2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: (Not Quite) Going the Distance
March 20, 2012
In August of 2011, I took out 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI on our Fuel Sipper Smackdown route with the sole intention of getting the inter-office miles-per-tank record. Despite nearly 130 degree temperatures, my heavy right foot and the girlfriend's insistence on staying hydrated, I managed 642 miles and 45.724 mpg.
While it wasn't bad, before we hit the unearthly weather, the Jetta was assuming that I would've managed almost 800 to the tank. At the end of that post I said I'd try it again before the car went away. This weekend I tried it again. I even went ahead and bought a diesel-specific jerrycan...just in case.
While it was 130 degree weather that ruined the first trip, this one was ruined far, far sooner. The weather report for Los Angeles called for rain and I assumed that it would be local to LA. (I didn't look at the weather beyond a quick glance.)
There were torrential downpours for just about the first 150 miles of my trip. At the first landmark I'd noted my estimated range from on the first attempt, the Jetta was now reading nearly 300 fewer estimated miles. Fuel economy was down 11 mpg at this point. (39 compared with 50.) Turns out that trying to push through heavy, heavy rain doesn't do good things for fuel economy.
So I said forget it, strapped on the V1 and hit the open road for a cold, rainy day in Death Valley.
The drive was highlighted by two freak sandstorms that limited my visibility to the front of the hood (those of you in the snow belt know what I'm talking about -- except in this case you can hear the sand peeling the paint away from the bodywork) and some of the coolest cloud formations I've seen.
Wind was whipping rental Jeeps nearly off the road, but the Jetta was dead stable. There was, however, significant wind noise from the top of the windshield when the gusts hit. The seats of the Jetta are still incredibly supportive and comfortable for the long haul.
So, what did driving like an enthusiast in the rain do to my range? I ran it until well past the 0 miles-to-empty warning and managed 520 miles on that tank. Fuel economy was down to a still respectable 37 mpg.
It's no record, but it was a lot more fun.
Mike Magrath, Features Editor @ 20,800 miles