New Car Reviews

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI – Four Seasons Update – March 2009

Long-Term 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Update: Spring 2009 Array Miles to date: 0

Mileage to Date: 15,573
Months in Fleet: Six

As of March 25, 2009, we’ve had our Four Seasons Jetta TDI for six months, but it’s hard to get a clear idea of where this car has actually traveled; its fuel range is so sizable (about 500 miles) that the Jetta’s hand-written fill-ups occupy less than a page and a half of the car’s paper logbook. Compare that with our long-term Evolution, for instance, which has endured almost twice as many fuel stops over the same distance, thanks mostly to its small tank and relatively poor fuel mileage.

At the halfway point in our yearlong test, though, the VW is on a pace for about 30,000 miles, a benchmark most recently reached only by versatile SUVs and crossovers in our fleet, not sedans or sports cars. Long-legged trips to Georgia and Massachusetts have surely helped keep the Jetta’s odometer rolling, but not everyone is in love with the diesel-fueled Vee Dub.

Take technical editor Don Sherman, who wrote:
“All this ‘lazy’ (low-rpm) torque that diesel nuts love is not the diesel; it’s the turbo. When the pinwheels aren’t spinning–during low exhaust flow–all that torque is asleep. Give any gasoline engine exotic injection, exhaust cleansing, boosting, and intercooling hardware, and it, too, will generate mountains of twist at whatever rpm your heart desires. Of course, there will be the usual 20-percent consumption penalty, half of which is attributable to gasoline’s lower energy-per-gallon spec. So as we enjoy the Jetta over the long haul, let’s not give the good doctor more credit than he earned.”

Such pro-diesel vs. anti-diesel banter fills much of the logbook, but some of my colleagues have been impressed with non-TDI parts of the Jetta, as well. Production editor Jennifer Misaros recently wrote:

“I drove the Jetta in a near blizzard, and it was an absolute rock star. With several inches already on the highway and more snow accumulating quickly, the Jetta never faltered. I averaged about 40 to 50 mph where most drivers were struggling to hold 30 mph. My passengers were amazed. Eighty-five-year-old Aunt Martha even commented on what a smooth and steady drive it was and that she’d never felt so at ease driving in such a heavy snowstorm. I would like to think that it’s my twenty-two years of experience driving in Michigan winters, but I can only take a small portion of the credit. The Jetta and its Continental winter tires deserve most of it.”

So far, though, no one has taken credit for or been able to explain the spongy-feeling brakes that multiple drivers have recently noted. We should have an answer before the April update logbook update is completed.

TDI Loyal Edition

Base Price: $23,090
As Tested: $23,090


EPA Fuel Economy: 30/41/34 mpg (city/highway/combined)

Engine: SOHC 16-valve turbo-diesel I-4
Power: 140 hp @ 4000 rpm
Torque: 236 lb-ft @ 1750 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: Front-wheel

Tires: Continental ContiWinterContact
Tire size: 205/55HR-16

Weight: 3230 lb