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Thread: 2010 VW Jetta TDI

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    2010 VW Jetta TDI

    Ever hear the line about going around the block to cross the street? That could be applied to gas-electric hybrid and electric vehicles, which rely on very impressive - but also very elaborate and very expensive - technology to reduce fuel consumption.

    Meanwhile, diesel technology is simple and proven. It's been around for more than 100 years now.

    A diesel powered car's fuel economy is comparable to a hybrid's real-world economy.

    It costs about the same up front - but 100,000 miles from now, you won't have to worry about replacing battery packs and failing electronics.

    So, if you're thinking about something like a hybrid Prius (or pending all-electric cars like the 2011 Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf) you might want to take a look at something along the lines of the diesel-powered VW Jetta TDI first.

    WHAT IT IS

    A diesel-powered version of VW's popular Jetta sedan/station wagon. Prices start at $22,830 for the Jetta TDI sedan, $24,615 for the Jetta TDI Sportwagen - each of which returns 41 mpg on the highway, 30 in city driving - superior to even the most economical subcompacts on the market right now and very close to the real-world efficiency of a hybrid like the current Toyota Prius.

    WHAT'S NEW

    Sport-themed "Cup" versions of the Jetta TDI sedan and Sportwagen have been added to the lineup. The package adds 18 inch wheels, performance tires, firmer-riding suspension, upgraded brakes and a body kit. Front end styling has been tweaked slightly.

    WHAT'S GOOD

    Exceptional real-world gas mileage without the expense or complexity of a hybrid/electric powertrain. Powerful and fun to drive. Available manual transmission (all hybrids are automatic). Costs about the same as a 2010 Prius ($22,800).

    Should last 300,000 miles with decent treatment.

    Typically fanatic VW attention to detail.

    WHAT'S NOT SO GOOD

    That there aren't more diesel-powered passenger sedans and wagons available in the United States. Currently, the TDI Jetta is the only diesel-powered sedan/wagon available in this price range (next-up are expensive entry-luxury models from Audi and BMW).

    ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

    "TDI" is short for turbocharged and direct-injected. The first is pretty straightforward: The Jetta TDI's 2 liter diesel engine is equipped with a turbocharger to boost power on demand by compressing the incoming air and stuffing more of it into the engine's cylinders than would come in naturally, as drawn in by engine suction alone. The denser air (and fuel) charge contains more potential energy - which results in higher power output.

    Turbocharging also improves efficiency by enabling a smaller engine to perform like a larger engine when the driver needs extra power - while delivering the fuel economy of a smaller engine the rest of the time.

    Direct injection means the fuel is sprayed directly into each cylinder under very high pressure rather than mixed with the air in an intake manifold first. Direct injection allows for extremely precise fuel metering, which boosts both power and efficiency.

    The Jetta's 2.0 liter TDI engine is rated at 140 hp and a very stout 236 ft.-lbs. of torque at just 1,750 RPM. It can be teamed up with either a regular six-speed manual transmission or VW's Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG), which is an advanced type of automatic that mimics the performance shifting characteristics of a conventional manual transmission but does it fully automatically, with no clutch or need for the driver to fiddle with gear changes unless he wants to. (There is a manual/Sport mode that allows for driver control of up and downshifts).

    Fuel efficiency is outstanding. The TDI's 30 city, 41 highway (with the six-speed manual; DSG versions are rated at 29 city/40) is a solid 10 mpg better on both counts than either of the Jetta's two available gasoline engines (a 2.5 liter four and a 2.0 liter turbocharged four) deliver. The only vehicles that are in the same general size/price range capable of challenging the Jetta TDI's mileage stats are hybrids like the Toyota Prius and the new Honda Insight hybrid. And in the real world, where people often need to drive at 70 mph on highways for extended periods (where a hybrid is least efficient) in addition to shuffling along in stop-and-go traffic (where the hybrid's efficiency is greatest), the actual mileage you'll see with a hybrid like the Prius is very likely going to be considerably less than advertised.

    In contrast, the diesel engine is more efficient on the highway, at higher speeds (even running close to 100 mph, my Jetta TDI test car was still returning better than 18 mpg).

    Acceleration is also impressive: 0-60 in about 8.3 seconds with the six-speed manual. That's a about two full seconds quicker than slow-mo' hybrids like the Prius and Insight.

    DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

    Unlike any of the hybrids on the market, the Jetta TDI has a pulse. It also has an available six-speed manual transmission - another feature that's not offered in any current hybrid. It is actually fun to drive, with good acceleration and excellent handling - especially if you buy the optional Cup equipment package. Diesel-powered cars are being raced competitively against gas-powere cars. Stacked up against any hybrid, there is no comparison as far as having a good time on top of the great mileage.

