Our Ã¢â‚¬Å“DrivenÃ¢â‚¬Â series highlights the several cars I was able to sample at IMPAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Spring Brake 2009 event. These short takes are summaries of my driving impressions of the cars on the roads surrounding Bear Mountain State Park in Rockland County, New York.
Given the automotive preferences of most North Americans, it’s a wonder the car pictured above is sold here at all. Station wagons? Bah! Nope, give me the latest crossover/SUV. And a diesel? Are you kidding me? Who is the target market here, quirky English teachers at private New England prep schools?
Hardly. We’re the odd ones-Europeans strongly prefer the practicality a station wagon affords you over the taller, still thirstier and heavier CUV’s that have at least replaced the SUV’s of yore. But the larger hurdle is the diesel engine, or rather, the stigma we still attach to it. Loud. Slow. Rough. Smokey. Diesels arrived here following the gas crises of the 1970’s, but the trade-0ffs were a little more than buyers at the time could handle. And then they sort of ‘went away’ save for the random VW or Mercedes. And that is the impression still stuck in our collective heads today.
To the skeptics out there, I say get in the Jetta TDI now. The only time I could sense I was in a diesel was at idle or if I was standing outside the car. Even then, the engine was quieter and smoother than any diesel I’d ever heard. At any other time, the TDI behaved like any other Jetta. At 140 hp, the Jetta pulled strong off the line, never lost its breath, never got coarse. You won’t mistake it for a GTI, but the TDI more than gets the job done.
Style-wise, I prefer the SportWagen over the Jetta sedan, which looks more Toyota Corolla than VW from certain angles. The SportWagen maintains a European air the sedan lacks. Inside, the SportWagen exhibited typical VW build quality-good, but the climate controls knobs felt cheap to the touch. As a whole, the package felt a little austere. Only a few strips of aluminum trim broke up the acres of blackness. I was thankful for the optional panoramic sunroof which let in plenty of light to brighten things up.
Like Audi, the price of a contemporary VW rises quickly if you want some extras. The TDI I drove had three very costly options-DVD Navigation, the panoramic sunroof, 17″ alloys and the 6-speed DSG automatic. Including destination, the as-tested price was $29.410-USD-plenty of coin for a Jetta. But you are paying for the engineering that went into the TDI engine. Ã‚Â To compare, I spec’d out a Jetta 2.5 SportWagen SE with the same options, and the price was nearly $2,500 less. Of course, the difference is in fuel economy-the TDI gets 29/40 city /highway mpg versus 20/29 mpg for the 2.5.
But I am here to confirm that what you have read is true-the modern diesel engine has rid itself of the demons that turned us off in the early 1980’s. VW has much to be proud of with its 2.0 TDI engine-as a diesel it is a model of refinement, but perhaps even more important, in just driving the car, it was easy to forget I was driving a diesel at all.