for warranty work.

      I can not speak regarding the validity of comments.

      • This is probably true for all the automakers. Toyota, apparently, can be a real pain in your ass if you have a warranty-related claim. Ford too.

  8. My sister has an older jetta and my aunt has had one and they always seem to be so much junk. Perhaps the newer ones are better but they always seem unreliable or are going to the shop.

    • Probably that’s why I hear many people in Prius chat forum switched from VW to Prius. I don’t know how many switched from Prius to TDI. Toyota’s reliability record worth at least $2000 – $5000 in my view, not to mention the trouble and time saved.

      Also, Prius’ hybrid battery life is longer than most people think. The junked Prius’ battery price is going down, that’s a pretty good indication of less demand for replacement. In fact lots of them work perfectly even after 200K or 300K miles.

  9. Doesn’t the “T” in “TDI” stand for “turbo?”
    Didn’t you criticize the lack of longevity and high cost to repair turbos in your review of BMW’s new 3 Series?
    But in this review, didn’t you say the TDI should be good for 300K with proper maintenance?
    Why is the turbo (granted, “two” turbos,) such a big longevity problem for BMW, but not even worth mentioning here?

    • You bring up a good point, I lost my first one on my TDI @ 200,000- then I bought I rebuilt one and lost it 20,000 miles later.

      I decided to call it quits after that. I totally forgot about the “turbo” issues in factoring cost as well!

      I figured either the rebuilt turbos were shit, or that I was getting blow by on the oil rings in the piston that was causing the turbo to take an early dump.

      Yet another thing making the TDI less cost effective….and why the old Benz diesels(w/o turbos) were better…

    • Although I am not knowledgeable regarding turbos, a TDI would rarely need to rev above 3 000 RPMs in normal driving. Perhaps the slower revs means less stress on the turbo.

      3 000 RPMs in my 2001 Golf TDI would be about 84mph. IDK what it is in current TDI models.

      • They do weird things to cope with the surging issues on the TDI turbos…but that’s when they are stressed(low rpm) more so than the high rpm stuff.

        There’s a weird surge window and it happens @ low rpm…which the TDI runs @ all the time- it’s hard on turbos.

        Mike’s right though, turbo’s in general reduce the life of the vehicle so if you plan on having it a long time there’s an impact/tradeoff to getting the power out of a smaller engine that way.

        • IIRC, On Fred’s TDI forums the general consensus was to keep the RPMs at 1 800 or higher due to the turbo. I do not remember why.

          • Probably to avoid the surge window….

            In my case I was always winding it out…but I’m sure those more tenative with the throttle were probably always around it.

            Even further, the powerband of the engine almost promotes it….aside from the fact you always have to power through it on take off….which is hard on the impeller even if you avoid it while driving 90% of the time…but I digress. I’m sure we’ve lost 90% of the readers now with our obscure banter. lol

          • one other note and I swear I’ll leave it alone…but on the early 2000’s TDI’s if you didn’t disconnect the EGR you were riding around in a ticking time bomb…because diesel exhaust is nasty as it is and it would build up on the pressure side of the turbo until the manifold sealed off completely with a nasty greasy goo!

            lol…it was the only way VW could get them to pass emissions…now with low sulphur fuel, and other design changes I’m sure that probably isn’t necessary.

            I know MB was using urea and calling it “blue-tec”…LMAO! What a marketing scheme.

    • Hi Mike,

      Good point –

      Some qualifiers:

      The BMW has two turbos – and the engine is a high RPM/high performance engine. The TDI has one turbo – and is a low RPM engine. I do agree with the other poster, though, about the long-haul abilities of the old Benz diesels – which were legendary for going forever.

    • It is not an issue in this case because we are talking about a diesel engine. The designs, the fundamental mechanisms, are simply not the same.

  10. Nice review.

    Another negative, although this is not specifically related to the car, is the dealer service. The VW dealers in my area tend to be expensive. Labor rates over $105/hour is common. I tried to avoid the dealer when possible. The car tends to be a bit more costly for parts than other cars. At least it was when I had my 2001 VW Golf.

    Do the new TDIs still have an interference design. ie if the timing belt snaps, this will result in bent valves and other engine problems?

    • Rest assured they do, it’s inherent in diesel engines for the most part because of the high compression ratio.

      You make some good points, in addition to Eric’s great write up.

      I commuted in a 2000 Jetta TDI for years, the economic offset was the timing belt changes, which started out @ 60,000 miles per @ $800 a pop…

      They upped the intervals to 80,000 miles, then 100,000…but the price for the service went to $1200 then $1500, and I’m sorry-I do some of my own work but the belt change on a TDI is a real S.O.B.-The easiest way is to pull the engine-you can do it with it in the car(though the dealers will deny it) but it is a major pain the in ass and I’m just not gonna do that one myself.

      Once the “low sulpher” diesel was forced on us it jumped the price of diesel way up and as Eric points out in his article makes the gas savings neglible. He didn’t mention the timing belt issue…I wonder if they are over 100,000 miles now.

      The one good thing about the old Benz diesels was they didn’t need the timing belt crap and of course diesel was cheaper…

      Gov’t has effectively made the diesel market for cars non-advantageous here. They are fun to drive for something different and it’s nice not to fill up as much…but they aren’t any more cost effective in the big picture like they used to be.

      All that being said, I wish someone out there would starting rating MPG @ 80 MPH. I think that would be a great metric and I’ll be the Jetta TDI would kick the Prius’s ass at that speed.

      There’s lot of us that commute everywhere on the highway @ 80mph…and the difference in speed has a huge effect on what cars get in terms of gas mileage.

      • My mpg @ 80 mph was about 42-44 mpg via a vagcom.

        I do not have many data points so YMMV. I did not do this often, since it is not recommended to look at the computer while driving.

        In day to day driving, the 2001 Golf TDI was great.

        My timing belt change was @ 80,000 miles and cost about $1,000. This included one or two other things since it was convenient to change while the TB was being changed.

        Unfortunately the water pump failed @ 135,000 which ruined the TB which damaged the engine.

    • Thanks, Mith!

      I’m not sure on the “crasher” engine thing; I’ll root around the VW media site and see whether the info’s available.

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