    At first glance, you might think the TDI's 140 hp rating seems a little on the weak side - especially when compared with the 170 hp rating of the regular Jetta's standard 2.5 liter gasoline engine. But the TDI engine's torque output of 236 ft.-lbs. at just 1,750 RPM is much higher (and comes on much sooner) than the gas four's paltry 177 ft.-lbs. at 4,250 RPM. The TDI actually makes more peak torque than the Jetta's optional "high-performance" gas engine - a 2.0 liter turbocharged four rated at 200 hp and 207 ft.-lbs. of torque at 1,800 RPM.

    While people love to talk about horsepower, it's torque that makes a car feel peppy off the line. Even more so when high torque output happens at very low engine RPMs - in the TDI's case, just above idle speed. What it means in everyday language is that when you touch the TDI's gas pedal, it goes. There is in immediate rush of power - enough to push you back in the seat and spin the tires, if you like that kind of stuff. To get similar performance from a gas engine, you have to rev the engine to much higher speeds - which makes a lot of noise and, of course, wastes a lot of fuel, too.

    And speaking of noise - rest assured the TDI is not like the diesels you may remember from the '70s - or even the '90s. Yes, you can still tell it's a diesel by the sound it makes - just as you can tell the difference between a V-8 and a V-6 based on the different exhaust notes. But the TDI's sound is neither intrusive nor unpleasant; just a low burble at idle that you can't hear at all with the windows up - and which is barely noticeable with them down.

    It's never obnoxious, as diesel engines often were in the past.

    No clouds of sooty black exhaust follow you around, either.

    The only "diesel downside" has nothing to do with the car. It's the refueling pumps - which are sometimes grimy and surrounded by puddles of oily goop sprinkled with kitty litter. Many stations will have disposable plastic gloves available, but it's a good idea to keep a pair of old gloves in the trunk just in case they're not.

    STYLING & UTILITY

    The Jetta is a nicely proportioned, modern-looking car with the extra versatility (in wagon form) of a large cargo area behind the rear seats. The Jetta sedan has a 16 cubic foot trunk; the Jetta Sportwagen ups that to 67 cubic feet of cargo space with the second row folded down - 32.8 with them upright. That's about twice the "trunk" space of the sedan - even with the second row seats in place.

    Like other German cars, the Jetta's interior is designed to accommodate very tall people. The driver's seat can be ratcheted up and down by several inches so that even a person well over six feet tall like me still has plenty of headroom even when the car is ordered with the optional Panorama sunroof - which runs almost the entire length of the roof. In many Japanese and American small and medium-sized cars, headroom is already tight for six-footers, even without the sunroof (which typically eats up about half an inch to an inch of headroom). With the sunroof, many of these cars can't be used by taller drivers - unless they don't mind having their heads constantly rubbing up against the ceiling.

    Other nice things about the '10 Jetta include an available 30 gigabyte music hard drive storage system (bundled with the optional GPS), standard heated driver and front seat passenger seats with really nice-looking duo-tone Leatherette trim and heated windshield washer nozzles that help take the bite off winter weather driving.

    AC, power windows and locks, a tile/telescoping steering wheel, cruise control and 16-inch rims are all standard.

    Major extras include the DSG six-speed automatic with paddle shifters, the full-length Panorama roof and the GPS rig with music hard drive and iPod hook-up. The body kit that's part of the performance-minded Cup package can be ordered separately as a stand-alone option.

    QUALITY & SAFETY

    VW, the brand, may not have the luxury car cachet of Audi or BMW - but VW's cars come across as having been put together with similarly Germanic fastidiousness. Beautiful paint (even the door jambs), precise fitment of panels and interior materials that (mostly) have a high quality look, feel and touch to them, even on base trim versions.

    VW is also one of the most experienced automakers when it comes to diesel engines. With decent treatment and regular maintenance, you should be able to count on the Jetta's TDI engine for several hundred thousand miles of 40-plus MPG service - and that's something no hybrid can promise. Remember: Current gas-electric hybrids use gasoline-burning engines and gas-burning engines rarely last as long as diesels - without even getting into the question of the hybrid's electric batteries.

    Electronic stability is control standard on all Jettas, TDIs included - along with traction control, ABS, front seat side impact and head/curtain air bags. Optional rear seat side-impact air bags are the only safety device that's not already included in the car's base sticker price. Last year's Jetta (same basic car) earned perfect ratings for crashworthiness in both government and insurance industry testing.

    THE BOTTOM LINE

    Hybrids like the Prius may get all the fuel economy uber alles limelight, but the TDI Jetta is arguably a more sensible choice if you want long-lived great gas mileage using completely proven technology - in a more useful body configuration, if you go for the wagon - for about the same money.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Mase's Avatar
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  3. #3
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    I drove a 2006 Volkswagen Jetta 2.5. It was by far the most solid freeway car I had ever driven. A few months later, I drove a diesel version. I found the 1.9 L diesel to be smooth although slightly sluggish. The gearing was awkward.

    One thing that gets me about these cars is the price. For a car made in Mexico, it should be a lot cheaper. I think that 18k retail would be a lot fairer of a price to charge.

  4. #4

    Urea injection

    Don't forget that the Jetta TDI needs urea injection to meet emissions. And because of all the other weight adding emissions equipment and the desire for more power (whats wrong with a slow car?) the fuel economy decreases from the previous Jetta diesels. Just six years ago the TDI got 50 mpg highway, now it's down to 40. They made the car bigger and heaver, but the interior isn't really any bigger than the Gen IV.
    Last edited by dieseleverything; 01-25-2010 at 03:11 PM.

  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dieseleverything View Post
    Don't forget that the Jetta TDI needs urea injection to meet emissions. And because of all the other weight adding emissions equipment and the desire for more power (whats wrong with a slow car?) the fuel economy decreases from the previous Jetta diesels. Just six years ago the TDI got 50 mpg highway, now it's down to 40. They made the car bigger and heaver, but the interior isn't really any bigger than the Gen IV.
    True, though I'd much rather deal with topping off the Urea (I think this costs about $40 roughly every other oil change) than face the ruinous down-the-road cost of a hybrid's battery pack, motor and associated electronics. I'm a cheap bastard, too - so I drive my vehicles for 10-15 years or more and as far as they'll go before becoming mechanically decrepit. Which would you rather own at 150k: A diesel Jetta or a Prius? I know which one I'd want!

    On mileage: Absolutely. This is true virtually across the board, diesel or not. Today's "economy" compacts, for example, are almost all considerably heavier than their equivalents of ten or 20 years ago and don't get as much gas mileage as the best economy cars were delivering back in the late 1980s, when 45 miles-per-gallon was common.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dieseleverything View Post
    Don't forget that the Jetta TDI needs urea injection to meet emissions. And because of all the other weight adding emissions equipment and the desire for more power (whats wrong with a slow car?) the fuel economy decreases from the previous Jetta diesels. Just six years ago the TDI got 50 mpg highway, now it's down to 40. They made the car bigger and heaver, but the interior isn't really any bigger than the Gen IV.

    How true! The TDI's are getting crummy mileage compared with those past. The emissions equipment adds a nominal amount of weight, but because of lower operating temperatures required for NOX reduction, compression ratios are reduced along with overall engine efficiency.

    The leaders of North American and European government should be dragged behind a train for what they are doing to the automobile industry.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    True, though I'd much rather deal with topping off the Urea (I think this costs about $40 roughly every other oil change) than face the ruinous down-the-road cost of a hybrid's battery pack, motor and associated electronics. I'm a cheap bastard, too - so I drive my vehicles for 10-15 years or more and as far as they'll go before becoming mechanically decrepit. Which would you rather own at 150k: A diesel Jetta or a Prius? I know which one I'd want!

    On mileage: Absolutely. This is true virtually across the board, diesel or not. Today's "economy" compacts, for example, are almost all considerably heavier than their equivalents of ten or 20 years ago and don't get as much gas mileage as the best economy cars were delivering back in the late 1980s, when 45 miles-per-gallon was common.
    Which would rather own at 300k? Chances are the Prius won't even be around, at least not without burning through a few battery packs. And I guess the more vehicles that need urea the cheaper it will become.

  8. #8
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dieseleverything View Post
    Which would rather own at 300k? Chances are the Prius won't even be around, at least not without burning through a few battery packs. And I guess the more vehicles that need urea the cheaper it will become.
    Definitely!

    The other issue is this:

    In my opinion, it's inevitable that gas prices are going to increase significantly over the next 5-10 years. If the per gallon cost of unleaded regular hits $4 or $5 per gallon, the economics of a diesel-powered vehicle become much more favorable. When you factor in the vastly superior longevity, a car like the Jetta TDI makes much more financial success than a hybrid.

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