2011 Volkswagen Jetta Long-Term Road Test


2011 Volkswagen Jetta: New MPG Record

August 03, 2011

vw_jetta_mpg1.JPG As detailed in yesterday's post, this morning I set out to top Ron's record of 42.9 mpg for our 2011 Jetta TDI without resorting to extreme hypermiling. And yes, it was Mission Acomplished(!). But it wasn't nearly as easy as I thought. Lots of semi-interesting details plus the final number follow (what, you thought I'd give it to you without any suspense?).

My plan of attack for beating 42.9 mpg was to make a 230-mile highway trip following three basic premises: 1) Drive conservatively and use cruise control whenever possible; 2) Maintain a speed of about 65 to 70 mph, thereby matching the posted speed limits along my route (and not be a rolling chicane); 3) keep the air conditioning off.

Here's how it went, along with some other random notes.

vw_jetta_mpg2.JPG 8:30 a.m. I leave my house and know I want to top off as close to the freeway as possible. (Explanation: I typically work remotely from our Santa Monica offices, hence the long drive.) But I also have my daughter with me and need to drop her off at her school. I have no idea what gas stations near her school carry diesel. On a whim, I check the POI database in the Jetta's navigation system. Woo-hoo, it has a separate category for diesel gas stations! I pick a nearby 76 station, though I end up having to drive about 5 miles in the city after fueling. Still, the trip computer is showing about 38 mpg averaged, so it shouldn't impact my goal that much.

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10 a.m.: Things are going really well. I've been rolling with the cruise control set and had minimal disruptions. The Jetta's trip computer is now my best friend, and I'm checking it constantly. Though I know it's likely optimistic, it's showing an average of 48.7 mpg after driving about 85 miles with an average speed of 70 mph. I'm excited. Almost 49 mpg? Beating 42.9 will be a piece of cake, I think to myself.

10:10 a.m.: Hmm. I'm getting pretty hot. Outside temperature gauge is saying 82 degrees, and the sun's angle is such that it's beaming in right on my chest. I'm not sure how much longer Tactic Three is going to last. I've got the fan blowing but the windows up.

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10:13 a.m.: I nearly get side swiped by an Audi A4. I'm just cruising along in the middle lane when I notice in my peripheral vision that the car coming up to me on the left is very close. I edge over in my lane for a cushion. Then I edge over some more. What the heck?

I watch the A4 pass, and it soon becomes apparent that something's very wrong. The driver can't maintain lane composure. He's drifting around. He's puts two wheels into the left-hand run-off area, kicking up dirt. Then he's swerving over all the way to the right. My guess is he's drunk. (But at 10 in the morning?) I drop my 70 mph limit and speed up to follow him (at a safe distance). I watch as he nearly drifts into a semi. This guy is whack. I decide to call 911 (not something I do lightly), and I report him as a drunk driver. At this point I drop back down to 70 mph, but fully expect to catch up to him and see a wreck.

10:30 a.m.: Full swamp butt has set in. This just isn't going to work. I click on the air-conditioning. I suck. Moses and the Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years. Me, modern wussy boy? I last a whole 30 minutes of being uncomfortable. But arriving at the Edmunds office soaked in sweat isn't going to work, either. And lowering the windows instead of the A/C (hot and windblown!) doesn't seem like all that great of an alternative.

10:40 a.m.: I pass a California Highway Patrol officer parked on the side of the freeway. Could he be waiting for the A4? I never saw the Audi again, so perhaps he pulled off. Too bad, it would have been so nice to see the CHP notch a win here.

vw_jetta_mpg5.JPG 11:00 a.m.: Rest stop break. Using the A/C has nicked my average. On the positive side, I've still running with a displayed 46.4 mpg. But having eyeballed the instant mpg meter, I figure the A/C is dropping me by about 3-5 mpg. This isn't good.

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11:10 a.m.: It's really not good. I'm climbing the grade for the 4,000-foot Tejon pass. My average is dropping precipitously. I'm down to 44.5 mpg. Figuring in the gauge's optimism, I guess that I'm now no better than Ron's 42.9 mpg record. Redoubling my efforts, I turn off the A/C and crack the front windows.

vw_jetta_mpg7.JPG 11:48 a.m.: It's 97 freakin' degrees out. What am I thinking? A/C goes back on. But from here on out I cycle it manually on and off so that it's not running constantly. Must...Beat...Ron.

11:50 a.m.: I'm on the down slope for the Tejon pass. My average is creeping back up. Still, it just doesn't seem enough. So, it's here that I, uhh, cheat some. Traffic's light on a particular stretch, so I pop the DSG selector into neutral and take advantage of the decline so that I can coast at the speed limit. Safe? Not really. Don't do this, please. Also, spay and neuter your pets and wash your hands after using the restroom if you're an employee.

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12:15 p.m.: Almost there. But then ... slow traffic up and over the 405's Sepulveda Pass. Oi. Still, I'm tenuously holding onto 47.2 mpg average.

12:35 p.m.: I exit the freeway and stop at the Shell station next to our office that carries diesel. The in-car gauge is showing 47.4 mpg. But how optimistic is it? 229.9 miles and 4.986 gallons later, I have my official reading: 46.1 mpg. Our Jetta TDI now has a new best-mpg record. (Official EPA highway is 42 mpg, just in case you're wondering.)

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Somebody in the office will probably try to beat this at some point. And it's certainly beatable. Don't use A/C, drive slower, don't chase errant Audi A4s and you'll probably bounce up by perhaps a couple more mpg.

Overall, though, I'm pretty impressed with our Jetta TDI. Obviously a hybrid like the Prius is rated higher overall for mpg, but I doubt they would deal with the Tejon pass as well as the Jetta. Also, stay on the lookout for our Fuel Sipper Smackdown test in the coming weeks, in which the Jetta participated.

Brent Romans, Jetta MPG Title Belt Champion

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Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2011 Volkswagen Jetta in VA is:

$147 per month*
* Explanation
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