NEWS: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI - Four Seasons Update - August 2009

August 21, 2009
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Mileage to date: 23,801
Months in fleet: Ten
Sales of the Volkswagen Jetta TDI have been heating up of late - in both June and July, turbo-diesel engines were installed in an impressive 40 percent of Jetta sedans and 81 percent of Jetta SportWagens sold in the United States.
Unfortunately for our Four Seasons Jetta TDI, the ambient heat in June and July has revealed that the car's air-conditioning isn't nearly as strong as it should be. During a drive to the East Coast, intern Jeff Jablansky noted: "The A/C doesn't blow cold air, which would have been helpful on this 95-degree day at the beach in Rhode Island."
Jablansky cooled off after he delivered the car to senior editor Joe Lorio in New York. It didn't take for Lorio long to comment on the car's subpar A/C. "Temps today are in the mid-80s with plenty of humidity," Lorio typed in the Jetta's notebook, "and the Jetta's air-conditioning can't take it. It's cool, but not cold. No self-respecting American car would ever leave the factory with this weak A/C. Say what you want about American cars, but one thing they do better than anyone else is air-conditioning. Even the cheapest domestic car will freeze the interior to the point where you could hang meat."
Lorio also promptly critiqued the Jetta's powertrain. "OK, I hate this clutch," he wrote, echoing the comments of other staff members. "Or ... maybe what I hate is the interplay between the no-feel clutch pedal and the engine that's slow to respond to initial accelerator-pedal inputs, because I don't remember hating the clutch in the 2.5-liter gasoline-powered Jetta SportWagen that I drove a while ago. But I stalled the Jetta TDI three times on my first day driving it, and the only reason I've stopped is that every time I move off from a stop, I'm revving the crap out of the engine and riding the clutch like a teenager. My number-one piece of advice to any would-be TDI owner: Get the DSG automatic."
Still, Mr. Lorio is generally a fan of the turbo-diesel engine itself: "The Jetta's arrival in NY couldn't be better timed. For the past year, diesel prices in my area of Westchester County have been as much as $1/gallon more than premium, which means they approached $5/gallon last summer. Just the other day, I noticed diesel selling for the same price as regular. Quite a difference."
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Especially with EPA-combined fuel-mileage figures that are some 35 percent better than those of the gasoline engines offered in the Jetta. The TDI's combined rating is 34 mpg, but Lorio is only the most recent driver who substantially eclipsed that performance. "I took the Jetta on two road trips this weekend, one upstate and one down to the city," he noted. "It topped (an indicated) 40 mpg on the run upstate, which was an hour each way with lots of hills but pretty low highway speeds (about 65 mph). Going down to the city was about the same distance, but with a bit of NYC driving mixed in; mileage was still an indicated 39 mpg."
Automotive enthusiasts can't be completely satisfied by high mileage alone, however, and Lorio has a warning for those in our audience who are considering purchasing a Jetta TDI: "As with the previous-generation Jetta, this car's suspension is pretty soft, which sends the serious Jetta driver straight into the waiting arms of the aftermarket for suspension mods. On the upside, the ride is pretty comfortable, but I'd prefer more crisp turn-in and less body roll, squat, and dive."
Next month, we'll share some of New York bureau chief and renaissance man Jamie Kitman's thoughts on our silver fuel saver.
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2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
Base price (with dest.): $23,090
Price as tested: $23,090
Overview
Body Style: 4-door sedan
Accommodation: 5-passenger
Construction: Steel unibody
Powertrain
Engine: Inline SOHC turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel
Displacement: 2.0 liters
Power: 140 hp @ 4000 rpm
Torque: 236 lb-ft @ 1750-2500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual transmission
Drive: front-wheel
Fuel economy: 30/41/34 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Chassis
Steering: Power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Turns lock-to-lock: 3.0
Turning Circle: 35.8 ft
Suspension, Front: McPherson struts, coil springs
Suspension, Rear: Multilink, coil springs
Brakes F/R: Vented discs / solid discs, ABS
Wheels: 16 x 6.5
Tires: Bridgestone Turanza EL400
Tire Size: 205/55HR-16
Measurements
Headroom F/R: 38.5 / 37.2 in
Legroom F/R: 41.2 / 35.4 in
Shoulder Room F/R: 54.8 / 53.1 in
Wheelbase: 101.5 in
Track F/R: 60.6 / 59.8 in
L x W x H: 179.3 x 70.1 x 57.4 in
Cargo Capacity: 16 cu ft
Weight: 3230 lb
Weight Dist. F/R: N/A
Fuel Capacity: 14.5 gal
Est. Range: 490 miles
Fuel Grade: diesel fuel
Standard Equipment
ABS
Front, side, curtain airbags
Auxiliary jack
Cruise control
Electronic stability control
Options
None
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