The Little Diesel That Will

2009, Volkswagen, Jetta TDI

SANTA MONICA – The good folks at Volkswagen brought us here to drive the new Jetta TDI sedan. There will also be a Jetta sports wagon.

Anyway, there's absolutely no difference between the Jetta sedan and the 2009 Jetta TDI except one. TDI stands for turbocharged direct injection. In other words, the TDI is a diesel powered automobile.

In this case, it's a 2-liter four cylinder turbocharged direct fuel injection diesel engine that makes 140 horsepower and a very healthy 236 pound-feet of torque. The VW Jetta TDI was impressive on paper and more so on pavement. But first let's talk about diesel fuel.

Diesel fuel is no longer dirty. The US now requires refineries to remove most of the sulfur in diesel fuel. That means diesel powered vehicles don't stink; low sulfur little smell. And Volkswagen says that about 42 percent of US gas stations carry diesel fuel so it is relatively easy to find. What's more, better pumps and cleaner diesel fuel mean less filmy residue when fueling a diesel.

More than half the vehicles sold to consumers in Europe are diesel powered while a scant three percent of US automobile sales are diesels. The Jetta TDI will be one of the main vehicles to change that imbalance. Why? Because most of you are far more conscious of the cost of fuel and diesels burn at lot less of it, 20 to 40 percent.

First things first; the VW Jetta TDI has an EPA rating of 29/40 mpg in city and hwy driving. For the manual gearbox it's 30/41. However, Volkswagen hired an independent laboratory to conduct what it called real world fuel efficiency tests. The results were 38/44 mpg in city and hwy driving.

From my stint in the VW Jetta TDI's driver and passenger seats, I'd say mileage is closer to the independent test figures. We averaged a bit more than 38 mpg in overall driving. But that was through mountainous roads like Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Mulholland HWY and Tapia State Park.

The four-cylinder turbo, heavy on torque, showed no signs of working hard through the steep climbs. We had the dual clutch DSG transmission and could barely feel a gears shift. There was no searching for the correct gear and acceleration was effortless. This was from a four-cylinder engine in the mountains. That was impressive.

Even more eye-opening was that on the way back to the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel on Pacific Coast Highway, we were doing about 50 miles an hour and in some spots the Jetta TDI got 48 mpg.

Amongst the instruments in the car are readouts that will give you average mileage for the trip as well as instantaneous mileage. In other words, the Jetta TDI will teach you how to drive in a fuel efficient manner. Heck, with a full tank of gas, the Jetta TDI showed a range of 580 miles. That was with a14.5 gallon fuel tank.

There is a premium: the Jetta TDI starts at $21,990 while the five cylinder gasoline engine version cost $16,990. However, owners of the Jetta get an Advanced Lean Burn Technology Motor Vehicle Tax Credit of $1,300. Maintenance costs are lower because with no spark plugs diesels have fewer moving parts for something to go wrong and diesel engines last much longer than their gasoline powered counterparts.

A Jetta of any ilk is well equipped. There's a standard 10 speaker in dash CD player with MP3 capability, satellite radio, eight way manual adjustable seats with power recline and 60/40 split rear seats.

Other than plugging my iPod into the auxiliary jack, I really didn't test any of that. Still, VW doesn't get anywhere near the credit it should for the first rate fit and finish of its interiors. It was no different with the Jetta TDI.

What I was testing here was the clean burning (no sooty exhaust) four cylinder engine. And the Jetta TDI four cylinder diesel passed with a bunch of room to spare.

By Frank S.  Washington

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Images of the 2009, Volkswagen Jetta TDI

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
first rate fit
first rate fit
clean and roomy back seats
clean and roomy back seats
from the side
from the side