2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Sport's Fine
October 28, 2011
Workarounds. Seems like you need to find them more often with newer cars. Tuned to look pretty for EPA fuel estimates, the factory settings for newer automatic transmissions take all the fun out of driving. The solution, of course, is to get a manual transmission. Good luck finding one of those these days.
I've found two useful approaches to driving the Jetta TDI outside of the default D setting.
One is Sport mode. Misleadingly named perhaps, but Sport hangs on to revs longer in third through sixth gears, enough for satisfying pulls around slower traffic. It's a good way to navigate from city streets to the highway.
Out on the highway, it's into manual shift mode, particularly in the bumper-to-bumper stuff. It's surprisingly responsive, with rev-matched downshifts enabling quick, happy slingshots around left-lane banditos and other oblivious members of the wolfpack.
The Jetta's diesel is at the heart of all this. I never tire of the torque. In commuter traffic, it's more useful than horsepower. In most of Southern California, you'll usually run out of useful road before pulling a 335i's worth of horses out of the stall (although maybe not the Jetta TDI's 140 horses). Horsepower is sexy, but torque never goes out of style.
Much as I like the TDI though, I'm now even more amped to see what a Mazda 3 can do with one of those new 2.2-liter diesels.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor