Our Four Seasons Volkswagen Jetta TDI will forever leave our fleet in just a few days, but it recently made some solid impressions on two more veteran car testers.
New York bureau chief Jamie Kitman parked the Jetta in his driveway (alongside some of his two dozen or so vintage cars) for a couple weeks and had this to say:
"Diesels that don't stink and go fast still leave me awestruck. On three journeys into lower Manhattan from my suburban home, involving significant amounts of traffic, the TDI still managed a 39-mpg average, although some credit should go to my Mobil Economy Run driving technique.
"Which brings me to my one real complaint: don't try lugging this in too high a gear - it stalls. Indeed, it's the most stall-worthy car I've ever driven, and that includes old racing cars, 1950s trucks, and some other machines with unforgiving clutches. What up, VW?"
Kitman isn't the only tester to complain about the clutch, as we've chronicled in previous TDI-update installments. He also echoed others' opinions regarding a tempting upgrade to the Jetta:
"The handling is hardly exciting, but I don't find it objectionable. I do remember a Jetta GLI that I drove recently as being pretty nimble ... How hard would it be for the TDI owner to cook up his/her own GDI?"
Soon after assistant Web producer Andrew Peterson grabbed the keys from Kitman and shepherded the VW back to Michigan, longtime Automobile Magazine contributor Ronald Ahrens hopped in the TDI so he could venture to a couple of ARCA stock-car races in the Midwest.
"I'll admit some disappointment akin to receiving a lump of coal in my Christmas stocking when the Jetta showed up in my driveway," Ahrens admitted. "It certainly is in a plain gray wrapper. And the TDI badge didn't excite me.
"But I put about 1000 miles on the clock in four days and was very pleased with the car," he continued. "The guttural rumble of the engine is pleasantly reassuring, and the way this powerplant produces torque is most impressive. Smokey Yunick once said that cars are begging for engines that produce torque before horsepower ... so here you are.
"Perhaps the only unpleasant aspect of the TDI is the oily mess surrounding the average diesel pump at stations. Fortunately, the exemplary range and fuel economy mean that you don't visit the pump often."
Indeed, a year with a spacious, affordable, and torquey diesel in our garage has left us very impressed - and intrigued about the future of diesel cars in America. Stay tuned to automobilemag.com to read our final thoughts on the Jetta TDI, which we'll soon print in the pages of Automobile Magazine.
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
Base price (with dest.): $23,090
Price as tested: $23,090
Body Style: 4-door sedan
Construction: Steel unibody
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
Fuel economy: 30/41/34 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
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
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
Front, side, curtain airbags
Electronic stability control